We all head into a New Year where resolutions are mixed with regrets. And we want to write scripts and make movies like me, right?
Here’s the rub: Procrastination.
Procrastination is so easy and so much fun it’s amazing any of us get anything done at all. The question is – what actually prompts you into action? Why is it you actually get up and do something? Is is fear?
Curbing the temptation to procrastinate is one of the skills successful screenwriters and filmmakers have – and you don’t need any film school to learn this one! Being charged and committed to your dream is the basic common denominator of successful filmmakers. You have to learn to channel your creative energy and be productive. Those great ideas are worthless and meaningless floating around in your head. You need to get them out and onto the screen.
There’s nothing difficult about this. There is nothing that require’s ‘talent‘. It does take some discipline and commitment. and you know you can do that. right?
Rev up your new year with these A to Z tips. Watch as your creative floodgates open and see your career zoom.
A is for Annoucement
On a movie set, the director always announces when everyone is to start.
Lights Camera Action – without the magic ‘action’ word, no one on a film set would know what to do or when to start. Everyone would just be hanging around twiddling their thumbs. Same for you and your career. Take the leap. Draw a line in the sand. Then leap! The energy you create by shouting ‘action’ will draw everyone into you circle.
B is for Belief
If you don’t believe in what you are doing then no one else will either. If you want to get produced, or get an agent as a screenwriter, or if you want to get investors, cast and crew you need need to be the first to believ in what you are doing.
Here’s the rub that I’ve found out the hard way. When you ‘announce’ you are going to do something unconventional or out-or-the-ordinary – everyone will try to distract you and try to get you to give up. The reason is that they are envious and even jealous that you are not only following your dream, but believing in your dream.
When I started the British Independent Film Awards I was told I was totally in over my head, that I had no business and many other cockamammy stories. Fortunately for the BIFA‘s I was able to ignore them!
C is for CUT
When I worked for Henry Moore the sculptor I learned that sometimes a large scale piece was just going wrong. so we stopped and started again. So, time we simply abandoned it. It was working there that I learned the value of learning when an experiment or idea was taking the wrong direction, and being brave enough to admit that one’s time would be spent better on a new project.
D is for Distractions
The lure of the social life, the attraction to chat with a friend, the longing to escape into a world of emails and websites are an easy way to while away hours and hours. It also means you aren’t going to get anything done.
How are you going to deal with this? I was lucky to get some wise advice from an elder on the farm back when I was a kid: pick a small task. Finish it without distraction. Then pick a slightly more challenging one until you build up your resistance to distraction, a bit like building up a muscle.
I have relied this advice many times and I am far from perfect. I have already checked my emails 3 times while writing this section!
E is for Exercise
Late last year I finally got the gumption to work out. I found a local club I could go to and spend an half hour per day working out. I do this religiously unless I have had a really late night out. Know what? It makes me feel stronger and more energetic. And I can think sharper too.
It’s an essential part of the regime.
F is for Fear
Fear of failure is one of the biggies filmmakers need to deal with. It’s so easy to let fear ruin your film and youyr career. Operating from a base of fear can lead to disaster. Your decisions won’t be sound. Coleridge said: What begins in fear usually ends in folly.
G is for Goal
Making a plan of attack will almost aways work.
When I started Raindance I made a mind map of how I thought Raindance would grow. All these years later I often refer to this map hanging in the office. Although some of the place names have changed, it’s still really pretty much the same.
Do the same: plot out how you want to travel to your goal
H is for Honesty
It’s about being honest with yourself and being honest with your audience. with yourself you have to be honest when your work sucks – but be able to learn from you experience. Remember those painful days as a kid when you were growing too fast? Growth hurts.
Your audience will never warm to any filmmaker who tries to be honest. You just gotta go be it.
I is for Influence
Expand your circle of influence – find out from every single friend who they might know that could help you.
