Hi Film Folk,
In this week’s Monday Prescription, the Film Doctor team look into a question that many writers, producers, actors, directors or other creatives ask themselves at some stage or another, whether it’s starting out or mid-way through decades of struggling – can I really live this dream I have?
It’s a question that very much depends on what your dream is as a filmmaker/creative, but fear not – ! – the Film Doctor team will be covering all ground. Read on!
1. Establish what you really want. REALLY want.
It’s surprising the number of aspiring filmmakers/creatives that walk around with the extremely general phrase ‘I want to work in film’. Of course, we are all allowed some ‘starting up time’, but the more general the goal, the more general the results will be.
The fantastic news is, once you’ve honed in on the specifics of your goal, things are a lot less overwhelming because you’ve liberated yourself from a lot of tasks and areas of the film industry that you don’t need to focus on.
Is your dream simply to make films?? Then great! In this day and age that is easy. You can take your camera or camera phone and shoot and edit on weekends and show it to your friends and family. If your dream is just to express yourself and/or get creative then there is nothing to stop you and you needn’t fret and stress about the industry any further.
Is your dream to have your films distributed/play festivals/shown to a large audience? You can already see what kind of a leap that is from just ‘making films’. You must think of what the distributors want, what festivals want, what a mass audience wants. You’re looking at the difference between a hobbyist and a ‘service provider’. If making films ‘just for fun’ is what you want then don’t take on the unnecessary and heavy burdens of film industry requirements. If this is your dream then finding out about film markets and festivals is part of the game and you should leap to the task enthusiastically.
Is your dream to simply be involved in films? Perhaps you just want to be ‘behind the curtain’ and it doesn’t bother you which capacity. Still you’ll want to refine your goal/dream. Which film industry exactly are you looking for? Do you want to work for low level distributors or studios? European or ‘Hollywood’? Do you prefer office work or set work? Travelling or fixed? What is your current skill-set and where is the place you’re most likely to get your foot in the door?
Whatever the outcome, really nail down what it is that you want to do, in as specific a way as possible, before you even think of taking another step towards your goal. If you need experience to know what you want, then go out and get experience or read up on certain subjects. The world around you and the people in it respond to specificity, to pigeon holes, to definitions. Define yourself and define your goal properly.
2. Pick a handful of creatives who are doing what you want and study how they got there.
Note the differences, note the similarities. Some will have similar tastes, some will have similar backgrounds. If you can’t find creatives whose films you like who started out from a similar place then look into others whose journey you might share – the key is to study those who succeeded, not just who you liked. Read widely, don’t just look at the PR-spun overnight success stories.
On top of this, know that you are unique and you can not follow anybody else’s path – learning about those creatives should not be to copy what they did (they lived in a different time period, had different circumstances, are different people) but to understand a common denominator between successful creatives and see what you may share. A good place to start is our Interviews section, which is packed full of creatives who have realised their dreams.
Make sure your dream and what you want as a result of that dream actually match (this comes back to point 1). It’s no good wanting the renown of say Joss Whedon if your genre and style of films only, historically, appeals to a much lower number of people. So change the expectation of your dream or change your product.
3. Play to your strengths.
Where do you have the most contacts? Where are you most known? What are you good at? Be resourceful with what you have access to now. Far too many creatives focus on what they want and not on what they have – make sure you are using what you can rather than eschewing it for some perfect, unreachable ideal.
4. Review the way you see ‘dreams’..
..and review the circle of people around you and their attitude to dreams. Forgive us for being a little ‘new age’ here but if the words frequently leaving your mouth are ‘that’s the dream anyway’ in a downtrodden tone, as if the part of you that wildly wants to succeed is some sort of immature child with idiotic ideas, then you really need to start reprogramming the way you view this ‘fantasy’. Hundreds of people before you will have achieved your dream and they are just that: people. They are not better or worse than you, they have just achieved something.
If you are living in a working or social circle of people who do not drive or inspire you and do not believe that ‘anything is possible’ then you might want to reconsider who you hang with. It might not be easy to do but such a thing as a ‘toxic person’ exists and if they are tearing down your hopes every five seconds (or you let them) then they are not worth mixing with. After all, what’s more important? Them or the dream?
5. Be open to luck and change.
If you’re living a regimented, fixed, unshiftable existence, then you might find it difficult to reach your targets. It depends on the scale and scope of your dream. The truth is, the wilder and bigger your goal, the freer, more flexible and more committed (to the dream) you’ll need to be.
NB/Do not allow negativity and doubt to muddy your waters. You need a clear, pure vision to succeed. In fact, our very own Film Doctor interviewee, Downton Abbey director Jon East said “I hope that neurotic question (‘Am I mad to want to work in film?’) doesn’t inhibit anyone from pursuing their creative dreams.”