Note: This was originally published on December 20th, 2013. I’m re-posting it because I neglected to add tags to the original post.
Hello hello, it’s been a while since we’ve talked, hasn’t it? Well, finals time and Christmas Break will do that to one I suppose. Anyway, I’m here to talk about a new project being worked on- a movie, of all things. Not too surprising, I admit, but there are some odd motions that this dance is going through. You see, my friend Alec and I were making a film called Dauntless. It is ultimately very similar to the other Dauntless film on this blog. However, it is expanded to have five characters and a much larger, more complex plot.
However, there are five characters, two cameras, three people in cast/crew/acting/editing (myself and Alec and our friend Alex), about 30 pounds of medieval armour to equip and the cold and the snow to fight through. Yeah, I don’t know why we didn’t see it before, either. And unlike most of my random rantings, potentially because it’s 3:30 AM here right now and I’m not exactly full of beans like I usually am, but there will be a greater insight at the end of all of this.
So, as it turns out, Alec and I have become disillusioned with Dauntless after just that one day of filming. Now, you may be asking (and rightfully so), how can you give up that quickly? It was only your first day of filming, how could you just abandon your project?
Very well, here is why:
Ambition, my dear friends and readers, destroyed us. It’s always good to believe in oneself. Hell, if it was a bad thing, then independent writers, game creators, and musicians would have never flourished. However, as Alec and I tried to chug our way through the first scene of Dauntless, our limits became outrageously apparent.
Now, Alec and Alex and I are all completely used to this uncomfortable reality. We have “made” close to half a dozen larger projects that ultimately amounted to nothing once we realized how far they were beyond our capability to create. Curiously, but also perhaps understandably, all of those projects had either been science fiction or fantasy based. Dauntless was no exception, being fantasy themed.
Looking at this theme first, Alec and Alex and I have found a strange balance in the scales when it comes to doing genres between our ability to invest ourselves into it (we freely admit that we’re all pretty much big fantasy and science fiction nerds) and the difficulty in actually pulling them off. I mean, it really can’t be too easy to film a giant fantasy epic in suburban Illinois can it? No, not at all. But we have tried four times now to create that one fantasy epic that will work. We’ve cut down the cast, locations, plot, and effects each and every time, making it slimmer, sleeker, and neater than ever before, but there is always that shadow of ambition that hovers over us all.
I feel like this feeling can pervade to various strata of creative endeavors. It’s easy to say, “I’m going to write a novel!” and then write the first two or three chapters before the high of creation simply putters out. It’s a totally normal and human thing to do. If Sturgeon’s Law has anything to it (spoiler: It does), then creative ideas are subject to the same ruling. During the six or so years of independent film creation, often involving no more than the items in our houses for props and our basements for sets, a certain kind of palette develops for figuring out which ideas will and will not work. It’s a huge skill that can’t really be learned, I feel, but simply experienced.
So, despite everything quite frankly being in our favour, we still managed to be defeated by our own mighty ambitions.
Remember that insight I promised you before? Well, here it is! I think it is absolutely vital to never work down to an “approachable level” as a maker of creative works. Whether you are a novelist, a filmmaker, a game-maker, songwriter, or whatever, it’s incredibly important to never let yourself think that the only way you can succeed is if you lower your own expectations. Tackling giants is the best way to prove to yourself that you can stand up to the even the greatest of challenges. But you must be prepared for the failures, which will come early and often. But if you’re truly committed and invested, those failures will never be true defeats, only new beginnings to re-assess how you CAN kill that giant- how you can be the David to conquer that Goliath.
Of course there are limits here. As in, don’t go trying to make a full 3-D Fantasy MMO all by your lonesome, but keep those dreams alive. Work yourself up by never working yourself down.
Then again, I’m probably not the person you (whoever “you” happens to be in this case) should be seeking life advice from little old me, but hey, I’m just here to rant and make noise so I’m just going to shrug and hope!
-END TRANSMISSION. GOOD MORNING, GOOD AFTERNOON, GOOD NIGHT-