Envy is the single biggest negative emotion that filmmakers battle at all stages in their career.
But as ugly as it can feel, there’s a lot that it can teach us too. About ourselves, our work, and what we really care about as artists.
Most filmmakers feel envy very intensely early on. Often before they’ve even made a single short film.
They see their peers making films, and they wish they could do it too. They watch award shows and feel envious of the accolades everyone else seems to be collecting, while they are still on the sidelines.
This type of envy doesn’t feel good. But it can actually be a positive force – at least if seen through the right lens.
If nothing else, it reveals how much you care. How badly you want it.
The individual person you may be envious of is just a personification of a much deeper emotion.
But it’s our job to decode the real meaning of envy, and to flip it so that it can serve us by being a source of motivation.
If we fail to control our envy in that way, the emotion can eat us alive – causing us to chase other people’s dreams, and mimic their creative approach instead of finding our own.
This makes it critical that we recognize envy in all of its different forms. Especially later on in our careers as it can return in more confusing and poisonous ways.
I can’t even count the number of filmmakers I know that have quit the business entirely due to envy. But it wasn’t envy of their creative peers that did them in, it was envy of people outside of the film business.
It usually goes something like this –
They meet someone successful in some totally unrelated field (tech, finance, marketing, etc.), and start to doubt their own path.
Then inevitably, they chase the shiny object. Before long they’ve quit filmmaking, and embarked on some entirely new career path.
But eventually, they wind up back at square one. Unhappy and unfulfilled. And again, envious of someone else’s success, only this time in a field that they have no genuine passion for – which is even worse.
Most of the time we think we know what we are envious of, but we aren’t fully in tune with it.
We may feel we envy someone else’s income, or status, or notoriety, or whatever the thing is. But really, it’s none of that.
What we really envy is that they have found themselves.
They know what they want to do, they spend their days doing it, and they have a clear vision for where they are going.
They are not sitting around wondering if they are on the right path. And they’re definitely not switching lanes every two minutes to try to re-invent themselves.
If you fail to recognize the truth behind the emotion, you will just keep quitting what you do to chase someone else’s dream.
But if you can recognize it for what it is, you can use it to your advantage.
Envy can serve as a guiding light, leading you to your truest path. One that will bring you success and fulfillment on your terms, not someone else’s.
By cultivating this self awareness, we can begin to make smaller but more meaningful changes that will lead us to our best personal outcomes.
Rather than running away from what we feel isn’t working, we can go deeper into our own psyche to better understand what we really need to be fulfilled on our terms.
Try to remind yourself of this next time you feel envious of others – especially those who working in drastically different fields. You aren’t envious of what they are doing, you are envious of how they feel.
What you really desire is to be more self-assured in your own path. Not to emulate exactly what they are doing.
So long as you stay laser focused on exploring your own true self and make choices aligned with that (not with other people’s goals) you will inevitably get there.
And in that sense, envy can be a good thing.
It will never feel good when it hits.
But sometimes it’s exactly the push we need to re-align ourselves and move toward a better and more fulfilling creative life.
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
1. Make a feature film today: The No-Budget Feature Film Blueprint
2. Build your network and sharpen your craft in our community: The Backlot
3. Color grade & polish your footage with my post-production tools on: Cinecolor