Filmmaking Myth #6: “I need to learn all about (X) before I make (Y).”

This idea alone held me back for years.

Before I could make a feature-length movie, I “needed” to know “everything” about the classical dramatic narrative.

Before I could call myself a writer, I “needed” to read all of the humanity’s great literature – but that’s not enough, because words have a rhythm that can be nudged and skewed for maximum effect, so I had to study (and create) great poetry… but since poetry (and screenplays) are made up of words, that eventually lead me down the path “requiring” a basic knowledge of the essence of words via structural linguistics.

And since all of this leads back to the human brain, I needed to know all about neuroscience, psychology, mythology, political theory, anthropology, etc.

Eventually I realized I was in my mid-20’s and not exactly where I wanted to be in my career… but BOY did I know a bunch of stuff!

Look, learning is important.

You should be in a constant state of education if you're going to succeed in whatever the fuck.

The more you learn, the more you earn.

But that doesn’t mean you have to take it to the extremes I did.

Which basically translates to: If you ever think you cannot proceed with a movie because you don’t know all about the subject, throw that idea away immediately.

Learn, instead, a little bit about the subject.

Get a primer on the subject and limit your studies to about a week or so.

Then make your movie.

You will never, ever know everything about one subject, let alone all of the subjects out there.

No matter how hard you try, you’re always just scratching the surface.

Once you understand 40% of the subject, ACT.

Don't wait for 100%.

You’re better off learning a little bit about (X) before you make (Y).

If you get an idea to make a punk-rock movie about Lincoln, read one book about him and skim through a few.

Watch a few videos online, hear a few podcasts.

After about a week of immersion, just do it!!

Later on in life you may look back at the work and realize how little you knew, or how much more you know now.

That’s okay.

Make a new movie if necessary.

Shakespeare constantly revisited the subjects of love and money.

He learned and experienced new things as he grew.

And these new ideas, as well as the discarded ideas, evolve in more interesting ways than if he had just made one work that fully explored the idea of love, and no others. 

It's also thrilling, as a fan, to see the artist grow & mature through the work.

Stanley Kubrick continuously revisited the subject of war, and his ideas shifted in ways just as interesting as the subject matter.

John Lennon’s theory of music also shifted throughout his life, based on new information and experiences, and this too helped create his highly expressive body of work.

So you see, you don’t need to know everything about everything to make one thing.

Just make the thing.

Because making the thing (the movie) is the education.

Then you get the movie out there, and meet the real experts, or the reactionaries, or the like-minded ones… and THEN, your mind really begins to grow, as you engage in discussion & reflection.

Solution:

Filmmakers must be arm-chair philosophers, but not philosophers proper.

A philosopher is someone who spends their life reading and critiquing cultural ideas.

A filmmaker is someone who spends their life making films.

So, yes, incorporate knowledge acquisition into your daily life.

Listen to a lecture while you brush your teeth, or read a book on the bus.

But you must spend the majority of your day actually making movies.

This is the moment you can confidently say, “I’m a filmmaker.”

It’s better to be a little dumb and a successful filmmaker than extremely intelligent and unrecognized in poverty.

Action:

Read every morning for an hour.

Sneak in lectures during in-between activities (walking, chores, travelling).

Knowledge is so important.

But also keep note of your time.

The #1 activity you should be spending most of your day on is making movies.

This is the only way you’ll succeed as a filmmaker.

Spend most of your day working on a movie with a fixed deadline, and ship it.

Filmmaking Myth #7: “Making a feature film is the big leagues. I’m not ready.”

Filmmaking Myth #7: “Making a feature film is the big leagues. I’m not ready.”

Filmmaking Myth #5: “People will love my work in the future / when I'm dead.”