Feature Filmmaker

Ep. 63 - Patience with Long-Term Projects

December 10, 2021 Anna Thalman
Feature Filmmaker
Ep. 63 - Patience with Long-Term Projects
Show Notes Transcript

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Anna Thalman:

Okay, welcome to the podcast today. We want to talk about when you feel like you have poured your heart and soul into something, and you're tired of it, which can relate to a lot of things. We have felt this way about films. For sure. I know I felt this way about our home working on renovations, even with our kids. I think some things start to feel. If at first it's something you really want. And then when you've been doing it for years, it feels like this never ending chore, like you're impatient for it to be over. So we want to talk about a remedy to help when you start to feel that way. If you've ever felt that way or you feel that way now where there's something you're in hurry to be done with listen to this episode, when you get to that point and hopefully it will help you out. I think there are a few reasons this can happen often. I think this stems from insecurity about the project itself or your performance. So you want it to be done with, so you can move on and kind of start over. I think, especially for me with family. I often wish I could go back and start over. Or even sometimes when we decide to have more kids, it's like, okay, this time I'm going to be the best parent. I can be. This child's not going to have any bad memories of me being a bad mom. Let's just start over with a clean

Kent Thalman:

slate. Good memories of you being a bad mom.

Anna Thalman:

Right. But yeah, even right now with our feature film, We recently had a conversation where we were talking about should we just kind of sell it early and be done and move on? What if we skip the whole festival circuit and just seeing what our options are, we know a few niche distributors that we could probably sell it to in the next few months and it would be done and we could move on to the next thing. And, I think we realized that that was coming from scarcity from that insecurity. And just wanting it to be over with when really, if I believe that going the festival route is going to be the best thing ultimately for this film. And I imagine a narrative where it's a huge success and a big distributor picks it up and it's a great deal and a higher return for our investors. Then it's totally worth it to go another year and get that result even if it takes longer. But I think. It's hard to stay in that confidence

Kent Thalman:

on this was a decision we both struggled with and we've kind of played it back and forth because it's like, where's this choice coming from or where we're feelings and thoughts coming from. And you know, one of the things that I liked about the idea of just moving forward is this idea of progress, right? It's like, okay, I just want to progress. I want to move forward. The downside is, is that if you sell it directly to like a niche distributor without running the festival circuit the end result may end up being the same, but the process of going through all of the festivals, even if like it gets into some, some festivals and then you sell it to the same distributors you would have in the first place that festival run will change two things. First of all, I think it'll change the way we're approaching. The finalization process of the film. It's like, okay, how much time are we going to take on like polishing this movie, making sure that it is exactly what it needs to be. I think if we have this idea, like, oh, we could just, you know, phone this in and be done. It's going to change how we show up, you know, in the, in post and two, even if the result is the same, first of all, you've made a better movie, you know, it's a little more polished, but second of all, even more importantly, hopefully the festival around you learned a lot from. And even if you sold it to the same distributor, you've talked to the other distributors that you might not have talked to, or you've run it through festivals or tried to get into certain festivals and gotten into at other festivals and you'll know how to run the festival circuit. The next time you make a film. So try and live the process now that you'd want to do on the next one, you know? And so it, cause if you just quit early, And it's like the thing you said with kids, it's like, okay, well, we'll call that one a day. You know, we're done, he's kind of ruined, let's have another one and we'll do it better this time. The reason I have an all or nothing, it's an all or nothing mentality. And the, and the problem with that is if you believed that that child or that movie or that current, whatever could still turn out to be. Everything you want. You're going to run it through the full pipeline, the full process. You're going to go with that kid until they're solid, 19 years old. You're going to give it the best you can. And you're going to believe that this could turn around and all turn out for the best. And I just worked with an actor two days ago on a sh. And every time he flubbed up, he was like, all right, let's start over. All right. Okay. Let me just start that from the beginning. Okay. Let me start over. And I told him any kind of had a hard time taking this direction. Just finish it. Even if you irreparably ruin the take, just try to just try to move through it. And you know what, aren't those like the greatest moments in film history is when like an actor or something happened where they were like, ah, let's, you know, they could have just said, oh, let's cut. And it was the best take. I mean, like the famous one is like I'll Fonza Koran called cut on the famous wonder in children of. And the whole crew ignored him, I guess. Cause because he thought something funky, it happened with the camera and it ruined the take and he called cut. Everyone, ignored him. And the take was this totally visceral amazing take. And it ended up in the movie and it was the tape that the director called cut in the middle of ended up in the movie. I think that's just a cool story. And so don't call cut too early on your life, you know, and don't be like, oh, let me start over on this thing. Anyway, these are kind of things that I'm, you're making

