Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You and Your Cinematic Vision - A Relationship Story

Over here at FA, we're always hammering people about their "vision". What is their distinct world-view? What is their unique aesthetic perspective? What is the crucial oddity that defines them as filmmakers?

Why is this so important? Well, if you aren't sick of me answering that question for the 1,237,986th time, I will do it again,...briefly. First, no one cares about you as a filmmaker if you don't give them something to care about that they can't find to care about elsewhere. Period. Whether you are an art filmmaker or a studio filmmaker....what makes you unique as a filmmaker is what makes you meaningful to those who can help establish your filmmaking life.


Secondly, and more importantly, discovering and expressing what is unique within you as a filmmaker will provide you with a level of creative satisfaction I cannot even begin to describe with words. Will it make you a happy, fulfilled, grounded person? Not necessarily. Unfortunately, one doesn't guarantee the other (although they aren't mutually exclusive, either, despite the "tortured artist" myth). But it will allow you to be in touch with something deep inside of you and can fill you with a sense of purpose in this life.

So, how do we access and develop this "vision"? Well, accessing it is a somewhat mysterious process that evolves sooner for some than for others. I try to blog about this process as often as possible to help guide filmmakers from a multitude of approaches and perspectives. But the process doesn't end once you ultimately seize upon that "vision". A brilliant idea may suddenly and excitingly flower inside your head, but it means little if it does not come to fruition in your work. Once it comes to life, however, you must treat it like a separate and distinct life form.

What does that mean? Well, let's use an analogy to an actual life form - be it a child, a family member, a life parter, a pet or any living thing about which you truly and deeply care. Here are some general relationship rules that apply beautifully to developing and applying your vision.


Any relationship need nurturing. How does one nurture a vision? Much in the way you nurture any relationship. You give it time, thought and energy. You consider its needs then give to it what you can. Developing a vision may demand discussion, interpretation, experimentation, fleshing-out or any number of creative exercises that will give it form and context.

Your relationship needs acceptance. Do not judge your vision. And do not judge what it means to you. Accept it for what it is. That does not mean do not question or change it. It simply means understanding it apart from what you want it to do for you...apart from any external agenda. It also means understanding it apart from any personal or moral judgements you may impose on it. This is your distinct and unique vision - whatever it is and however it came to you. Wrap your arms around that fact and let go of all else. If you find at any point this vision doesn't work for you, simply let it go and find another (like any relationship).

Your relationship needs respect but not obsessive co-dependency. Your vision is a gift. It's unique energy is indeed irreplaceable. Respect that. But remember that just because it is special, doesn't mean it is infallible. Meaning, it should not be immune to questioning and challenging and changing. Don't let it become constricted by a pig-headed determination to control it by treating it like some precious, unassailable treasure. It is a treasure, to be sure. But like all life forms, it must be open to adaptation or risk dying.

The relationship must evolve! No life form remains as it is at conception. Not even amoebas (well, maybe amoebas....and television commercials - which are clearly an alien life form). It is important that you view your creative ideas as life forms and allow them to grow organically. A toddler becomes a teen-ager and a teen-ager becomes an adult and an adult becomes an old codger (if they're lucky). Your relationship with and to that person changes at every step of the way. Your vision - and your relationship to it - will naturally change in the same way. Be prepared to fall in and out of love with it. And at key points, this is actually necessary. It's important to reassess your vision and your relationship to it. Is it deepening? Is it still serving you? Is it true to itself? Is it reaching its full potential?

These key evolutionary points are at the script stage, pre-visualization, production and post. The script will become something apart from the original conception. As you pre-visualize it, it will become something new, again (assuming you engage in pre-viz, which too many filmmakers do not). In production, it takes on yet a new life and of course, in post, the film can be totally re-conceived. It's key to be able, at each point, to stand-back, re-assess, challenge, re-appreciate and in generally engage in a totally new relationship with your vision so that you may successfully realize the full flower of it and, together, ride off into the sunset.


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