You shall not rest on your laurels

While is easy to confront with others, why not to take a look at what we have done, instead?

Source: You shall not rest on your laurels

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You shall not rest on your laurels

(Not that I have any laurel to rest onto, but… )

Since I started my non-retributed freelancing experiences in the entertainment world, there isn’t a day where I don’t ask myself: “what should I do more?”.

Every morning I wake up with a perennial state of excitement and frustration for the many things I don’t know but want to know, the many areas of the market that are strangers to me and the many strategies I could try to become what I want to become. While I work on my several projects my heart races and the concentration lacks. I go to sleep feeling unsatisfied, like I wasn’t able to fully comprehend all the possibilities I could pursue to fulfill my dream.

Worst of all is comparing with others. There is always someone who did better than me, someone who got the system while I am still trying to learn how to tide my shoes. My stomach hurts with jealousy and insecurity flows.

I am writing this because I want to put down the truth: all of this shit is a waste of time.

Looking at the others’ work is useful, yes, but only if you could find inspiration for what you want and can do. It’s ok to compare to others only if you know who are you. There is no point in comparing to someone just for the sake of jealousy and self-indulgence. It’s by observing those that could be your mentors that you would find what roads could be suitable for what you want and those that may be not. You are a different person from the those that succeeded, even just because now they are there and you are still here. Time has passed and things are changed.

Speaking of time, I think is really there that you should look for reference.

Have you ever tried to watch, read or take a look at something you’ve done in the past and think: “Ugh, did I really do that? Man, if I am improved!”?

Here and there I go take a look at shorts I did during university or things I wrote in the past. Sometimes I find there has been a great improvement, sometimes I don’t. On both occasions there is the change to think about it. Why did I improve? Why did I not? Did I learn some new techniques? Has my languages or contents changed?

Maybe if you haven’t changed a bit, nor in content nor in technique, is because you rested too much on your laurels, because at some point in your life you felt it was safer than trying new things. But unfortunately, that attitude is not going to help you moving forward and, eventually, you’d be obsolete.

Sounds bad, maybe, but I think is the best you could do to take a look from the outside of what you have achieved and how, so to plan better your next step into your path.

I can’t guarantee it will work, but at least some of us will get some sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Making the difference – The “Zootopia” case

This week I would like to take a look at the new Disney filmZootopia, released in Italy last Thursday under the name of Zootropolis. Not intending to do a review, I am going to use it as an example for this week argument, a.k.a. “how to use your company’s power to make a difference in your audience’s life“.

Zootopia tells the story of Judy Hopps, a female anthropomorphic rabbit willing to be a police officer in a giant metropolis where all mammals live together despite their differences. Even if everyone tries to persuade Judy of her genetic inadequacy, she does more than her best to prove them wrong.

This theme – an outcast trying to overcome a destiny imposed by society and to find their own path – is so popular in Disney films to have become a true trademark for the American film company. Cinderella wanted to be more than just a housemaid, Aladdin had to prove his value beyond his social and economical condition and Mulan had to save China despite her gender and social expectations dictated differently. Several generations of children grew with the strong message that they should not give up their dreams just because everybody tells them to, but to trust their inner self and fight for happiness.

Channeling such powerful messages through engaging stories and characters was the ultimate way for Disney to conquer their audience’s hearts forever.

Growing up, probably some of those children found difficult to fulfill all the expectations young age and Disney movies contributed to create in their minds, and complained. Disney/Pixar’s Monster University (2013) was probably conceived as an answer to those complaints. Yes, you have to keep dreaming, yes, you don’t have to give up, but also you have to know you, who you are and what you can do, and do your best with it. I think it is a great message. It teaches you not only to dream, but also to ask you the right questions for your dreams to become realistic projects.

That’s why Judy Hopps is a great officer not despite her size and nature but because she knows how to apply them to what she wants to achieve. She is modern, brave, funny, like all the characters of this outstanding film. And yet I have to say why this film si different from any Disney movie ever made.

If Disney messages were always directed to individuals, well exploiting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see below),

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Zootopia is the first Disney film talking to entire societies regarding subjects concerning today’s world: integration, tolerance and xenophobia.

While western world has to face integration with new unknown populations, many political leaders don’t lose a chance to exploit natural human fear of diversity (given by a genetic tendency toward self-preservation) to raise people’s barriers toward these new citizens, creating tension and separation. In Zootopia live two kinds of mammals: preys and predators. Even if animals gave up their bestial instincts thousands years ago, some preys, deep down, are still afraid of predators, still thinking that their striking nature could prevale on their rationality. This irrational fear creates prejudices leading to social conflicts.

I loved how Disney managed to understand that what is at the bottom of today’s intolerance and xenophobia is not the conviction of a population to be better than an other (like happened for black people or jews in the past) but an irrational fear given by the incapability to understand the many changes our society is living, to accept that the world how we used to know it is not going to be the same. It’s just pure, irrational fear of changes.

