Filmmakers — Failure is the ONLY option
A lot of us are obsessed with making the right impression on our first go.
In the 1995 film Ed Wood, Wood played by Johnny Depp is obsessed with matching the success of veteran filmmaker Orson Welles, who had famously directed Citizen Kane at the young age of 26.
This obsession with modeling our place in time on the filmmakers who had made substantial impacts at the same age to us is a real detriment, but one we all face.
For a long time I consistently reminded myself that at my age (Now 34, but at the time, 29) Quentin Tarantino had written and directed Reservoir Dogs, But this was a stupid comparison as for one — It was listed as the greatest independent film in cinema history by Empire Magazine, so for me to set the bar so high in my late twenties was a scale that was always tipped to fail.
And two — Tarantino had OBSESSED over his screenplay and was willing to make it with or without the backing or blessing of the gatekeepers of Hollywood. Had the second option prevailed, Empire most likely would not have bestowed the honour that it did.
Take another example — Jordan Peele — whose debut feature film Get Out garnered such critical praise that he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Many of us may think “Well, first time director and look what he achieved, why not me? That could be me!”
And yes, it could but it probably (most likely) won’t.
What we neglect to see is the countless hours of stand-up, self-awareness, failed screenplays written and forgotten and the over 40 film appearances, written and re-written episodes of Key and Peele and long hours of production to cement Peele as an individual built to handle the ordeal of helming a $5 million dollar picture and be in a place ready to tackle Get Out.
This has no doubt led him to a path to better direct the upcoming ‘Us’ — and from there his future endeavors.
We don’t ever hear about his failures and this is what adds to the mystique. This is what builds a narrative in our head of the measure of which we need to achieve or excel.
Don’t be mistaken, Jordan Peele is a failure…WE ARE ALL FAILURES.
But we NEED to be failures.
As filmmakers, we should strive to fail as much as we can because it is only through failure that we can get a taste for what works, what appeals to our instincts as filmmakers and what are our anticipations for our target audience.
Failure shapes us as storytellers, and we only fail by doing.
We need to make and make and make and fail over and over and over in order to find out what we want to say, how we want to say it and how we want to achieve it. Failure being the antidote to success is also the path we need to walk to succeed.
Failure hardens our nerve to face those who frighten us with their critiques. Constant failure makes us battle ready for the hits and shapes us to ignore them and to keep making — no matter what they say.
I don’t consider these ‘failures’ now, but at the time of completion and the months after, I was bummed they were never picked up for festivals. But just to achieve the process of making them gives me a sense of immense satisfaction as they were (at the time) the biggest projects I had ever undertaken in my life.
As a result, they live on YouTube today with little to no activity. I am fine with this as for those who ever care to watch them can attest — this is not the work I wish to be remembered for.
My only regret is that I didn’t make more —I remodeled my life to be focused around family and raising my kids.
However, through using my production skills to create Minnimal, I’m able to fail again from the very beginning.
Right now I’m creating YouTube shows on a regular basis to a tiny audience that are dedicated and passionate and curious and through them — I’m able to see what works.
The analytics helps me gauge what works for them and what works for me.
The middle ground is where I will triple down and invest in the long term to see what happens 5 to 10 years from now.
5–10 years investment of my time because this is exactly what I was built to do in my lifetime. I seek to fail now and into the future and through these failures (and a lot of patience) I’ll sift through the rubble to find a path to success.
Because success to me is happiness and sustainability, and by constantly making (and failing) I’ve already achieved 50% of my goals.
You should try it with me.
Let’s fail together — the more we fail, the more our lives will experience the direct opposite.