Successful Filmmaker: The 4 C’s for Staying in Demand
The music industry and film industry are very closely aligned. As storytellers and artists, we may have a deep seated fear that we have lost our creative edge, each project may be our last, that we will no longer be exciting and relevant. Fear has the potential to get in our way as a giant bottleneck. What if fear could shift from immobilizing into action oriented with positive, forward momentum?
By Lydia Hurlbut
“It is much easier to be successful than it is to be relevant…Tricks might keep you popular for a while, but in all honesty, I don’t know how U2 will stay relevant. I know we’ve got a future. I know we can fill stadiums. And yet with every record, I think, is this it? Are we still relevant?”
– Bono, U2
Imagine this scenario. You are a very talented filmmaker who has been out of work for a few months. Commercials have slowed down, or you are just in between feature projects that have been pushed. Perhaps you turned down a few features because you just could not figure out how to tell that story. You might begin to question your judgement, ability, and skillset. Will you be in demand and will that phone ring again? Fear creeps in and then explodes the more we focus on it. You might call your friend Ben to see if the town is busy, if he is working, and see if he needs help.
The conversation goes something like this..
Hi Ben, What’s going on with you? What projects are you working on?
I just booked a huge commercial in San Francisco. You?
A few loose holds but nothing specific yet. I am sure it will happen. You know how it goes. I had two firm holds that overlapped and then just went away. Let me know if you need anything on that job.
I am all set. Best of luck man.
You try not to sound pressured with your agenda. After you hang up with Ben, you might re-cut your reel to pass the time. You may obsessively check your email and begin to pace. You quickly calculate how many days you have worked for the year so far and if it is enough union days to keep your health insurance. You calculate if you have made enough to cover the rent or bills for this month. Immediately, your brain shifts to every job you have lost and what is happening for every cinematographer out there, except for you.
Fear has the ability to take on a life of its own. Negativity and self-doubt creep in and, before you know it, you are in a state of full blown panic. You have managed to convince yourself that your career is over and you should probably do something else with your life, like getting a “real job.” Imagine how you are appearing to others at this point, perhaps a bit unhinged.
Fear and anxiety are two of the greatest hurdles to success. Those emotions create a well worn groove within our mind. A known path. One that is very toxic and bad for our health over time due to the stress hormones released throughout the entire body. The cascade effect of long term and consistent stress impacts sleep, the immune system, the digestive system, and the brain.
The way you view stress and your mental attitude toward it is everything. Ignoring your body and succumbing to the chronic stress can lead to serious health impacts such as depression, heart disease, diabetes, headaches, or viral infections, among others.
“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?”
– Henry Ford
Imagine being able to have the fear work to your benefit. Fear is an emotion that has the potential to help us or harm us. If we recognize fear for what it is and move through it with action steps, fear can be very helpful. If we ruminate and stay stuck in fear, it is a huge roadblock to future success.
So, how do you control the feeling of fear so that it benefits you? By paying attention to your body and the signals it gives you, looking closely to the strategies and habits you have in place to handle stress, and developing both tenacity and resolve like a muscle to keep you at the top of your game through the 4 C’s:
These are the 4 C’s that will get you, and keep you, on the right track.
Control Your Mind: Regular Meditation
It is critical to quiet your mind every day and get clarity in decisions. Meditation is not about religion or becoming a Buddhist. It is about quieting the mind. If your mind is out of control, you are paranoid, irritable, angry, and everything in the world quickly becomes about you. Your life sucks and the world owes you something. The chip on your shoulder is so huge, it is amazing you can walk!
I have personally made the commitment to practice regular meditation for at least 30 minutes per day in the early morning to quiet my mind and become peaceful. It is a promise and commitment that I made to myself recently. For the months that I have been consistently doing it, little things just don’t bother me anymore. I ignore negativity and have a “water off a duck’s back” mentality. I believe meditation is absolutely critical to objectivity and massive success.
Consistently Learn Something New
My father was one of the first men to be both a Presbyterian minister and Episcopalian priest on the East Coast. He spent many hours writing his sermons and took material from science and history to weave a story that asked questions of the parishioners. He asked many questions but never gave specific answers.
