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Saturday
Apr182015

The Price we pay for Switching Paths: A Moviemaker’s Perspective 

“The good news is you came a long way. The bad news is you went the wrong way” – J. Cole in Love Yourz

The Album Cover for "2014 Forest Hills Drive" by J. ColeA lot of the dissatisfaction I’ve had with my pursuit of a career in film directing is what makes the lyrics in rapper J. Cole’s song “Love Yourz” (from his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive) oh so relatable. Every quest has its challenges but I cannot say whether I would’ve still chosen this path if I had to do it all over again.

Just when I think I’m making headway, something brings me back into the reality that I’m not only nowhere near where I thought I’d be, there is also no telling whether I’ll ever get there.

Sometimes it feels like I need to just put in more work to master the craft, as the saying goes. Other times it feels like I need to network with the right people or chuck directing altogether, in favor of another area within the entertainment field, such as screenwriting or casting or storyboarding or something. This is one of the reasons why I started considering television as a serious alternative. Producing community TV programs might provide more bang for my buck in terms of better results, faster turnaround and the opportunity to make a difference in the world.

More often than not, however, I’ve wondered if I wasted years, relationships, resources and money going after the wrong dream – one that I probably had no business pursuing in the first place, given that I did more writing and drawing in my youth than anything else. Perhaps I would have been better staying on the path of fine arts, for if I kept at it, I imagine I’d be a lot better at it today than my present sketchbook shows.

On the set of a short film production.Even if I did switch careers, there is a steep price for doing so, according to author Steve Pavlina who points out that “most art forms are too crowded and too competitive to make a living from unless one commits to becoming outstanding. Dabbling in fields every few years or so will prevent you from reaping the rewards of building a financially sustainable practice that comes from long-term mastery.”

This is an understandable factor to consider, given that leaving film for something else would likely involve me starting from the bottom – once again. On the flipside, he also suggests that we get out of any project, relationship or career, etc. as soon as possible if we would not have embarked on it knowing what we know now. So what the hell is Steve Pavlina smoking?! I mean, it sounds like his advice rests on two sides of the fence. One minute he’s suggesting you spend a decade or so honing your skills and then the next minute he’s warning readers that there is no “honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you.”

In almost every step of my tv/film projects, I find myself bouncing back and forth between delight and frustration, asking myself if I should continue riding this rollercoaster of uncertainty any longer. This question is a no-brainer for Grant Peele, a husband and father who did the complete opposite, leaving a thriving career in Real Estate to achieve his life-long dream of becoming a filmmaker. The early days of his journey, along with those of other men and women who switched career paths, are chronicled in the documentary I’m Fine, Thanks, a film about complacency and whether the paths we ultimately choose to follow are connected to who we are or someone else’s American Dream.

Grant Peele preparing for the Midwest Premiere of his documentary film "I'm Fine, Thanks."One woman in the film describes what it's like to climb a corporate ladder and then reach the top, only to realize she had it leaned up against the wrong wall. Having not yet reached the middle of this current journey I’m on, I think I’d rather just take her word for it as opposed to finding that same thing out for myself when it’s too late.

I used to fantasize about how exciting it would be to win an Oscar and attend Cannes or get hired to work on some huge Hollywood production starring heavyweights like Denzel Washington, Jonny Depp or Meryl Streep -- accomplishments of which would be equivalent to the top of a ladder. Today, I rarely think about milestones like these and find myself feeling indifferent to them, when they do cross my mind. That’s an uneasy sign that something isn’t quite right. Although I have yet to figure out what that something is, I’ll be trucking along on this yellow brick road of motion pictures until I do.

P is for Perspective

 

When YOU were a child, what kind of career did YOU want to have?

How do YOU know when to hold onto the cards YOU’RE playing, and when to fold them?

Friday
Apr172015

Who are your Operatives? My Jason Bourne Theory...

As a Co-Host of the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge, I get to select my own minions; men and women who assist me in checking blogs on the signup list, to make sure participants are following the guidelines for our April blog hop. The “minion” term that we generally use when referring to all helpers was obviously inspired by the hilarious animated film Despicable Me.

Each Co-Host also uses a particular name or title when identifying his or her team of assistants/helpers within the overall pool. I like the idea of having a taskforce of people who are on the lookout for any funny business during the challenge -- similar to a law enforcement agency. So the action thriller movie titled The Bourne Identity and its many sequels were the basis for what has become my “Mighty Minion Bureau (MMB).”

 Those who join the MBB are considered assets who carry out a single, yet huge, mission which is to keep our April challenge vibrant and running smoothly for the enjoyment of its 1,700+ participating blogs. The MMB team roster has changed every year with the exception of one mainstay – author Sydney Aaliyah Michelle. This year she is joined by Vidya Sury and Melanie Shulz, which complete the set of operatives who are helping me meet various A-to-Z goals within the 60-day period between March and April when the challenge kicks into high gear.

