How to Decide What to Make Next

daily-quotes

 

For the past few months, I have been working hard on a script for a new film I’d like to make. In recent weeks, I hit a bit of wall with it.

To sum the main issue(s) up simply — the concept and story represent quite the tall order, in terms of development. It’s not that I don’t feel up to the task, it’s that I don’t know if I’m up to the task right now.

Maybe I’m just learning something all filmmakers begin to learn, once the first feature is out of the way.

I have the general framework of the next re-write built. When I think about moving forward, though, I get tired. I don’t know that I have what I need in the tank, right now, or enough space in my brain from day to day, to tackle a project that’s a bit heady and which, as a scifi piece, is going to require quite a bit of ground-up creative detail.

This has upset me a bit. But I believe I am starting to accept the circumstance.

Nothing prevents me from proceeding with this project at my own pace. At the same time, it could just be that it’s not “next”, as I had imagined or hoped it might be. Is there a chance that might change? Of course. But, in the meantime, we must keep moving.

I started tossing around another idea, for what to make next. It didn’t seem to quite fit, but I let the general parameters behind it ride, from day to day. I kept them in the back of my brain.

And then it happened — I ended up starting in on a new script. It’s different than the original new idea. It feels, as the one before, like it might be next. Again — that could of course change.

What doesn’t change is that I can still take my time. Independent filmmakers hold few advantages. Time can be one of them. How might I be feeling now if large sums of money were already committed to the first script I brought up in this discussion? Might I have tried to force it to work?

Perhaps. Then again, also, when there is money there tends to be more room to do things fully and steadily. I look forward to that day.

On the other hand, a lack of deadlines or resources can quickly lead to making excuses. I don’t worry about such stasis nearly as often as I used to — and I tend to think it’s a useful concern, these days — but I do think that it’s important to keep making work and to keep getting it out there, especially in today’s artistic/economic climate.

I wanted to share all this because I think I would have been feeling much more anxious if I hadn’t attempted patience, and instead of forcing the issue — tried to listen and to let go. That’s what allowed a new possibility to bloom.

I have to constantly remind myself of this. My long history with this sort of existential/career tension came up in the most recent episode of Coffee With Creatives.

I am not the steward of any one story. I’m a storyteller.

This is part eighteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

 

The Waiting Place

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I find myself at a crossroads in my work.

There are two ways to look at this, since I don’t know where each road leads. I can worry about turning and heading down the wrong path, or continuing down one that it would have been better to turn from. Or, I can close my eyes and breathe, and then decide to try my hand at luck. To follow the wind, so to speak.

The first reaction doesn’t appeal to me. Though that doesn’t mean I haven’t incrementally tried it on, by nature of being human.

The second sounds nice, but I have trouble consistently showing the faith it requires. There’s always that voice, prodding me with the question: “But what if it doesn’t work? What if we’re wrong?”

At this point, while I still do worry about these questions, it’s not completely a case of fear of embarrassment. Age and experience has helped to mostly defang that avenue of paralysis. I can’t help how my work might be received. I can only do my honest best to tell an authentic, heartfelt story, and to give it a fair chance in the world.

No, more often, I worry about making the wrong choice because of a fear of lost time. And thus the double-edged sword of age and experience is revealed.

I love The Videoblogs. I’m proud of the film. But I beat myself to crap making it, at such a low budget and while living in New York City and working a full-time job. Beyond not knowing if I could pull off such a feat again, physically — I just don’t want to do it that way again.

I’m working on a few new ideas for the next film. One is big and heady. It’s been bending my brain a little bit, thinking of how to make it work on paper. To make it work as a production is going to take a much bigger budget than we had for The Videoblogs. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, yet. I very well could be, but that script needs to be RIGHT before I’ll move on producing it.

The reality is that it’s only been a few months since The Videoblogs came out.

There’s no hurry. I have other ideas I’m poking at, for smaller films, there’s a silly concept for a short and simple comedic web series I might want to try, and I somehow also have the first draft of a book of fiction waiting for me to re-write.

I’m forced to confront the reality that my fear of lost time is just the same old fear of being wrong, dressed up in a new skin suit it liberated from an innocent soul after its last round trip to and from the hell that it calls home.

Hah. Demon humor.

But, seriously — binary thinking is often a trap. And that’s what I want to address today.

It may be true that I’m at crossroads. Or, it may be true that I feel this way, and will feel differently a few years from now. Regardless, I don’t think what I’m going through is so simple or pat a thing as staring down various paths, from an intersection, and attempting to source out which way to go.

This manner of thinking might be too rigid for me. I might have outgrown it by now, even if I still need to slough it off to make room for a newer, fresher outlook.

I’m into skin imagery today.

