Filmmaking And Other Drugs: What I Need To Remember When The Job Of Storytelling Becomes A Struggle

I’m going to take a risk here. Usually, I write about the film industry, the web series business and all manner of strategies to manage your careers. But today I want to do something much different. I want to talk about what really matters to me as a creator. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

See, it all starts with something much deeper than tactics, business models, meetings and networking. None of that matters unless we know who we are as creators unless we go deep within ourselves to find out what we really stand for. We can have all of the strategy and phone numbers and social media in the world and none of that matters unless we truly have something to say. I know that seems obvious, but I talk to a TON of filmmakers every week and many of them are looking for the recipe for success, a grocery list of things they can do to get recognition for their work.

But, remember, at our core, we are professional dreamers. We sell ephemeral products. We sell things in their gaseous state. What we build isn’t built on anything solid, you can’t hold it in your hand, you can’t touch it, you can’t lift it, and when we are pitching our ideas to people who might buy them, there is very little for them to hold onto.

I spend so much time thinking about the industry and market trends and audience building tactics that sometimes I forget none of that really matters. I can get overwhelmed by these things and they can actually sap my creativity, so that’s when I need to shoot something. Sometimes I just need to shoot anything so that I can get a vision in my head out into the world. Many times, no one will ever see it. But this often shakes something loose, gets me refocused and makes me realize that I actually have something to say. I’m writing this article for the same reason.

The Duplass brothers got recognized by making a $3 movie that got into SXSW. It didn’t look good, but it had something to say. I remind myself of this every time I started a project at zero.

Think about it, what a crazy way to try to make a living. It goes something like this: we have a thought at 3 o’clock in the morning, a thought that won’t go away, and then we set out to bring our 3 AM dream to life and then have the audacity to try to pay the rent with it. What madness is this? Who would suffer this? Who would think this was a great idea? Well, we would. We dreamers, we few who dare to believe that our ideas are worth extracting from our own heads, then made into something real. We put them up on screen if only to a group of our closest friends or maybe to a festival audience or maybe we’re fortunate enough to have it broadcast on TV, in theaters or some digital platform. But all of those are communal experiences that truly matter and that make this world a better place even for just a brief time. In those moments, we’re all working filmmakers.

I also have to remember that the film industry is not any single thing. It’s an idea, it’s changing shape on a daily basis and it’s not something I can rely on. So, I have to make my own film industry, because the reality of it is that there isn’t anything real to compete against. The industry doesn’t exist in the way we think it does. It’s simply a loose collection of dreamers who are making it up as they go along.

In my early career, I had always thought there would be a lifeboat coming. That it would come over the horizon with the right person sitting in it saying to me, “I’m going to get you to work, I’m going to introduce you to people, I’ll get you where you want to go”. There are certainly people along the way who helped, but I had to fight for every project. From the beginning to the end. From script to marketing. Once I realized there was no lifeboat coming, and if I wanted to continue on as a filmmaker, I had to be my own lifeboat.

In the end, it’s your career, do it whatever way you feel is best. Maybe that means listening to advice from friends who still haven’t, ”made it”, or ignoring advice from millionaire creators who have. But, do it anyway and do it with the right intentions and for god sake, say what you have to say out loud and on purpose.

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