5 Step Method to Stay Motivated in Filmmaking

5 STEP MOTIVATED in FILMMAKING, filmmaker motivation, indie film hustle, filmmaker, film school

You’ve just come up with the greatest idea for a film. You know the what, where, when, why and how and you can’t wait to get things going, enthusiastic as hell, high on the prospect of success.

Several excruciating weeks later…

What the F just happened? Where did all that zest go? When did I get so over my head?

Let’s just get straight to the point.

Recognize that filmmaking motivation will come and go as it pleases

Think about when you started a relationship with somebody new. Remember the feeling? Enthusiastic as hell, high on the prospect of success, etc.

Did you really expect that feeling to last?

Of course, some relationships will fail due to whatever shitty circumstance may come your way. But short of some ghastly placed in-grown hair or some mutant deformity, you still make strides to carry on.

Sure, in an ideal universe you would want that initial feeling to last, but unfortunately for all of us that’s a universe of fantasy. Remember this one thing:

The movie is the fantasy. The making of it is not.

But what happens when actors drop out, or when equipment breaks down or your taxes don’t get filed in time?

First, I challenge you to find a film production, in the history of film, that has ever gone smoothly.

During the shooting of the tunnel scene in The Dark Knight the crew actually destroyed one of four of the world’s IMAX cameras!

In fact, the footage one of the most difficult scenes in our first feature I’m Okay got corrupted and a reshoot with several overwhelmed actors and crew members had to take place with another laborious and embarrassing meet with a restaurant owner, ONE day before shooting was supposed to wrap.

Why persist?

Because we’re filmmakers, and best skill you can have is to adapt to any difficult situation. The more obstacles hurdled on a project, the more proud you’ll be of the product.

1. PRIORITIZE AND ELIMINATE GUILT

Yes, what you’re feeling right now is guilt, but you can fix that.

To understand how to prioritize, consider your “Basket.” As Richard Carson eloquently put it in his famous book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, picture a basket full of tasks you’d like to complete before you die. When you’re in your casket, that basket will NEVER be empty. Translation?

You will ALWAYS be procrastinating, even until your death!

Like me, I want to go rock climbing, watch a bunch of old movies, visit the Greek ruins, but I’m writing this article instead. I know that as long as I’m making strides in one direction then I have no reason to feel guilty not making strides in another.

You are only human, so stop beating yourself up and decide what is important to you. Once you find it, hone in on it and don’t feel guilty about leaving the other stuff behind.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” – Lao Tzu

For more on procrastination check out our article How to Beat Procrastination.

2. STOP WAITING FOR THINGS TO FALL IN PLACE

The calvary is not coming, remember? If you spend time thinking “my gear isn’t good enough” or “I need more funding” then NOTHING will get done.

Make peace with what you have, and worry about moving up the financial ladder later. It’s better to have a crappy product rather than no product at all.

“Ego says: when everything falls into place, I’ll find peace. Spirit says: find your peace and everything will fall into place.” – Marianne Williamson

3. DO SOMETHING EVERYDAY AND BUILD A MENTAL MUSCLE

You’ve heard the phrase:

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” – Confucius

By doing even the most smallest task like writing a SINGLE word in your screenplay you are that much closer to completing it than if you didn’t do it at all.

Going back to the Lao Tzu quote above, remember that you can take your time (sometimes) and be content with the fact that you ARE progressing, even if slowly.

This isn’t solely for the purpose of getting the project done; but instead building the muscle required to finish the product itself.

So even if you’re working on something that won’t make the final cut, before you think “damn I just wasted that hour of writing or editing” — NO!

You are building muscle! Did that alpha male body builder who stole your ex start off curling 50lbs straight out of the womb? No! He worked his way up incrementally… Fucking Brad. Anyway…

Lesson is, start small but consistent.

4. MAKE YOUR GOALS PUBLIC FOR SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY.

This one scares you a little doesn’t it?

Good. As you go along this process you’ll learn more and more how much conquering fear is what makes success.

If you truly want to be the type who can take on responsibility then publicizing your goals will give you a push to actually follow through. You’ll feel good about yourself and others will give you the respect you deserve.

When I was in the post-production of I’m Okay, I kept putting off literally 10 hours of editing, month after month. Finally, when Norman Snider (Dead Ringers – David Cronenberg) expressed interest in seeing the final product, I said arbitrarily

“I’ll have it for you by… Friday.”

That public accountability, because I didn’t wanna disappoint him, is what MADE me get it done. Don’t rely on motivation. Use public accountability to MAKE you finish.

5. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO GOOF OFF

Remember the Croc Brain? It needs attention too.

Yes, sometimes NOT doing work on your project is helping you progress. After all, when you’re sleeping, you’re not neglecting your work. You’re resting and re-energizing (duh)!

Schedule time for yourself. In fact, schedule “playtime” where you cannot work. Play a video game, read a book, go on a date, try out that new thing you wanted to in bed. Do something sporadic.

When your brain knows you CAN’T work on filmmaking during say 7pm – 9pm, then you’ll notice a mental glitch happen (your brain is triggered by scarcity) where you’ll be vastly more productive before then.

ACTION STEP

Pick just ONE of the above steps that you feel you would benefit the most from. Not the one that is “most easiest” for you, think in terms of your end goal; which ONE step will help you get there best?

Now spend three minutes and write up how you’re going to take action on that step, whether it’s to schedule strict play-time in your calendar, or it’s to email your friends telling them kick your ass if you don’t finish writing your screenplay.


You’ve made it this far in this filmmaking article which automatically shows me that you’re the type of person that TAKES ACTION.

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