Watching “Heat” in its entirety for the first time during post-production on my short film “ABYSS: THE GREATEST PROPOSAL EVER” helped me further understand how adapting to knew plans, when your current circumstances no longer serve you, is very important.
For months, I’ve had a few food storage containers and shot glasses soaking in (what used to be) soapy water that turned into sitting water -- to break the grease or loosen any sign of leftovers so I could wash them with ease. I wanted to keep these containers because I didn't buy most of them; they came from my mom, grandmother and one of my aunts. So, I wanted to return them to their original owners. The thing I've failed to get a handle on, however, is the fact that they are just storage containers; I can get new containers or use what I already have in the cabinet.
My 30 seconds to make a decision have long been up and the heat is on, as the areas surrounding those used containers get rusty and bacteria starts to grow -- they are made of plastic, after all.
“Never get attached to anything you can’t walk away from in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner” – Robert DeNiro as Neil McCauley in the action crime drama “HEAT”
On the movie making front, this lesson from Robert DeNiro’s line in “HEAT” has a lot of meaning such as the importance of not getting attached to a particular draft of a screenplay, an uncooperative actor or crew/staff member, an editor, a DP, a film festival, the style of a scene, a line of dialogue, a prop, a favorable review from critics, a bad review from critics, or even an end goal.
When the heat is on, I need to be quick to walk away from any element that has a negative impact on my production. I must not waste any time on ridding myself and my projects from anything that becomes a liability when things get rough -- especially given the fact that independent film is already one big ongoing struggle after another.
Thinking back to when I was making ABYSS: THE GREATEST PROPOSAL EVER (and even today), I realize I need to be better at honing in on these things because there were times when I did just the kind of thing that DeNiro says to avoid.
- I wanted a specific editor and damn near panicked when I couldn't get one.
- I wanted most of the scenes to be completed in one shot -- but that didn’t happen, which left me feeling lost and out of my element while wondering how in the world I was going to piece this movie together.
- I planned to shoot at a place in Kensington and then scheduled to shoot at a house in Germantown; all of a sudden, it seemed as if the rug had been pulled from under me when both of those plans went down the drain.
- I wanted an editor to re-assemble one of my final cuts during post-production, but when that solution was postponed, I worried that this movie would never be finished.
Making movies and watching films made by other people has taught me the importance of embracing change, compared to the alternative -- resistance, which keeps you stuck and can make matters worse, not better.
The same goes for all those other areas of life that have either long passed their sell-by date or just started being more troublesome than they are beneficial to us. We need to let these things go -- habits, material things, thoughts, beliefs, relationships, goals, jobs, emotions, activities, behaviors, agreements (in the workplace or otherwise) and habits that bring us trouble; this goes for just about any type of trouble -- with law enforcement officials, trouble within ourselves, trouble in our families, trouble with people we don't even know or trouble with our health, spirituality, safety, happiness, freedom or peace of mind.
When we are not willing to walk away from the things that cause us (or have the potential to result in) trouble -- and do so in a timely fashion, we do a disservice to ourselves and sabotage the things that matter most in our own lives. In movies and in life, there is always another way. There's always another actor who has the same, if not better qualities that fit a particular role. There are always other craftsmen and servicemen who are skilled at doing the job that needs to be done. There will always be another chance to improve upon something, or to start over, or to be different than before. That is, unless you're dead. Then, it won't matter -- but what will you do with the time you have now?
More importantly, are YOU willing to do-it-like-DeNiro and walk away from the parts of your life where the heat is on?
In case you missed yesterday's post about making movies, check it out now: A Conversation Concerning Competition in Cinema