The computer I use to perform most of my blogging duties such as typing in word documents is slower than the phone I use to watch YouTube videos. Yeah, read that last sentence again if you haven’t fully grasped the fact that something is DEFINITELY wrong with this picture. Yet just like all of my fellow Co-Hosts, I’m expected to keep track of a few hundred blogs or so while troubleshooting A-to-Z Challenge issues and fielding questions from random bloggers about all sorts of matters, in addition to doing the A-to-Z Challenge on my own blog -- here at The Madlab Post. So I’d really be in a major jam and stressed to the nines if it were not for the ladies in my Mighty Minion Bureau who have agreed to take on some of this load by checking portions of the A-Z signup list.

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne and Julia Stiles as Nicky ParsonsWhen it comes to reaching your goals, there are proven techniques to get results in as little as 90 days….if you spend enough time working on them every week, according to Psychology Today. Given that it takes me several hours to blog on a typical day, I wouldn’t get anything else done in my everyday life if I spent more time online or dealing with A-to-Z Challenge matters.

Plus I’d be walking around like a zombie, which would cause the quality of my output to drop in various areas of existence. So while I understand and agree with Psychology Today’s logic on reaching goals, I also know that in some cases that’s not enough; you need more than time – you need help!

Even a great soldier like Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, wouldn’t have gotten to the truth about all the crimes committed in his past life; nor would he have made it through some of the most high risk situations, if it were not for those who helped him along the way including Nicky Parsons and Pamela Landy. Played by actress Julia Stiles, Nicky Parsons is an operative who handled logistics for the same agency that employed Bourne. Despite being interrogated by him early on in the series, she ends up helping him uncover classified information and also aids in protecting him from being assassinated on more than one occasion.

Played by actress Joan Allen, Pamela Landy is a task chief officer out to capture Jason Bourne at first and then ends up using her position to help him avoid the shady higher-ups, when she suspects that he was a pawn in a dangerous game that her colleagues want to make disappear. So yes we could all benefit from having (or making) more time to complete the tasks that stand before us. However, whatever these responsibilities may be, an extra set of hands from those near and far are what also make it possible for us to get things done much faster and with less hassle.

O is for Operatives

 

Who are the operatives that help YOU complete time-consuming tasks on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule?

Thursday
Apr162015

Notes on Psychological Nuances that Might Help Me Nail this Next Endeavor 

Studies on the psychology of charitable giving demonstrate that organizations trying to spread awareness about an issue must go beyond telling potential donors about it. These findings are based on a suggestion that donations are influenced by the way people interpret how much they know about the charity seeking their support.

Having felt overwhelmed with how to best present life-saving information and skills that are packed into the latest draft of a script for a television show I’m producing, this study on charity comes in handy. It’s considerably applicable to some approaches that I want to utilize to make the episodes more appealing to viewers because -- let’s be real here – topics such as disasters and emergency preparedness are not sexy. Neither is public television or educational programming. Still, I would like to create content that matters while also not wasting my time; especially given television’s decline in popularity, save for shows like Game of Thrones.  

In “Knowing More About a Charity is Not Always Better” published by Psychology Today, Art Markman Ph.D. says there are two ways that charities with the goal of raising awareness can make their message more effective. It’s nice to know that the methods he describes are not far off from how I plan to make my television show work, in a world where it seems like more people get their entertainment from tablets and smartphones than anything else: 

1. Get people to think about how little they know about a particular issue before hearing your message.

When we start filming the TV program, I aim to include interviews with randomly selected individuals who answer questions on various subjects involving disasters. Think of it as something along the lines of those old “Jaywalking” segments on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, sans the humor. Asking people about important topics that can affect them, whether either directly or indirectly, will allow them to test their knowledge on the spot while also providing a lead-in for the informational/instructional segments in each episode.

2. Remind them how little most people know about this issue, which is why it is crucial to raise awareness. 

N is for NotesUpon hiring a TV show host (which, of course, probably won't be any of the men or women who sent me selfies to get an audition and screen test), his or her segments are expected to feature the correct answers to questions asked of those random individuals on the street, supplemented with information about how many people were already affected by a particular disaster or emergency in recent months. Did YOU know there were 894 home fire deaths reported by the media in 2015?

Did you also know Ohio and New York lead the nation in reported fatalities from these disasters? Spring isn’t even in full swing yet and there have already been nearly one thousand fatalities this year, according to FEMA – and that’s not even counting the firefighters who died while on-duty!

When the show is broadcast, viewers are also able to get an idea of how much they didn’t know about dealing with emergencies, by seeing people who look, think and behave just like them, and share their interests, yet might also be lacking in knowledge on important subjects. This will hopefully peak their interest in learning more about safety measures that can help them better cope with various balls in the air, during emergency situations.

What subjects have YOU taken notes on recently?

How many freak accidents have YOU heard about on the news or through the grapevine?

What is the biggest thing that's next on YOUR to-do list this month?