The New Film School – Part 1 July 7, 2023/ Posted By : Maris Lidaka/ 0 comments / Under : Creator Advice This article originally appeared in my newsletter. To get advice like this in your inbox. Sign up here: Email address: Leave this field empty if you're human: This is the first of a multi-part series. There’s a course correction that needs to be had. Speaking with filmmakers and creatives of several ages. I’ve noticed some bad ways of mental conditioning. I’ve spoken with filmmakers who have just graduated film school and ones who are in their mid-40s. And the approach their projects and careers come from two positions: Scarcity Fear We enter the industry thinking that someone else is in control. That our ability to create is going to be determined by an unknown person or entity who allows us to keep going. This puts us in a state of anxiety, overwhelm and also confusion. I’ve been thinking about a better way to approach surviving in the film industry and I think it’s similar to thinking like great athletes. There’s a difference between athletes who just make it to the big stage and ones who thrive in it. While talent is a noticeable separator, the other edge is mental. Those who can handle the mental aspects of the industry will find the outcome they want. And if I was starting a film school. This is what I would work on first for all my students: Building A Hall of Fame Mindset. And this week, you will be my first batch of students that I will be teaching. Let’s dive in. OWN WHO YOU ARE The worst thing you can do is to start modeling your career after someone else. The phrase “I am the next [fill in the blank]” should never come out of your mouth. The person you are modeling after has a completely different background and life experience. That’s something that can be learned from. But it’s impossible to replicate. The first thing is to own who you are. You have a unique perspective and way of seeing the world that can’t be copied. Own it and explore it. Figure out what our strength is and play into it. Let’s go back to athletes – they all have a unique skillset that they bring to the table. None of them try to go outside of it and become something different. LeBron James can drive and pass, Tom Brady sees everything faster, Michael Jordan could jump higher than everyone. They knew what they already possessed and they leaned into it. That was their foundation. So in a creative sense: What is are your natural talents? This is a question that goes beyond the physical skills. What unique experiences have you had? What perspective can you share that no one else has thought of? Sit down and think about this for a few days, maybe even a week. Take your time and figure out what it is you think and what you want to say. Learn who you are. Otherwise, someone else will mold you into what they want you to be. FOCUS ON YOUR CRAFT Too many of us focus on what we want to get, before we focus on what we want to do. The thought goes something like this: “I want to make this film so I can win some awards.” The focus becomes the reward. What you receive is out of your control. That is up to how it’s received by someone else. But what you can control is your effort and passion, i.e. the process. The other element of chasing awards is – what if you get it? There are countless stories of people who chase accolades from an early age. And when they get it – they are lost. They devoted so much time and effort to achieving one, singular goal. But never gave a thought to what comes next. And for many, it’s destroyed the rest of they life. Focus on what you want to be doing. What do you want your ideal day to look like. Because the award ceremony or championship is one small moment in a long life. Focus on the greatness of the other moments. ADD TO YOUR TOOLBOX Once you have your foundation and the right focus. We need to have a mindset of continuous learning. We need to be continuously seeking more knowledge to become better at our craft. The phrase is: Get 1% better everyday. I began film school focused on being a director. But I started taking classes to learn about more. I learned the basics of editing, cinematography, and lighting to name a few. The mistake I made after graduating was to stop learning for a bit. I focused so much on trying to be recognized as a director that I stopped learning – until I was forced to for my survival. But all the skills I’ve added to my toolbox over the years have only made me a better filmmaker. Learning to edit has made me a better writer. Learning to direct has made me a better editor. Everything works together. Not to mention, a willingness to learn makes you easier to collaborate with. Learn for the sake of making yourself better. Not to impress the crowd. EMBRACE THE JOB OF LEADER To be filmmakers, we have to embrace the role of being a leader. We have an unrealistic image of leadership. We think a leader is someone who’s loud and looks like infallible. This is not what leadership is. A true leader does 2 things: Communicates a vision Leaders give direction. We have a goal and a vision that we give to people to follow. And then we get out of the way. People will follow if you have a direction to give them. And it’s a direction that takes them to a greater place than where they were before. As filmmakers, we can mistake this as just making a great piece of work. But what’s more important is giving the people we collaborate with a direction. Let me know where you’re going. How this work will get you closer to that next step. And how they can be a part of it. If people can see where you’re going and that they want to be a part of it. They will work just as hard as you do. Inspires others to do their best work. Beyond having a vision. Leaders have to be an example for others to follow. We have to know who we are and embrace our role. Hold ourselves to the highest standard through our actions. This inspires the people who are with us to do their best work. Because they have an example to follow. Another part of this is putting others in a position to succeed. To use a sports example, don’t ask people to play out of position and expect greatness. We have to recognize what people’s strengths and weaknesses are. And put them in a position to utilize their strength. While giving them the opportunity to overcome their areas of weakness. But always remember that everything ultimately falls upon you. If something isn’t working, it’s on the leader to change it. If something is, the leader has to amplify it. Embracing the role of leader means you get all the credit and all the blame. Be comfortable with both. HAVE A DIRECTION To expand on this, the greats always have a vision of what comes next. I have a personal saying that is: Your portfolio is your past. Whatever you have just put out into the world is now an example of what you have done. And as filmmakers, we have to get people excited about what we are doing. Film school and society at large makes us believe that being a filmmaker is about receiving – rewards, recognition, fame. But it’s really about building. All of the steps before are working in unison to create something bigger than ourselves. To answer the ultimate goal of: I want to create work that helps (this person) achieve (this result) through (this process). For an example: The Blended Future Project creates that helps mixed people achieve self-confidence through truthful storytelling. That’s what I am building and all filmmakers need to think the same way. We are in a continuous state of forward motion. And we’re not waiting on anyone else to push us along. THINK IN DECADES With this forward momentum, we have to think long term. To keep with the sports analogy, Hall of Fame athletes think of where they want to be not at the end of their career of least a decade. But they also have a vision of where they want to do at the end of life. Take a moment right now and write down how you want to be doing in your life in decades: What do you want to have built? Who do you want to have inspired? What type of person do you want to connect with? When you zoom out this far and start to look ahead. This helps to think of not only where you’re headed. But takes the pressure off of you. Never underestimate what you can do in 10 years. Here’s what I was doing 10 years ago: Cleaning houses for money Wishing I could make films Wondering what I was doing with my life Fast forward to today, money comes in various ways. I’ve made several films and I know exactly what I’m building. And I’m thinking in terms of where I want to be in the next decade. The mindset set we need to have is building for the long term. Creativity is a lifelong pursuit, it’s only over once we stop breathing. We don’t need permission to become filmmakers and artists. We just have to start doing it. And keep falling in love with it. A LIFELONG LOVE If you don’t love the act of filmmaking – STOP NOW. Find something else and focus on that. If you love it, find ways to keep doing it. Don’t focus on the results, don’t get discouraged with the outcome. Just focus on the love of what you are blessed to do. An art form that children around the world would love to be doing. The first step in having a long career in the filmmaking industry is to not racing to the top. But pursuing greatness over a lifetime. Expand your horizons, express your perspective, and keep learning. Use this to build up a network and a vision for the future. This is how to think about creative success in a holistic way. And the guidance that I would give to the next generation of filmmakers. Take it and run with it. 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