I’ve had the pleasure of being on a handful of panels over the years and a common question is, “What advice would you give to younger filmmakers or creatives?” and my response has always been the same:
This is because the most important thing is to take action, to get the momentum going and to start the iteration process as soon as possible. We learn best by experience of course, but for some reason “just starting” is really difficult for a lot of folks.
Whether we’re wanting to make a film, start a YouTube channel, embark on an acting career, or some other venture we tend to hesitate. No one gets in our way more than ourselves, which is silly when you think about it. We’re all so self-conscious and have such a fear of the unknown that it’s hard to take that first step. To me there are two closely tied reasons for this: fear and perfection.
We’re afraid of failing and we’re afraid of looking foolish. We’re afraid to fail because failing feels awful. We get down on ourselves, we question the meaning of life – it just sucks. But we have to be able to take a step back and be objective with failure because failure is corrective. We can learn from it. We can learn what we did wrong and get better. We can learn that maybe we need to take a new approach or that maybe we should work with other people. The “move fast and break things” mantra Facebook made famous should apply to our own pursuits even if the things that get broken (momentarily) are our pride and self-esteem. It may sting in the moment, but the lessons learned, if applied properly, are forever.
We’re also afraid of looking like asshats in front of our peers and the public. What will people think if I do this? Will they think less of me? Will they make fun of me? Will they talk about me behind my back? What if I totally screw up?
Honestly, people are so absorbed in their own lives fighting their own internal battles, they’ll hardly notice. And if they do notice, they likely won’t have enough time to give it more than two seconds of thought. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, just the truth.
Bottom line, though, is to just get over it. Learn to stand tall and roll with the punches. Easier said than done, sure. But if you practice, you’ll be surprised how habitual it becomes.
I had a really mediocre cinematography professor in film school. He didn’t seem to be too interested in teaching us, and he regularly got me mixed up with the other Filipino guy in my class, a class of only 15 people (a definite no-no). Due to my displeasure with his curriculum, I’d cut his lectures whenever I could and go grab beers at the campus pub.
However, to my surprise he did say something helpful to us once:failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I totally agree with this 100%. Planning is great, planning is necessary.
But don’t overdo it.
We’ve all had those moments in our lives when we didn’t take action unless we felt everything was perfect. However, perfection is both impossible and impractical. You can’t have 100% certainty, and if you try to achieve it, you’ll just end up banging your head against the wall waiting and waiting.
This is often related to fear of course. We fear failure and looking stupid, so we keep stalling and telling ourselves we’re “planning” or “doing more research” or “preparing.” Eventually these just turn into excuses, a form of procrastination, leading to the infamous analysis paralysis.
It’s a downward spiral from there — more frustration, second-guessing, excuses, self-loathing. It can be a vicious cycle.
Trust me, I’ve been there quite a few times. As you read this, I might be there right now.
So to get out of your own way, you should all do yourself a favor:
1) Get a clear vision of what you want to create
2) Do your homework
3) Come up with a plan and schedule
4) Execute creation
5) Beta-test the hell out of it into the world
Feel free to edit this list or use your own. It works for me to get me to just start, so figure out what works for you. And remember nothing is as perfect as the present in terms of taking that first step.