Feature Filmmaker

Ep. 59 - Oh, The Places You'll Go!

November 12, 2021 Anna Thalman
Feature Filmmaker
Ep. 59 - Oh, The Places You'll Go!
Show Notes Transcript

Making a feature film is a journey. Do you ever feel lost along the way?

In this Podcast Episode:

  • Dissatisfaction is linked to an unclear vision of what you want
  • Like a GPS, you need to know where you are now and where you are going
  • The more specific the destination, the better (think an exact address vs. Texas)
  • If you are upset, you are focused on what you don’t want
  • How to pivot and move towards your goals
  • Multitasking leads to crashing
  • "Life by the yard is hard, by the inch it’s a cinch"
  • Smaller steps are easier to take
  • You don’t need to know all the steps to get started
  • How to navigate obstacles that arise
  • There is no destination you won’t reach if you just keep moving towards it
  • How to avoid "The Waiting Place" and why we end up there
  • When obstacles become the navigation
  • Announcement: The Film and Family Academy doors open soon for 3 days only

Learn about the Film and Family Program:

Make Your Feature Film (Free Step-by-Step Guide):

Well, this episode is on feeling lost. This sometimes happens to us mid podcast episode. I think this applies to you. If you feel lost in your life right now, like you don't know what the next step is for you or what direction you want to take your life. Especially in terms of like your film career. But of course, this applies to any aspect of life, including our home and our families A lot of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices that are available to us in our modern. Day. So maybe, you know, Many options for your future or many steps that you still have to do, and you feel overwhelmed by that. yeah. I felt that way. Like I know exactly what I want to do and where I want to go, but it just feels like this. Monumental. Mountain. remember even just in high school, I would have this feeling over and over again, and actually thinking about film, careers. I went saw, um, the dark night. I think I was probably like a freshman in high school. And I just remember like feeling total anxiety, like really sad coming out of that movie because it was so big and I could feel how like amazing and big it was. And I was like, I'm never going to get there. I just don't even know where to start to, to get to a place where I'm making movies. It was so impossible. Not. It might not be where most of us here listening or our app, maybe that is where you're at. But many of you may have already started film careers in, in various ways. But still a feature film alone is sometimes just this big fat. Thing. Yeah, I think it can apply to film career. Uh, in which case we, we recommend that you make a feature film. If that's the direction you want to go and that you follow our free checklist, which we link to in the show notes, to help you through that. But. We'll get to that. I also think it applies. If you just feel sort of an overall dissatisfaction in your personal life, which can often be solved by having a clear vision of what exactly you want. If you don't know where you want to go. It's easy to feel dissatisfied with where you are, but. By getting kind of a clear vision of what you want your life to be like you can start heading that direction. Hmm. You just made me think of Ryan Gosling's character from the notebook. Yeah. You know, the, what do you want seen. Anyway. Um, So something that helps us find where we want to go is GPS, but to make anything in a GPS work, you have to have not just a destination, but you have to have a starting point. And most GPS is. Do that on their own nowadays, but, our brains don't necessarily. And so we need to know where we are. And exactly where we're going. I like something Anna said, which was like, specificity is important because Texas isn't very helpful. Right. Like, I want to go to Texas. Like, that's a very. It's big state. Yeah. If. You're like my cousin lives somewhere in Texas. I'm going there. An exact address would help. Right. Well, I think this is, this is applicable in many ways, first of all. I have to do this often. There are many times where I sit down and I say, okay, what's going on with my career? What's going on with my life. I feel like I'm steering into the abyss. Well, what exactly do I want to be doing for my job? What do I want to actually be doing for a living? And I've, I've done this. I think. A handful of times over the last handful of years. And. Um, That would be about once a year it's a good thing to do, but I found myself doing this when I feel deep, dissatisfaction, like you said, Ana. On the same token when you're making a film, for example, some people are like, what, where exactly are you going with this story with this film? What, what are you trying to accomplish? And sometimes you try and pitch the story and it's not very specific either, you know? And so, um, that's, it's. It's important in terms of craft as well, to be able to know. This is the film we're making. This is the thing. This is exactly what it is, you know, that can be hard to really, it takes a lot of time sometimes to boil that down. Yeah. And I also think you need to know, first of all, where you're going, how to get there, but also where you are. At any given point, I don't know if you've ever gone to a map in a big place where you're lost and scoured the map for that. You are here star. Because the map is no good. If you don't know where you are on