By Coco Fernandez
I’m sure we’ve all heard someone we know, or a friend of a friend say, “I never thought it would happen to me.” Maybe I’m just weird, or have a bit of a Chicken Little complex, but I always thought that was a silly thing to think. Of course, anything could happen to you; it’s life, not a scripted movie. However, last year something happened to me that, I realized, I always thought would NEVER happen to me: I became a college dropout. In the last year of my college career, I decided to give it all up (and save my mom some money) to pursue a completely different passion- and that passion is filmmaking.
1. ASK QUESTIONS.
And if you don’t have questions, always observe. I was lucky enough to be on set with people who fully encouraged a learning environment while on set. If I had a question, they’d answer it. If I wanted to get hands on and try something for myself, they were more than happy to let me take the reigns for a bit. Every set will be different, but never be afraid to ask if you are unsure or curious; chances are they will love you for it, because film is their passion too, and they will want to share their knowledge just as much as you want it.
2. TRY EVERYTHING AT LEAST ONCE
The world of film fascinates me; how hundreds of people come together with different skills and spend months, even years to create something we sit and watch on a screen for a couple of hours. I hadn’t a clue as to what I part of filmmaking I wanted to concentrate on, so I’ve dabbled in a little of everything to figure out exactly what avenue I wanted to pursue. I’ve learned that I like various crafts, from operating sound to editing to cinematography, and while I feel that directing and producing is where my heart truly lies, it does not hurt to learn other skills. Challenge yourself to try things you think you may not like or that seem highly intimidating. Who knows, you could discover you are perfect for the job!
3. KNOW THAT YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES
Over and over and over again. There’s no going around it. You will fuck up in small ways and in big ways, but don’t let that discourage you. Failure is not the end, it’s a learning experience. It’s the only way you will learn what works and what doesn’t, and honestly, it’s more fun that way. You will discover things about yourself and the people around you that you had no idea were there, good and bad. When you fall, pick yourself back up, brush yourself off and continue forward with new wisdom. Know that everyone before you and after you has been or will be in your shoes at some point. The most important part is what you choose to do after the fact. So, make mistakes! You’ll laugh about them later.
4. TAKE DEEP BREATHS & HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM
This tip is one of the most important, so listen up. You’re going to hit walls when trying to make a film (or a web series, or a tv show…you get the picture). These walls can be figurative and literal, though hopefully the literal ones are mostly by accident and you don’t intend to keep hitting them. When you have a really frustrating or lousy day, it’s imperative that you take a step back and turn to something or someone else for relaxation, perspective and/or a box of tissues and some Ben & Jerry’s ( there is absolutely no shame in that last one). Find a physical activity, a book or listen to some music to take your mind off of things; sometimes that’s where you get your best ideas. Go out with friends and have some fun; you do actually deserve some social time. Filmmaking is really fucking hard, and you have to know your own limits, otherwise you’ll burn yourself out and quit altogether.
5. REMEMBER WHY YOU WANTED TO DO THIS
It’s easy to get caught up in the pressures of filmmaking: “Is my work good enough?”; “I have to meet the right people so my work will be seen”; “I have to have the latest and greatest equipment”; “I’m a woman in an industry dominated by men”; “I want my films to be groundbreaking and original.” There are truths to all of these worries, both positive and negative, and ALL of us will think any number of these more times than we can count in our careers. However, if there is only one bit you take from this article it should be this: Why do you do what you do? Think back to that one moment in your life, whatever it is, where you thought to yourself, “I want to make movies,” because that is the only reason that matters at the end of the day. Forget fame and gender and skill level. Forget all of it.
I came across a great book while doing some research. It’s written by two female filmmakers, Camille Landau and Tiare White, entitled, “What They Don’t Teach You in Film School: 161 Strategies for Making Your Own Movies No Matter What." In it is a superb passage in the introduction that says, “What they don’t teach you in film school is that you can make films if you want to. With or without film school. With or without a budget, a crew, actors, or an audience, you can make films.” I think that quote is something all of us should keep in mind, because when you think about it, they’re right.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to chase your dreams. All you need is that moment in your life when you decided to chase them.