Why Do You Make Films?

Frederick Nietzsche once said something along the lines of, “He who has a why can endure any how.”

Whether you're new to filmmaking or you're a veteran of the industry, you know that succeeding in this world requires sacrifice and that you overcome a seemingly never-ending mountain of obstacles and setbacks.

Basically, being a filmmaker isn't the easiest life, and it's certainly not the most glamorous or profitable. Still, for the vast majority of us, we wouldn't have it any other way.

But why? What is it about filmmaking that drives us to do this work when there's never any guarantee of money or fame? Why do we make films? Those are the questions at the center of today's episode of the Filmmaker Freedom Podcast.  

So here's what you'll learn in episode 3: 

  • How understanding the larger purpose behind your work will propel you towards filmmaking success.
  • What happened when I tried following a tough path without knowing why I wanted it (hint: it wasn't good).
  • Why a few members of the Filmmaker Freedom audience have devoted their lives to making films.

Here's the episode. You can also listen and subscribe through iTunesStitcher, PocketCasts, and the Google Play Store.

If you enjoy today's show, it would mean the world to me if you'd leave a rating and review on iTunes. That's the best way to support this small indie show and to help new filmmakers find it!


The first season of the Filmmaker Freedom Podcast is sponsored by my friends over at Music Vine.

You have a lot of choices these days when it comes to finding music for your films and video projects. But Music Vine stands above the pack.

Not only is it refreshingly straightforward to license music you’d actually want to use, but it’s also genuinely affordable, even for indie filmmakers on shoestring budgets.

And the best part is, the music is all thoughtful, expressive, and genuine. It’s sourced from indie artists all over the globe who put the same care and attention and soul into their music as you do into your films.

That’s why all of the music in this podcast comes straight from the Music Vine library. Here's the playlist of songs from this episode.

You can get 10% off your first purchase when you use the code FREEDOM at checkout. Enjoy.

Practical Takeaways from Today's Episode

That Frederick Nietzsche quote really is the heart of this episode.  “He who has a why can endure any how.”

This is important, because being successful as a filmmaker requires playing the long game and putting up with a lot of crap along the way.

Here's a helpful way to think about it.

There’s a writer I admire named Mark Manson. On his blog, he doles out plenty of stellar life and career advice, but he does it with snarky, “colorful” language that you can’t help but laugh at.

In one of his posts, he shares an idea that I think is crucial for anyone trying to make a living as a creative. It’s the idea of choosing the best “shit sandwich.”

Here’s what he means by that:

Here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:

Everything sucks, some of the time.

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.

What unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.

Might as well pick one with an olive.

This is particularly relevant in the world of filmmaking. There are plenty of ways to generate income as a filmmaker. But each and every one of those ways has drawbacks, and some will require incredible sacrifice in order for you to actually be successful. And not a single one of them will be easy, pleasant, or lucrative 100% of the time.

Basically, I’m telling you that no matter which money path you choose, there will be struggles. You will have to make sacrifices. And sometimes you’ll have to wade through sucky-ness in order to reach something better.

That’s why it’s important to have a strong “why." It’s the best way to stay motivated and hopeful, even when you’re in the shittiest part of the shit sandwich.

When you have a strong why, the process of stacking bricks, one at a time, day in and day out, doesn't bother you at all. Your why gives you motivation, fortitude, and resilience for the times when your bricks don't stack up perfectly, or when you make a mistake. Having a strong why makes it easier to ignore all the haters who don’t like your work, and you'll be able to withstand all the gatekeepers who tell you “no.”

I’m sure you’re getting the picture. Having a strong reason why you make films will give you the resolve to actually succeed with a career path that is notoriously difficult.

With all of that said, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that being a filmmaker is terrible and tragic. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Filmmaking is a hell of a lot of fun (especially when you’re with great people), and the sense of satisfaction and achievement you’ll feel when completing projects you’re proud of is one of the best feelings in the world.

But it’s important to internalize the idea that things will occasionally suck. And it’s even more important to realize that sucky-ness is 100% ok, and that when you're armed with the power of your purpose, you'll breeze through it, and it won't stop you from achieving the success you want.

Audience Submissions for This Episode

When I asked the Podcast Squad to share why they makes films, here's what they said:

Join the Podcast Squad

If you want to help with the audience participation segments of the Filmmaker Freedom Podcast, just enter your email below and you'll receive occasional emails from me with a simple question.

Just record your answers into your computer or phone mic, and then you might just hear yourself on the show!