it, it's just confusing. But that's what was so. Revolutionary about the GPS was that it was global positioning. You could see where you were aware you were on the map instead of just a map and where you had to figure that out. on your own, this device would tell you exactly where you were. Well, the unfortunate thing is that most people listening to this podcast may have never heard of a map. If you have heard of them, you might know that there are these paper things anyway. I mean, I only have memories of my parents using that. It was always on road trips. I remember my parents. Yeah. Uh, A big map book and open this big thing. It was called. It was called a Mac book pro. Okay. I had a story too. Okay. It's related. because we're talking about specificity here and it made me think of our couch. When we first moved to Georgia, we had. No furniture whatsoever. And we decided to buy a couch on Wayfair. That we saw a picture of and thought it looked nice and we bought it. Beautiful. And it was beautiful and we could barely both sit on it. It was very tiny. And in the picture, it looked a lot bigger than it did in real life, in our living room. So we had this big, empty living room with this tiny little. Couch and. And we stayed on that. We had that couch for awhile because it, it did the job. It was a place to sit. But I remember. Barely, but it was very small place. I remember that I didn't want it. Ultimately for that living room. I wanted a couch that was big, that everyone could sit on and I was very focused on. What I didn't want. And I would kind of complain about the couch, but I never took the time for a while to get specific about what exactly I did want. I just assumed. The couch that I want, probably we can't afford. It's probably too expensive. Because this couch. Was already pushing it for our budget at the time. And it was very tiny. And finally at a certain point, I still didn't feel like we had the money to buy a couch. But I just said, let me get specific and focused on what I want and make a plan so that when we do have the money, I have a plan in place and I can just buy the couch. So I went and started shopping and I got an idea of like, okay, I want an L-shaped couch. I want it to be kind of a cream color. I want it to be able to sit enough people and fit in this room. I got specific. And then I started looking on Facebook marketplace because that's where you can buy used furniture when you budgeted like a thousand dollars. Yeah. The, we didn't have a thousand dollars and have. Yeah, no. And I just said, we'll start saving up for a couch and it'll probably cost around a thousand dollars. And then I went on Facebook marketplace and I don't know, maybe we had already saved a little bit. But I found a couch that was exactly all of the bullet points on my list of things we were looking for. And it was $200 and I could drive and go pick it up. And it was an Ikea couch. So it could be modular and actually fit in our little car in pieces. Also. A funny story. Cause we had to strap everything to the roof and it's kind of crazy, but anyway, He got the couch and we had the money and. I learned a powerful lesson about being specific in planning, what exactly I want and how that leads to it actually happening a lot sooner because. If I'd been scrolling on Facebook marketplace, even if I'd seen that exact couch before, if I hadn't already made a plan and made a list of the things I was looking at and decided we were going to start putting money aside. I wouldn't have recognized that that couch was the answer. And I probably. Well, I don't want to say I wouldn't have a couch today, but no, I don't think it would have taken a lot longer. I think to know. I would probably be nicer though. Um, so what do you want. What do you want? Um, parenting principle, this does relate to. Parenting. And if you have a child, most likely you have seen them do something. And what they did was ridiculous. And you look at them and say, don't do that. I don't do that thing. Stop, stop. Don't do the thing. That's bad. You're going to cut your hand off or you're going to fall, or you're going to. Getting a car accident and flying through the windshield or, you know, don't unbuckle. Don't do that. Well, that's probably what we say on default to most children. Um, particularly our own. But it's a, it's a bad thing. Don't do that anyway. Um, so, so what we've learned is that the correct way to parent, because we've read some parenting books, um, is that you shouldn't say exactly what you do want, right. And sometimes like Anna is explaining, we have to do that to ourselves. Right. But this is important. Could you imagine a director on a movie set? It says action. They do the thing. Cause cut. It goes up to the actor and says, all right. You kind of move your arms like this, and then you did this funny thing with your, with your head, the way you turned it, and then the way you delivered the lines were all just too, just too sad. And it kind of just kind of seemed pathetic. So just don't don't do it that way. All right. Back to one. Let's do it again. That'd be like the most useless director, right. What do I do? I just do not that. And then, you know, then you'll just, I dunno, stand on your head, the next take and spin around. Um, so well, and we all do this. We all do this in our heads. And especially with children, it's obvious. A little more obvious and a little easier to see that the word don't just goes in one ear and out the other. And you say the word. And