UPDATE: Ladies and Gentlemen, I present our finished film:
This weekend, I and a team of 10 amateur filmmakers participated in the Columbus 48 Hour Film Project, in which we had to write, shoot, and edit a 7-minute film in under 2 days.
It was intense, stressful, and exhausting. And the thing with our team was, it was pretty thrown-together - we’d known each other from friends of friends, and although we had met the week before the project, we’d never actually worked together as a unit before this. So I came in, met everybody, and in the process I learned a lot about compromise and teamwork. Here are 4 things I learned:
The “director” side of us tells us that if we dominate the group, we can produce the movie that’s in our head. But dictatorships always fail, while democracies flourish. In a collaborative environment, the story starts to take a slightly different shape depending on who’s in the room. This is good - don’t fight it. Allow for change, and don’t be too stubborn about getting your idea into the final product. In other words, learn to sacrifice.
On This Project: The story we ended up scripting and shooting is a little different from Paul’s original pitch. At first, all we knew was there would be an old western standoff and a flashback to the main guy’s past. Carrying that initial idea through to a full script with a beginning, middle, and end took us hours of debating, making notes, and big impassioned speeches that started with the phrase “Guys, what if we…” But it wouldn’t have happened if I stubbornly fought for the things I personally wanted to see.
People think directors are magical jack-of-all-tradesmen who place their influence and decision-making into every part of the production, leading a team to their unique, personal vision. But often, when you have a team of amateur filmmakers, collaboration yields better results. Sometimes the best way to lead is to step back and let your team do their thing. Trust that your team is capable, and that they understand the vision, then let them work.
On This Project: Holding a “director” title, I thought I would have to do a little bit of everything. This overwhelmed me and stressed me out. When we started working, and I realized that the work was going to get done with or without me, I stressed less and started helping more.
If somebody has the feeling you like them, they are much more open to your point of view. This sounds crazy, but it’s true - when your speaking partner feels liked and respected, they become more comfortable talking things out, and will give you respect by hearing you out. It’s much easier to reach a mutual understanding when cooler heads prevail.
On This Project: When we were writing the script, we started to get into debates over the believability of the characters and their motives. Unfortunately, during these talks, I treated one of our team members like a Devil’s Advocate, pointing out reasons why his idea wouldn’t work. I was being nitpicky, and nobody wants to be nitpicked, especially when it’s their writing that’s being criticised (sometimes it’s hard for a person to discern a criticism of their work with a criticism of them). However, it wasn’t until I started giving him compliments, telling him about which of his contributions I particularly liked, when we started to get along. He knew I wasn’t out to get him, that I really did like him and his ideas, and after that we were able to communicate on the same level - as equals.
So laugh at each other’s jokes. Compliment your teammates when they do something cool. You’ll be surprised at the power of mutual respect.
As I got to know the teammates better, I realized that I didn’t need to tell people how to do their jobs. Once people know what needs to be done, they will do it in a way that makes sense to them. They’ve probably done it before, or something similar to it, and your personal way of doing it is simply irrelevant to them. In fact, explaining your way to them is a waste of precious time.
On This Project: With only 48 hours, sometimes you just gotta do it; there’s no time to hear everybody out and choose the best idea. You just need to make a decision and hope that, when the audience sees the final product, they will go with it.
There were times when we had to stop worrying and settle on a decision. A couple times during the scriptwriting stage, I heard the phrase “suspension of disbelief.” And when it came time to edit the footage, only one person at a time sat in front of the computer. This cut down on potential arguing, and saved us loads of time. When you have a deadline, you just gotta DO IT and TRUST THAT IT WILL BE OK.
After submitting the film, we rushed back to our home base, Ronnie’s apartment. We were totally exhausted, running on fumes, but we couldn’t wait to just sit back and watch what we’d just done. What you’ll see on the screen is something that we each created, something that we’re all proud of. Over the course of 48 hours, we went from barely knowing each other’s names to creating this story, this piece of media, this experience. And that’s saying something.
