POINT TO PONDER
"My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed."
STORY LINE by Rajiv Shah
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to speak to the film and theatre students at UC Berkeley. The focus of my visit was to share the writing process in creating the feature film, "Run the Tide." It was an honor for me as I myself wasn't a very good student, inconsistent at best, and up until recently I wasn't sure what I could make out of my passion for writing and filmmaking.
As I sat in front of all these students who had come looking for some advice or more directly, answers to making their own films, I wasn't sure if I had anything of value that they could really take away as I didn't feel much different from them. The question that came up the most from the students was how I did it, how I was able to take an idea, make it into something tangible and then get it made. Over and over again I kept getting that same question, and it was clear that the students had a desire for a formula, some quantifiable data that could be mapped out that would lead to the fulfillment of their goals.
So here's the problem I had. I didn't much know the answer. I didn't have a path or a formula. I never followed one. Really, I wandered from acting to writing. I just read scripts, loved movies, and wanted to tell stories. So I wrote the best way I knew how. By making mistakes, learning from them, and getting back to work.
But this didn't seem to quell the desire for an answer as the same questions kept materializing in different forms. How did it get done? Did I anticipate the market? What's the secret to getting a movie made? What steps need to be taken to write something that will sell? The best answer I could give was that I had a story I was passionate about, I worked hard to realize it into a script, I reworked the script every chance I got, and then I took the risk to send it out to anyone I thought it might be right for. I took rejection after rejection, had my heartbroken when the film was almost made in 2009 but ultimately wasn't, and I kept writing and sending it out in spite of that fact that I was turned down or not responded to 90% of the time. By any formula that's not winning. However, in spite of the obstacles, I always believed in myself and what I was doing.
So, naturally, I was asked if I had just gotten lucky. I have thought about that a lot and there is an element of luck. I was lucky to meet the director of the film and then we were lucky to meet the agents and producers that we did. We were incredibly lucky to have all these great people rally around us to make the film. So yes, I believe there was a certain serendipity involved. But leading up to serendipity was eight years of hard but incredibly rewarding work, no concrete promise of any success, and doubt constantly by my side. And in spite of that, we persevered because we believed in what we were doing and other people could see that. If you ask me, that isn't luck.
So through the experience, I've come to this as my answer: Work hard. Don't be afraid to risk. Get rejected. Believe. And more than anything, be kind to yourself. Always be kind to yourself. Because it's certainly a long road ahead.