they don't hear it. And sometimes you even give them an idea like, Hey, don't touch that ice cube. And they're like, Ooh, all of that ice cube. I want to touch that. Yeah. And it's like that experiment where they say. I don't think of a yellow school bus. And of course we all think of yellow school bus. So let's talk about what we do do. Instead of what we don't do. So if your kid is doing something you don't want them to do what the parenting books have taught us is. That you think of what you would like them to do instead, and you ask them kindly to do that. So instead of saying don't scream. You say, please talk in a quiet voice, please be kind. Please share. Parenting books actually say, don't say, please. At least the one we read. Yeah. So don't say, please. Well, It's hard to explain. It's a long story, but yes. It's the difference between being assertive and making a request. So anyway. If you're upset, it's because you're focused on what you don't want and what you can do instead is pivot and focus on what you do want, which is the flip side. Of whatever you're focusing on currently. And you're going to feel a lot better focusing on that. Another, point that we want to make. Is about taking steps one at a time. If you try to multitask, then you're going to crash and. If we're going with this GPS analogy, if you're trying to go to multiple destinations at once, you're going to end up somewhere in the middle. That's not either place. But if you have a clear destination that has all the features that you want. And you can just head straight there. It's going to be much easier, or if you're trying to text, instead of watching the maps on your phone. Then you'll crash. Or if you're trying to do all the directions at once, like turn left, turn right. Turn around. And you're just doing it all at once. You're going to go. I crash into something. Hmm. So don't do any of those things while you're driving. The moral of this podcast. So one step at a time is really the moral of the podcast is that you can get anywhere. One simple step at a time. And there's this phrase that says life by the yard is hard. By the inch. It's a cinch. And it's really true, and this can. Apply to goals and long-term things that you want to accomplish with your life. And if you can break them down into small steps, small steps are much easier to take. And so. You're much more likely to do them and end up. Where you want to be, but it also applies to if you're going through. Something really hard. For example. Something really tragic in your life and you can slow down and just take one day at a time, sometimes just one. Our at a time and say, Okay, what's the next thing I'm going to make some lunch. And go make some lunch. And I think that actually can be really helpful. During hard times, instead of trying to figure out. What am I going to do with my life? What am I going to do with this day? It's just, what am I going to do next? I'm going to shower, I'm going to make food. I'm going to go sit down at my desk and try to get some work done, whatever. And so there are times when it's, it's good to step back and look at the big picture. And there's times when. It can be really helpful to slow down and just focus on the very short. Future ahead of you. Uh, this is a deceptively simple principle because on the one hand, it's not like revolutionary in terms of, like we just said, we blew your mind. It's like, okay. Yeah, that makes sense. But on the other hand, most of us don't do it. Most of us. I mean, even myself, I still find myself doing. Like looking at my life and saying, okay, I'm hopping around all over the place. I'm trying to do all these different things but I had this experience. I don't even know. Man. I can't even remember where I was, but I remember sitting and pondering. And I'm not sure what I was pondering about, but I just remember having this really powerful thought coming to me once. And the thought was. I can accomplish anything in the world. If I start at the beginning. Go step-by-step and don't skip steps. And. That's not like, whoa, I just got that complicated calculus problem. It's so simple, but for me at the time, it was exactly what I needed to understand. It's a realization. I think that helps. And. What I think. It's so valuable. So I'll mention like the feature from checklists that we offer for free. The feature film checklist is a very simple outline. For the, make your first feature film course in our Dylan family academy. And the academy is just a more in-depth education on each step, but the checklist is basically a resource that we ourselves are going to continue to use because it's everything we learned by going through the fire of our first feature film. That was a lot of F's anyway. And, just knowing those steps and boiling it down into that process. And just recognizing, okay. I can. Kind of. Route course. And then look at the next step and take it. And sometimes it's hard when we want everything to happen and it's very tempting to skip steps. But I think. It's also really encouraging. It's encouraging to say. Well, the only thing between me and taking that next step is myself deciding to do it. In some ways it makes you unstoppable. Right? I can make anything happen. If I start at the beginning. Go step-by-step. And don't skip steps. And sometimes some steps take longer than we want them to, but if we just keep going forward, In order. And don't skip steps. Then we can. Make anything happen, including Having a family or, or learning