Psychology: the Fallback Career for Filmmakers?
The best piece of filmmaking advice I have ever received was… “Just Keep Shooting.” Filmmaking is a process that you must practice in order to improve. When I was younger, I made the mistake of viewing each project as the magnum opus of my career, not realizing that it was only a stepping stone in the right direction. As an artist, you continuously grow and improve your skills only by shooting a movie, assessing what worked and what didn’t, then going back out and making another one. Keep shooting, and regardless of how much of a success or failure it is, always look to the next project and how to make it better.
If I weren’t a filmmaker, I would be a… psychologist. Making movies is about creating the human condition on screen, and unless you understand people, their perspective on life, how they think and why they react in different situations, the characters simply won’t feel real to an audience. I’ve always been intrigued by a person’s internal wiring and how his personality temperaments affects his views and behavior. If I wasn’t able to focus this skill into writing and directing, I would probably direct it toward helping people.
The most important quality in a filmmaker is… having a balance between creativity, understanding the tools of the trade, and having a keen business sense.
Whereas many filmmakers have an unbridled creative passion for telling stories and know the tools of their trade, few understand how to create and package content that distributors and audiences want to see. This is the Achilles heel of the modern filmmaker – how to monetize your work so you can make a living. Even though I have one of the most creative jobs in the industry as a director and cinematographer, the majority of my time is spent on the business side – pitching projects, building clients, working to stay on schedule and on budget, investing in equipment, determining the potential return on investment for projects I undertake, negotiating deals and writing contracts. It is this work that pays my mortgage, affords me a comfortable lifestyle and sets the stage for me to do what I really want – to make creative content for the screen.
The most difficult aspect of filmmaking I’ve faced is… finding balance. In Hollywood, we have a saying that work is either feast or famine – if you are working, it probably means you’re putting in 18-hour days, 6 days week. While the money and experiences can be good, it’s easy to let your personal health suffer and even easier to lose your social and personal life. Many professional crew members have great difficulty maintaining friends outside of the industry where long productions and travel schedules keep them busy for sometimes months on end. Conversely, when work is slow, it can be extremely stressful – you wonder how you will pay your bills, where the next job is and how you will survive until then. It’s impossible to enjoy the time off because the times you’re not working are spent looking for the next job. So it’s extremely important to find balance between your work and social life, between spending and saving, and between taking care of your clients and taking care of your own personal needs.
My favorite filmmaking book is… FILMMAKING. I realize this may come across as an unveiled attempt at shameless publicity for my book, but in actuality, I wrote my book as a reference first for myself as a professional director. The film industry is so incredibly complex and multifaceted, and you must make decisions so quickly that having a guide handy that takes you through the process is invaluable. The tips and tricks I wrote in the book are part advice and part reminders to myself of techniques that have worked in the past, and worked well. As a comprehensive guide for directors who strive to master the process so they can focus on their art, I wholeheartedly recommend FILMMAKING, both as its author as and a working director.