A recurring topic in our conversations with independent filmmakers is how personal/passion projects have either launched, sustained, or saved their careers. For some people, like Hunter Hampton, personal projects have kept them from jumping off a creative cliff. For others, like Khalid Mohtaseb, passion projects have become a surprisingly effective marketing strategy. We don’t think there’s a “wrong way” to approach passion projects. But after having dozens of these conversations, the conclusion we’ve drawn is that passion projects, in whatever form, are an essential part of a creative lifestyle and an even more essential part of a creative career.
Learning a craft is never easy, and there aren’t any shortcuts. As we’ve talked with filmmakers over the past few months, one question we always ask is “How did you learn how to do what you do?” Sometimes it feels like that’s the only question that really matters, and yet it’s usually the most difficult one to answer. While only some of the people we interviewed attended film school (and even fewer finished), all of these filmmakers are self-taught in their own way. Meaning, filmmaking is something they internalize—they’re constantly learning, discovering, and working it out for themselves. Just in time for the holidays, we’ve compiled a smorgasbord of insights into the benefits of a formal versus a not-so-formal film education. Salud!
If there’s one thing filmmaking is not, it’s not a solo act. Sure, every once in a while you can go off on your own and create something beautiful; but for anyone who’s wanting to make a career of their craft, collaborating is nonnegotiable. You’re going to end up working with a crew. You’re going to end up working with actors. We’ve talked with dozens of filmmakers over the past year of the Community, and one topic that almost always comes up is collaboration. As you’ll see, it cuts both ways. While collaboration can be frustrating at times, it’s also almost guaranteed to improve your creative game.
Failure is always fine in retrospect. It’s when you’re in the middle of it that things can get dark. You wonder if you’ll ever make anything good ever again. It’s a common fear of creative people: We’re worried we’ll wake up one day and all our creativity will be gone. And yet, there’s not a single creative person out there who hasn’t failed miserably at some point. It’s going to happen, and then it’s going to happen again. What makes someone a pro is how they deal with it — how they move on.