Then consider the next decade of your life.
It can help put into perspective the goals you really want to achieve. The agenda in the last 10 was to get set up, get established, get moving. The next 10 is to make feature films and widen my audience….. Such an extremely daunting task which quite often can be overwhelming. But the long and the short of it is, I’m doing what I love and I’m doing things in a way that feels best. There are no other ways for me. The decisions I’ve made have been in my best interests.
Never the less, that fear everyone feels at whatever point of the path, doesn’t really leave you if you’re pushing things constantly. It’s a good thing because if you get too complacent you can fall asleep behind the wheel. We all know how dangerous that is. And if you’re feeling fear because you’re not doing enough, thats good too. You just need to learn to cope with the things that scare you and look at them less as hindrances and more as gifts. They are messages in disguise. I mean what’s the other option? You give up and hit a 9 to 5? Don’t get me wrong here, there is nothing wrong with a 9 to 5, as some people get extreme satisfaction from that. At the end of the day we’re all in this game to be happy. But going to the opposite of your current situation very rarely gives satisfaction. Ok it’s not impossible that it gives peace of mind, but the true trendsetter and creative looks to make their own mark in their own way. The evolution of your work and your person.
If you looked at me 10 years ago you probably wouldn’t recognise me. I was at the start of a transformation into the person I am now. Between 16 and 24 you learn more about yourself than at any other age in your life. You find out what you really love and what you really do not like, and that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘you’ in a career either. I decided to become a film director probably in the space of 1 week and before that I had no real idea what to do. Most of my decisions were based on logical assessments on life because I knew nothing about life. Fireman, policeman, doctor, dentist, vet, baker, broker, non-toker. It’s not until you start making more of your own decisions you start getting what’s going on and you feel the boat sway in the direction of your own current. I spent most of my school years being scared to break away from my friends and made some decisions based on where the majority was going, very cowardly. Now, I’m nearly 29 and most of my jobs ironically require me going somewhere on my own. Boarding a plane, train or getting in a van. And then six times out of ten I arrive somewhere to meet a bunch of people I don’t know. I then have to spend the first few hours getting to know the people because I’m likely to be spending 2 weeks around them filming. It’s crazy when you put it down on paper.
I then leave that job, travel home alone, and then normally want to spend a day or two not talking to anyone because I’ve spent 2 weeks constantly communicating and living in tight spaces or stinky venues. I’ve arrived at 14 different places and each time had to find the positives in the architecture of everything; looking for things that you guys might actually want to see on a video. It’s the best type of training for my job really because it’s allowed me to learn how to make quick decisions. My brain’s doing 20 things at once most of the time, or it’s thinking about the next project, the last project, or a project that doesn’t even exist yet. Stress becomes a permenant partner if you’re not careful. You learn that it takes you about 2 days to REALLY relax without any work, because as soon as you break the 2 days without work barrier you start sleeping more and talking even less. It doesn’t help that I have psoriasis which is stress and tiredness related. I’ve learnt that my health actually needs more attention and care. Like I always used to say, fitness is important to do your job well as a director. Now healthcare is up there too with me. I’m living in a city currently and the luxury of getting in my car for 20 minutes and going surfing isn’t an option until I go home to see family. It kills me, but it’s necessary right now. I never understood properly until now how big surfing is to me. And no one understands that unless they actually do the sport.
Everything continues to unravel in your life in the way it’s meant to as long as you keep the faith in yourself that you can do whatever it is you want to do. As always, disregard people who say otherwise. Finally the other day I sat down in a meeting with 2 people who recognised what my ethics were in my work. Instead of someone saying to me ‘we love your work, but our budget is tight’, these people said ‘we love your work ethic, lets talk’. There were no excuses. Lord knows if this is the start of a new legacy of things, but the fact remains that I am from the school of doing things properly or not at all, and I’ve not even graduated yet. I’ve got my family to thank though for all those lessons.
There will be hard times for all you people starting out. It’s going to be difficult. But in the long stance of things the one piece of golden advice I can give you is this. Whatever you do, try and learn from each project you do. Complete the job, talk positively about it to your clients, and thank them for the chances they may have provided. But as soon you are on your own, take a few moments to look at the final piece. Ask yourself what you would have done better and what things went wrong. Those teachers in school who taught you to evaluate were actually right believe it or not. So consider those situations you’ve just experienced, but in the future, and how you are going to better them or avoid them. Don’t keep making the same mistakes. I see video people who have been around for a couple of years now, still putting out camera work that makes me want to break my screen. DSLR disciples still submitting work with sensor jellying etc. It might annoy me but the long and the short of it is I remove those people from my spotlight. I’m no longer interested in what most people on my level are doing anymore. I look forward not sideways. I look at the people who make me feel inspired. People like Chris Nolan, David Fincher, Jeff Cronenweth, Joe Simon, and any other directs making amazing high end pieces. I listen to sound tracks of my favourite films or write ideas in my notebook. Those are the levels I want to be at and they are what I visualise each day. No matter what the production I try and make it high end. All while this is happening i try to remain grounded, real and human. That word human is a dirty word these days, but I at least try and set an example to all on what my take on it is. No one is perfect, we all get our bad days, but we need to still set an example.
Finally, I saw a quote from Joseph Gordon Levitt the other day about Christopher Nolan, it said:
"The thing about Chris is that he’s not interested in being famous, he’s not interested in making money. He’s interested in making amazing stories, and that’s what makes him one of the greatest directors of our time."
I immediately recognised what he was saying. Money is quite often common ground for us all. Believe it or not we subliminally think about it for a large proportion of our working days, so its natural we bring it into some equations. For those who might look upon someone else’s passion this is especially true. The person might not understand it, so their worth on it is immediately measured by the wealth involved. It’s their brain trying to reach a common ground. The truth of the matter is that when something is truly worth while, the eye of the beholder will look past the money and consider far greater treasures. For us filmmakers it’s conveying a message or a story in the most beautiful and awe-inspiring way possible. It’s a gift we were born with, and I for one am extremely grateful for it. I spend my days just looking for the beauty in anything and everything; whether it be an empty cigarette packet on some steps in the middle of Leeds (Sharks series), or a village in the middle of the Swiss Alps (Defeater….). This sits with us and brings us all into that place called ‘common ground’. It’s the feeling of exhileration I get when I see a film that inspires me, and its the feeling in me as I leave the cinema thinking ‘I will make it. I will do it. I can’t wait’.
That is the long and the short of measuring your decades; by how you’ve done the things you WANTED to. Whether that was all over the world, or just in your garden, it doesn’t matter. It all just boils down to confidence in yourself to grab your future by the horns. Don’t be scared. Believe in yourself. Be the best. Fairweather fans never last out the storm, but us guys are the ones on the front of the ship screaming into the wave, at the top of our lungs, ‘come and get me’.