Welcome to the final lesson in the Fundamentals of Filmmaking Success!
At this point, you should know exactly what to do in order to make massive progress in your film career. It all comes down to the steps outlined in the first four lessons.
- Design your dream career in film based around what you truly value in life
- Find the most important activities for making legit progress in that career
- Build a habitual routine around those core activities
- Use strategic short-term goal setting to make big, calculated leaps forward
Seriously, if you can do those four things, however imperfectly, you can accomplish a hell of a lot in the next 90 days. Probably more than you’ve been able to accomplish in the past few years.
With that said, I need to stress one super important point. None of this is going to be easy.
In fact, I guarantee you will face more setbacks and letdowns and obstacles than you know what to do with. It just comes with the territory.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past eight years, it’s that building a thriving career in any creative field is hard. But in filmmaking, it’s even harder.
Many of our definitions of success hinge on getting substantial amounts of money invested into our projects, getting the approval from countless layers of middle men, and generally just needing hundreds of different pieces to fall into place at the right time.
Hell, even if you’re trying to build an indie film career completely free of the industry, you’re still facing a steep, uphill climb with lots of unknowns and plenty of obstacles.
Basically what I’m saying here is building your ideal film career is going to be difficult. It’s going to be fun and rewarding at times, but incredibly frustrating at others. There’s no way around it.
And if you’re not careful, those setbacks and frustrations might just derail your progress.
That’s what happened to me five years ago when I got so burned out and depressed that I nearly gave up on my filmmaking dreams.
Had it not been for all of the ideas I’ve been showing you over the past two weeks, I probably wouldn’t be a filmmaker anymore. Which would be a damn shame, because I get so much joy out of making cool films with my friends.
So, that’s why the topic of this final lesson is resilience. Because when you’re resilient, you don’t let obstacles get you down. When you’re resilient, nothing can stop you from ultimately reaching your goals.
So, with that said, I’ve got three fairly simple tips for you as you work on developing your resilience. (And yes, it totally is a skill and a mindset that you can work on developing.)
Reconnect with your purpose
Frederick Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why can endure any how.”
It’s an idea that’s shown up everywhere from the oldest philosophy and military history, all the way to the most cutting edge neuroscience and psychology. When we have a deeper purpose behind our work, our chances of success are significantly higher.
So, I’ll ask here, why do you make films? What is it about film that makes you want to do this work no matter how hard and frustrating it can be?
For me, I make films because it’s how I explore ideas and people. When I don’t understand something, I’m driven to make a film about it. The process helps me learn about others and about myself. And the more I’m able to do that, the better I’m able to engage with the world around me.
Seems a little cheesy, sure, but for me it’s everything I need to keep going.
So again, why do you make films?
If you have a compelling answer to that question, and you’re deeply connected with that answer, it will serve as fuel in your career. And whenever you’re facing obstacles, just return to that answer, and it will help you persist.
Lean on your tribe of filmmaking friends
Every filmmaker needs a tribe. Not just because filmmaking is a team sport, but because outside support is insanely helpful when dealing the ups and downs of a creative career.
So the first step here is obviously to start building that tribe. Find people around you who share your values, your creative sensibilities, who compliment your skillset. Work with these people, make cool stuff with them, grow with them.
And when things get tough, and you come across obstacles and setbacks, be open and honest it about it with your tribe. Not only will they support and encourage you, but you’ll be able to crowdsource solutions to whatever’s holding you back. The support wisdom of your peeps can help you overcome anything.
Put yourself at the center of a story
This last tip is one of my favorite mental tricks, not just in filmmaking, but in life more generally. You should start viewing your life as a story, with yourself as the hero at the center of that story.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and think in terms of storytelling fundamentals. Almost every great story has a few things in common. There's a protagonist (you), who goes on a journey and must overcome obstacles, in order to reach a better place and transform in some way. And usually, the best stories have a moment of hopelessness before the triumph.
So here’s the mental trick. When things get tough, imagine yourself as the hero of your own story. And imagine you’re in the second or third act of the story, where things get tough and harrowing and the hero is tested. And imagine that, just like all great lead characters, you'll summon the strength to pull through.
When you do this, it reframes all of your obstacles and setbacks as something that you can (and will) ultimately overcome. And when you reframe like that, it gives you the confidence and motivation to keep going, even when things are looking bleak. It’s powerful stuff.
Wrapping up, with one last homework assignment
So that’s it, my friend. You’ve made it through the course, and now you’ve got the basic tools you’ll need to make real progress in your film career, and stick with it even when things get tough.
Just like the rest of the lessons, I’ve got a few workbook questions for you to help you apply all of this to your life (instead of just passively consuming it).
Thanks so much for taking the time to read the lessons. I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday with handy web versions of each lesson so that you can revisit these any time you like. I’ll also be telling you a little bit more about what I’ve been working on all year.
To your success,