something new or becoming a better parent or making a feature film or. Whatever goal it is in your life, just break it down and. Walk that road. Yeah, I actually was also recently feeling some frustration. In a similar circumstance where I actually was following steps on the checklist and I'd put them on my calendar. And the frustration I felt was that I had worked on a particular step for days and it still was not done. And I reached the end of the time. I had allotted to work on it. And I said, okay. I've got to move on and I was having a hard time moving on because I really just wanted to finish to be done with that step. And. This analogy kind of came into my head and I love metaphors. I love. Kind of visually thinking of things. And so. Sorry to overwhelm me with GPS and another. Metaphor, but. Um, the metaphor that came into my mind is too many metaphors. They can't handle it. I know I'm mixing them and my be confusing, but. I thought of a garden and how, if you're growing a garden with a bunch of different things in it. You just go round every day and give some water to all the things. And I kind of had this feeling that that's what I'm doing in my life is going around and I'm just growing everything a little bit. I'm just moving it all forward a little bit. My family, my career, this and that. All these goals that I have. R I'll just things in my garden and it's not like I can just sit down and pour water all day long onto one plant and get fruit by the end of the day. It just doesn't work that way. And. And so I think. There is a patient's in progress. At an a reality to life that life is. Multifaceted, most of us can not just focus on one thing and ignore everything else. We have responsibilities to take care of ourself and our health and our, at our jobs that our families and our relationships and a whole bunch of other things. And so. For me, that was helpful that even if I don't finish the step that I stuck on my calendar. That day. I just move everything forward a little bit. So. That's why we made the checklist. It does break things down into smaller steps, but even then you might have to break it down more. And you don't have to know all the steps. It is nice to have a checklist and no. That the next steps are on there and you can look at them. But as long as you have a clear destination, You don't have to have all the steps to get there. You just get started and as you go, you'll know the next step to take. And. Even if you had all the steps outlined, there's going to be obstacles that will arise, that you'd have to navigate anyway. So they would change. It's kind of like. When you're, following the GPS and you hit a red light. There is a certain amount of waiting that's part of the journey. Just because you get stuck somewhere for a minute, It doesn't mean that. It's a failure and you just need to turn around and go home. That would not make any sense. There is no destination that you can't reach if you just keep going towards it. So even if you hit construction and it seems like, oh, shoot. The way that I thought it was going to be. Is blocked and it's not available to me. There's another way. So you find the other way and you go that way. The only way that you're not going to get there is if you start going another way, like, like the wrong way, or you take a path that doesn't lead to that destination. Detours are not wrong ways. They're just different ways. Right? So different isn't bad. Wrong is constituted by what is the destination that you want versus the destination that that path will put you towards. So, that's how you can judge a lot of choices in your life. It is based on, okay. What destination, what result will this lead to ultimately. So while there is a little bit of waiting that's necessary in your journey, you definitely don't want to get stuck there. And I, I really like to think about Dr. Seuss and he talks about the waiting place and why people end up there. And I actually did it include a little excerpt here from that book. Oh, the places you'll go. And it says you'll come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted, but mostly they're darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin. Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win? And if you go in, should you turn left or right, or right in three quarters or maybe not quite. Or go around, back and sneak in from behind simple. It's not, I'm afraid. You will find for a mind maker, upper to make up his mind. You can get so confused that you'll start into race down long wiggled roads at a breakneck pace and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space headed. I fear toward a most useless place. The waiting place. So as. As Dr. Sue's kind of illustrates here. The waiting place is where people end up when they are confused. And they don't make up their minds about where they want to go and they can't make a decision. And there's so many options or they don't know the path. This is something I think we, we discovered in making our first feature film several times we'd get to a step and then we'd say, okay, well, the next thing we need is. We need someone who has the power to bequeath something to us to do that. And we just need to go ask a bunch of people. Sometimes that's okay now. At some point you need some money or you might need. Certain resources and there's nothing wrong with asking for those things. But. The conclusion we came to was that many feature film projects that either cost more or required, bigger talent or