Controlled chaos. Calculated risks. Strategic fun. The juggle, the marathon, the tornado - whatever circulatory movement you visualize the entertainment industry to be, it entices us in and sweeps us off our feet. Our eyes bulge wide to look at it, swirling, bustling, booming with activity. But when you’re in it? It just feels like “the groove.” Athletes reference this term as being in “the zone,” which is often defined as “a state of supreme focus [that] helps athletes perform at their peak potential” [Sport Psychology Today]. “The groove” is just “the zone” over time. Mind focused, body practiced, heart committed, and totally present in the moment. My, what a feeling!
This sensation can be fleeting, but the ingredients to get you there can still be identified. You can write the recipe for your own process so your “zone” can be harnessed and invoked for regular use. No matter how big the entertainment industry appears to be, figuring out how to tap into your “zone” regularly is at the core of every professional’s journey. Invoking “the zone” in a professional capacity as part of your routine? That’s “the groove,” baby! Talk about living the dream.
Admittedly, when unfamiliar with this “groove,” the growing pains to find your pace can be challenging. And while the industry is ever-changing, the hustle required to accomplish our shared audio/visual storytelling goal is ever-present. Just as one trains before they attempt a marathon, we must also practice our process before it becomes readily accessible upon command.
Luckily, there are guideposts to orient your process. Education, feedback, mentoring, accolades, these are the things to keep you going. News, the trades, panels, discussions, these are the things to keep you relevant. But what happens when your head starts spinning? Do you feel the WHOOSH of others passing you by, or worse, you lose sight of your purpose? Every athlete must have an anchor. This allows them to stop running, stop spinning, and just sit in the eye of the storm to find their center.
Whether creative or business-oriented, you must find a way to ground yourself to keep going in this industry. It could be regular rest periods, adjacent art projects, long vacations, family time, home renovations, or even several years on sabbatical. While not all aspects of one’s “groove” can be found within a community - there is plenty of work to be done on your own - in film and television, your community is absolutely the foundation for your fuel, your focus, and your anchor.
In today’s post, we will explore a flurry of fantastic posts from the community to charge you up, fine-tune your focus, and gain a big-picture perspective to find your footing again.
There have been more than a few conversations in the Producing Lounge breaking down and demystifying the dream that is “Hollywood.” In particular, this discussion helps make the goal seem more attainable by exploring how to make it a “good” dream, not a big one. This practical approach allows you to stay grounded while climbing higher.
How high do you go? Taking a moment to gain perspective in the industry can give you a sense of the ceiling you never knew was there, such as these female composers throughout history. Exploring history to see the bigger picture can refine your purpose, and a purpose that aligns with your core values is the best dream of all.
Knowing your approach, such as this author who relied solely on word of mouth to promote their book, can also be the wind in your sails. Making your dream come true is absolutely within reach when you define success on your own terms. When you work hard, hand off your creation, hoping for a response, you are waiting to confirm a connection. An escape from the anxiety that can accompany this wait is knowing why you are creating. You create your own “calm” with this knowledge, the same knowledge that once propelled you forward toward your dream. Yes, the calm is the storm. There is peace to be found in the activity.
Speaking of your purpose, asking for advice is a great way to clarify and set your intentions. Whether your first short film or graduating into feature films, reaching out for guidance gives you more to work with and build from. Have you tried juggling without reading up on how? NO! The chances of that being disastrous would be substantial, and as we have learned from Jacob Matthew’s recent webinar, the key to success lies in increasing your chances of success.
Understanding your intention can also help you to reevaluate your plan. For example, if you want to sell your screenplay, do you have to prepare as much as someone else who wishes to produce it themselves? This fantastic conversation has stirred up all the ways producers look for more than a script.
Of course, being clear about your intentions absolves you of any responsibility beyond your scope. Perhaps it feels like limiting yourself, but less to do gives you the freedom to focus and the space to play. It also shrinks your storm to a manageable size.
In this business, it is vital to have active viewers in the creation process. People who can observe what is being done, who can articulate how that is translating to a viewer, and how to improve the execution are gold. When you find them, keep them close. Like a coach giving pointers to their athlete, we need that participation to improve.
With the exposure of the entertainment industry, it’s so easy to gaze at that whirlwind of activity and comment from a place of presumed knowledge. How could anyone not know? We are storytellers, so viewers should be able to feel our pain. Not everyone understands the process, however. When you’re standing outside that storm looking in, there is a disconnect between reporting your viewing experience and how a creator can use that information. This is the difference between an audience and collaborators. Collaborators are in the storm with you. This is why you’ll find Stage 32 members practicing their craft, discussing their process, and asking for constructive feedback. We’re in it together!
Embracing limitations, working with what you have, and adapting is a fantastic indication that you have found a “groove,” just as the sound designers did for CANDYMAN. In a way, we anticipate the storm drumming up complications. However, learning how to overcome those complications is one of the delights of the work. Our victories, then, are all the sweeter when limitations are met as a challenge and force us to adapt to do our work. If the work were more straightforward, it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying or attractive.
