3 rules to help you thrive as a filmmaker?

First of all, we should be very clear about what it is that your are here for. If you are looking to improve your conditions as a work-for-hire weekend filmmaker, we can do that. Our technical information will make you better. But our focus is on narrative filmmakers. And our watered down definition of a filmmaker is; people who want to tell a concise story using motion pictures and audio.

I can’t make in any easier than that. Now if you are a weekend filmmaker, those that are shooting shorter format projects, you may well improve the condition of your shooting by you being present in this blog. Just remember to apply the ideas we share to your models as a filmmaker.

The Importance of knowing where you are in your journey as a filmmaker.

Quite simply, life can be a twisted web of frustration and professional confusion. In my experience, a simple phone call from Mom can propel a day from having a clear goal/structure to free falling in an attempt to make up time you’ve lost in the infamous yesterday.

Life as an artist isn’t as structured as a military division, nor does it need to be. But what must happen is confidence and character. You should definitely know who the hell you are as an artist, what your capabilities are (that is; strengths and weaknesses), and your process. Along with that, you should have the confidence to find resources to complete work and use your abilities to complete that work.

Whether the assignments are commissioned (work-for-hire) or initiated by your own intuition, work needs to be done. Because, you are an artist. Unfortunately, artists are rated on skill and “completed” projects. Lucky for you, the film club can help you with both.

The 3 Rules for creative success.

To be certain we are on the same page here. You need to frame some critical thinking points. These points will be a guide that you should operate by. If we are on the same page you will agree with these rules/tenants. And the first being is;

Rule One – There is no tomorrow for an filmmaker.

You must accept the fact that putting off your work is crime that only destroys your abilities and your confidence. You are the most important part in the chemistry of creative output.

You will thread a fine line between being dedicated and being a selfish prick. Fortunately for you, you can only leverage politeness as a warranty for those in your life. Because our work is different from the work of others.

We warn every artist to select their projects with extreme prejudice and caution. Once you have chosen to do a thing, You must do it. Hopefully in a timely manner, with relation to the scale of the assignment. The most powerful weapon we have as creatives is the ability to refuse work. Do not feel ashamed of it when you do refuse work, and do not offer apologies for it.

You will be inspired in every stage of your journey. You will have multiple projects in your pipeline, but the last thing you want is a project that you; a.) don’t have the skills to complete or b.) the resources to complete. Those are nightmare scenarios.

Also, you can’t be arrogant and only select work your feel personally connected to. I have witnessed many artisans fall victim to this crippling decision. Art is a profession of service. And all service is selfless. This leads us to our next guideline.

Rule Two – Over deliver, under promise. Leave when the job is done.

Now that we reviewed a few things that will allow us to curb our procrastination. Let’s examine execution. How do you know when a job is complete? As artisans we feel the need to pursue perfection endlessly. This is a ridiculous concept.

You must think of your artwork as a simple construction project. You have the ability to add all kinds of flair to a design once you understand its elements. Let’s take two examples;

EX. 1 – “Pouring a glass of water.”

How do you know when a glass of water is complete? Let’s look at its parts. What will we need?

  • A Glass
  • Water

That is it. You will pour water into the cup until it is full, and can be deliver without losing any of it’s contents, correct? Is this not the same in narrative filmmaking (motion picture imaging that tells a story, regardless of length). Now, let’s not get so basic (hobbyists).

If a professional were delivering a glass of water, would there not be ice? Or maybe a lemon slice? Is this not the same with narrative filmmaking? Wouldn’t a professional director use camera support equipment, and lighting concepts?

Let’s take further another step, into the realm of the artisan. If an artisan were pouring a glass of water, wouldn’t they source it from some exotic spring. Maybe they would add minerals and essential vitamins to enhance the drinking experience. But they would certainly include the ice, and lemon slice. And a glass with the basic ingredient. Water.

Filmmaking is just the same. Auteurs source story which allow them to apply a tapestry of knowledge to the basic indigents which make a film. Our ingredient is story. Unfortunately, you will see boat-loads of content creators looking for additives, instead of first identifying the basic ingredient. I suggest you first find the basic ingredients before handling the various aspects of the production, assembly, and delivery of the job. Let’s move on to example two.

EX. 2 – “Building a table”

Originality is never a compromise. The banality of discovering all the elements of a project are the same can come off as a tad bit uninspiring. Find a story, produce it, cut it, deliver it. Rinse and repeat. How can one possibly leverage the infinite possiblities of creative intuition to find multiple versions and concepts. Enough even to keep a career in tact.

