Do any of us know why we are artists? Making films is an intense passion. More so than any other creative field it takes an army to see a vision come to fruition. The gratification is mostly outweighed by the pitfalls and negativity that surrounds a finished project, if you are able to even get that opus to the finish line in the first place. I have spent the past 20 years working my way through the ropes of film production learning every facet of the process, reading every book and even attending film school (by far the worst decision). The one thing I have learned through the years is that no matter what other people think about your art, you will always be your own worst critic, and that’s the way it should be. Still, why put ourselves through it?
The world is chock full of opinions. What makes anyone’s more valuable than yours? Aren’t we all just looking for a place to belong and fit in? Stand out? Purposefully go against the grain? Whatever purpose in life you have found in the film making world, whatever reasoning that made you decide to step into the light and show the world your art with your heart on your sleeve, whatever masochism led you down a path to accept the opinions of complete strangers and to seek their acceptance of how you see the world, there is only one true opinion that matters, your own.
In 2004 I shot what I felt was my first real project, it was a web series, a few years before anyone else was creating them or before the term was even coined. Millennium Apocalypse taught me several lessons: 1. Scheduling is one of the most important aspects to any project 2. Production value is one of the most important aspects to any project 3. Casting is one of the most important aspects to any project 4. The script is one of the most important aspects to any project….do you see where I am going with this? It is all important don’t let anyone tell you that one part of the whole is more important than the other. None of it matters though if you never try, if you never get out there and just shoot something.
2008 brought me to my second big project, Hell House: The Book of Samiel, a supernatural horror story that had too many cooks in the kitchen. Hell House taught me just how important the script is to a film, I was fortunate enough that we had great locations, special FX and a great crew but what became apparent was that the script was over worked and too many people had their hands in it which created too many voices and not a singularity of a clear path.
Predatory Lender (2011) taught me how important casting was. Betrayal (2012) taught me how important it is to work with people who respect you on a basic human level. Story of Eva (2013) taught me just how much ambition and vision doesn’t always make the best film but it might just be enough to get your vision out to the world. The Burning Sky (2014) taught me how to work with a collective. Through The Night (2015) and Collapse (2015) taught me my most important lesson, you will never notice the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The people you choose to work with are hands down the most important aspect of any project.
I digress, through all of the lessons and all of the heartache, tears and joys of making a film, the family’s you will make and the stories you will tell, once that film is sent out to the world there is still one last line of heartbreak you must endure…your audience. The advent of social media and the quick witted minds of the lack luster millennial generation (no offense) creates a firestorm of critique almost instantaneously. That is the for better or worse realization of freedom of speech, everyone has an opinion about everything, even if they have no idea what the hell they are talking about. Unfortunately being passionate about your craft will not sway their opinions.
Humans seem to have an innate need to compare and compete, but why? Shouldn’t we all just try and be the best versions of ourselves instead of the best version of everything in existence? Why do we, as filmmakers, get so tied up in what others think of our work? It’s that longing for acceptance I suppose. That foreboding sense of “I can’t be the only one that see’s the world this way”. So we put our hearts on our sleeves and we show the world what we think of it and we suffer the consequences of opinions because of our passion to tell stories. Story, direction, technical skill etc. With so many factors that go into creating a film there’s an equal amount of pieces to pick apart and criticize.
Can we not just accept the fact that we all see the world differently and any one opinion is just that, an opinion? This doesn’t mean you failed, this means you succeeded. If someone see’s your creation and they disagree on how you told your story that is a win and don’t you ever undermine that success. The most powerful aspect to creation is your voice, which is what will make you stand out from the crowd. Of course if you are looking to fall in line and your goal is to mimic your hero’s and create art that simulates the aspects that you love about film, that’s ok too.
I constantly ask myself “Why do I do this?” with little to no explanation from myself but as I write this at this very moment it appears to be the most simplest of reasons, passion, because I wouldn’t feel whole if I didn’t do this. So twenty years later, 8 feature films, countless shorts, owning a distribution company, a film festival and now becoming a partner in Dead End Films with a collective of some utterly awesome people, I feel at peace with my career, I don’t need to be the next big thing and neither do you, just find your place in the world and take your successes as they come, if people can only judge your films on superficial merits based on budget and technical skill they are just watching the wrong movies to begin with, make great projects with great stories and treat every aspect as it is the most important thing but most importantly let your voice be heard and don’t listen to the fickle critics when they tell you your voice is wrong. Everyone just wants to feel important, make yourself important by creating the best films you can.