It’s easy to get caught up in the missed opportunities and wasted moments of your life. You think your time would be better spent doing something more productive or linked to your creative career. But the events and culture that we spend our lives around are what shape us.
No two filmmakers are the same and the path and opportunities that they had won’t be the same as yours. Setting an arbitrary age for your goals won’t make you successful by that age. It’ll only discourage you after you hit that limit.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Before I started producing my own films, I worked a lot of jobs in the industry trying to find what my path was.
I wanted to be like Ron Howard or Tim Burton and start my directing and screenwriting career before I was 24. But 24 came and went, and I didn’t have a produced feature. I figured I’d be like other directors who got their start at 29. Then 29 came and went and I hadn’t had a breakout film yet. (Although I did direct a few things, but that’s another post.)
I’m into my 30s now, and I finally feel like I’m getting a solid footing in this industry. Nearly 13 years later.
I used to scour IMDb and Wikipedia to find out how a director got their start, what age they were, and what their path was to get there. Did they start in editorial or cinematography? Were they an assistant and if so, how long were they on a desk? How long were they an art director before someone gave them a shot?
But doing that only served to discourage me and waste time. Time that could’ve been better spent writing a spec screenplay, directing a short film, or networking.
Not everyone’s path is straight. Not everyone has the opportunity, talent, or life experience to start at a young age.
The Journey Is What Shapes You
You don’t waste time with any event or experience in your life. Everything that you do and experience with your limited time will shape your artistic vision and voice as an artist.
I worked as a camera assistant, art director, production designer, assistant editor, assistant director, and production manager. All that wasted time spent working in different departments of film production and distribution taught me a lot about how films get made and released.
I wasn’t great at any of them, and none of them stuck.
But the time that I spent in those roles is invaluable to me because it taught me how those departments operate.
I can’t tell a production designer what materials to design a set with or tell a director of photography what lights to use in a scene. But I can tell them what emotions I want a scene to evoke, and how we can use their crafts to do that. I’m better equipt by having those experiences.
Looking Back Won’t Get You Ahead
Remember to enjoy the journey you are on and the craft you are exploring. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and think that you aren’t making enough progress towards your goals. A half a page a day here, a minute of a short film edit there. Those things add up over time. Don’t fall into the trap of self-deprecation.
Keep Moving Forward
Your voice is important. Your path is yours alone and when you finally do break out, you’ll be thankful for the journey that you took to get there.
Whatever your creative endeavors are, keeping moving forward and you’ll accomplish them. Your path may bend and twist you in directions you didn’t expect but those that make it are the ones who didn’t give up.