Look no further than the table. Every carpenter in the game would serve themselves well to know how to build a table. Looking through the crucible of human history, how many great heroes and villains had a apart at sitting at a table. Would it be enough to say that tables are important, although boring. I believe so.

Knowing the basic construction of a table, how many table designs are in existence? The number is vast.

And so, thus is the same with filmmaking. Only a Buffon says this, “it has already been done before.” This is a red flag. Run the hell away from that individual. Too often in story-telling the public confuses, similar with same. Ironically they use that as an excuse to stop producing a particular idea. This is a grave mistake. A career killer. A mistake that big-studios (huge money budgets) stay away from religiously. They essentially strive to tell the same story over and over. Why? Because it’s their table.

Two films are ever identical.

It would be quite the experience to discover how many versions of a story were possible if every filmmaker had to photograph the same script, throughout the same timeframe, with the same resources. I could guarantee that you would have a different movie every time. This paradox is essential to auteur-ism. Every creator is unique to their cache of knowledge, style, skill, and abilities.

It’s what keeps four legs, and flat surface marketable. And surely our compositions are evermore organic and life-like than a table. So, we can leverage the principle fundamentals of narrative filmmaking to make our project much more marketable than a table.

More on this idea: "Building a Table" 
Even after a table had been delivered, the end-user (audience) add to its composition. Whether their children intentionally engrave pen stroke into the grains of wood, or coffee stain foul the surface. The same is true with narrative filmmaking. Your audience adds their own sauce to your steak, once they've had it served. Which is a concept we will expand on. 

A story told is complete, there is no room for ego as a filmmaker.

Half the battle is knowing when the work is complete. You know this now. Once the story is told, it is told. You’re lack or inability to finish your work is because you’re allowing additives (creative ego) to keep you from delivering your project (ice and lemon slices). Pouring glasses of water and making tables helps you understand that without delivery, the service is incomplete.

It takes a wise and disciplined artist to adopt the work ethic of a carpenter to keep a career in this field. Additives are as much apart of the process as the fundamentals of filmmaking. But they should never keep you from making the final composition.

Just think, if you hire a master carpenter to build a table and the project failed its deadline. You would be fast to cast the carpenter as an amateur, and it would be fair. Because what carpenter can’t build a table on time. Just the same for a filmmaker. What filmmaker can’t make a movie, they choose to make. Don’t be this type of filmmaker. A story is done when it is told. That leads us to our last guideline (master rules).

Rule Three – Don’t start a car you aren’t going to drive

Before you think that this is some pretentious way of saying, “don’t start what you can’t finish,” it’s not. Those concepts are completely different. And the language, “finish”, applies a narrative film is complete when it’s done. So the wording is correct.

Think of your favorite classic film. Mine is “On the Waterfront.” It may not be your cup of tea, but I really enjoy it. As you do with your classics.

So, what’s wrong with your classic movie. In my case, nothing. So, why isn’t it being screened? Did you know the Mona Lisa (Da Vinci) ? Da Vinci made it 1503 AD. Did you know the Louvre markets and sells ticket (millions of them) every year for people to see it? If you see the Mona Lisa, it has the same effect as watching a movie. It cannot be unseen. The Louvre also leverages other masterpieces of intellectual property with the purchase price.

If you sell it, they will come.

It is a marketing problem. Hollywood claims, “Movies are not sold, unless people buy them.” What a conundrum. Because, If you sell a movie people will buy it.

You pour your heart into a story enough to draft a script, make a production, assemble it, and screen it. Then you stop once the early-adopters have given it a watch. Now the film lays in a realm of syndication. If you are unlucky, it just sits. Why? Because you fueled up a car, washed it, polished the wheels, and put a scented pine tree in it just to park it.

Now, the film does not die. Let’s get that straight. Every once in while, an aimless citizen of earth stumbles across the work and is captivated by it. But shouldn’t you help them find your movie. It is your responsibility as a filmmaker to find new ways to market your projects. Especially if you are in a lull.

Never feel embarrassed, or too proud to showcase the work you have done. It will only make you a better filmmaker. You and your team should always promote your films. And if you have a royalty in the project, this goes tenfold.

We need you. The world has stories, go tell them.

I would take time to stress commitment. But you are already here. You read the post. The same thing you did to receive this information is the same thing you will do to make a movie. Reading and acquisition of knowledge are key to building your skillset. Keep thirsting for insight, align yourself with people who you can relate to, and we’ll see you on the silver screen.

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