Secrets of Successful Indie Filmmakers: Don’t Give Up

One thing that’s true for all indie filmmakers is this: Sometimes life sucks.

Movie deals fall apart. Investors bail out. People don’t come through and they let you down. And sometimes what you thought was a sure-thing becomes a no-thing…

While nobody wants to experience pain and heartache, it is equally important to know that these challenges are part of the journey. And what I just described are the same realities and the same circumstances that all successful indie filmmakers face.

The difference? Successful indie filmmakers don’t give up.

But that probably doesn’t make you feel much better. And if you’re in the midst of a shaky project or an uncertain life circumstance, I can sympathize. When I was in NYC, we were going into production on a 1.5 million dollar movie.

I can remember feeling pretty excited about the whole process. I was finally working in the movie business. I felt awesome. . .

(Note: If you’re reading my emails, look for the one titled “The First Time I Got Fired.”)

Then all-a-sudden the entire project fell apart. Something about the investors getting scared… Something about the actor’s mom… Dunno. The reason the project fell apart does not matter. But what I know is this – I suddenly found myself in New York with no job and no money.

Imagine going from a feeling of awesomeness to a feeling of heartache in a single day.

That experience truly sucked.

indie filmmakers

Secrets of Indie Filmmakers: Don’t Give Up

I remember calling my friend and mentor Joe on the phone. I thought he would be encouraging. Maybe even say something nice to me. Instead he said something I never forgot… He said, “Get UP!”

ME: What?

JOE: Get UP! You just experienced your first bloody nose. Welcome to the world. At this point, you have two choices. You can quit – or you can get up, wipe your bloody nose and push forward.

I chose to push forward. I had no other choice. It wasn’t easy. For a time, I had to leave New York and move back to my parent’s house. And while this was humiliating, I forced myself to think of each challenge as a rite of passage for any serious indie filmmakers. How bad did I want it? Okay. Prove it!

This belief got me through my darkest times…

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…”

Eventually I found a job, saved money for a few months, packed my car and moved to California. Once there, I got some stuff in motion and was finally able to produce my first feature.

While I’m proud of that accomplishment, I can tell you that my challenges have only gotten more complicated. Since that time, I have been fired from several jobs, dumped, heart broken, broke and fired again. In the years since, I have had more than a dozen projects, job offers and awesome opportunities come and go. Poof!

And while failed opportunity still sucks, all of it has somehow become less sucky, I now understand a solid, fundamental truth. And it is the reason I can sleep soundly most nights. Are you ready?

Uncertainty is the price of success.

There will be good times and bad times. There will be red and black. You will win and you will lose.

And while I’m not here to tell you every day is going to be fun. (It won’t. Every setback sucks.) But if you let your challenges steel your resolve instead of stealing your soul, I guarantee one day you will wake up happy. The sun will shine. The stress will dissolve. And you will be excited for whatever life has to offer.

I look forward to watching your movies.

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