It’s January 10th and already I can hear the wain of New Year’s Resolutions to get into the gym. Ten days ago the cries of, “This is the year I get into shape!” have melted into, “Yeah I really need to go do that…”
I don’t say this to be a jerk. I say this to illustrate that EVERYBODY has those moments of procrastination, self doubt, and fear (not just Artists). Maybe it’s regarding fitness, but for the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on THE STEPS TO AFM. (The American Film Market)
Artists are constantly harangued by arm-chair quarterbacks’ comments like, “Artists are so lazy”, “They procrastinate”, “They need to get a real job”, “They have no business skills.” Be it a brother, spouse, close friend, or day-job co-worker, STEP ONE is to block those negative voices out. This may be difficult for some and others may not want to admit this happens to them. I can assure you, it does happen and the best way to block the “nay-sayers” is to address them head on with countermeasures.
Counter Measure #1- Surround yourself with other artists. If you are a Filmmaker, you don’t have to befriend other filmmakers (but it helps), you can befriend a painter, musician, actor, sculptor…you get the idea. Think about widening your friend circle to those who aren’t necessarily in your genre of art. This gives you a rich, diverse friend-set that may even help you with different departments of Filmmaking! The best result is that your resident “nay-sayer” won’t be able to say ridiculous things like, “All you friends are filmmakers, so blah-blah-blah….”
Counter Measure #2- This will prove to be more difficult, but you need to stick up for yourself. Tell the “Nay-sayer” that their negativity is inaccurate and it hurts you as an artist. “No, it is NOT true that all artists are starving artists.” “When you tell me to get a ‘real job’, that makes be feel bad and stunts my growth as an artist. It also makes me question your friendship. What is a ‘real job’ anyway? Is the profession of Filmmaking a ‘fake job’? Let’s ask Mr. George Freakin’ Lucas.”….You get the idea.
Counter Measure #3- Positive self-affirmation. No I don’t mean looking the mirror and telling yourself that you are awesome (unless that helps-then by all means-do it). What I am referring to is CELEBRATE your achievements. Pick a day of the week, or do it daily- but celebrate the fact that you had the fortitude and strength to finish that script, or take a great photo, or break down that budget, or begin that storyboard….hell, I celebrate when somebody noticed my carefully put together “look” at that meeting with the “Money people”. The fact is Artists do GREAT creative things EVERYDAY that “regular” human beings CAN’T. Every time you hear somebody say, “Oh! That’s so creative! How did you come up with that?” Feel free to respond in your head, “I have super-powers.”
Counter Measure #4- Validate yourself. This is a toughie as an artist unless you are a mega-egotist. The best way to achieve that so desperately needed “validation”, is to start small: Ask your friends for a written critique of your work. NOTE: Do not ask the “nay-sayer” for this. They will invariably respond with, “But I don’t know anything about art.” Ask your Art-friends, fellow filmmakers, etc. Ask for a brief paragraph that you can post on your website and credit to them. The best written word I ever got was from West Ramsey. He summed me up with one word: “Unstoppable”. He wrote it on a scrap of paper as part of group training exercise we were at several years ago. I keep it in my padfolio to remind me every time I open it up to take notes at a meeting.
Once you have a few different “critiques”, go out to the next layer of your “circle of influence”. Perhaps a patron, fan, or person of repute. Maybe it’s your District Council Member, or a theater owner. Make a form letter that you send out to several people that you don’t know so well (this is training for the next BIG step: finding an agent/manager). This letter will consist of an introduction to your work and an ask for their critique or opinion. If/when they respond, throw away the negative and post the positive as a quote on your website and in your promo materials. Be sure to cite who they are. Ie: “The pitch for UNBROKEN was the most interesting pitch I heard at AFM” - Mr. Big, VP of Acquaitions, Lionsgate (It could happen!)
These steps are vital to you getting an agent/manager because you must be self-confident when pitching yourself to ANYONE. These steps are NOT self-indulgent, they are GOOD BUSINESS. These steps result in you getting third-party validation and remind others that you still exist in the market. Think of it as gathering references for a job application. You have a week to do this.