Anyway, it could be that every road has its charms, holds its own opportunities. It’s equally possible that I’m meant to set up camp, right at the intersection, and hunt small game and live in a tree and howl at the moon for a while.

Perhaps there will be loincloths. Who am I to say?

During the course of this post, in my mind’s eye, the backdrop to the crossroads has morphed from desert to forest to jungle. This could be reflective of my current ambiguity, or of the proper aimlessness I am in this moment best led to inhabit.

For so long, I have treated myself rigidly, in terms of having to decide what to create next, how and why — right now.

When I have relaxed, and focused instead on the day-to-day, I have been gifted with ideas like Multiverse, The Videoblogs, the book.

And then there is the simple fact of the last sixteen days.

What I like about writing here daily is the immediacy of it. The simplicity. It’s uncomplicated. I’m a writer — I write. I share what I’ve written, then I do it again. Is each post perfect? Far from it.

But the pursuit feels pure. That’s what I’m starting to believe I need to wait for, not the next project that feels the least “wrong”, but the one that feels the most right. This has always been when I have known to move forward.

It’s not a crossroads at all. It’s a waiting place.

This is part sixteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum (Day 6 of 30)

This is part six of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

This script in the process of being razed and re-built upon the holy site of its death.
This script is in the process of being razed and re-built upon the holy site of its own prior destruction.

I’m trying to employ an appreciation for difficulty.

It’s been coming up often, lately, as I go about discovering and pursuing “next steps”, following completion of The Videoblogs.

I’m still gathering energy, still resting, after the insanity of the last few years spent producing the film. I think I mentioned that on Day 1 of this project.

I need to do this. But I can’t burn out. I don’t want to burn out. It will prevent me from doing this.

Such have been my thoughts, in summary.

But I also don’t want to remain static. So, I’ve been working, slowly, on The Next Thing.

The idea behind The Next Thing is big. Unwieldy. Complex. Every time I think I have the core of it figured out — I think again, and realize that I’m just not there yet. The puzzle pieces continue to fall into place.

While they do, life goes on. I remain, overall, still feeling a bit low on creative energy. I find myself having to spend wisely.

The sheer amount of energy it takes to both buttress The Next Thing against feelings of fear of failure and despair — such that it might grow and thrive, away from such poison — and yet also allow the ideas behind it the mobility and mutability they need to develop organically…is great.

Under ideal circumstances, this project would be my only focus right now, other than matters of general living. But not only aren’t circumstances ever ideal (and to be fair, in actuality they could be far more difficult) — I’m not even sure that space is what the idea needs.

And so, we return to the role of difficulty in all this.

I use the term loosely, to be clear. When I say “difficulty” I mostly mean anything that it might be easy to decry as being “in the way” of whatever The Next Thing might be.

Daily responsibilities. Commitments of livelihood. Fears and insecurities, or the historical traumas or inherited circumstances that feel always out of our power (because they are) but also firmly in the way of pursuing or addressing what we know or believe we need to pursue or address.

As I have gotten a little older, however, I’ve grown more able to appreciate these challenges for what they are — steps on the journey. Small victories or failures for re-feeding life what it needs in order to access and process the mysterious part of me, or of us, that engenders creativity or otherworldly exploration.

More than space, for me at least, ideas need time, and life-stuff to chew on.

Yesterday, I focused on presence. On not only practicalities (What Needed to Get Done) but relaxation, and needs of the body and spirit. At one point, an important piece, of the puzzle that is The Next Thing, seemed to fall into place.

Later, I questioned whether that piece was the right fit.

This is common. What excites us as a real breakthrough in a project, creative or otherwise, can sometimes fail us later on in its lifecycle (as soon as a couple of hours or minutes). This can be disappointing, but with practice I have learned that it’s all simply part of the process of ideation and iteration.

Whereas in the past, I would have brooded on such a “failure”, now I am able, usually, to mourn the excitement of the idea and to leave the rest to tomorrow, when perhaps I’ll have the proper perspective to identify the new strand of the idea as neither the one piece of the puzzle that brings it all into focus, or a completely false match.

It’s rarely one or the other, despite what we might want, or how we might have been led to believe it at works, in mine of any other profession.

I have a different measure, now, of progress. When that moment arrived yesterday, I went deep into the idea. I explored it fully. The process lasted minutes, but afterwards I felt changed. I felt tired. As if I had traveled a great distance.

When I later began to question the actual usefulness of the new idea, to the story of The Next Thing — I paused. The judgment felt premature. I forced myself to, once again, let go.

This was difficult. My compulsion was to seize the idea, to poke and prod it, to turn it constantly over in search of an answer, once and for all, as to whether the entire endeavor — of which it was only a part — was worthy and excellent.

