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Why Do We Do It?
by Patrick Storck

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I apologize for missing last week's deadline. Unfortunately, besides the usual holiday hectic schedules, work, shopping, work, more work, I had a death in the family. It was something that we knew was coming, but some things you can only plan for so much.

I only mention this because it caused me to miss a column, and it has probably affected the ones I've submitted recently. They have leaned away from a lot of the nuts and bolts how to variety, and leaned towards the motivational speeches. Hopefully everyone is motivated enough, since you're reading columns about film making. I just have one more point on the topic before I lay it to rest and get back into form and function.

Think about why you're doing this. Before you get too deep into school, buying equipment, borrowing money, developing projects and connections, step back and really be honest with yourself. Why are you doing this? The only wrong answer is the one you don't admit to, because it will remain unaddressed and unfulfilled. Otherwise, find the people who can support you best.

Do you have a vision? Do you see the world in ways you want to explore, and you find that narrative images are how to interpret it to the world? If so, your eye is your strength, and finding writers who inspire stories within the visions. They can build the story around the visuals, string the concepts together in a more linear way than you may have planned.

Are you the storyteller? You have an ear for dialogue, a mind for symbolism, a statement about the human condition, or just a really interesting story to tell. The words just flow right out of you. Find other writers, and share stuff. Read each other's work and discuss. Bounce ideas when you get stuck. When you get into production, understand the inherent impermanence of the script once shooting begins. Find people who are technically skilled in shooting, sound, set design, etc. Have long conversations with the actors, let them ask questions if they have them.

Is this just about a job? Let me take a moment to say thank you, as there just aren't enough of you. Sometimes we creative types just want something done. Somebody is hired for that job. Slowly opinions and styles we had not discussed or asked for start creeping up, making things inconsistent, and when addressed turn into arguments. Then a battle of wills begins, maybe small, maybe large. The job gets done, but maybe not with the same zeal. "If he doesn't think I know what I'm doing, why did he hire me?" Maybe because the director knows what they want and hired someone to do that. Pet peeve, seen it way too often, the line between freelance artist and contractor getting blurred.

Is this about money? That's fine. Maybe you want to be rich, and that is the only thing that matters. Just know not to join up with people who are deeply passionate, because it won't flow. Things will take longer than you would like, you may not get something marketable, and may just burn out in the process. Find a cheap idea, comedy, horror, porn, nothing that relies on emotion or production value. Play to the cheap seats and have fun. These are the most forgiving audiences, and they support the little guy. Knock out a string of quick and cheap flicks, turn a few bucks, pay for the next one, repeat and invest.

Is this about prestige? You want people to tell you how good you are, how visionary you are, that you are a bold and powerful voice and creative force? Get a hobby. Buy a still camera, write stories, learn to draw, paint, animate, whatever you can. If you're that amazing it will show through and people will want to collaborate with you. You also won't waste the time and energy of people you will likely dismiss or mistreat. If ego and validation are what inspire you, my experience tells me you are a terrible collaborator. Do as much self contained work as you can. It won't be diffused by others but will remain your pure work. If somebody comes to you, they will be signing on for what you can do, and you can build from there.

Knowing why we get into anything is vital. It's the only way to get something out of it. Not doing so would be like trying to do a practice run on a marathon without a map. You can put in double, triple, quadruple the effort, but if you don't know where you're going you just won't get there. If you really don't care about the art, learn the technical side, or marketing, and vice versa. Try and link up with people who know their motivations, and find ways to cover all of the facets of the production.

For me, films are what I know. I was raised on them, watched classics alongside the current stuff. I actually saw PSYCHO when I was young enough not to have already known the ending. When I saw GHOSTBUSTERS, and then a year later BACK TO THE FUTURE, I knew that's what my life was going to be.

By the time I was in middle school I knew about compositing, blue screen, matte photography, miniature, animatronics, anything I could find out. I needed to know how things were made to look possible, and the slight of hand that pulled it together. As I got older I learned about performance, photography, editing, music, but every element came back to film. All of it sits in my brain as a giant tool kit for telling stories through sight, sound, motion, and misdirection.

Would I like money, prestige, fame, and all of that? Sure, if it means I get to create all day instead of working all of the side jobs to pay the rent. If those never come, though, I still will make my own stuff. Shorts, features, scripts, snippets, fake trailers, whatever comes to mind.

David Lynch is somebody I immensely respect. Over the last decade or so he has resigned himself to doing what interests him. If he feels like learning Flash and making a series of cartoons, he'll just do it. If he randomly assembles the cast for a movie in progress as he has ideas, sees where it takes him, because he's never tried that, he does it. He does it because it makes him happy.

Maybe the creating itself makes you happy, maybe the end result does, or maybe it's the promise of what that will bring you. The important thing is to know what you think will bring you happiness, why, and go for it. There is nothing else to live for but living a life. You have been given dreams and desires so that you may follow them, and should never do anything less.

I promise this will be the last emotionally driven piece for at least a little while. Just had to get that out there. And happy 2009, everyone!

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Jan 19, 2009 6:11 PM
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sorry to hear about the death in your family...
Jan 20, 2009 6:20 PM
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Thanks. Luckily my dad got to be a cameo in a feature I wrote, and got to see a play I did, so he saw I wasn't just spinning wheels. It's amazing what good support can mean.

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Other columns by Patrick Storck:

That Should Be In a Movie

2010: A Year We Could Make Contact

Bad Movie Christmas

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Thanks again!

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Patrick Storck
Patrick hails from Baltimore, MD, where playing by the rules is frowned upon. Only average things come from playing it safe.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Patrick Storck by clicking here.

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