You ARE An Artist!

Hello everyone! Hope you’re all well!

I was teaching a class recently called the Professional Development Program 1.0. This class is designed to look at the whole of your career. In addition to helping students create a business plan for themselves and teaching them how to audition on camera and having them read industry books, we also require the students to film 10 short films (3 minutes or less) that are each designed to make them stronger artists and individuals.

Recently, my students shot, edited and turned in their first short film. We screened them in class and their first films blew me away. At the end of the screening, I told them: “Give yourselves a round of applause. You are now filmmakers! Congratulations!”

The class applauded, and immediately, I caught one student in the front row do air quotes with his fingers, “Filmmakers”. He said “Filmmakers” and did air quotes with his fingers. And I got all his subtext behind that: “Yeah right”; “sure”; “sure we are”; “if that’s what you say”; etc.) And I was like, “No, you ARE a filmmaker. Claim that. You just turned in a short film. You didn’t have a film to your name last week. And here you are, a week later, with a film that you originated, conceived, wrote, acted in, shot and edited.”

I continued that just because it’s a short film for class, just because it’s a three minute film, doesn’t mean that you’re not a filmmaker. You ARE a filmmaker. You MADE a film. The first step to believing that you are a filmmaker is to believe that you are. Point. Blank. Period. Fuck it, the first step to believing that you are anything is to believe that you are.

I continued by saying that people like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron believed from jump street that they were filmmakers. I added that if you looked at their first films, it probably wasn’t the greatest in terms of production value and what they are able to create now, but I bet you anything that they stood by their films with pride and confidence. You couldn’t tell them anything that they weren’t filmmakers.

When I look back at the films I did when I took the PDP 1.0 class, I claimed that I was a filmmaker. You couldn’t tell me shit. I stood by each film project I did with confidence and pride. Each film came out exactly how I envisioned it in my head. Now, when I look back at these films, I chuckle and cringe sometimes because the sound was off or the lighting was off or some production value was off. However, that being said, I could also see each film getting better and better.

I look at the films I am able to produce today and it is night and day. But the only reason why I am able to produce better films today was because I fucking claimed that I was a filmmaker from the moment I shot my first film project in PDP 1.0 and because I kept getting better and better. I failed forward.

I’m sure Steven Spielberg and James Cameron got better and better with each film they did. I’m sure many artists have gotten better and better with their craft (actors, writers, dancers, painters, authors, photographers, musicians, etc.)

So, claim that you ARE a filmmaker. Or an actor. Or a writer. There’s this fucked up notion in the entertainment business that you aren’t anything unless you get paid for it. Or unless you’ve “made it”. “I’m not an actor unless I’m on a series.” Fuck that. You ARE an actor because you’ve decided that you are one and you’re building a career around that passion and love you have for it. Don’t wait until you’ve “made it” to declare or believe that you are an actor.

The belief starts now. The enjoyment starts now. Because if you don’t believe it now, claim it now, own it now, then you’ll never be happy. You’ll never be satisfied–even when you book the fucking series. You’ll qualify your series booking with some unfounded nonsense.

The student got my point of view and his attitude towards being a filmmaker changed from air quotes “Filmmaker” to “Yes, I am a filmmaker.”

Cause truth be told, if I had let that moment slide by, then 1) His ability to create future projects would suffer and plateau/crash immediately. He would not be able to soar to his greatest potential. 2) His attitude would have infected others to go into agreement with him. Other students–who just one minute ago had a tremendous win and a tremendous sense of pride with their own film projects–would have started questioning themselves and gone into agreement with him: “Yeah, he’s right. We’re ‘filmmakers'”. They would have been air quoting as well.

And the tragedy is that we then lose the future Steven Spielbergs, James Camerons, Ava DuVernays, Patty Jenkins, Ryan Cooglers, Guillermo del Toros, Alejandro G. Iñárritus, Kathryn Bigelows, etc.

And I won’t let that happen.

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