As we’re in the home stretch on filming MERIT BADGES, I’ve had a some time to look back at the journey and reflect on some of the hurdles I’ve faced while trying to get into filmmaking. Though to be honest, I’m not sure I feel like I’m really inside the circle just yet, but I’m definitely doing and not just talking about doing things now, so there’s a definite sense of something I’ll dubiously label accomplishment.
That hedge being intentional, because in looking back one of the biggest hurdles I land on is just me, myself and I– the way I instinctively frame and polarize everything, which has resulted in not trusting myself, not taking risks, not having a huge well of confidence and not using the resources I do have to great effect.
So what’s been my problem?
You may be familiar with this human propensity to polarize. True/False. Pro/Con. Humans are sort of hard-wired for binary thinking. Should I cook dinner or order take out? Should I take a new job for more money or stay with the old one with people I love? Should watch sixteen episodes of a tv show or sleep? Decisions often seem like “this” versus ”that,” a binary choice between two alternatives lying along a single dimension, and can quickly get emotional when we begin struggling to decide which option is “right” and which is ”wrong,” which is “better” or “worse,” which one is “good” and which is “bad.” But that ain’t reality. All those examples I gave aren’t on a single dimension, and in fact most of life’s decisions have a web of complicated factors in play. When the factors start getting overwhelming the brain tries to simplify and wants to react in a binary way, which can lead to quick, irrational decisions and action.
So my deal is that if something’s not an overwhelming success, it’s a complete and utter failure. If I don’t win a competition my brain doubles down on the feelz of perpetual loser. With every script read that ended up being a PASS, it was inevitable because I’m a terrible writer. Each job I never got was because I didn’t know what I was doing and wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway. Simultaneously, if I actually catch a glimpse of success, I immediately start trying to downplay, dismiss and minimize it.
Which is stupid. Don’t do this. None of that is objective reality and it sounds genuinely crazy when said out loud, which is precisely why I need to say it out loud at every possible opportunity. It’s what happens when the churn runs unchecked. Bad emotional habits of a lifetime coming home to roost. But it’s never too late to change bad habits and I think I’m beginning to learn how to get out of my own way.
I thought this was about filmmaking hurdles?
It is and I’ll actually go into more detail and specific challenges that we’ve faced on MERIT BADGES in a subsequent post soon. I’m planning to cover stuff like locking the location, finding talent, short-term production insurance, all that jazz. And we still have so much lovely post-production to churn through!
Getting out of my own head was a big step and something I don’t think I’ve been able to grok until recently. I’m sure I’ve probably heard something similar a hundred times before in countless workshops, masterclasses, podcasts and readings. I’m certain a good therapist would have gotten me there sooner. But hey, everyone comes to understanding at their own pace and what’s most important is to just keep swimming.
On a different note, do yourself a favor and catch Netflix’s reboot of Lost in Space. It’s keen gear.