whatever. We could potentially spend years and years and years waiting for that film to happen. Just sitting in the waiting place, like working to try and make it happen. But actually what we're doing is waiting for it to happen and it isn't going to happen. So. We decided we have to remove as many steps as possible. That requires somebody else to basically give us the permission to make the film. And we removed. Almost all of those. And obviously we still had to collaborate with a lot of people and we had to raise some money and we had to do a lot of other things. But it was all way more within Our own resources that we could pool. So we found that when we did that, we got the money and we got the movie funded and we got the script written and we got everything done. Way faster than we would've anticipated to be able to do. A different film on, on a different scale. And now because of that film being made. You can see how the other larger scale projects can happen more easily because you've, once again, you fulfilled certain steps that are often almost always required for someone to say, oh, sure. It seems like you're qualified enough for me to put. This much money towards, you know, and so now your investors are different. They look different, you've actually taken a step forward in a different way. So that was one time, I think, in our life that we identified the waiting place and how we were stuck there for a little bit. I definitely agree. I think looking back. We've said, why didn't we make a feature film sooner? Why did it take us so long to get around to doing that? And we've where we were in the waiting place. We were waiting. I think we live. In a society that's very used to at least. You know, my parents and your parents working jobs, where someone puts up a job opening, and it's like this opportunity that someone presents to you and you take it. It wasn't like that for us with feature filmmaking. I think maybe I was kind of subconsciously waiting for someone to offer me an opportunity and to say, Hey, do you want a job? As a director apply to this job opening. Which never happened. Doesn't exist. Unless you were an, a list director in Hollywood and there is like, High profile producers saying, Hey, I need to attach a director to this, but obviously. If you're listening to this podcast. It's very likely that you're not in that position. So it just seemed like this mystery, you know, when am I going to meet the right person? Who's gonna give me an opportunity. Yeah. Yeah. So that's the waiting place. Avoid that. It comes from confusion parties and big glass houses in California are the waiting place. So what's interesting is that actually the obstacles that we face that seem like they're in the way between where we are and where we want to go. Are actually the stepping stones. They become the navigation. When you can say what's between me and my destination. Why am I not there yet? Right now. The answer to that question is your next step. So you just say, well, I need to overcome this obstacle. I need some money. Let me go get some money. I need some guidance. Let me go get some guidance. I need a camera. Let me find a camera. Whatever it is. That obstacle you can. Make that your next step. In your journey. One thing that just jumped to my mind is, the principle that you've talked about, Ana B minus work. And really what it is is that perfectionism. I think perfectionism is a path that almost always leads to the waiting place, because you said, okay, if you need a camera, go get a camera. If you need some money to go get some money, but it's like, well, but I know that I need 1.5 million. And if I don't have that money, that a plus money. I can't make a film. Oh. But I know I, you know, I'd really rather shoot this on the Alexa. So I don't have that a plus camera. I can't make a film. Does that mean by the time you could get one, there's going to be a better camera, right? Exactly. You can't keep up with. And that is a thing. No one buys cameras that it takes you six years to buy a camera. Not because that's how long it takes for your camera to get out of date. It's because that's how long it takes you to have the money to buy the camera. That's. Like not out of date the next month, you know? And so who cares if it's out of date? A camera that was out of date five years ago. Already. It could still produce. Exquisite imagery. Anyway. So I think the principle of B minus work is done is better than perfect. And. This is a hard one to swallow because we're artists and we have dreams and we want to make something that's really good. But, you know, I made a joke about Lala land that somewhere in the crowd song and that waiting place, you know, of the big party house. But. Right. The conclusion she came to during the meet cute between stone and Gosling is I'm going to stop auditioning and I'm going to make history. Right? She's going to write her little one act, play. Scrape some cash together and rent a theater. And. Just do it and she quit her day job and she wrote a one act play. And obviously it's a movie. But many times it's making leaps of faith like that, making a piece of passion work or a spec piece of work. Making something on speculation. Or just. Taking that leap and saying, I'm going to do it. And I'm going to use my DSLR. I mean. Monsters was shot on DSLRs and that director went on to make. I believe it was Godzilla. And many other films, like big, big, big budget movies, because he proved that with a DSLR and his knowledge of