Thursday, October 16, 2014
STUCK IN FIRST
"I made my film!"
Such is the mating call of the early career filmmaker.
Their enthusiasm can be contagious, I'll admit. More experienced, and inevitably more jaded, filmmakers often linger around these bright faces, like nostalgic succubus'. The cynical filmmaker wants to be reminded of that feeling of pure creative joy. Lightning in a bottle.
Years later, however, these same exuberant, emerging creatives are often battle weary. The unicorn of their breakthrough success still as elusive as ever.
"I've made films, of better and better quality, but still am no closer to leaving (insert day job here), and living as a filmmaker".
As the frustration mounts, with the passing years and the seemingly dwindling probability of success, there are many who surrender.
Sometimes, that's not actually a bad thing. It takes a severely stubborn attitude to handle the cacophony of rejection you face as an aspiring creative.
It's not the life for everyone. You have to know what you're getting into. You will shed previous incarnations of yourself as a content creator, and have to toughen your hide again each time.
First, the goal will just be to make something. To take the ethereal concept of an idea, and make it tangible. Despite all the challenges, the doubts, the lack of resources, and the sleepless nights, your prize is to finish the film.
The problem I see, quite frequently, is that often a person's development stops here. Their mindset becomes fixed. The lack of recognition becomes an offense.
"But I made a film!"
You MUST break through this plateau. It's debilitating. A self-imposed cage.
If you push through, you will find yourself in the second chapter for a creative: making something that engages with an audience.
This seems obvious, but there is a litany of walking cliches in the creative world. Filmmakers who consider the audience as an after-thought only. Visual storytelling is an expensive, public, masturbatory exercise for these people, sans trench coat.
Don't be that person. Build your audience. Think of them as you struggle and toil to execute your creative vision. You need them to engage with, to fulfil the greatest purpose of your art; and they need you, to challenge their perceptions and awaken their soul.
But be warned, this stage of your creative journey will be the longest and most arduous.
You will have successes and many failures. False starts and faux breakthroughs. There will be sycophants and saviours.
Most of all, you will consider, many times, giving up.
But take heart, if you haven't seriously considered quitting by this stage, you're either a billionaire's child or a lunatic.
And at your lowest ebb one lonely night, when you are lamenting (to your half-finished red wine) the sacrifices you have made for this gargantuan failure of a career, left only with a mindset and capability that has been honed through thousands of hours of work and learning, your phone rings.
It's your mother.
"Are you OK? We didn't see you at the party."
"I was working," you'll reply.
"On a Saturday night?"
And you'll explain that you were working on an important pitch, that you probably won't get it, but that you really believe in the story and the project regardless.
She'll say that's nice, you'll exchange some pleasantries, she just wanted to make sure you were alive after all, and the conversation will be over.
The red wine will taste slightly better, now that its had some air. Your phone will ring again.
But it's not your mother. It's the person you pitched your project to.
They love it.
They want it.
They want to be in business with you.
Because you have a perspective, and a way of storytelling, that is engaging and entertaining.
You hang up the phone. Your hand is shaking.
You have finally broken through. You'll be an "overnight success", apparently.
This moment is the final epoch for a creative: a period where you are creating stories, that delight audiences, and that are SO GOOD people feel compelled to pay for them.
'House of Cards'. 'Breaking Bad'. 'Frozen'. 'Game of Thrones'.
Can you make make visual stories of this quality? That engage millions, if not billions, of people around the world?
Thankfully, you don't have to.
You simply need to overwhelm your audience with work so impressive, that they would feel guilty not contributing to you as an artist.
But are you pushing yourself to reach this point?
Or are you still celebrating that you finished a film at all?
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