Creator Buddy System

Before you earn an audience, users, paying customers, investors, shareholders or employees holding you accountable to your work, you often find yourself alone and unmotivated. Unless you popped into this world as a self-starting anomaly, waking up and getting to work on something that doesn’t exist yet and that no one else cares about can feel like forcing children to eat broccoli. It helps to have business or creative partners on the project with equal or greater investment in the outcome – and sometimes that’s all you need. But even partnerships lose steam and it helps to have someone else on the outside to push you.

You may need a creator buddy: someone you never want to disappoint and who also has his or her own personal projects in infancy. Someone outside your field with whom you can learn from each other. Between the two of you, schedule regular check-ins to set goals and debrief accomplishments or failures on a regular basis. Weekly or bi-weekly works best, nothing too involved. Encourage each other to set goals you both can realistically achieve in that time and hold each other accountable. Send text messages to touch base in between. Whatever helps to keep you both on the tracks and moving forward. Before long, you’ll find yourself accomplishing more – if only in fear of disappointing your buddy if you fail.

Sounds too simple, but the work you need to do today is difficult enough. Avoid overcomplicating it with crazy motivational regimens. Find a buddy that can pull you out of isolation and give you the push that you need. He or she will appreciate it as well.

Advice for a High School Filmmaker

An eighth-grader approached me for advice on making movies and getting started at his age. Here’s what I shared with him:

The first and most important thing to do is get started. Pick up a camera, any camera, and practice. An iPhone is way better than the first camera I started with, so use whatever you can and never be ashamed. It’s about storytelling more than the lights or gear you use, so focus on telling great stories. Pick editing software you are comfortable with and learn (I started with Adobe Premiere and use it to this day). There are many helpful tutorials online. The more movies you edit, the better you will understand the software.

Find friends you like hanging out with, can rely on and who like making movies. Beyond the core group with whom I always made movies, filmmaking helped me become friends with hot girls, nerds who knew how to animate 3D models, shady stoner kids who owned fake realistic looking weapons that looked great on camera, class clowns, incredible artists and everyone in between. It was amazing who I was able to connect with by just asking, “Hey, do you want to be in my movie?” It helped high school be a great experience for me.

Start simple with your first movie, then make it more complicated as you go. My first film ever was 1 minute long in my backyard. By the time I graduated high school, I was making 30 minute films with action and visual effects. You’re capable of this and so much more, especially with the tools available these days. But again, start small. It’s incredibly motivating to see your finished work – and then want to do better the next time.

It also helped a lot to find teachers who supported my interest. I made sure to get into every media, theater or film class I could and made friends with those teachers. Sometimes, I got away with making movies for classes instead of writing papers – it can never hurt to ask! To this day, I still hang out with some of my teachers who supported me ten years ago. It may not be cool in high school to be a “teacher’s pet,” but you’ll be laughing at your peers later when you get farther in the world than they did. For example, I got a job right out of college working for one of my professors who enjoyed having me in class. You never know!

Most importantly, have fun with it. You will make a ton of mistakes and learn a lot. None of your films in high school will go to film festivals (no offense, but it’s true), so don’t stress about any of it. Keep your head on your shoulders, keep an open mind. The more fun you have, the more you will learn and the better your movies will be.

Oh, and needless to say, watch a lot of movies. Television is cool these days, too. I spent an entire summer watching all the best picture academy award winners and many more. I wish I had Netflix back then – take advantage of it! I also took notes on what I liked or didn’t like about each movie, which helped inform choices I made when I made movies.

Long story short, go out today and make a movie! Good luck.