Life Lessons from a Film Set
Working in the film industry is a unique experience. It is incredibly challenging, time consuming, requires sacrifice, can be very stressful, and is for the most part not glamorous at all. It is hard work, but it is also rewarding, creative and has its moments of pure magic.
Much can be learned about life from working in film, and this is the first article in a series about the lessons I have learned about life, from my work in film.
On the very first feature film that I worked on; The Umbrella, I encountered a phrase that I have since heard repeated a million times almost like a spiritual mantra. The phrase was “no excuses.”
I was entrusted with the responsibility of doing a job I had never done before I and started to realize what this mantra meant. I was recruited as a Grip but had no previous experience in film and no training either.
I learned that on a film set you are expected to never give up on a task, to do the task to the best of your ability and instead of complaining about the nature of the task or how impossible it seems you take it on without making excuses or complaining.
“The fool didn’t know it was impossible, so he did it.”
This principle is upheld regardless of your experience level or how qualified you may feel that you are for the job you’ve been given. At first I thought this seemed harsh and even unfair at times. I would often come up with excuses like; “I don’t think it can be done with the time we have” or “we don’t have what we need to do this”
Doing the impossible
Throughout my career in film I’ve been in countless situations where I was given the responsibility of performing a task I had never done before and thought was impossible. “let’s make a movie about immortality in just 48 hours….”, “could you turn in this video in today instead of next monday?”, “could you find all the locations, props, set dec and costumes for a feature film about a successful realtor and by the way we have no money…” sure!
There is a saying that goes; “The fool didn’t know it was impossible, so he did it.” I think there is great power in letting go of your ideas of what is impossible and refocusing your mind on the possible.
What I learned from taking on these seemingly impossible tasks in film was that if I stopped thinking about all the ways in which they were impossible, I somehow succeeded in carrying them out. When I chose to complain or make excuses I was merely wasting time and belittling my own ability to accomplish great things.
Often we are unaware of how long and far we can actually stretch. Even if you fail at reaching the goal you have been asked to reach you will find that you have grown in your skills and capacity.
My biggest challenge
The biggest challenge of my career, has no doubt been taking on the role as a Production Designer of The Out of the Woods Project. I had no experience as a Production Designer beforehand and like I mentioned above, it seemed impossible to run an art department on a movie that was supposed to look expensive but had no budget.
On a daily basis the potential of failure weighed heavy on my mind, and often I had no idea of how to move ahead. But we pushed past those fears and distractions and managed to achieve something great with what we were given. We succeeded in finding some incredible locations; a penthouse, a mansion, a beautiful restaurant, a high-rise office etc. and all with no money!
These experiences have instilled courage in my life. They have equipped me to deal with things I initially thought were impossible to overcome. They have taught me to not let limited resources stand in the way of achieving great things and finally they have taught me to never give up on things I believe are important!