I once went 5 years without making a single film.
Today I’m on track to make 4 features in 5 years.
- Stopped waiting for money
- Started wearing multiple hats
- Picked start dates and stuck to them
- Wrote or edited something every day
Each of these decisions has had a profound impact on my career.
Stopped Waiting For Money
All I ever wanted to do was make films. At a certain point I knew I would be happier making something small now, rather than waiting on a bigger project that would never happen.
I had been convinced (mostly by other filmmakers who had never made a feature) that you have to raise a lot of money so you can make a “real movie.” I quickly learned this logic was very flawed, because:
A) No one wants to give you money when you don’t have experience
B) More money doesn’t equate to a better or more successful film
Ultimately I decided the shortest path to making feature films was to take control of my own career and stop waiting for permission.
Started Wearing Multiple Hats
I always enjoyed being a jack of all trades, but was constantly discouraged and told I should specialize. People would say “you’ll never get hired as a director if you’re also seen as a DP or editor.”
But I wasn’t trying to get hired. I was trying to make my own films, and do whatever was in my power to make them a reality.
Only when I embraced being a jack of all trades (writing / DP’ing / editing / etc.) did I start to find a way to make feature films of my own.
Taking on more roles meant my budgets could come way down, and I could leverage my skills rather than let them go to waste. On my latest feature, I am the entire crew and it’s one of my favorite projects to date.
I won’t always wear so many hats on every project, but if that’s what it takes to get it done, I no longer think twice.
Picked Start (and Finish) Dates and Stuck To Them
I used to be the master of starting things and never finishing them. This was my achilles heel.
My desk drawers were filled with half finished scripts. My hard drive full of raw footage for films I had started but not completed.
Sure, I would get some creative work done. But I was never truly productive, because I would take too long to get started. And once I did finally start, I wouldn’t always finish the task.
Now I pick start dates and end dates and commit to them no matter what – even if it means I have to re-structure how I’m producing a given project.
The start date helps get others committed to the film and holds me accountable to them.
The end date is a personal reminder that I am working toward a finished project, and that it will be released and seen no matter what.
Wrote or Edited Every Day
For the longest time I was only creative in short bursts, usually in between my “real” production jobs.
It was totally unsustainable.
Now I work on my films every day. Sometimes for 15 minutes. Other times for 15 hours, The amount of time doesn’t really matter, it’s the consistency that does.
One of the hardest parts about making a feature film is finding the energy and motivation to sustain you over months or years.
It’s easy to go 2 or 3 weeks without working on your film, and then find it nearly impossible to jump back in. That’s why I prioritize daily work, no matter how limited it may be.
Just thinking about my film for 5 minutes one day might be the difference between having a productive writing session the next day or not writing a single page.
Finding small (and big) ways to stay creative daily has made all the difference.
That’s it for today.
Hope this has helped some of you who are looking to optimize your creative output 🙂