Inside the Producer’s Corner with Suzanne Lyons
This is a series of articles that film producer and best-selling author Suzanne Lyons (listen to her interview here) will be writing over the next 6 months. I personally asked Suzanne to share her knowledge, experience, and motivation with you the IFH Tribe. Whether you are a director, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter or editor I think you’ll get a ton out of this series. Check back every week for a new post that will help you on your journey as an indie filmmaker.
10 Tips on Staying Focused & Inspired in This Crazy Business (Part 1)
Staying focused and inspired in our crazy industry is not easy. When my film partner and I were wanting to produce our first film, we couldn’t figure out why we keep feeling like we were spinning our wheels. We had developed 16 screenplays, created tons of relationships in the industry, sent out literally hundreds of scripts and had more meetings than I am sure anyone else in the film industry!
Also, we had actually set up deals with major companies in Hollywood on some of the projects. Yet, nothing was happening! Nothing! We finally met with our coach and she said only a few words, but extremely important words…. FOCUS! PICK ONE, AND FOCUS! It may sound crazy but that had not even occurred to us.
The minute we picked one, our favorite romantic comedy called “Undertaking Betty,” all of a sudden, things started happening. Within a year we were on location in Wales producing the film! An indie film with A-list talent. The other amazing part of this story is that the moment we focused on what we really wanted to do, we became inspired. We got very excited about getting started and moving forward on the film. And the actions we took toward that end were fun and effortless.
When I knew that I was going to be writing an article about this topic I made a commitment to myself to really take it on as an ongoing day-to-day inquiry. It has been fascinating. It isn’t something that tends to come naturally. Yet, when we make a concerted effort to focus on something, miracles happen and they tend to happen effortlessly.
In fact, I’ve been so immersed in this inquiry that I have come up with over 20 things I want to share with you so I will extend this topic into my next article as well. There is no cut and dried, black and white way to address this topic. So, I have mixed the tangible with the intangible. I know we are all fixated on the “doing” and the “quick fix” but please be aware that the intangible is just as important as the tangible.
Here are my first 10 Tips on “Staying Focused and Inspired in This Crazy Business”.
1) YOUR PURPOSE and VISION
I think the first thing to look at is, what are you TRULY COMMITTED TO ACCOMPLISHING? As Bob Proctor points out in his “Create Your Own Economy” program, get clear on your purpose. Let’s start with the BIG picture. I think why we loose focus and become uninspired is because we have forgotten why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Getting in touch with the bigger picture can help get you back on track. In fact, Proctor takes it a step further and suggests that when you define your purpose, “it will be the compass that keeps you on the path.” “Purpose”, he says “leads to your vision (what you do with your life)” and “you accomplish your vision by creating short-term goals to keep you on course”. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
I believe what happens to most of us is that we get so caught up in the day-to-day action, we forget our purpose and vision. So, spend a little time right now and take a serious look at what that is for you. Write it down.
2) A 35 YEAR PLAN
One way to help you get back in touch with your passion, excitement, and commitment is what I call “The 35 Year Plan”. It is something that my husband and I do at the beginning of each year. We look at all the different areas of our life and talk about where we will be in 35 years. It is a great exercise and it takes you out of the daily content of your life and has you put everything in a context (a bigger picture).
As you make the commitment to who you’re going to “be” and what you’re going to “do” in the future, it actually alters who you are in the present… today… right now. A very powerful exercise to not only inspire but help you focus.
3) THERE’S NO AWARD FOR DRAMA QUEEN
I don’t know if you noticed when you watched the Academy Awards, Emmy’s, Golden Globes, etc. but there is no award for “Drama Queen”. Take the drama out of your life. Don’t talk about anything that does not inspire and empower you. Don’t listen to anyone’s (family, friends or colleagues) stories unless they inspire and empower you.
Cut out the drama. Create conversations that empower you! Put the drama on the stage and screen where it belongs! The quickest way to lose focus is to tell your story of how it won’t work, or how difficult it is or how ___________ (fill in the blank). ONLY tell the stories that get you excited, bring you joy and cause you to expand.
4) CLEAN UP THE CLUTTER
It is hard to stay focused in a cluttered environment. My niece was visiting with me recently and she had just been through a grueling interview process competing with tons of people who had a lot more experience. She got the job and said that one of the things she did in preparation for the interviews was clean up the clutter.
That way she was able to put all her attention on the task at hand. It’s hard to focus when your physical environment is cluttered. A close friend, Tamara Zook, is an expert ‘clutter buster’ and she said that we have no idea of the intense impact a cluttered physical environment has on us both psychologically and emotionally. It can be paralyzing. Take a look around right now and see (in all arenas of your life) where you need to clean things up.
5) KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE
Is life going to get in the way? Sure. Are you going to be thrown the odd curve? Of course. Is it going to throw you off course and affect your focus? Absolutely. The question is, for how long. I have been a business and personal coach for over 25 years and have seen people get stopped and stuck for days, weeks, months, even years.
