The day finally arrived – our first screening of Opening Our Eyes – a film that I have poured my heart and soul into over the last year and a half. Sounds like a cliché, but this project has consumed me in every way imaginable – good and bad.
As I looked up at the marquee of the State Theater in Traverse City, MI last Sunday morning, it hit me – we had done it. My daughter Erin and I had set out to make a film last Spring about people all over the world who were making it a better place – and we did it.
It was and will continue to be a lot of work – a lot more than I ever could have imagined. There have been some of the lowest of lows and the highest of highs along the way. There have been times of disappointment from unexpected sources and times of encouragement and support from remarkable people who came into my life because of this project.
I have learned so much since embarking on this journey – here are just a few things:
Believe in your dream. Lots of us have dreams but most of us don’t really believe in them. I think that makes all the difference as far as making your dream a reality – the ability to believe that your dream will happen. I have felt that this would happen from the first moment that I conceived the idea – I saw it – I heard it – This idea picked me – not the other way around.
Trust – I knew all along that for this film to be what I had envisioned it to be – I couldn’t do it alone. It could only succeed through the support of all the people who have contributed to this project from the beginning, whether by supporting it financially or just by being there for me to spring ideas off of. I really had to open myself up and trust that would happen – and it did. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of disappointments along the way, but I had to get past them and then learn to trust – again.
Work with people who share your vision. I used to think I could edit. but after working with my brilliant editor, Erik Freeland – now I just think I’m a hack. Finding Erik was a blessing. It’s not all that hard to find a good editor, but to find an editor who has the same drive and passion as I do for what this film is or can be – is a rare gift – and I know that. There have been a handful of times in my life, when this serendipity has happened and sometimes, I’ve been too busy to take notice – but this time, I not only took notice – I welcomed Erik’s vision. Because I was open to what Erik could bring to the film – it’s so much stronger.
Friends – As much as I know that I should never do anything for the sake of other people’s approval, there is always a part of me (my ego) that surfaces and seeks that approval or validation. Funny thing is that when you create something that is coming from such a sincere place in your own heart – a project that you’re so passionate about – people come into your life because of it. They are drawn in by your own enthusiasm. So when others, disappoint you or even take no notice at all – you realize their approval doesn’t really matter.
Chris Guillebeau has a wonderful blog post about this.
Feedback – One reason I had a couple of sneak previews this past week was to solicit feedback. When I get consumed with the mechanics of making a movie, especially the editing of the movie, I often get caught up in the nit picky stuff, (which is very important) but I need to step back and digest it as the overall movie. It’s tough when I’m so close to it, so I always solicit other’s input. I know I can’t accommodate everyone’s suggestions because I’d end up with a big mess if I tried. Some comments ring true and I may take them to heart, while other comments aren’t really along the same line of my thinking, so I discount them. Some people’s comments are brutal and cut deep, but after I get past the initial hurt, I realize sometimes, that the comments that cut deepest are the one’s that strike closest to the heart of the matter – and my inner voice takes notice.
Overcoming resistance – The most important thing of all. I did what I set out to do and that is to make a film that will motivate others and move them to action. During the first Q&A last week, a man stood up and thanked me for making the film. He told me that he hadn’t even intended to see a movie that morning – he had been looking at the posters announcing the lineup for the TC film festival this week and saw the marquee and came in. He told me that it changed his way of thinking – that it changed his life. And then he told me that I needed to screen this film for as many people as possible. That’s my ultimate goal – to share this film with others – and if one person in every audience reacts that way – well what more could I ask for?
This film may not be perfect and it may not be for everybody (certainly not the cynics), but I did something a lot of others never do – I executed my idea – rather than give myself lots of goods reasons why I couldn’t. I could cite plenty of reasons right now that could have or should have stopped me in my tracks. But I didn’t stop because I had such a strong belief in this dream – I saw it too clearly.
Whenever I pull back from my dreams and succumb to my own resistance, I stop and think about a line from a Joni Mitchell tune where she writes about old friends being “cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café”. I stop and I think about that. I sure don’t want to end up being one of those people who piss away their own life by passing judgment about other people’s efforts or causes. And then, I get out and do something. That’s how I’m making a difference.