A car racing around a track may have gravity to keep its wheels on the ground, but as it speeds up, it has the potential to spin out of control. Without a tether to the center, it can go dangerously off track. 'But this industry moves fast, so don’t I have to move fast? If I am to keep up with the industry, am I then destined to crash and burn?' Whoa. Breathe. Inhale… exhale.
Take a moment to visualize how you can be fast but grounded. Imagine a balloon attached to a ribbon secured to a weight in the center of a tornado. See the tornado as all the activity in the industry that you have no control over but can work within. Consider now the balloon as your intentions and plans, with the ribbon extending further with more practice and confidence. Now visualize the weight - this should be something, somewhere, or someone that makes you feel safe and supported. What does it look like? What are the sounds or smells?
Now step into your storm. The winds whisk away your balloon, but the weight keeps it from flying off. It goes round and round, improving its “groove” with each rotation. As you gain more experience and feel a little more confident, you can allow your balloon to fly a little higher, where the rings loom large and the stakes rise with your balloon. When you need a break, you can pull it back in, away from the whirlwind. Here, you can separate from the storm but not disconnect from it. Now, you dwell within the chaos.
Mental health has always been imperative, but the integration of self-awareness and self-care has never been more critical. Whether you are in development or in production, in between gigs or struggling through grueling hours, new to the industry or a cornerstone of it, taking the time to do something other than work is crucial. If self-care is as necessary as food or sleep, then consider how you can incorporate it into your “groove” or routine so that you are not waiting for an emergency. Plenty of new resources for mental wellbeing are being developed and shared for industry professionals.
Upon completing a creative phase, it’s a good time to stop and hand off what you’re doing to someone else. During this time, you can research the next steps, or if you’re unsure who to hand it off to, you can step back and get curious about other people’s processes. This poster designer, for example, has a fascinating process of working with producers by watching the film to better understand the project’s themes and characters.
As a creative, one of the most valuable commitments you can make is to have a safe space free from work. Where do you go to step away from your writing? How do you retreat from your auditions and your edit bay? What assurances have you made to provide an interruption-free space? Creating this physical space helps to enforce a mental boundary. How can you know if you're saying "yes" if there is no clear way to say "no"?
Besides your physical environment, creative commitments are being made all the time. Sometimes they are made with very little pomp and other times with an entire marketing plan. Making the commitment starts with making it known - tell someone, post about it, take a class, all great ways to allow others to know what your intention is. A particularly generous version of this announcement is to offer advice in exchange for feedback, especially if you need that feedback to honor your commitment. Getting others involved in your process echoes your “yes.” Not involving others, not responding, or just saying “no” are all indications that your commitments lie elsewhere.
Of course, nothing tests your commitment like fundraising for a project. A recent conversation in the Financing Lounge led to a fascinating debate about whether or not crowdfunding was equivalent to begging. Your dedication to your project is part of what inspires others to get involved. Similarly, should you promote on someone else’s behalf, your support shows your commitment to the project’s success. Every additional commitment to your project, whether five minutes to re-share a post or five years to fully execute your vision, is a substantial and gracious commitment that lifts you higher.
Like extra ribbon allowing your balloon to drift higher into the storm, others lift you up, too. So you see, where you once saw the winds of the tornado as intimidating, now it is the momentum that sweeps you up and propels you forward. You have everything you need to succeed, right in the eye of the storm. Don’t worry - you’re stronger than the storm!
If you couldn’t tell, there are lots of great conversations happening in the Stage 32 lounges. Be sure to click on the links above and comment on any that resonate with you. There’s no better place to reach outside your comfort zone and spread your creative wings. No matter where you are in your process, you are always welcome to start the conversation in the Stage 32 Lounges! Not sure where to start? You can DM me or email me at K.Ross@stage32.com.
Speaking of finding calm within the storm, let’s get the rest of the socials talking about the inspiration they are missing! Share this blog, include the hashtags #SocialSaturday #Stage32 and #TheCalmisTheStorm (or #IamStrongerThantheStorm if you’d prefer), and tag @k.osswrites, @rbwalksintoabar, and @stage32. Keep your feet on the ground, your eyes to the skies, and I look forward to seeing each of you in the lounges!
Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Got an idea for a post? Or have you collaborated with Stage 32 members to create a project? We'd love to hear about it. Email Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's get your post published!
Please help support your fellow Stage 32ers by sharing this on social. Check out the social media buttons at the top to share on Instagram @stage32 Twitter @stage32 Facebook @stage32 and LinkedIn @stage-32
|Coffee & Content: Kaley Cuoco + Elizabeth Olson on Acting & Inside the WANDAVISION Writers Room|
|Wisdom From The Stage 32 Film Finance Summit - Part 1: Focus On What Audiences Want|