‘Passion’ is BS.

I have interviewed hundreds of applicants for the film program I work at. Interviewees try to convince me ‘how passionate they are’ about film. I’m sure they think they are passionate. But hearing people say it with conviction doesn’t cut it with me anymore. And raising your voice to project your conviction doesn’t help. It never really did.

I recently had the chance to talk privately to teachers when their high schools were holding a film festival. When they asked me what students should do to prepare for their application interviews, I told them not to say they are “passionate.” The idea resonated and they asked me to address all the students before their awards screening.

Illegal display of art demonstrates passion.

Basically, here is what I said:

Passion is a false word. Passion is a feeling that can’t be measured. However - and here’s the kicker - it can be demonstrated. You tell me you’re passionate and I’m going to say, “Bullshit. Show me. Prove your passion.” What in your resume proves your passion? Show me the films you’ve made. Show me the extra learning you’ve done. Show me the list of films you’ve helped on. Show me that you’ve put in the time. Show me your passion.

I told the theatre full of high school wanna-be filmmakers a story about another high school student. (Actually, the story is about my son and I’m proud as hell of him.) This kid loves volleyball. But he didn’t make the grade 9 high school, nor the club team. So he lived with a volleyball, he took extra training, and jumped (literally) at any opportunity to practice. He set goals: make the teams in grade 10, play a significant role in grade 11 (they won the Provincial championship), play every moment of every game in grade 12, and get invitations to play on University teams (of which he received multiple offers). He met every goal. He never said a word about passion. But everything he did demonstrated it.

What does this rant against ‘passion’ mean? What is the lesson to learn?

A clear demonstration of a lack of passion.

Passion takes work. Passion takes dedication. Passion doesn’t come to you; you go to it. Passion isn’t something you say. Passion is something other people recognize in you.

Don’t tell me you are passionate unless you can back up what you say with something to show for it.

Whether it is playing volleyball, making films, creating art, helping the unfortunate, or loving the people around us, passion is a product of what we demonstrate. Passion isn’t just a feeling; passion is a demonstration of priorities. It is a lesson I continue to learn in my professional and personal life.

Don’t just sit there. Do something. At the very least, get angry.

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