Anna Thalman:

me think of. Yeah. I love that. And that's something, what you said about your experience with the actor kind of reminded me of a masterclass. I can't remember who it was. I, I want to say it was usher and he talks about preparing for a performance. And when he's practicing in the mirror, he always encourages people to do that. Just sing the song all the way through and don't stop no matter how badly you mess up. Just keep going. Because when you're performing live, you have to just keep going. And you're always going to have moments where you mess up. And you have to kind of turn it into something and make it work. And so he says, just finish it all the way through the best you can, even when you're practicing. And I loved that piece of well, and it's not just a

Kent Thalman:

piece of advice. I think it's a principle and the reason I think it's a principle, that's so powerful for every aspect of life, but especially for filmmaking is because. Just like to that point with music, you know, how many of us, if you've ever tried to even learn a musical instrument, which I'm the world's, you know, most uninspiring piano player, because I just play it and I get really good at the first quarter of the song, but I never get very good at the last part of the song because I never actually finish it. I have a screenwriter friend who said everyone's better at coming up with story ideas than they are at polishing scripts because. We come up with new ideas every day, but we have very little practice honing the skill of rewriting and locking a script, I think it's a principle for that reason. And you're going to run into this in everything where it's just not as good as I thought it could be. So I'm going to quit and start over and the next one will be all the things I want it to be, but you're sabotaging yourself by doing that because you're not practicing getting good at the second half or the second three quarters or the second quarter or whatever, I'm getting good at finishing. You're not getting good at the latter part of the process. And so, you know, even you and I talking about this current feature film, if we kind of tried to do a quick short. Strategy here. We wouldn't get good at the second portion of it. Even if it doesn't go as well as we want it to. We're more likely for the next film to actually be what we want it to be than if we were say, let's quit now and start the next one now, because, because we've learned from our failures. Exactly. Exactly. So you have to follow things through

Anna Thalman:

and not just follow through. Cause I think even sometimes. We will finish it, but not with our best effort because we're just trying to be done. And so, yeah, we rushed to the end and I think this is a really natural thing. And it comes from that concept. I believe often of open loops, which we talk about a lot in screenwriting, but also it's used in marketing where people will say, if you send an email and you just tell the first half of a story, and then you say, look out tomorrow for the other half of the story. And people are going to be way more likely to click on your next email because they want to hear the rest of the story or with screenwriting, if you don't quite answer the question or finish a scene, and then you come back to it, we kind of create some suspense where people want to close that loop. Our minds naturally want something conclusive when we hear a story. And I think we can get that way about our own little. We're thinking about like, how is this going to end? Like what's going to happen. And we kind of just want it to be over with so we can close the loop, like, okay, that was the end of the story of this film. It turned out this way and we can wrap it up. And for some people that's, even the reward is telling the story after it's done. And we were looking forward to that and we want to rush ahead and get to that part where we can just talk about how great it was and how hard it was. Instead of actually going through that process and living it. But you don't have to wait for that. And this is the concept we want to teach you and encourage you to do when you feel that way is just to decide what is the ending. You get to write it just like you would get to write your own screenplay and you write the ending. And in that story, right? The ending of the story. For this project or for this part of your life and just decide, this is how it's going to end. It's going to be great. Think of the best case scenario. And here's the thing. You will need to rewrite it because when we're writing drama in a screenplay, we're going to make it dramatic. And we're going to add a lot of challenges for the character, but when we're trying to write. Our lives. We

Kent Thalman:

don't do that. We're always trying to take the drama out and make it as streamlined, as simple as possible. And we're not suggesting not doing that. Right. We, we

Anna Thalman:

want it to be yeah. When we're writing it, but life will naturally make it dramatic. So you don't need to write that in, but start out by writing the ending you want. And you can probably keep the ending what's going to change is how you get there. And that's the part you'll have to rewrite as you go.