My wise father knew that his congregation had to discover the answer for themselves or it was meaningless to them. It was his job to ask the questions. After each Sunday sermon, he burned it so as to never be tempted to repeat. My Dad remained relevant, fresh in his ideas, and exciting with his questions.
How are you consistently learning? How are you fueling your creativity in order to become a better storyteller? How do you keep up with technology? It is more than keeping up with the latest technology and trends or gear purchases. How do you tell your story with efficiency and speed? How are you saving production money? How are you fueling your artistic soul? What is your unique contribution on set that you are known for?
Immerse yourself in all forms of art and architecture, study films, observe nature, analyze what other filmmakers are doing, read trade publications, take in-person master classes, and challenge yourself! You don’t need to do all of it in one year, but commit to a plan and set goals.
I love learning and spent an entire decade in my twenties in school. I have always loved to read books about creativity and leadership. Keenly observing what other businesses are doing and how they are marketing both online and offline is critical to keeping up with today’s constantly changing world. Extrapolating their ideas to the world of film is a constant challenge.
Connect in Meaningful Ways
Meeting other storytellers is easier than ever. Connecting and networking is a great way to get new ideas, receive help where you feel stuck, or learn a new technique. What I am describing is a valuable, authentic exchange, such as those found in our Inner Circle Facebook group, at one of our workshops, or at in-person events such as CineGear. Connections and networking give you the potential for consistent work in the short term and longevity to survive the ups and downs of this crazy business, that never feels like work that we all love so deeply.
It is a time for referring jobs or creating a conversation with someone you never would have met independently. The women in my entrepreneurial group, Star-preneur, do this each month. We send one another clients or new business, listen and strategize and learn new ideas that we can immediately implement, or we attend each others live events. It forces us to grow, keeps us feeling outside our comfort zone, and encourages a fresh viewpoint on old problems.
How are you showcasing your unique talent to the world? Do you have a website, social media handles for people to easily find you? Don’t make it hard work for others. Do you answer texts, emails, and calls quickly? How often do you re-cut your reel? Ask others for their opinions and really listen to their feedback with an open mind.
Remaining relevant is about both your latest project and challenging yourself in new ways. If you are relevant, confidence naturally grows. You still need to to challenge yourself, to feel uncomfortable, and you will feel more confident to do that when you have built a solid foundation of work. If you are a young filmmaker, do not be cocky and pretend to be confident with an attitude. It is the easiest way to never get hired again. If you know everything, you have nothing new to learn. Most people will never take the time to give you an attitude adjustment. Confidence must be natural and earned through experience and mistakes.
Along with confidence, attitude and intention are everything. Start with taking time for yourself every day, even if it is just 45 minutes, with both meditation and physical exercise to keep your body healthy and avoid mental stress. Then, pick one goal, such as learning a new lighting technique, complete it and pick another one to build your confidence. A positive, can-do attitude and a hard work ethic go a long way because people remember it.
Remaining relevant is a topic that you should consider often and focus on when you are not on set. Working with fear to your advantage is important to remaining relevant.
Resources to help you with the 4 C’s:
Mindfulness Meditation App
Headspace Meditation App
Calm Meditation App
Well, I’ve been in the doldrums and have found it increasingly difficult to learn new things lately. I have contemplated unfollowing the litteny of Facebook pages riddling my feed with an endless thread of New Ideas and all things cinematic and yes, Shane, you were on the chopping block too.
The king of no/low, Me, has burnt himself out.
Tired of learning only to forget it out of non use because many of the people around me aren’t interested in putting out quality stuff as much as demonstrating there sole contributions. Directors and DPs alike echoing that horrible term, “good enough”, has got me crying, ” what’s the use?”
But I’m glad I clicked on this blog. I’m glad I’m not alone in this struggle. Though my unhinged brain has its own unique punishments, I can see now that those little moments my mind breaks free has offered some of the same advice you have laid out here.
And I thank you for it.
Great post. Evergreen relevant. Glad you have put mind and body exercise on the list. So crucial.
Love the Post – Then God said Let there be LIGHT :) +++ Amen