While we’re still basking in the afterglow of a night of burning questions answered—of our filmmaking community come together to help each other tell the stories we love—we continue to process all of the lessons learned and the new friendships forged.
We, of course, are referring to our Ask Us Anything Live Community Event, which went down last Tuesday, the evening of the 29th (except for in Joe Simon’s case, as it was 3 AM in Budapest on his end).
If you missed it, no need to fret, because everything you could possibly need to watch, read, listen to, or do regarding our Ask Us Anything can be found by clicking on the button below
Here are the top 10 things we learned about filmmaking and storytelling during our Ask Us Anything Event.
1. Your experience is your best education.
Film school’s about the people you meet, not about what you learn there.
I think it’s a matter of time to be honest...The more time you put in, the longer you do it, the more you kind of discover your THING…the more then there’s a separation between your inspiration and the thing you create.
You can see something and be really moved by it, but really you don’t know [why]...It’s just a part of growing, it’s a part of practice...
Filmmaking is a practice.
2. You do not have to do everything.
Find somebody who knows how to run a business. Don’t feel like you have to know how to do everything on your own, out of the box...It’s OK to admit that you’re not as good at business...
Humble yourself every once in a while.
We’re not salesman...Put your work out there and let other people sell you.
Do what you’re good at.
3. Find your voice through the voices of others.
A lot of it has to do with listening...using that to shape the projects that come in. I don’t know if I remember specifically if there was one moment where [I found my voice] but over a period of time it’s definitely through collaboration with everybody on the team and working with people outside of our team too.
Our studio has a collective voice and a style and stories that we’re drawn to…
It’s that rhythm between our individual voices and how it [all] fits what we do as a group that makes us such a strong team and makes it so exciting to collaborate.
4. Sometimes, let stories find you.
I think it’s something that you just discover after doing enough different kinds of projects, you discover what your passion really becomes, and when you shoot, if it’s that or if it’s directing, you get really excited when you see that work, and it reignites the passion within you.
The stories will sometimes find you because of what you’re actually putting out there...Everything that you are showing and putting your name on really represents the stories you want to tell, because those stories will kind of start to find you.
Being interested in people...being open and being interested and curious in all facets, reading a bunch...as a storyteller you have to be willing to follow rabbit trails so to speak.
Always keeping your eyes open is how I’ve stumbled upon a bunch of stuff that I would have never known I was looking for.
5. Realize that criticism is often autobiographical.
They say all advice is autobiographical, I think the same is with critique of your work. Really what people are saying is “This is what I would do.” And so, the trick is to take what they’re saying and...really those places where it connects, where you completely agree that something wasn’t working, that’s where you really pay attention.
It’s not always about the story, but it’s a lot of time about the teller…
Any story can be told really well.
6. You choose your priorities.
I had to make a decision of what my priorities were. And if my priority was family, I needed to charge enough money to make it sustainable so that I could be there for the loved ones and not just be spread too thin and working myself to death.
Don’t be scared of a day job...it’s not a statement about you as an artist. There’s a lot of wisdom in relieving pressure…and not be like this crushing pressure of like “I have to say yes to every gig.”
Balance is something you choose.
No film, no piece of video or still image you’ll ever shoot will make up for a nice experience in life with real people and family and friends.
7. Though you don't always choose your team.
It’s all about respect and setting realistic expectations.
This is a job of ridiculous egos...everybody and their mother is a director and a filmmaker and an agent...find a way to draw the best out of them while keeping expectations realistic.
Treating people with kindness…but not too much kindness.
What is the vision for this project and what are we trying to accomplish? [You have to] handle it in an above-the-board manner.
A lot of people will tell you don’t hire your friends, but that’s exactly what I did. It wasn’t really even about skill, it was about personality...
Give people opportunities to do what they’re passionate about, support that.
The most important thing about building a team is enabling them when it’s all said and done...giving everyone a sense of ownership.
8. Give yourself space.
For me personally, I like to step away from it.
Break it down.
Creating those constraints, making it smaller.
Lots of good ideas come in the shower. That’s the spot.
9. Prepare to be spontaneous.
I tend to overpack.
Having a plan never hurt anyone.
Don’t make it too complicated, just go out and do it, but that being said: There’s no excuse for not showing up on set with a very clear plan.
There’s this misconception that if you prepare, you’re not going to be fluid...
The...secret I’ll leave you with is that: 90% of filmmaking is done in pre-production.
It’s the idea that you plan to be spontaneous.
Someone that is a gold digger understands the process that it takes to get gold.
10. Know in your heart that with storytelling, some things just never change.
We tell each other stories, we always have, we always will in some capacity…I’ll ride the technology wave wherever it goes, but I think the fundamental thing is telling stories, and I don’t think that’s going to change.
All the great stories are very fundamental.
How can we be more fundamental?
It could just be a skill set, but that’s not really what it’s about…
I would say I’m a storyteller before I would say I’m a filmmaker.
If there's one simple, salient thing to take away from our #HangoutWithHeart, it's that:
We of course couldn't get to all the burning filmmaking questions asked—and we'll try, in the coming weeks, to get to as many as we can—but the sheer amount of inquiries showed us something bigger: we are all on the same path. Together.
We are all learning how to become better storytellers—and by extension, our educations never end. This is what unites us, what defines us, and what gives us purpose.
We want to thank absolutely everyone that joined us that night, as well as our friends and partners without whom we wouldn't have been able to hold such an ecstatically successful Hangout: Kessler, RODE, LensProToGo, Marmoset Music, Stillmotion, and Vincent Laforet's Directing Motion.
Stay tuned, because this was only the beginning.
Meanwhile, if you have any favorite moments, quotes, or lessons you've taken away from Ask Us Anything, share in the comments below. Or, maybe let us know any future Hangouts you'd love to watch us host!
Justin is a Story & Heart co-founder, Emmy-Award winning filmmaker, and all around bird nerd.