Kent Thalman:

I have a professor who said that the opposite of closure is aperture, which is filmmakers is kind of fun. So to your point, Anna, If the opposite of closure, which is what you want, you want to close, that loop is aperture. Then it really behooves us to grow our tolerance in real life for aperture, and be okay was not closing the loop yet. Even though I do like what you're saying, that you can close the loop, if you believe in the future that you have decided upon

Anna Thalman:

Definitely. I think we can get used to that. And, and at the same time, it's not really necessary. In some situations we can get a lot of anxiety about wanting to close the loop and how's it going to turn out and what's going to happen. And worst case scenarios, we might be really afraid if you're experiencing that. I think it can be helpful to come up with the narrative of how you want it to end

Kent Thalman:

and then believe in the best case scenario. I really believe. And what you're saying about making decisions from a belief in the best case scenario, because if you actually believe in the best case scenario, you will walk that path. If you, if you have doubts or you're trying to like. Well in the eventuality that we don't end up in the best case scenario, you want to prepare for that? Well, yeah, you do want to prepare for it, but you don't want to make all your decisions based on, well, if you, because this will probably be a mediocre outcome, we may as well make this decision, you know, it's like, no, that's, well, then you'll only be able to have mediocre outcomes.

Anna Thalman:

That's what I was going to say is if you prepare for it too much, that's the outcome you're going to get you worked towards that's what you've planned for. So. Watched king Richard, which you haven't, if you haven't seen yet is definitely a great watch. Go see it in theaters. But basically Richard plans out his daughter's life and he has this plan for their family and he has very specific ideas about how they're going to get each of these goals that he's outlined. And in the end, Every single thing that he planned happened, and this is a real life story. So. It's kind of crazy. It's a crazy story about these two daughters who become both Tennessee champions, like the greatest, I mean the greatest of

Kent Thalman:

all time, most likely you've heard of Venus and Serena Williams and because they are just some of the greatest, if not the greatest people to ever play the sport of tennis and, and they came from Compton and, and they just, they just did not come from sort of the. The culture that usually brings up tennis because tennis is kinda like golf it's history is very, like, you have to be able to pay to have the private trainers and the golf clubs, you know? So yeah, it's, it's, it's remarkable that he, if you daddy does that.

Anna Thalman:

Yeah. Whenever you do something that has never been done before, there will definitely be people who. All along the way. And that's what you see in the movie with king Richard people doubt him and they've never seen anyone do what he's done. So they keep telling him that over and over again, but it doesn't affect his belief. He still just talks about the future as if it's already happened. Like, no, you don't understand. These girls are going to be famous and you're going to wish that you'd been in on this. Yeah.

Kent Thalman:

You're passing up the opportunity of a lifetime and he's extremely confident and he teaches his daughter. To be equally confident. And it's interesting how he almost, he defends their confidence because he knows that if anyone tries to kind of come between them and their confidence and try and make them doubt, which is usually what most reporters are trying to do, because they want to create drama. Right. They want to, they want to raise the stakes and show what would happen if you do lose kind of a thing. He like, he almost doesn't let them ask those questions because he's basically saying. She's answered very confidently what she believes about her abilities and everything. And he said, leave it, don't keep asking questions. I think that's really interesting because he's like, if you get in the way of your own confidence, then, you know,

Anna Thalman:

that's detrimental to the goal. When you

Kent Thalman:

know what they say, Thomas S Monson said your future is as bright as your faith. And it's kind of this idea of How much you believe in the future that you want is how real it will become basically. And so he doesn't want anyone to get between them and that confidence. And so that story that he's written for,

Anna Thalman:

it's really nice how he kind of narrates the story as they're living it. He tells them. Now this is the moment they're never going to forget this, or when you do this and he's telling them as their. Living it out that this is important and, and helping reinforce that belief all along the way, which is just a really cool, inspirational thing to do but you can do that with yourself the thing is if it was super easy and you were able to just like, we gave this example of submit submitting to a festival and you were just accepted in every festival and they were all fighting over your film and it sold for a super huge sum of money. That's actually a boring story. You weren't meant to have a boring story. That's why we don't like watching boring stories because they're not realistic. Real life has real drama and it takes effort to get results that actually matter. So, if it's easy, come it's easy. Go.

