Standard Story Company

Facing Failure as a Filmmaker

First off, some news: I have a big new short film on the way!

Just starting pre-production now and I’m very excited for it, although it’s going to be a huge challenge, and there are lots of scary question marks right now.

One unique question mark is… how do I document the process of making this?

I want to be thorough, and use the making-of videos to build up to the eventual release of the film on the YT channel, but I also don’t want to totally spoil the story along the way.

I’m considering making the shooting script available here for anyone who wants to read it. That way you could follow along with the BTS videos and understand exactly what scenes and problems I’m trying to solve. And then for anyone who didn’t want to have the story spoiled, they could simply not read the script 🤔

Anyway, lots more info coming soon. As members of the Email Crew, you’ll stay in the loop as this project develops over the coming months.

By the way, if anyone reading this is/knows a pro in the following positions, please reply here as I’d love to chat:

  • Location Manager (west coast)
  • Line Producer

But for now let’s talk about what to do when things aren’t going so well…

Keeping Hope Alive

Make no mistake: there’s just no way to succeed in film without experiencing lots of failures, rejections, setbacks, and ego-bruising disappointments.

Here’s some of my own favorite failures from over the years:

  • Losing the short film I’d spent the summer shooting when my PC’s hard drive failed
  • Rejected from Florida State University’s film school… twice
  • Rejected from every festival I submitted my first feature film to
  • Losing half my crew 3 weeks before shooting my 2nd feature, then losing the lead actor 1 week before shooting
  • Screening that 2nd feature to the cast/crew and suddenly realizing they all hated it
  • Getting demoted at my crappy office job my first day after returning from Austin Film Festival. This also happened to be my birthday. I sat there in a stupor for a while, then just walked out of the building. Nobody minded…

Whenever you face these moments, it’s natural to start questioning whether you’re on the right path. I usually end up googling things like “coding bootcamp” to see if it’s not too late for me to find a new career path and salvage my life.

Here’s the only things that kept me in the game:

  • Growing wiser. After reflecting on the failure, dissecting where it all went wrong, I knew that I was better than I was before the failure. “I’ll never do that again” is a powerful lesson.
  • A chip on my shoulder. The urge to “show them” the err in their ways was a powerful motivator in my younger days.
  • Inspiration. Seeing a new movie that rocked me and left me in awe as the credits rolled. Seeing my peers pushing their own limits and putting out impressive new work. Coming up with an idea out of nowhere that could make for a great story.
  • Rediscovering belief in myself. Once when I was convinced I was talentless as a writer, I found some old short stories I wrote in college that I’d forgotten about. It felt like reading someone else’s work for the first time, and I loved them. Narcissistic? Sure. But it helped me believe in myself again, and I find it impossible to make anything without that belief.
  • Nostalgia. Filmmaking was like my abusive spouse. No matter how hard it beat me down, eventually I’d start remembering all the good times we had together, and go crawling back.
  • Successful bad films. Some people get cynical when they see a cinematic turd get praised and celebrated, but the thought of “Well I could do better than that” was always very motivating to me.
  • Being a tortoise among hares. I knew most of my peers would eventually drop out of filmmaking in one form or another. So simply staying in the game longer than them actually becomes a big advantage. Knowing that… why not give it one more try?
  • Comfort. This is the biggest one. I’d already spent so much time making films and videos, it’s where I felt the most in my element, the most confident, the most me. Left to our own devices, we’ll always end up where we feel the most comfortable.

If you’re facing a serious setback that’s making you question your filmmaking future, hopefully some of these will keep hope alive for you.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a real failure unless it makes you quit entirely.

Favorites this week:

📹 Video: Against the Proliferation of Sofa Ownership and Use

I love when the YouTube algorithm comes through with something random like this that’s simultaneously stupid and though-provoking (and funny).

I’ve idly fantasized about being a couchless person for years… but our TV is mounted too high on the wall for anything else to make sense. Or maybe I just don’t have the guts 😔

💬 Quote: I don’t think that writers or painters or film makers function because they have something they particularly want to say. They have something that they feel. And they like the art form: they like words, or the smell of paint, or celluloid and photographic images and working with actors. I don’t think that any genuine artist has ever been orientated by some didactic point of view, even if he thought he was. – Stanley Kubrick

That’s it for this week.

Let’s make some movies.


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