Category: Mindset

The Choice of Today

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As filmmakers, we have a choice to make today. There are a lot of changes on the horizon of our industry. From the pursuit of mergers to the introduction of AI, the landscape is looking like one of absolute chaos.
The landscape of being a filmmaker is changing. We have some important questions we need to ask ourselves about how we approach not only our careers but also the craft itself.
This week, I provide some answers.


There’s been a lot of talk about how AI is going to be used to replace creatives. How everyone can use it to become a writer, an artist, and now, with Sora, a filmmaker. While I’m still baffled why so much focus has been put on trying to replace a discipline that people actually enjoy, there’s a small hole in the thinking that all creativity will be completely done by machines:
It needs to steal our original work to be trained.
Right now, LLMs like Sora and ChatGPT are like parrots with great data analysis capabilities. They can mimic and delineate. But when they try to do something original, things get a little weird.
Replacement cannot be the intent of the current AI developments. However, it will make certain aspects less time-consuming and also less valuable. But with data trained on what exists, it creates the same problem that we saw with the overload of cinematic universes:
It becomes numbing and boring.
People want to experience things that are new and, at the moment, humans are the only ones that can provide that. While the large media companies might be focused on how to use it to increase their bottom lines, we need to see how we can use it (or not) to be even more creative.
How we can create more connection with each other.


Every large studio and production company right now is looking for a merger. With the amount of debt that’s been run up over the past decade, they’re trying to find a way to offload any assets they can to keep their companies afloat. With all this cannibalism, it’s easy for independent filmmakers to get caught up in it. We think that this affects our chances of getting our work screened to mass audiences.
But remember, we are individuals and not (nor should we ever be) employees of a large media organization. And while the large companies are fighting for survival, there are a lot of smaller companies and other people who are still willing to embrace what really matters:
Creating exciting and original work.
I and many of my peers spent too long trying to create the right piece of work that would impress these large companies. We didn’t spend enough time on what’s sustainable in the career of a filmmaker:
This isn’t just about building the right relationships with people who can buy your work, but relationships with the people to whom it matters. The people that will really resonate with it because they can see how it matters to them. Because there is an increasing demand for:


Hollywood is a copycat industry. They see something work and then try to replicate it to death. Which might be why there’s such a grand push for the integration of AI. But right now, people are feeling a bit lost. There’s trouble in the world and everyone is feeling a sense of dread.
While there is the case for people wanting to be comforted by the media they consume, there is still a large appetite for seeking meaning. And for filmmaking to say something.
When I speak about showcasing diversity on screen, what I mean is to showcase people and culture in a way that helps us not only understand each other but to know that we matter. That our experiences have value. That we don’t have to disappear to make room for someone else with “higher earning potential.”
We need to find the message and the meaning behind our work. To do some true self-exploration. Because while the large companies are merging and purging, we can find our lanes by not hoping to be a willing servant, but:


Voice and perspective matter in art. We remember the people behind it and are excited to hear what they say next. Chasing the Hollywood dream, many filmmakers have forgotten that. We’ve forgotten what we want to say and often not truly explored it. And we’ve waited too long to get “permission” to say it.
We have an opportunity in front of us on how we want to approach our craft and the ability to earn a living. One is trying to impress the right people and hoping we’ll get invited to the right boardroom. The other is creating authenticity in our voice and connection with the people it speaks to.
The second choice is the one that is sustainable and will never go out of fashion. The first, while possibly more lucrative, is more volatile. And the one that may leave you wondering what you’re even doing.
The Blended Future Project is my way of creating an authentic voice and building connection. Each of us needs to build our own. And connect with people doing the same.

Why Create?

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I had an interesting meeting this past week where the topic of AI was brought up. The person I was meeting with brought up an interesting point:

The future will enable anyone to make a film. So the question won’t be “can I make a film?” But “why should I make a film?”
Of course, the reality of this hypothesis is still playing out. But, like the digital camera, new tools are coming on the horizon that will make the barrier to entry all that much easier. So the question we will need to ask ourselves then, is one we should be asking ourselves already:


This is a question every artist and filmmaker that burns out has forgotten to ask themselves. Creating anything takes a tremendous amount of effort. Just thinking about a concept uses time and energy. So before we even start thinking of embarking down this long, dark but oh,so fulfilling path. We need to have a reason to keep on venturing into the unknown.
Ultimately, it comes back to this internal question:
What do I want the world to know and learn from me?
One of the many events that changed my life was the death of my father. He succumbed to alcohol addiction when I was 29 which left our family in pieces. Before he died, he tasked me with being the executor of his estate. And one of the duties I was left with something we don’t think about when we pass on:
What to do with all the stuff.
One of the items I discovered was an old sketchbook from his college art class at Dartmouth. There were a lot of drawings of nature and some of people. He was in that middling stage of artistry – not good enough to present, but there was talent there. There was a final note from his teacher:
There’s something you’re trying to say. But it’s not quite there yet.
I still have the sketchbook. It sits on my desk and I pull it out from time to time. It reminds me of why I keep going. And some of that is attributed that I know my father would have been a much happier man. Had he tried to fully explore his artistic potential. So in a way, my career is a tribute to his legacy.
But that alone isn’t enough to build a career, and ultimately a lifestyle, upon. It’s mostly a reason not to stop. But there is a reason to keep going. And that’s to build connection. To let other people around the world know:
I explore race and identity. Because the world tries to divide us. The first way it’s done is by having us see the division in ourselves. And my efforts are a way of helping people see themselves as whole again.


The wrong lesson was taken away from the pandemic by the large gatekeepers of the industry. The lesson was:
We did more with less. Let’s cut what we can.
Crew sizes were shrunk, talent would self shoot, all to keep the content machine running. But what was forgotten is part of what enabled the explosion in streaming and digital media was the knowledge that it was a shared experience. We were glued to the people who either distracted us from reality. Or encouraged us that we could get through it.
And even with this shared experience. We still succumbed to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Because at the end of the day. Human beings are wired to be connected.


So while companies fight to make the barrier of entry so low that anyone can create their own film. They haven’t stopped to think – will they?
Think about your work week right now. At the end of a hard day of work (which is seeming to get even harder). Will you have the energy remaining to craft the story you want to see? And if so, you’ll still have to ask yourself the question:
What is it that I’m trying to experience?
Without trying to imagine the infinite number of future scenarios of how art will be created and monetized. Anyone with the ability to create will have to ask why they are doing it. And also, who will we share it with? As much as we hear artists say they are creating for themselves. We are also creating to share part of ourselves with other people.
So whatever the future holds. We will still have the need to create. We still need to learn, share and grow from each other’s experiences. If you are a filmmaker, this is your mission. It’s the broader why of what you do. The specifics are left up to you. But the mission remains the same.
Life can take from you as much as it gives. And we are in a moment in the creative space, where those with a large amount of power are trying to take it from those who have little. So it helps to imagine a world where the opportunities from before are gone. But the need to express ourselves still remains.
Many will give up. Many will stop trying. But there are those of us who will still keep going. Will still keep trying to have our voices heard. Because we spoke for more than ourselves. And it’s those people who will change the world for the better.

The New Film School (Part 3) – The Power of Story

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This week is a return to form with the 3rd part of The New Film School – the Power of Story. Most schools and creative teaching start with story first. Which is a key element of what we do. But the reason why this is the 3rd part is simple:
We have to tell stories for the right reasons.
Filmmakers are taught to create stories to create attention in order to make films for the big studios. Which means you are being conditioned the make the stories a large media corporation wants to hear. Having the right mindset and knowing your Creative Source gives you the internal framework to make films for the right reasons:
To create impact on the human experience.
But in order to do that, we need to know the framework of a compelling story.


While this sounds negative on film schools. I had a great experience learning the craft of filmmaking at my alma mater Columbia Chicago. While we didn’t learn anything about the business itself. We were expertly brought along the steps needed in order to create great films.
My first semester was spent learning the history of film and also about story. Before we picked up a camera or started writing screenplays. The school felt it was important to know what makes up a good story structure. I had a story class with Karla Fuller who introduced me to the story framework of:


Many of us have heard about the Hero’s Journey.
The basic overall structure is this:
A young Hero accepts the Call to go on a Great Adventure with the help of a Mentor. Leaving their previous, Ordinary World behind. While traveling into this New World, the Hero encounters Trials, finding the Artifact they need in order to defeat their Enemy and realize their Potential. Afterwards, they return home a changed person.
It’s a often referenced story structure most typically seen in big budget sci-fi and Marvel films. One of the most well illustrated examples of The Hero’s Journey is Star Wars. But what most people forget is that the original inception of this framework was for the internal journey of we all go on.
Which means there are elements of this in stories of all kinds.
There is an exercise that I recommend all my clients do. Take a look at the framework of the Hero’s Journey. Think of the point you are at in life right now. And apply the Hero’s Journey to it:
When did you leave the world you knew behind?
What mentor helped you achieve a goal?
What great ordeal have you overcome?
Now, let’s make this smaller. Think of some impactful events in your life. Apply those to the same framework. Make it even smaller – take a common event. Let’s say going to the store:
What was the world like before you knew you had to go?
Once you got there, what tests did you have to overcome to get the items you wanted?
How did the trip change you once you returned? Both internally and externally.
An important element of this exercise is to actively look for how we can apply everything to story. Which helps us to see the story in everything. This can be applied to various formats – commercials, books, podcasts, simple conversations. To use a personal example, the ability to see the story in everything is what enabled me to find success as an editor.


