The Happy Filmmaker Blog

  • Creative Energy Boost

    I find that only a few things in life are as exciting and stimulating as the energy boost you get from creative work and working in a team of like-minded creatives when things go right. It can feel almost physically addictive, because it is certainly releasing a lot of happy hormones. I tend to compare my own experience of this with the act of swimming (and pounding the waves smoothly with your limbs) or body surfing - being engulfed and carried by the elements around you, yet in control of them,

    It's what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called "the flow". The flow happens when a person is fully immersed in what they are doing. When actors play off each other and merge with their roles, they are in the flow. When you film a documentary scene and you manage to frame exactly the right action at exactly the right time, you are not thinking only and pre-planning shots, but you are in the flow, you react to what is in front of you and you control the camera with your reaction but that again provides more for you to react to. I sometimes don't realise anymore that camera and my arm are separate. It is almost like turning into that hybrid being where the arm supports the machine bit that feeds the eye - David Cronenberg would like that. 

    It is a state to cultivate and even practice as it is so essential for creating useful work - yet it isn't always easy to manage. As we know, filmmaking is to a great part scheduling, planning, calculating and in general being very adult and rational about things - lest they go wrong.

    Being an adult is also a bit tiring - I don't know whether you had noticed. At some stage, you start to become standoffish and short, giving commands and feeling like people around you either don't realise what's important or treat you somehow wrong. In other words: if you are being very, very rational for very, very long, you will paint yourself into a corner of unhappiness.

    Enter a tool that I am finally discovering to its full potential and which I realise is extremely useful on the quest of being a happy filmmaker: meditation.

    I had wanted to start with meditation for a long time, but somehow didn't quite get the hang of it. It worked, sort of, to sit still and try and let thoughts come and go, focussing on the body - but somehow I hadn't really got the right guidance. 

    Then I stumbled over a website that appealed straight away to the busy, multi-tasking geek inside me: 

    I signed up for the guided meditation practice that the guys over at Get Some Headspace offer and I admit it, probably mainly enticed by the wonderful animations across the site and the fact that they even offer an app for my phone.

    On a more serious level, the fact that Andy Puddicombe, the Headspace founder and fully ordainned Buddhist monk, set out to bring meditation to über-busy Westerners intrigued me. And they got me hooked.

    I am about 4 months into the experience, where their year-long daily meditation program now delves head first (literally!) into the realm of creativity. There are lots of thoughts, feelings and insights bubbling up - and I am planning to share them here once in a while.

    Today's mediation, which was the second of a series of visualisation techniques, made me think about that energizing effect that creativity has on the body. Interestingly enough, meditation ties in very nicely with that - as it can have the same effect. It is also extremely good for recharigng your batteries: like a hot foam bath for the mind. 

  • The Happy Filmmaker

    What is the first thing that comes to mind when I ask you to describe a typical filmmaker? What is the work environment you picture?

    All too often, there will be ideas of selfish and authoritarian producers, manipulative directors, "difficult" actors and snobbish and cynical technical crew only waiting to see any of the big wigs fall.

    While this is fuelled by some - admittedly entertaining - satires about the "business" from within the business (off the top of my head I can think of "State and Main", written and directed by David Mamet who I suspect likes a good story about intrigue and betrayal), there seem to be a great lot of people working within the industry who are anything but back-biting monsters.

    In fact, those people I am thinking of are in it for love - they do what they do with a passion - because if they did it for the sure paycheck or the riches to be earned, they would be working another job. They also do it for the people they want to work with, and the art they want to bring about. They love filmmaking and they want to be happy doing it.

    I am one of these people. And I know a whole lot of others who would whole-heartedly agree.

    It doesn't always work out well and happy - which is partly due to the crazy hours worked, the tight finances, the "fear" of the audience and its supposed whimsical taste. And some of those filmmakers who seek happiness at some stage quit the industry and open up a B&B or become a yoga teacher. While I love B&Bs and always enjoy the company of yoga teachers, the greatest love of my life (well, one of them ;-)) is filmmaking, creating images, especially the moving one. 

    But I also decided to live my life happily. 

    So this blog is to explore the ways in which you (and I) can combine the two. Because, as one of the most inspiring people I know rightly says: what you think, you become. 

    Films can inspire, filmmakers can inspire - and they also need inspiration to keep going. 

    Instead of bemoaning the state of the industry, here is to a collection of thoughts, ideas, programs and resources for the Happy Filmmaker - to keep you fuelled with your passion and let you work that passion in ways that benefit yourself, your environment and "the industry" alike. 

    It is a random collection of the things I find on my path to be helpful, and I hope you enjoy it and will find inspiration, too.

    Keep creating tiny miracles of moving images on screen!


    Sibylle x