Don’t work with assholes. Ever. No matter what they’re offering, no matter what they bring to the table. If they’re the sort of person where the phone rings at 10 o’clock at night and you wince because you see that it’s them, then don’t do business with them. One asshole will ruin your life. I’ve managed my entire TV and filmmaking career to work with people I like and respect. If the point comes where I don’t like or respect someone, I don’t work with them anymore.
As we are exploring the happy filmmaking life further, I would like to start with the first part: the happiness. We will explore the filmmaking, too, don't worry. But there are already a lot of very valuable tips out there about the technique and technology, the tools of the trade. Important to know. But all the tools in the world won't make you a happy filmmaker, if you are not happy first. Truth. (It's a bit like you won't be happy in a relationship - only for a short endorphine-fuelled high at the start - if you are not happy already. Truth that one, too. Trust me. Tried it.)
With happiness I don't mean permanent cheerfulness, ignorance of life's more difficult aspects and neverending energy that is on 24/7. If you are after those, you might have to try cocaine or for a cheaper option that doesn't land you in prison, try sugar.
If you are after what I would define as real happiness, read on.
Happiness to me means a certain balance where you feel most of the time that things are working out, you find, that somehow life and work are in some maginficent order and you just have to show up to be part of it. Things might go wrong sometimes, or are a bit flat, but beneath all that, there is a permanent hum of happiness inside you, of happy stillness and peace of mind.
That to me is succeeding in happiness. First requirement for being a happy filmmaker.
There is a great quote about success by Arnaud Desjardins:
Everything depends on Love. If we have professional success, we feel that Life loves us, that our employers, bosses, colleagues are no enemies. Love, love; do the first step!
I have found the following to be a good definition of success as a filmmaker: if you feel loved by your audience, you consider yourself succesful. Success as a happy filmmaker also includes the love of colleagues, financiers, commissioners, producers, anyone you might depend on to do your work.
Regarding my films, people often thank me for the places they have transported them to. Be it the physical place of a small Greek island or the places in our imagination and ourselves, the feelings the films evoke and the inspiration people derive from them. Audience members have thanked me for taking them on a journey to a place they didn't even know existed and giving them inspiration, hope and an idea to try out in their own life. (If you would like to check that for yourself, you can watch THE ISLAND BUS, the documentary that elicited these comments, here.)
You cannot imagined how loved I feel when someone tells me these things. Bamm, success!
In a wider sense, not necessarily related to any of my film or video work, people usually thank me for my kindness. Which again makes me really happy, cause the Dalai Lama's postulation that kindness is THE thing to get right in life ranks high on my list of priorities.
Friends also often thank me for listening to them and for sharing advice I have found to be useful for myself regarding any situation they find themselves in. That is an absolute win-win situation because - I suppose you have guessed it from this blog - I am rather excited about sharing the things I am excited about. (And I love a bit of DADA in my phrasing, too.)
Then there are those skills that I might possess but those around me not to such a high degree. Can be something simple: in a foreign country, surrounded by speakers of other languages, my native German skills are often appreciated. This obviously depends on the situation I find myself in. In Berlin, those skills might be of a little less value to the crowd around me. In the company of professionals of other stripes, having a photographer's eye and the technical knowledge to create images that speak to the viewer has earned me profuse thanks from those who were in need of these images for whatever it is they wanted to be photographed or filmed.
Then again, there are professional skills that I have received thanks for: actors who appreciated my way of directing as it allowed them to bring out their best and shine, fellow artists who appreciated my input on their writing, editing and filming. (In a way, directing is mostly that: giving those creatives working with you feedback. What I try to do is leave room for their creativity - even if I don't understand yet what they are aiming for - to come out and do its best.)
I am listing all these things not to tell you what an amazing person I am. (If you have read this far, you either appreciate my writing yourself, so at least you would agree on that one, or you simply wonder what the whole point of all this is. Let me tell you:) This list of what people thank me for is again a guideline for me to decide what work to do, how to do it and for and with whom.
And that's important to know if you want to be not only a filmmaker, or if you don't just want to be happy, but a happy filmmaker.
Find out what the traits are that elicit the love Desjardins talks about: the love of colleagues, financiers, employers, and your audience. Find out what people thank you for! Chances are, those are your greatest talents. So find those out, and then do more of that.
See you on the small or big screens of the world!
Happiness is your original nature. It is YOU, minus your neurosis..
Directors are expected to have all the answers. After all, it's their film; the director is the captain, the leader, and the guide through the chaos. So we expect answers from them, clear and simple. And when we get their answers we can do our job.
But way too often there are five key questions that many directors seem to ignore, dismiss or they simply make the assumption that the answers are obvious. And also, chances are that nobody is asking them these questions.
Click through to "Travis Technique Tidbit #1" to read those questions that you should really ask - and try and find answers to - as a director.
Silence does not always mark wisdom.
The pleasantest things in the world are pleasant thoughts: and the great art of life is to have as many of them as possible.
Click the link to read an interesting article pointing out some of the things that might be obvious to those working creatively - but still not the norm in society in general.
"Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process."
Carolyn Gregoire then gives examples of 18 habits of creative people.
I especially like "They lose track of time" - one of my favourite parts abourt being creative. Not a popular one with your social network - the real life one. I am still working on a balance between immersing myself in a film edit and showing up in time for the cinema date or giving the cats their dinner.If you have a solution, please let me know! :-)
A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.