Human civilization rests on the power of story. It’s how religious organizations are formed, politicians are created, and nations are made. America is widely recognized as the Land of Opportunity. Because we created an entire industry that allowed people to see this story being told on a global scale.
In fact, the first two parts of this series were frameworks to recognize your own story. And how it connects with that of your audience. Now, you can take the Hero’s Journey and use it to create work that is magnetic.
You have the necessary foundation to make an impact.
The Hero’s Journey is also something that is meant to be a guiding framework. It’s a starting point that can be expanded upon and modified. Trying to capture something as weird and unpredictable as the human experience cannot be simplified into a simple set of instructions. Which is why AI driven LLM’s struggles to create engaging scripts.
Which is another article for another time.
Learn the power of story. Study it. Hone your skills in it. Use it not only for the work that you create. But in how you communicate your message online and with people.
The next part of this series is going to be some Tech Talk. I’ll be going through some of the technical knowledge all filmmakers and video storytellers can benefit from.

Striking for the Soul of Art

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This week was a pinnacle moment in the entertainment industry. As many of you know, the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) has gone on strike and have now joined the ranks of the WGA. The other entertainment industry guilds are currently standing in solidarity, waiting for the executives of the large streaming companies to come to the negotiating table.
This news comes on the heels of a unnamed source from Apple TV who claimed they are waiting until “union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses” and the unveiling of how residuals in streaming actually work. As the strike goes on and massive change comes to the industry. I’m seeing a large disconnect between what the heads of the new studios (large tech companies) and their customers actually want with the art that being created on-screen:
It’s to be spoken to.


When you examine art as a fundamental practice:
It’s about communication.
Art is about expressing things we can’t put into words or communicating in a way beyond language. We use it to communicate to the world around us, to our spiritual practice, and also to the people we come in contact with. One of the earliest uses of art was to use it as a way to signal that you weren’t an enemy to a stranger.
It’s a symbol between people that we share the same experience. That our values align.
That we can be trusted.
As advancements in art have been made. So too have its uses. But that fundamental purpose of communication still remains. And that’s also why we love TV and film. Because it still shows us that our experiences matter. When done right, it allows us to simply feel what it’s like to be human and builds empathy with our fellow beings.
It speaks to our very soul.
Granted many people (especially ones that look like me) were excluded from being a big part of the industry. But the primary focus was a holistic one. Hollywood became ultra-successful because it built a machine around speaking to the soul of it’s nation. The business was forged on creating stories that enraptured us – the audience. Because, in one way or another, it awakened a part of us that we don’t get to tap into very often. We get to be inspired as well as entertained.
But somewhere along the way, the strategy shifted. The people who make the big movies and TV put more effort into entertaining and less into inspiration. This coincided with the large media studios and companies being taken over by the institutions of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Places that value the quarterly profit spreadsheet more than the experience of an audience.
This shift in focus paved the way for what we are experiencing now:
An overload of nostalgia and dopamine.
It’s become a common parlance that in Hollywood everything is either a superhero movie or a remake. The reason for this being, in order to maximize profit, big movies have gone back to what’s worked before. Essentially in order to trick and addict us.
The nostalgia aspect is simple – to bring us back to the days when we were kids. When we believed things were much simpler and better. When we didn’t understand how the world works because we didn’t have to. The goal being to keep your audience in a state of arrested development where they will exchange their money to a trip down memory lane. To a time when so many things seemed possible. And this is accomplished by giving us:
Dopamine. It seems the goal of the largest movies now is to thrill us with sight and spectacle to elicit a dopamine response. Just like sugar, the idea is to keep us addicted so we’ll keep coming back for more sights and spectacles. The thinking is that being inspired and provoked is no longer necessary. We just have to be coddled and given a few hours of bliss in order to feel satisfied.
But audiences aren’t satisfied. Movies are products, but they also are not. Not in the same way your iPhone or a bag of chips are. Less people are going to the movies year after year.
Because there’s nothing novel about it anymore.
Nostalgia and dopamine only work in the short term. The same dopamine response eventually wears off and makes us numb. And we’re left searching for that initial experience. Hollywood planned that nostalgia-driven cinema would keep us in a state of bliss.
But nostalgia just reminds us of what we are missing.
The Wall Street and Silicon Valley media companies have banked on art being a one way form of communication. One where we are being told what to believe and feel. Instead of inspired to do so – which is how Hollywood became a global juggernaut.
There’s no joy with Hollywood eating itself. The people involved in the industry are here because we love it. Because we have stories we want to tell and audiences to communicate with. We want a Hollywood that represents the best of the old and the new. We tell stories because we want to connect with people, not data points.
The art a nation creates tells you about its soul. We are now in a moment where the unions are the last line of defense before we begin to lose it. At it’s best, Hollywood is a big sandbox we get to play in. It can be chaotic and messy. But most of all, it’s fun and we can’t wait to get back i it.
This is what the strikes are fighting for right now. It’s what’s keeping Hollywood from slowly dying.
Which, tragically, would be by its own hand.

