Friday, November 9, 2012

Your Gut Is Your Best Friend as a Filmmaker

I was just responding to a student's question about which film school he should attend and I thought I would talk about my best friend as a filmmaker: my gut.

Why is my gut so important? It's had years of practice, living through the ups and downs of my life and career. She's a straight shooter when it comes to making life decisions. She's hard core and not very forgiving.

My mind on the other hand may forget about the ugly days and even glorify the challenges of the past. Those were the days...yeah right.

My gut seems to never forget reality. She's probably the most skeptical side of myself. And trust me, I need that skepticism. I am prone to be the eternal optimist; I need my gut whispering to me, "What are you thinking? Are you insane?"

Sometimes I wish my gut would be more forgetful - allow me moments of living in la la land. But in the end, I'm grateful she's not.

Here's a good example of my gut keeping me grounded. Looking back on when I first started working in film (the glory days), my gut doesn't forget the two years I spent in film production in NYC with only about a day off between gigs and working 14- to 18-hour days and nights and the resulting exhaustion.

My mind on the other hand looks back fondly on these glory days of working on an Academy Award-winning film (A Beautiful Mind) and the joy and pride I had being part of some great cinema.

Both my gut and my mind speak the truth. I was running myself into the ground and having a great time doing it. What I have found though is that my gut looks out for what makes sense for me. While my gut understands that those two years were incredible and fun and exciting, it knows that deep down I needed a life and time to express myself creatively - two things I was not able to do while working in production full time.

My gut led me toward what I really needed to be doing as a filmmaker. I'm still not exactly where I want to be, but I'm closer than ever. And that's exciting.

Bottomline, there's no right or wrong in career choices, unless you're planning a life of crime - I'll just assume you're not:) But there is a right or wrong in deciding upon what will make you satisfied personally and hopefully happy. I realize not everyone is happy in their jobs, but many are satisfied knowing that what they are doing works for them at that moment in their lives. And if it's not then they know to keep working at it until they can find that satisfaction - even for the short term.

And all of this holds true for developing new film projects. I may read a story and think, wow, that is a beautiful story with rich characters. It would make a great movie. But my gut may say, yeah, I agree, but there's no audience for it and it will make no money as a film. Let it enrich people's lives as a book. It doesn't need to be a movie. And that's when I thank my gut. She has my back. She watches the box office and analyzes royalty reports. She knows the state of industry. I trust her.

As a producer, I have to think about the money. I have to know the film will be marketable so my investors can make his/her money back. I appreciate my guts input during development.

So, long story short, when I thought about the advice I was going to give this student about where he should attend school, my first reaction was to say: follow your gut. Don't let your mind talk you away from your gut. Because guess what? Your guts not going anywhere. In fact, it will get keep talking and it will get louder and it will keep challenging your mind. And one day, I guarantee, you will hear yourself saying, "I should have followed my gut."

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