Fifteen Big Lessons I've Learned (I Hope)

I recently did some lectures in Australia & New Zealand.  Being asked to speak, gives me a chance to reflect.  One or two days of 6-7 hr marathon lectures leads me to want to be able to sum it all up.  This exercise in summation is one of futility, but that does not stop me from trying. What have I learned over the years? What can be done to make better films? What can be done to make a better film industry and culture that actually supports & benefits the creators and appreciators of ambitious and diverse film? How can our culture actually lift up our world?  I don't pretend to know the answers, but I have fortunately learned some things (and I believe in sharing, declaring, and collaborating).

  1. Start with yourself.  Do the work on you before you begin the project.  As detailed as you will be on the script, be as focused on yourself regarding your values, your passions, your methods, your actions, your past, and your hopes.  Have you made a list?  Do you know what it is you love and need?
  2. Always try to understand what someone wants or does not want, and do they have the ability or opportunity to know the difference.  This is necessary for the characters on the page, collaborators on a project, audiences who might attend the film, your potential investors, everyone.  This is the White Hare problem: do they know the difference from liking what they get vs. getting what they like?
  3. The only constant is change.  Don't take your eyes off of that change.  Are you standing too close to see it? Don't settle into thinking there is an absolute right way for doing something (unless it  fully embraces the constant of change).
  4. The film industry is about people keeping their jobs.  In any system, those in power are motivated to maintain the status quo.  You can not expect the leaders to take you into the changing world.
  5. Art, artists, audiences, and technology change far quicker than markets or industry.  Opportunity rests in the gap in between.
  6. Help the change be evolution, not devolution.  Don't exploit it, but enhance it.  You'll be happier for it -- even when the temptation/money in the other direction is quite large.
  7. Cultivate the dark side, Luke.  Paranoia is a producer's friend.  By fantasizing about all that may go wrong, you can craft solutions from preventing them from occurring.  Good fences make for good neighbors.  When you can see the worst, you cherish the best that much more.
  8. There is frequently a gulf between need and desire -- that's where you can find business.
  9. Consider. Declare. Evaluate. Revise. Repeat. Consider. Declare. Evaluate. Revise. Repeat. Consider. Declare. Evaluate. Revise. Repeat. Consider. Declare. Evaluate. Revise. Repeat.  Shall I say it again?
  10. Take responsibility and make responsibility a goal for others too.  Accept it when it is available, but encourage others to move into it too.  Don't hesitate.
  11. Be prolific.  Be generative.  Be a maker.  Find a way to live a creative life (recognize that you don't need to have a creative career to have a creative life).  The more you create the more opportunity you will have to create.  Work begets work.  Once you do something good, they will be afraid you will do something better -- that is a negative power that creates positive opportunities.
  12. Know you will fail, despite as hard as you should try to avoid it.  Embrace the failures as part of the process.  Try again, now armed with your new knowledge that the experience has gifted you.
  13. We can not do it all if we do it alone; we can build it better together. Keep your eyes open for, and be receptive to, good partners.  Don't forget they change though; today's solution will not likely apply tomorrow.
  14. Stop acting analogue; be digital.  It no longer is about completion and perfection; it is world of evolution that requires collaboration.
  15. It is all process.  Fixed and finite, completed or defined -- they are rare things.  This too shall pass.  Don't be hard on yourself.  Move on.  Get over it.

The wise ones always find the better way to say it.  Gandhi  nailed it with "Be the change you want to see".  It took him seven words to express what takes me about six hundred.