A Martial Mindset



This is not a promotion for a martial arts course. Instead, I’d like to discuss a principle found in Chinese martial arts that can be applied to any creative pursuit. I learned this lesson while studying martial arts while living abroad.

From the time I was a kid, Bruce Lee was one of my role models. I was fascinated by the idea of becoming a great martial artist, so when I discovered a school that taught Lee’s original martial art (Wing Tsun).

I signed up immediately.

I studied it for around seven years, half in Denmark and half in the United States. However, it wasn’t until I took one of my instructor’s meditation courses that I learned what Kung Fu really meant.


Initially, I had no interest in learning how to meditate – especially since it required an additional fee. I was able to afford the martial arts lessons thanks to Denmark’s social policy of giving students a monthly stipend starting at the age of 18. However, my instructor Henning urged me to take it. He said it would help me learn how to be calm and peaceful in any situation.

Reluctantly, I agreed, and attended all the meditation classes over the weekend. I learned breathing techniques and how to meditate according to Indian tradition since Henning was of Indian and Danish descent. On the last day, he told us that we should practice meditation on a daily basis because it was a part of achieving good Kung Fu. Kung Fu wasn’t just tied to the practice of martial arts, but rather it meant dedicating oneself to years of mastering a practice. This lesson stuck with me, and I tried to apply it to my career as a filmmaker.


Achieving good Kung Fu means being dedicated to your craft for the long term, which is antithetical to our instant gratification world. This helped me not to get too hung up on the result of a particular film but to focus all my energy on it, reflect on the results, and use that to become even better at my chosen craft. I applied this same way of thinking to other areas of life, some of which are artistic, and others not.

While martial arts isn’t for everyone, each of us can and should strive to achieve mastery in at least one area of life. Engage in the practice with the idea of continued effort, focus, and long-term growth. For a few years, I forgot about this concept, which caused me to make short-term decisions that were not helpful to my long-term goals. Coming back to it has helped me cultivate the growth mindset that we hear talked about, where each accomplishment builds into a greater good.

Conclusion: In conclusion, studying martial arts taught me a valuable lesson: that achieving good Kung Fu means dedicating oneself to the long-term mastery of a practice. This applies to any area of life, including artistic pursuits. It’s about focusing on continued effort, maintaining discipline, and striving for growth. By applying this way of thinking, we can cultivate a growth mindset that leads to long-term success.

The Lottery Myth

There is a myth every filmmaker was told to believe at the start of our career:

That is we just make the right film. Then Hollywood would come find it. And they would give us the resources in order to make whatever we imagined. Now for some, this might be true. There are people who do indeed make a great film and the door is swung wide open for them. However, that is almost like winning the lottery.

And you can’t build a career on buying bingo tickets.

There is a version of success for every filmmaker who commits themselves to building a body of work. Once you realize that the cavalry isn’t coming. You start to find ways to create your own version of success. For some of us, that might lead to working on big budget films on studio lots and flying all over the world. For others, it might mean having a small but sustainable following that allows us to make the work we find impactful.

The insidious part about the myth is that it makes us waste our most valuable resource – our time. It makes us create with the goal of wishing and waiting. Instead of the goal of creating and connecting. It takes the power away from us. And gives it to someone else who’s in charge of making our dreams come true.

While making a film is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. It doesn’t have to be a soul-burning one. And I’ve found the best way to make films for the right reasons – to tell great stories and create an impact for your audience.

Always A Solution

When I began working as a Production Manager. I was forced to realize something:

There is a solution to every problem. But sometimes its not the one you want.

When we encounter issues in life, we can get stuck in Problem Mode. And that’s because we have a particular solution in mind. We have one way that we want to solve the issue. And we’re stuck trying to force a particular outcome. But once you start looking at other options. Then you realize that you can actually solve the issue that you’re having.

My mother and grandmother used to tell me “There’s no such thing as can’t.” And the smart-ass in me would say things like “well, you can’t fly.” But they were both actually right. There is no such thing as can’t. It’s just a matter of finding the right approach. A lot of times, we already know what the answer is. It’s just something that we don’t want to do. Most of the time out of fear. But sometimes also out of ego – which can also come from fear.

A simple first step is to replace the phrase “I can’t” with the question “How can I?” That shift have you thinking about the different possibilities. Which leads you to solving the problem.