Kent Thalman:

Well, sorry, but you really remind me when you say when it's easy comments, easy go, you know, we've talked on this podcast about this idea that what matters most lasts longest. And I think we also talked about the idea of. Lasts longest, usually takes August. And this is why it's so important. Going back to this idea of when something gets going, when, you know, when the going gets tough, it's so easy to say, okay, how do we tie this thing up? How do we create some closure right now by being done and moving onto the next thing. But so often I feel like. What lasts longest takes longest. And so it's not, you don't need to make it take any longer than it. It's like, it's like adding drama, right? You don't need to make it take longer. You don't need to make it dramatic. That will just be, but don't give up on it until it's done. You see it through to the end because the things that we see through all the way to the end are usually the ones that last longest, and when they last longest, it's usually because you're making something that really matters, but if you're making something that doesn't really matter, then it's really hard to. Stick with it, you know, see it through to the end, because

Anna Thalman:

to believe that it matters, you remember why it does. Yeah. So, you know, if you were. Writing a dramatic version of this story of submitting to festivals. Like the character would probably have these high hopes, maybe the film tests really well. They submit to a bunch of big festivals and they're excited that maybe they're going to get in. And then they just get rejected over and over again. Right. We do this to our characters. We want to put them through the ringer and they keep up hope, but the rejection continues until they run out of money and then they're using their own money and making sacrifices. Maybe they think they got in, but it's a false alarm and like

Kent Thalman:

the stakes get higher.

Anna Thalman:

Yeah. Like, and then the year's ending and they can't afford to pay for another festival out of their own pocket and pay the rent by the deadline. And so, and then

Kent Thalman:

usually something completely unexpected happens. Like someone somewhere saw it because it was circulating and they said, Hey, I've got some connections. And I really want to bring this film over to this other

Anna Thalman:

place. Or even after they totally give up, like maybe the investors like. I want to cover one more festival and they're like, no, it's okay. Like, you don't have to do that. We've tried like getting into smaller festivals than this and been rejected and then you've wasted enough of your money. And then you find that last dollar and no, and then the investor does it behind their

Kent Thalman:

backs, the golden ticket and chocolate bar.

Anna Thalman:

And just when they gave up and thought they'd. They find out that they actually got in their investor submitted when they didn't know. And

Kent Thalman:

this is usually when in real life we sing musical numbers.

Anna Thalman:

But see, this is a much more interesting story. The results, the same in the end. You still get into a big festival and have a happy ending, but it's not as easy and simple as the first thing you submit to is going to be this smash success, real life stories that are worth telling, have a lot of effort and drama that go into them. So keep the ending for as long as you want, but just be flexible with like, you can rewrite how you get there. So do your best case scenario and see what happens. And then if you have to rewrite. Go back and rewrite it. And this happens when we're writing screenplays too, you can write something down and then someone reads it and says, ah, it's not working for me. And you might have to change what you write, but it doesn't have to change overall the story and how you feel at the end of

Kent Thalman:

it. Usually there's like the pieces of a story, you know, from a screenwriting perspective that make it what it is that are just kind of non-negotiable it's like, well, listen, I wrote this because. In essence, this is what this is, but, but you know, maybe you can cut that character, you know, maybe you can, maybe you could cut that scene. Maybe you could rewrite this other thing, or maybe you could maybe adjust a moment here and there and you know, don't be too strict on it. And that life requires us to be flexible, but at the same time, it will always try and make. Compromise in ways that aren't always worth compromising. Like you said, you keep that ending and you believe in it. I'm glad you chose to talk about this particular topic today.

Anna Thalman:

Thanks. Yeah. So hopefully this is helpful for you as you experience that feeling that we all get sometimes of being anxious for something to be done with that you've worked on for a long time, try this, decide how you want it to end practice telling that story. And then you're okay. You know how the story ends as if you were going to go watch a movie and someone already told you how. And so then when it's getting bad and you're worried, you're like, how is it going to get to that ending? I don't know, but I know that it is because someone already told me. And so you can live in that suspense. And still have this confidence that

Kent Thalman:

or going to end. Well, the trailer you've seen act one, two and three, most of the time. Anyway, so

Anna Thalman:

yeah. So there's sort of that like tolerance you can have in your life. Like it's just a movie, it's just, this is kind of fun. It's fun when you know how it ends and you just don't know how you're going to get there. It's like, Yeah, it'd be cool to see how it plays out.

Kent Thalman:

The end of every rollercoaster is everyone survives, but they have to convince you along the way that like, maybe, maybe you won't because this is scary. Right? So, I mean, most of us don't quite get to that point mentally going to coasters, but I digress.

Anna Thalman:

All right. That's it for today. We'll see you

Kent Thalman:

later. byte.