Disney was capable to see this fear and, being able to reach millions of people of all ages everywhere in the world, took the right chance to communicate this message: given our diversities, we evolved to live together in peace, we have a brain to use not to give in to our worst instincts. If we don’t remember this, we would get back to when world was divided into preys and predators.

Bring that son of a Pitch on!

Pitching is an activity that might sound unknown to those who never had to present a project to a commission, to those who never had to persuade someone else about the quality of their own ideas, to those that are not independent creative workers.

To us pitching represents an inevitable moment in the process of preparing a project. It’s when you have to face your inner fears of being judged and expose your idea to someone whose help you are in need of.

As money and investors lack, pitching has become more and more important. Since the last thing you want is to get to pitch your idea and go there unprepared (nothing is worse than a pitching session full of “ehhhh… mmmmh… ahhhhh….”), you had better to learn the principles of pitching and exercise the hell out of it. There are  several courses out there willing to teach you how to do the perfect pitch. They cost around  two thousand euros.

If you, like me, don’t dispose of that sum, I would suggest the enlightening book by professional script doctor Bobette BusterDo Story – How to tell your story so the world listensIn this short yet amazing book, Buster shares her experiences in teaching her students how to bring out the perfect story.

In one of my past article we already outlined the importance of knowing what you want to tell and why so, in this section, I would like to skip directly to the format of your story.

Once you developed your story to be the best you could tell, you have to pitch it in order to, as Cormac McCarthy would say, “bring the fire to others“.

Here are the ten principles of narration as seen from Bobette Buster: 

  1. When you tell a story (aka when you pitch your idea), tell it like you were telling it to a friend. It would keep your narration fresh, quick and personal.
  2. You must let your audience know the answer to the following questions: what, where, when, who? 
  3. Use verbs in present time: it would help your audience getting involved in your narration.
  4. Remember that story’s main structure develops around a conflict between a thesis and an antithesis. Let your audience know about this conflict.
  5. Don’t forget to give your speech some “colorful” details, something to hook your audience with. My suggestion is to chance this detail as you change your audience, to find the most suitable every time.
  6. Try to pass to your audience that same sparkle that stroke you the first time that idea came to your mind.
  7. Share your story in the most personal way. Don’t be afraid to show a weak point.
  8. Narrate through the five senses: give your audience several ways to visualize what you are talking about.
  9. Dare yourself, don’t hide. In telling stories truth is the winner.
  10. Be short, you don’t want your audience to get bored.

With this indications in mind, you could prepare a short and engaging pitch, so to thrill your audience with the same excitement that is driving you while you work on your project. Good luck!

 

The eternal struggle of creative procrastinators

When you decide to finally give in to your inner voice saying that your true vocation is *insert any creative profession*, you initially feel relieved, like if you had finally spoken the truth after a long time of lies. You feel great, charged both by courage and fear, and you start working on your own creative job that, at this point of the story, is quite far from being payed with any kind of retribution.

You think that, as this is YOUR dream, YOUR profession, the one you had so much time and so much trouble to find, of course everything is going to be a piece of cake.

Hell if you are wrong.

You used to think that your parents discouraged you so much because of the competition and the difficulties buried in your profession’s fundaments, but is not the only reason.

They probably knew, as your are learning now, that in creative professions, you are less likely to find yourself inside an already set path. Unlike other professions, where you can image yourself being hired and start a nine-to-five career, in creativity you can’t follow the others, otherwise it would be harder to succeed. You have to figure out and make your own path, and work on it everyday. And, most of the times, you’d be alone with your creativity.

As your brain struggles to find ideas, languages, expressions, as you stare at the blank page and try to follow a schedule even if know one would care if you don’t, that’s when you start what I call “The Serial Procrastination“.

Suddenly everything seems to be more important than your work. Facebook, cat videos, emails (for me chores) seem unable to wait. And that is how you don’t get your shit done.

I asked myself many times why, when I had to prepare for an university exam, I used to have a ten elephant-pack concentration but, if I have to think of a plot, I am distracted as a three weeks old kitten.

I found my answer after speaking with my coach, Sonja. I went back to the day I said my parents I wanted to live with stories. I felt good, yes, but also a little ashamed and guilty, because in my family stories were never considered a job, they were nothing more than a hobby. So, back then, part of me felt like I had chosen a profession that deserved less respect than some others and, unfortunately, this affects me even today.

But if you want to succeed, to make a living out of your passion you have to give it (and, consequently, to give you) the right credit. You have to commit and struggle, as you would do if you were employed in a society.

There are many different ways you can try to find your own way to commit. There are routines, exercises, moments for feedbacks and motivational recaps. Personally I recommend you to read this amazing book “101 Ways of Successful Screenwriters” , even if screenwriting is not what you want to do. It really helps you to find a way to dedicate to a creative profession, despite all the mental arguments you might have with yourself.

And then, as Shia LaBoeuf would say… “Just do it“.

Photo by Giulia Linus