Until next time,
P.S. If you want a look behind-the-scenes, check out this short video, in which I learn how to properly hold a handgun:
Have you ever heard someone say “hindsight is 20/20?” That’s because we make mistakes in the present but don’t really realize it until we look back into the past. And although we think we know what we want, what we’re doing, what we’re here for, we are plagued by constant distractions and temptations that can make us start to compromise on our goals, if we’re not careful.
Looking back over the last 6 months, I can honestly say that somewhere along the way, I compromised. I started out with the goal of studying for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I had it all planned out. I told my boss that I needed to take this semester to focus on school and arranged a much-constricted one-day-a-week work schedule (which got me a lot of questioning from fellow employees). I had decided I was going to pull a 4.0 this semester and was jumping in with both feet. Kind of a scary proposition - It would be my first semester not having to be somewhere each hour, not having my time regimented. And what’s funny is, I thought this was a great idea. What could go wrong? I thought. But hindsight is 20/20…
I got off to a great start - the day before classes started, I sat down at the library at 10am sharp, and worked on the first assignment from then until 5pm, breaking only for a 30-minute lunch. After my 5-and-a-half-hour work session, I went to the gym and rocked out a set of machines and spent thirty minutes on the treadmill. It felt great; I was being the productive person I’d always wanted to be. I thought about the possibility of doing that every single day for 5 months, and I wondered if I could actually keep it up.
As the weeks droned on, however, I started to slide back into old behavior, proving, as they say, that “old habits die hard.” I began to see my planned 2-hour morning study session as a 2-hour opportunity to sleep in. Then, right after I’d go to class, I’d head to a place to grab lunch, sometimes meeting a friend. Then after lunch, I’d listen to a podcast just to extend my break another hour. And at around 3 o’clock, when I’d finally get behind a computer, ready to work, I would go to my Gmail account and start organizing the junk mail. Instead of actually GETTING THINGS DONE. I wish I had read Getting Things Done, but, of course, hindsight is 20/20.
The problem with change is, we will always have the tendency to go back into old ways. Whenever you try to do something new, you will be met with resistance, and when we’re in the thick of it, we start forgetting the reason we started in the first place.
The other day I met a woman who worked two jobs and went to school full-time, getting only 3 hours of sleep per night. I asked her how she got through it, how she maintained all of her duties without quitting a job or dropping any classes, and she just said, “my daughter.” That was it. She knows that the only way to a better life was doing well in her classes, and passing all of her exams. And every night when she comes home, she has her daughter to remind her.
20/20 hindsight isn’t just for looking at mistakes. Luckily, I can use it to analyze times in my life where I’ve out the pedal to the metal, and pushed through adversity to a glorious victory. Try it - Think back to a time in your own life where you’ve watched yourself accomplish something. What got you through it? How did you change after that victory?
In his book A Million Miles In a Thousand Years, Donald Miller writes of how in every good story, the main character overcomes adversity to get what he wants. The main character doesn’t run or hide from adversity. Because that would make for a really bad story. I know I was created for more than this, and I want the story of my life to show a journey from here (where I am now), to a place of realizing my potential.
As I put together an application for financial aid, explaining what has happened, I’m exhausted from a long 8-hour day at kroger. I’m counting the cost of pursuing a degree, and realizing that the adversity of college far outweighs the adversity of working for minimum wage. College opens up doors, but not if we, ourselves, close them.
Next fall, when I take a seat in my first class, I will have the Fear of God in me. Because now I know if I don’t discipline myself to get things done, then I may never move out of this stage of working at a grocery store. Now, my focus will be on maintaining a state of total desperation, a place where failure is not an option. I thought the trick was giving myself time and freedom to choose when to relax and study, but now I know I didn’t really have a choice to make. I mean, I did have a choice, but the choice was: go to college and strive for a better life, or continue working for minimum wage. It’s a choice the woman had to make for her daughter. And it’s a choice we have to make every single day of our lives, remembering why we fight, whether it’s for the fulfillment of our own passions, the realization of our God-given purpose, or for the safety, security, and happiness of our children.
At the end of the day, you just have to do it. If you make a mistake, learn from it, and try like hell to never do it again. Use that hindsight, and reflect. Forgive yourself, but never forget what you’ve done wrong, because, who knows, it might help you tomorrow when you’re trying to do something right.
Until next time,