J is for Journal
Professional filmmakers I know always take a notebook and jot down locations and ideas as they march around their city. You never know when you will see a street corner bathed in the reflection of light from the windows across the street on a certain street. If you jot down the time and date you will know when to use that location on a future shoots.
Writers too: keep a journal of all the ideas you get as you are off duty so to speak. Isn’t it amazing how the great ideas seem to pop into your head when you are doing something boring like the laundry or hoovering? Write them down!
K is for – Knowing your audience
Decide what kinds of people your movie or screenplay are going to be interested in your movie. Youncan use sophisticated survey techniques, or just follow your gut. Probably best to speak to a film sales agent.
L – Lightbulb jokes
Laughter is a great medicine that can help you through the most difficult times.
Here are three classic film laughs:
M is for Mastery
There’s no point in calling yourself a screenwriter ot filmmaker unless you are prepared to master your craft. That means some heavy slogging learning the craft. Make sure you get really good at what you do. Remember the age old maxim: Practice makes perfect. And don’t forget: Quitters never win. Winners never quit. Keep at it.
N is for networking
It’s not what but whom you know. You alwasys have to be on the lookout for the next new and hot thing – someone that you can collaborate with. Someone that you can help too. In all my years at raindance I would have to say it is most common for teams of twosies and threesies that make it easier than Lone Rangers.
Learn how to network. Remember that it is really time consuming. Don’t commit these networking faux pas!
O is for organisation
Being organised is probably the simplest way to get your career on the tracks. Use your time wisely. I pretend it’s like school with the different classes. Instead of geography and maths (which I hated) I have Raindance admin, social media, meetings with our postgraduate students and teaching commitments. For each area I have a specific time of day that I work on each area. On days when I succeed at this simple organisational structure I I usually feel like a million dollars.
P is for profile
In the age of social media you need to make sure your various social media accounts are properly managed and you must put out the right message. Make sure your avatar is the same throughout each site. You don’t need to spend ages on this. Here’s how filmmakers can become ‘experts’ and exert authority in as little as 15 minutes per day.
Q is for Quality
There is loads of competition out there. Make certain that what you put out is of the highest quality you can achieve. And don’t be like me: make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. They really turn people off.
R is for ready
You snooze you lose. My best ideas and achievements have come out of the blue, from situations or people I least expected inspiration to come from. Be open to new ideas. When opportunity comes a-knockin’ be ready to recognise and seize the day.
S is for stress
We all have deadlines. Deadlines for the landlord and taxman. Deadlines for assignments. Deadlines for film festivals and for producers.Deadlines each morning to get out of bed and off to work. Deadlines can lead to stress. Stress can lead to procrastination. Stress causes illness and ineffectiveness. Learn how to sweat the stress and deal with it.
T is for tomorrow
No matter how bleak it is today, or haw dark the storm clouds are, remember that there is always a tomorrow. The sun will rise on a new day. Take what you have learned from today, get some good rest and start tomorrow fresh.
U is for understand
Understand your role. You are an innovator. An idea pioneer. we are all looking up to you to see what insight and leadership you can provide. Take a closer look into the value you’re offering and adjust accordingly to fulfill your role. While you are at it, remember that you are creating your own personal brand.
V is for victory
It’s totally OK to celebrate a victory however small and personal. Pour yourself a glass or binge at the shop. Take the time to pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.
W is for wisdom
When you figure something out, share the knowledge. It’s your duty to pass on to others what you have learned.
X is for X Factor:
YOU are the X factor. Dig into your experiences, your unique background, and memories to charge your scripts and movies with original ideas.
Y is for you
You are the key to success. Believe in you. As Norman Vaughan once said, “Dream big and dare to fail.” As a good friend once said to me: “Sleep careless and wake fearless.”
Z is for ZZZ…
Have I put you to sleep yet? If not, why are you reading this when you could be sketching out an idea or be out shooting a short. Whatever you do, make sure you get enough rest. You will be a happier much more productive filmmaker.
What are your secrets to staying motivated? Let us know in the comments box below.