visual effects, he could make a pretty compelling movie. And this is the case with many, many people, including Damien Chazelle, who probably writing from his own personal experience. Scraped money together and made GYN Madeline on a park bench, which was a very scrappy movie. And he shot at where he lived and he made it with the resources he had. And. No big actors. Right? So even the greats are not above. These principles. So if you want to get where they're at, walk the road, they walked and don't sit in the waiting place. Cause that's not what they did. They. They wrote and they shot and they've used what they had. Many of these people were using cameras that they borrowed from their schools like Nolan. And I think Shazaam might've been borrowing a, a 16 millimeter camera from a school, or maybe he might've rented it. I don't know. But Nolan did he used one from his university. Yeah, I love that. I think you're right. That, that does keep people in the waiting place a lot, because we want it to be perfect. We want it to be better. We use this analogy on set during our feature film a little bit, we talked about. You know, we set out on this journey and we're making what we can make with what we have. And it's maybe like we're in this beat up old car. That's not very comfortable. And there's a lot of things on our journey that we didn't expect that we weren't prepared for. But we're here. And we might as well keep going because we're halfway through and we could turn back now and it'd be just as long of a journey and just as uncomfortable to go back home as it would be to keep going and finish this thing. And that's a little easier to say when you're in the middle of production, because you know, you can't stop and send everyone home. But it's a lot harder to do when you're at home. And there's no deadline. There's no. Yeah. Yeah, there's no money lost. If you stop you just stop and wait and say, ah, this is uncomfortable. Let me wait until I can get a better vehicle till I have more resources till something in my circumstances changes. And then I'll move forward. Or you could just move forward and things will get better because you will start to say, okay, I'm starting to get how to drive this thing. I'm starting to get how to fix it up and do the tweaks. And I can grab some stuff at the next convenience store to help me feel more comfortable for the things I'm not prepared for. Whatever it is. So yeah, I think people get stuck waiting there, but the point is just to keep moving. Keep moving with what you have. If you have to stop for a little bit, don't stay there. Yeah. Just keep swimming. Anyway. I don't know. I think that this has been super valuable to me. It's honestly, it's frankly, a good reminder for me even now in my career. What, what is the next step that I can take? And what is the B minus work that if I took now would put me on track for the next thing. And sometimes we think, okay, step one. Make this simple spec ad or whatever, step to get a huge job getting paid really big bucks since. You know what, like, and then we always think step two is like the dream, you know? The dream might be step. 737, but it doesn't mean that it's not worth taking the steps between now and there. So. This is me speaking to myself. Yeah, that's a good point. What. I need to do, and I think we often want it to be some big leap where like, yeah. Well, what's that one step that's going to get me to where I want in one step. This is maybe the problem of LA LA land, which is like, you know, her first, She took a whack at it. Right. This is after seven years and it was a failure known shoot up. It seemed like five years later, she's like super famous, but it's not the five years later. I think I'm talking about it's the next audition she gets just This movie with all creative control, I'm not dissing law land. It's a great movie. It's they have to condense things and movies in real life. There might be. A few one act plays you have. Before. That casting director sees you and you get to sing a song and go to France for four months with. A movie all about you anyway. Well, and the thing is, if you think it's going to be one step or just a few steps, Those steps become impossible because you really can't make a step that big. In one step. I think it makes sense. Like I can't make it to Texas in one step. Yeah, it's going to be a lot of steps, 17. Not so much about how big of a step you take. It's about. How many steps you take. And they're all aligned. Keep stepping in that direction. Yeah. You can calculate the next step by subtracting where you are now from where you want to go. So if you know that feature filmmaking is your destination of choice. That's easy. We can tell you the next step, go sign up for the film and family academy. It's a shameless plug. But the doors are opening soon and it'll be for a limited three-day periods. So. Get on the interest list to get all the details about that and not miss the next opportunity. But in all seriousness, you can think about. This podcast and think about where you want to go. And what specifically does that look like? Get as specific as you can, and then say what's between me and that. Destination and take a step, a step forward, whatever that is. And then take another step and look again and see where you are and take another step and repeat that. And you'll be amazed at how far you can go. Oh, the places you'll go. Hm. Amen. Well, we look forward to hearing from you guys and seeing you on the next episode.