As filmmakers, we all have a moment where we are so unbelievably exhausted by our craft and feel so unbelievably unrewarded (at least in matters of money and fame) that we’re ready to throw in the towel. Some of us do give up at that point, write off the whole filmmaking journey as a flight of fancy, and go back to the “real” world. The rest of us muscle through the despair, or are somehow rescued from it, or manage some combination of both.
I remember a year or two ago, I was talking with Tom Stern, one of our brilliant technical writers, about this phenomena. (Or, rather, I was listening to him tell me about his experience with it.) After a number of traumatic film experiences at other times in his career, he had decided on the gutsy vision of shooting a completely greenscreened movie (ala Sin City) with his HVX200. Despite the fact that he had chosen what should have been the most discouraging venture for a person to undertake (because, at the time, there was precious little information about greenscreening on a truly low budget), the crew and cast he ended up getting proved to be so much of a breath of fresh air to him that the entire experience gave him a second wind on filmmaking in general.
I remember one especially notable time when that happened with me, as well. My production company was helping a new director make a comedic short film that had a number of holes in the script (which the director wasn’t really willing to correct). I was feeling terribly overworked by my day-job, overwhelmed by additional responsibilities from my home life, and discouraged by the fact that, somehow, all of our production equipment was filling up my personal storage unit. We were set to shoot the next day and I had to find one piece of equipment for our shoot. I was virtually certain that our gaffer had it in his case of equipment (the only thing not in my storage unit), but he claimed he thoroughly checked through all of his gear. As such, I spent hours unpacking my entire storage unit after work the day before the shoot and then repacking it when I found nothing.
As I sat there in the dark of the storage unit, sweat dripping down my back from the exertion, I remember being completely "over" it all. I told God that I was done with filmmaking and I didn’t want to do it anymore. I hadn’t made money, I had gotten no notice for my work, it was absolutely exhausting, and it just wasn’t worth it anymore.
Despite my discouragement, I went to bed and woke up the next day, ready to aid in the creation of this problematic film. That day changed everything as a newly assembled crew that we had managed to find turned out to work seamlessly together. Moreover, because of certain key additions in the crew, everyone started trying to live up to the best and highest quality, rather than just getting by. And, despite my fears about the director and the script, he was able to step up to the plate and the rest of the team was able to minimize the flaws in the film. (Of course, the director was also willing to at least patch up some of the major plot holes.) At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have wished to do anything else in the world but make films.
By the conclusion of editing, we had a much more integrated and powerful production team that had grown close through our time working together and the film turned out amazingly well, all things considered. (And yes, if you’re wondering, the gaffer had indeed had the piece of equipment I was searching for in his case the entire time. The reason he overlooked it? It wasn’t the color he was expecting.)
While this wasn’t the only time in my filmmaking career in which I wanted to quit, every time I managed to get through these doldrums, I would find that I had grown as a filmmaker during them and that an exciting new chapter of filmmaking lay open before me. If anyone else who’s reading this is on the verge of giving up their cinematic dream due to the hardships and adversity that beset you, I encourage you to hold on, stick it out, and, most likely, you too will find your filmmaking second wind!