How can we turn that into minutes and seconds?! How can you do it? Keep your eyes on the prize. When an ‘incident’ or ‘event’ happens that throws us off track, we react to our interpretation of the ‘incident’ and not the ‘incident’ itself. It’s fact versus fiction. We stay stuck in what we think it means. Okay, so that director was mean to you during your audition or that executive hasn’t returned your call. You can spend weeks making it mean something or you can separate fact from fiction and move on. It’s that simple!
6) VISION BOARD:
One way to help keep us focused and inspired is by creating a Vision Board. In his book “The Success Principles”, Jack Canfield says that “if you have trouble seeing your goals, use pictures, images, and symbols you collect to keep your conscious and subconscious mind focused on your goals.” We all want to dream big and create a life of abundance and magic.
And why not? As Marianne Williamson said, “Your playing small does not serve the World”. create a Vision Board displaying all the images that represent your purpose, vision, and goals. It is so much fun to do. In one of my day-long Launching the Future workshops I do every December, everyone was sitting around on the floor with their poster boards with tons of magazines and colorful magic markers.
One of the participant chose a photo from a magazine to add to her board. It was a photo of a cruise ship overlooking magnificent ice bergs in Alaska. She didn’t even know why she chose it other than it felt good and made her happy. Exactly one year later she sent me a photo of her and her husband on a cruise ship over-looking that exact same setting! It was magical. Nothing will get you more focused and inspired than this great exercise. So, create your vision board. And don’t forget to look at it every day!
7) TIMELINE & TARGETS
I know that I have mentioned this in previous Newsletters but it really fits perfectly here so let’s review the concept. A Timeline is what I refer to as ‘bite-sized pieces’. When we look at a big goal that we have set for ourselves and are focusing on, it can often look daunting and overwhelming. But, when we break it down into small pieces, it becomes doable and fun.
What is it really going to take to make it happen? What would you have to accomplish quarterly? What would you have to accomplish by the beginning of each month in order to hit your target and accomplish your goal? Get a poster board and chart it out. Like your Vision Board will keep you inspired, a Timeline is a visual display that will keep you focused.
From your Timeline and Target display, you can now set specific daily and weekly action plans. As John Assaraf states in his book, “Having it All”, “All the written plans in the world, all the inscribed goals, dreams and desires won’t make even good wallpaper if the first action isn’t taken. The focus is the goal, the action is where the real difference is.
Keeping your eye on the mark is the only way to hit it. You cannot hit a target you aren’t focused on.” John goes on to say, “The most fun is on the playing field.” So, don’t be an observer sitting in the stands. Take action. What are 3 actions you can take tomorrow that will help you reach your goal and keep you focused?
9) CREATE URGENCY:
Okay, so you have looked at the big picture, you’ve cleaned out the clutter, you’ve even started catching yourself in the stories you’re telling that don’t empower you and you’ve turned that around. You’ve created an amazing Vision Board, Timeline display and Action Plan. You’re focused on your dreams, your vision, your goals and you are 100% inspired to make it happen. That is fantastic. Congratulations. However, there is something else to put in place here… urgency.
You’re not alone here. Many of your goals involve other people and it is your job to be clear, specific, and businesslike when making requests of those people. If you are sloppy here, people won’t be supporting you with the timeline you’ve created, and nothing can throw you off track and have you lose focus more quickly than this. “Is there a way we can have the meeting this week instead of next?”
“Would you be willing to FedEx the contract so we can have it signed and expedited and start moving forward on the project?” If what you are focused on and committed to accomplishing requires deadlines that involve others, make crystal clear requests with specific times and dates!
10) CREATING AN AT-STAKENESS
Even though you may be 100% committed, focused and inspired, you’re human. No matter how “on purpose” we are, when the going gets tough, sometimes we go south. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just us being human. One of the things I do and I recommend is to put something at stake. For example, one of the participants in my Flash Forward workshop years ago had been trying to write a sitcom spec script for months and months. The workshop was four weeks long and his goal was to complete the script in that time period.
At the halfway point he had not written more than five pages so I asked him in front of the entire class what kind of car he drove. He said, “a red, fairly new Honda”. “Perfect”, I said, “I love red. If I don’t see a completed script in two weeks I want the keys to your Honda”. You guessed it, he finished the script. For all those hard tasks you’re putting off, create a big at-stakeness. You’ll be amazed at how easy the task becomes.
BONUS: Be Positive. It’s really hard to stay focused and inspired if you are being negative. Start to catch yourself and turn it around. Turn it around on a dime. I saw a great greeting card the other day that said “What is the Meaning of Life?… Whatever You Want it to Be.” You get to choose moment by moment. BE HAPPY! That’s what I want to leave you with this time. That is about as complicated and deep as it gets.
Above all, have fun. Don’t take actions until you’re having fun doing so. Inspired actions are what matter and yes, we all want to get there, but remember it’s not just about the getting there… it’s about the going there!
Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date. She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry. She’s the author of Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking published by Focal Press. She has also hosted over 125 informational videos on the film industry. When time permits she does private career and business coaching. Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles, CA.
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