It hurt, to know that I couldn’t get such an answer from one mere piece of the whole, and to realize that it was going to take many more such days to arrive at an acceptable answer to this crucial question, that had nothing to do with this small piece of the thing but which nonetheless plagues me daily, co-opting and yet spurring on all progress — is this truly The Next Thing?

But, as I said, I let it go. As best I could.

Later, the small piece of the idea came back to me, of its own accord. When this happened, because I had been patient, had ridden out the difficult feelings…it engendered some clarity.

This particular piece of the puzzle might, in fact, become a permanent, fundamental fixture of this story. But it is too soon to tell.

Still, handling the natural process of creativity in this way did allow the practical side of my brain had the freedom to take over when its turns came up in the rotation.

Let’s try it. See what happens. If it works, great. We’ll be on our way. If it doesn’t, great. We’ll know that this way isn’t the right one, and perhaps we’ll gain more clues as to where to go next.

I don’t know that we can win such clarity, harness such momentum, if we don’t ride out the difficulty. It takes courage and patience, perhaps, but at least as each small journey is ended along the way, we’re left certain that we’ve done what we could — for the right reasons.

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 2: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 3: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 5: On The Future of Labor

Reason for #VideoblogsDialogue Grant Age Limit

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Hi, Everyone! Thanks to all who have spread the word about the #VideblogsDialogue. I wanted to write a quick update on why the $1,000 grant (which is the centerpiece of the prize package for the cost) is for entrants age 18-24 only. We’ve received some questions about this rule, so from now on this post will serve as the answer.

Before I get to that, I’d like to reiterate that anyone can enter the contest, for the chance to have their submission included in the credits for The Videoblogs. The main goal here with the contest, as it is with the film itself, is to talk more openly, more often, about mental health.

As for the age limit, it was put in place because the next big goal of this contest is to “pay it forward” and help younger artists who might right now be where we (the producers) were a few years ago, both a bit afraid to dive into this sort of material but also low on resources and in need of mentorship.

Of course, we encourage artists and filmmakers of all ages to produce new, courageous work about difficult subjects like mental health. And, to be clear, you may reach out to either Rebecca or me at any time, on social media or email, with any questions you feel we might be able to answer if and when you’re ready to Make Your Thing. Also, this site is full of essays (and a growing list of podcast episodes) containing testimony and resources about how we’ve navigated the last several years of our careers as filmmakers.

But it’s often a little harder for younger artists to scratch by. We wish we could award an ever larger grant, or many grants, to people of all ages. And maybe we will someday. Perhaps in the future we’ll be able (or find it helpful) to grow or change the contest. For now, though, we believe we’d be of the most service by focusing the most effort on tomorrow’s artists, who are in the process of inheriting the world we’re giving them — one not without hope, but where we need more dialogue on mental health.

We hope anyone outside the age range for the grant will still consider submitting a video, and/or supporting those brave younger artists who are currently sending their videos to the contest. We sincerely appreciate ALL OF YOU who take the time to visit our site, follow us on Facebook, and just generally spread the word. It all helps the cause, I think.

If anyone has any follow-up questions, please feel free to ask here or on Twitter.

A Pair of Shorts: New Screenings

Well, hey! I’m excited to announce that both The Confession and Multiverse will be screening next week!

The Confession will be playing at IndieWorks in Manhattan, which is awesome because that’s where Rebecca De Ornelas and I met the film’s Director Jaclyn Gramigna, when Multiverse screened there at the same time as her short, Downtown.

This month’s IndieWorks is on March 16th, at Subject NYC. Doors open at 6:30PM and screenings start at 7:30PM.

Director Jaclyn,  Lead Actress and Producer Rebecca, and Lead Actor Jeremy Plyburn and I will all be in attendance. So, if you haven’t seen the film yet, come on down and watch it with a group. If you have seen it, come on down anyway and watch it (and all the other great shorts) with a group.

Multiverse will screen as part of the Cinema Club screening series in Brooklyn, as part of their 50th program, “Handshakes but Headaches”. I’m just guessing, but I think we might be part of the “headaches” portion of the program 🙂

Cinema Club takes place at Videology in Brooklyn, and screenings for this month’s session will start at 8PM on March 17th. Lead Actor and Producer Rebecca and I will both be in attendance.

I really want to show you my shorts. If you like them, you might like The Videoblogs, too.

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The Confession at BAFF’s 2016 Made in New York Filmmakers Showcase

confI’m pleased to announce that The Confession will be screening on February 13th, as part of the Big Apple Film Festival’s 2015 Made in New York Filmmakers Showcase!

We’re in the first block of shorts playing at 11AM at The Producer’s Club Theater, 358 W 44th St, New York, NY.

Director Jaclyn Gramigna will be at the screening, so feel free to say “Hey” to her afterwards if you decide to attend! Tickets will be available beginning Thursday, February 4th, and also at the Producer’s Club box office on the day of the screenings.

