Your Authentic Self
Your authentic self is your identity. It’s the spark of inspiration that makes your films uniquely yours and not some carbon copy of someone else. Finding your authentic self can be challenging if you are afraid of being in the spotlight because too many people forget that, as human beings, our job is to shine out and stand above the crowds. Don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or to look like a fool. If you live your life afraid of “what ifs” then you will never be as successful as you want to be.
It is important to realize that you can be as successful as you want to be. All it takes is hard work and determination, coupled with an unfailing belief in your authentic self. Trust that your passion, knowledge, skills and desires are perfectly okay and that you don’t need to reach some socially acceptable level of education or fame in order to pursue your passion. This is true for everyone and not just filmmakers. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to be less than perfect and to show your lack of skills in certain areas. Only by doing will you learn from your mistakes and grow as a filmmaker and a person.
Identifying your authentic self takes a serious commitment to overcome the facade you’ve put up over the years and to unlearn the sheep mentality behavior you’ve forced yourself into. In order identify that behavior, take a moment and think of the last time you’ve said or done something that you heard someone more successful than you do. Got it? That’s because you are trying to identify with their success by attribution.
Finding your authentic self as a filmmaker is one of the easiest and, paradoxically, one of the hardest things you can do. All filmmakers, regardless of budget, location or prestige, all have a distinct style that makes them different from every other storyteller. It may be hard to see the differences at first, but all directors and filmmakers have their own unique style that sets them apart. In order for you to do justice to your own style and become successful, you have to be willing to take risks and to shoot the film you want to see.
When you just start out, you may be tempted to pay tribute to your favorite filmmaker by copying his or her style and showing how well you can duplicate that cinematic story. This is a mistake. You are not doing yourself any credit by pretending to be someone else. When you make a film that really comes from inside yourself, you will feel a connection with the film and be happy with it, regardless of its success or failure.
When you are behind the camera, you are the conduit of your story and it all flows through you. Your eye for detail, the way you want to see the scene play out, it all comes from the concept you came up with before you picked up your first camera.
That said don’t try to rush to find a style you feel is yours. Developing your style comes from a lot of trial and error, experimentation and filming. You don’t have to feel like you need to do this all at once. Most filmmakers have put out many films in their career as a way to experiment with styles and to develop a long-term visual catalog. When they do find that style, when the film you are making resonates deep inside you and you know that this story is something that you need everyone to see, that’s when you know you’ve found your authentic self.
Today’s technology makes it simple for a filmmaker to go out and just experiment. Gone are the days of “wasting film” and spending countless thousands of dollars on a botched take. The truth is, you probably have all you need to start developing your style with you most of the day, your cell phone. Smartphone technology today has grown so sophisticated that the cameras on your phones are the only thing you really need to start developing a film style.
When you are just starting out grab a digital camera and just start filming. Make a bunch of short films, I’d recommend five or ten before going back over your previous work and looking at your film history. You’ll be surprised just how far you will grow as a filmmaker with a few of them under your belt and don’t worry about producing something with a bunch of other actors because you can start experimenting with environment pieces just to get started.
There are many things to consider when looking for your signature style, or your authentic self. Take lenses for example, some directors define their style by the type of lens they use. Wide, open and dramatic lenses can change a film entirely if you just put a wider lens on the film. You can use your existing environments and a wide lens to give your short a very dramatic and epic feel.
You need to portray the world as the character in your scene would feel and see it. You have to convey the emotions of your character without them having to say a thing. Just having your actor stand in front of the camera, with the right environment and the correct lens can say more about what your character is feeling than any length of exposition.
Finding who you are as a storyteller is an important philosophical journey that will make you better as a filmmaker, and better in every facet of your life, because when you identify your authentic self, you complete the puzzle of your life and you can find a strength to overcome fears and just pursue the happiness in your work.