The Happy Filmmaker Blog

  • Non-attachment for directors

    Non-attachment and directing seem to be paradoxical. But as a recent article about the 10 paradoxical traits of creative people suggests, for a filmmaker combining opposites in your personality is quite normal.

    So how about non-attachment?

    What I mean by it in its broadest sense is the ability to let go and let unfold. To NOT cling to your first idea. To be able to relinquish control. And if you read this list, it all sounds a little more sensible, doesn't it?

    For a director, the very term seems to suggest that you should give directions. So it can be very easy to feel the responsibility of "making" it happen.

    This may be even more so for that new breed of filmmaker - a very general term that basically means a micro-entrepreneur, oftentimes a one-man or one-woman band who conceives the idea, develops, shoots and edits, sometimes with the collaboration, help and support of creative partners in one of these areas, more often than not alone in at least one of them because that is what the media landscape and the - oh, so elusive - funds dictate to get anything done that is not totally the norm (or invented by others whose direction we have to follow). For these self-reliant "content creators", it can be very easy to get stuck or frightened by the sense of control that we feel we need to exercise. And even if it is just control over ourselves: getting the motivation up to continue with a project that we believe in.

    Whether it is for the purpose of meaningful collaboration or simply for the health of yourself - and the project: non-attachment is a wonderful thing.

    Let go of that great idea, open yourself up to the possibility of alternatives and watch what happens. (If you develop your project through any pitching workshop, you will be told so anyway.) Sometimes, you will find something stronger. But what's even more exciting is watching how letting go gives that idea a life of its own. If regarded as common good, like the idea of someone else, all of a sudden, you can see that your life doesn't depend on tiny details - and you can experiment with improving them.

    Non-attachment seems to be vital to our ability to calm down. A calm, happy and friendly communication is so desirable in the workplace, even more so when you are trying to create something that your audience should love and enjoy.

    Let people who want to work with you have their say. Listen to your idea through the lens of their perspective - you might find something useful.

    As a director, your main job is anyway to be the catalyst that spurs on everybody's creativity and coaxes them into bringing their best talent to the film. People might joke that you are dispensable since you aren't physically doing anything, just standing or sitting around and watching. Little do they know. You are like the compass, magnetic North, you are the ship's stewart, there to make sure the project travels on course. So you need to be able to de-tach yourself a bit from the details and get the bigger picture once in a while. Non-attachment again.

    How you reach non-attachment will be a personal thing. Actually it is a term that is used a lot when talking about meditation and that happens to be my own preferred practice - among others. As I mentioned in the very first blog entry, I will share with you here what I have discovered. So having started a daily meditation practice just about 6 months ago with the aid of the wonderful Headspace Journey, I find it more and more useful for my work practice. A calm fierceness or a fierce kindness is what I am trying to apply to my work these days. And when I manage, not only does work feel like play - it also gets lovely results in much shorter time than before. Then I've got to deal with the trouble that I feel like a cheat cause I "haven't really done that much" - apart from showing up every day and practicing - but that's another story.

    In fact, for those of you a bit more technically-minded who find the concept of meditation to sound like hocus pocus, how about thinking about it like maintenance for the mind? You clean your lenses, dust the connections and check out your cables, too. So how can the human brain and mind and being, one of the most complex "machines" on earth on which most other machines are modelled, be expected to function day in and day out without a practice to maintain its vitality and happiness?

    Don't take my word for it, try things for yourself. I am not re-inventing the wheel here, simply trying to merge my two passions: that for filmmaking and that for having a life full of happiness and love. Trying not too hard seems to do the trick.