Wednesday 1 January 2014

2014 - Don't Rush

Filmmaking is one long apprenticeship.

We all rush to sound like experts. It's like when you're at a short film screening and some 19 year old tells you how she was inspired by Godard and Tarantino, and how she wanted the camera angles to signify a metaphor about contemporary culture's relationship to technology. But then you see the film and it's terrible.

Not terrible in a 'not for me' sense but in that it's a pile of shit not meant for humans to see.

But we've all been there. In fact we still are there. Just look at most Hollywood movies.

The point is, we're still learning. We think we know it all but there's so much to it.

You need technical expertise.
You need to know what an audience wants.
You need to know how to inspire them.
You need to know marketing.
You need to know how to fix problems.

You need so many things.

Most people quit within a year of starting.
Those that carry on are more dedicated, until they fall in love and make babies.
The few that remain are in it for the long haul.

If you're in it for the long haul I'm writing this for you.

You need self awareness. You need to know that your talent needs nurturing. Artistic maturity doesn't happen right away. Most actors and directors don't do anything until their forties. And those that do it younger began when they were three.

And sure you can be a smartass and name someone who struck gold at age 22 the first time they tried acting, but I bet that person isn't your favourite actor or even close.


This blog was pretty popular for a while, it was clever on my part because I sounded like an expert. Then I stopped blogging because I realised: my work didn't live up to my words. (side note: I also stopped blogging because I was tired of giving opinions. Opinions are so boring, and are now much better due to being mostly condensed to 140 characters).

You can know lots about films but being able to nail it on a project is a completely different thing. And can you connect with an audience? And if you can, can you do it again and again?

My message this year is: don't rush. Don't think you need to "make it" this year. You're just an apprentice, learning the ropes. And this isn't just for newbies, it's for those who have established their careers. We're all learning how to do it better. 

Your life, or your wife, or your impatience; they may think this must be the year to be a runaway success but that's not what being an artist is.

A lot of things in your life need to click in order for everything to come together.

Don't tweet about how unfair the industry is. Read a book instead.

Don't moan about how no-one will buy your scripts. Write a better one.

When you learn about your art (reading, helping out, practising), you get SO MUCH more wisdom. Expertise is when you can stop being flummoxed by stupid things. When you don't stress about a camera breaking because you've had cameras break before and know exactly how to deal with it. It's when your acting is ruined because you're depressed about a break-up and the fact your kid is sick, but you can still put in a performance even though the director's being an egotistical asshole, too. 

You can't do these things without experience. Without the knowledge.

Don't rush ahead. Just stay patient, disciplined, and keep learning. Very few people are actually doing this.

Tweet less, practice more.
Moan less, listen more.
Spend less, buy the right books.

We've been sold this idea of instant success. People think being a writer or director or actor is like being on X Factor, they think it's about being picked. How many times has someone asked you, "has Spielberg called you yet?" This is how people think it works. That you have a bit of talent and then Spielberg picks you.

But it's really about picking yourself, and knowing how valuable you are. You get to the top of any industry by paying attention to detail. By constantly learning.

Go read Chris Hadfield's book about being an astronaut, or Alex Ferguson's book about being Manchester United manager, all the clues of success are right there.

You think Michael Schumacher won a couple of races and then was invited to race for the Scuderia? No. He worked his way up from go karts through formula 3 and onto F1. And the driving was only part of it, he also knew the history of the sport inside out, he knew about the drivers and he knew about the cars. 

You're no different. The friend you drink with down the pub may have convinced you that what you do is silly, but actually your acting or make-up artistry or directing is the big dream of your life.

Don't waste it by missing the book or failing to try out an idea or by not writing the script or taking the meeting.

Don't rush ahead. Read every page. That's how you'll get there quickest. 

Care to share?

1 comment:

  1. I'm 16 and I love movies and moviemaking and screenwriting. I guess since I'm on your blog, you get that. I've only wrote three scripts and made two shorts. Yes, they're absolute shit.
    I need to learn perseverance through the years - through college, through young adulthood (and trying to make the repeated decision of taking a day job or finding a film-related meal ticket), through marriage, through life. I feel this need to rush, to make it soon, others are flying past me, while I'm out here trying to enjoy life and write too. It's difficult, yes. But is it worth it?

    I don't know. In terms of my filmmaking career, if "making it" is the Olympics, I'm still stretching in 6th grade Gym class. But when I watch my favorite movies - "The Hunt", "Prisoners", "Fish Tank" - I'm filled with such an intoxicating, opportune something - I just can't give it up. But I need this fervor when I'm broke and alone, when I meet the man I want to marry, when my 53rd script is shitty and I don't know how to fix it, when I just.can't.get.this.scene.right...I need this passion, this focus, and I need to maintain it now.

    I guess, all I'm saying really, is thank you. Thank you for this post, thank you for this blog, and thank you dedicating so much time in being the buoy in the ocean for all the artists who are swimming this choppy, dangerous waters called life and creativity.

    Have an amazing 2014.

    - Alexandria