Actor and director Charlie Kennedy shares his tips for turning your dream creative project into a reality.
One of my favorite college professors said: “why make something easy, when it can be fun?” That’s a pretty good description of the spirit in which any creative project is done. Now that I’m out of college, I know first hand that getting started on creating your own independent entertainment can be tough. Without all the resources you had at school the realities of self-producing – finding a crew, getting equipment, etc. – can be challenging, but it can also be very fun. Here are some tips from a guy with the fresh experience of being inexperienced:
1. Have an idea that would be fun to work on.
The studio executives at Disney like to say: “Content is king”. This is true, even (or especially) if you don’t have the same funding that Disney studios have. But be sure to pick content that makes you enthusiastic, e.g. something that makes you laugh, something that you wish you could tell to a bunch of people, a character you would enjoy doing, a controversial topic, a story people think is cool. This is what will keep you going throughout the project. If the content is something that makes people laugh as they work on it, they’ll be more likely to work on it, even if you can’t pay them. As a director, I rarely have any money to give people – but I always get laughed at!
2. Get started.
It can be the hardest part, but sometimes, after getting started, momentum will kick in. Remember, you are more likely to show up for things when you’ve promised other people you would be there. Making promises to others about when you’ll be somewhere to film or rehearse or write or edit makes you obligated to show up and do it. That’s one of the great things about your co-workers; they can be a key to motivating you to do your share.
3. It’s okay that there will be start-ups and setbacks.
Don’t assume that being behind schedule means the apocalypse is coming. In fact, now that you’re not in college and you’re not being paid (presumably…on this project, at least) deadlines won’t mean the death of you. That being said, don’t fall into the trap of permanent deferral and procrastination. The way to avoid that trap is to (once again) have content that you enjoy working on, and (once again) make promises to other people involved. Even telling potential audience members they can look forward to seeing the finished product adds a reason to keep you going. And the inevitable ups and downs of the production process are bearable if you have content that is fun enough.
4. Be flexible.
There will be unforeseen circumstances, so always be thinking about how they can be incorporated into the art you’re doing. Feeling a panic attack or a pang of self-doubt? Give that to one of your characters! Having a uniquely bad stroke of luck and embarrassment? That’s a funny scene right there! There’s a reason why a lot of material that young artists produce today is about people who are confused or disorganized about starting their lives, or are dealing with their own shortcomings or mis-preparations for the modern world – it’s because the people who make those stories are using their personal experiences that they are currently dealing with.
The general metaphor I would use for a creative project is: a surf-board. Your project is something you should keep holding onto and putting effort into. Some circumstances will set you back a bit (don’t worry), and some will push the project in the right direction (catch those waves when you can). If the project is enjoyable, you will keep holding on in both the difficult moments where you feel cold/exhausted/confused/nervous, etc. and in the exiting moments where you feel like everything is rolling into place and giving you good energy.
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