Many thanks to the Big Apple Film Festival for screening the film! And thanks again to our supporters on Seed&Spark!

The Confession

Writer/Executive Producer
Michael DiBiasio

Director/Producer
Jaclyn Gramigna

Executive Producer/Lead Actress
Rebecca De Ornelas

Lead Actor
Jeremy Plyburn

Check out the remaining credits for the film on IMDb!

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The Videoblogs Dialogue: Now Live!

When Rebecca and I were in the early stages of planning The Videoblogs, we met at one point with Gary Chou at Orbital in NYC. We’ve come to treat that meeting as a special one, because Gary listened to our plans (which we’ve mostly followed and are still following) but challenged us to see if we couldn’t take them a step further.

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By now, if you’re a reader of this site, you know that we’re making The Videoblogs to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health in America. And while the hope is that the film itself will become a part of that conversation, Gary’s challenge helped us address a lingering feeling that we weren’t quite taking our plan far enough, in terms of creating a project that not only sparked conversation but encouraged an interactivity that more closer mirrored today’s rising tech-enabled general culture — and its positive potential, more than its dangers.

We’re leveraging and addressing, with The Videoblogs itself, new technologies and new technologically-affected ways of living. And yet the overarching thematic message that we’re seeking to put forth with the story, in these terms, is that we can reach out through the screen to connect, not only virtually, but as a gateway to more of the real-life interaction upon which the human spirit fundamentally subsists — even as technology is making the rest of what goes into subsistence easier and more accessible.

In concrete terms, Gary pushed us to consider how we could take our message and apply it to an active, real-life, two-way solution. The idea greatly appealed to me, as I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the broadcast-only structure of legacy long-form storytelling. And Rebecca took the challenge head-on. After some back and forth with Gary, we started working to plan The Videoblogs Dialogue in parallel with the production and release of the film.

It took some time to get going (we’re bootstrapping indie filmmakers after all!), but now it’s here. And I’m very excited and very proud and thank Gary and Rebecca for their roles in making it a reality.

Special thanks also to Paul Gilmartin, Grace Parra, Ashely Esqueda and Alice Spivak for lending their time to the contest and the cause. Their early commitments to serve on the jury for The Videoblogs Dialogue helped us gain momentum in the early days of planning, and even though it took some time to get the contest together and now launched, we continue to remain grateful for their help.

And of course thanks also to:

  • Project UROK, an official partner in the project, and an organization that does amazing work encouraging people to talk more openly and honestly about mental health
  • Co-sponsor Seed&Spark, a forward-thinking company that helps empower film and media storytellers, and promotes community and interdependence in the independent film industry
  • And co-sponsor Big Vision Empty Wallet, a film and media incubator that encourages and supports filmmakers working in today’s tech-enabled environment and champions diversity in storytelling

More below. But all the information, including how to enter the contest, can be found on the site for the film. I look forward to seeing what entrants submit. Let’s (safely) talk about this stuff.

thevideoblogsposter (1)The Videoblogs Dialogue is a user-generated video contest, in which participants submit their own videoblogs (3 min or less), pertaining to themes of mental health and/or personal struggle. Participants aged 18-24 are eligible to win a $1,000 Cash Prize and Mentorship package, to be put towards the creation of their own short film on mental health. Anyone age 18 and up can enter for the chance to have their videoblog included in the closing credits of The Videoblogs.

We’re running this contest to contribute to a greater dialogue about mental health in America, and to encourage tomorrow’s artists, filmmakers and performers to bravely engage with what have classically been labeled as difficult subjects (depression, anxiety, trauma) with an ultimate focus on hope.


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 I send one email per month (sometimes less).

Now Streaming: The Confession

confI am thrilled to announce that The Confession is now available for your viewing pleasure.

Many thanks to Director/Producer Jaclyn Gramigna for overseeing the production of the film, and to the rest of our team for their great work. Above all, we’re grateful to our supporters on Seed&Spark, who helped make this 95% crowdfunded film a reality.

(The other 5% was paid for by yours truly, to cover a few overages. If you enjoy The Confession, feel free to send over a few dollars to help offset that added cost).

Please also feel free to share a link, as soon as you’re done watching, on Twitter or Facebook. Happy viewing!

Summary: Jacob and Ellen wander through Brooklyn, the morning after spending the night together for the first time. Jacob’s acting strange. Ellen wonders why. A confession is coming. And it’s not what you expect.

Did you enjoy The Confession? If so, follow us on Twitter!

Writer/Executive Producer
Michael DiBiasio

Director/Producer
Jaclyn Gramigna

Executive Producer/Lead Actress
Rebecca De Ornelas

Lead Actor
Jeremy Plyburn 

Check out the remaining credits for the film on IMDb!

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Subscribe to my list for advanced (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month (sometimes less).