Tuesday, August 19, 2008

American Cinematographer Gives Down and Dirty Props

"As one might guess from the emphatic title of his book, The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide author Anthony Q. Artis is more than just a filmmaker, teacher and writer — he’s a sort of DV evangelist, a man on a mission to educate everyone about the benefits of digital production and postproduction."
- Jim Hemphill,
American Cinematographer Magazine

Since he described me (accurately) as a DV evangelist, let me give you a brief guerrilla sermon...

"The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide" which began as a little self-published B&W guerrilla book that I wrote during my subway commute has already received more attention and positive reviews from all over the world than I could have hoped for, but the one I just got today is particularly special because it comes from one of the most respected magazines in the industry - American Cinematographer.

Way back when I first unveiled the very first version of this book at Sundance some 3 years ago hustling it out of my backpack as I walked up and down the steep Main Street hill in Park City I was so excited to finally see people's reaction to something I had put so much of my heart into. Not unlike with filmmaking, you bust your ass, your wallet and your brain for a long period of time never really sure if people are even gonna "get" your vision- or even worse if they are gonna think it sucks.

In as much as people may think I exude confidence, the reality is that I am just as insecure and unsure as the next person...I just don't let those feelings stop me. I can't afford to and neither can you as an aspiring filmmaker. Whether you are making a movie, writing a book, or starting a new company, any serious achievement will involve a constant head game that you have to win.

As filmmakers we are all aware of the pitfalls of budget, inexperience, faulty equipment, etc. But we rarely consider the biggest pitfall of all - the negative voices in our own heads. (I like to think of them like that line from the Exorcist that goes something like, "The Demon knows your weaknesses. He will mix lies with the truth to confuse you". I take that line as a metaphor for those voices of doubt in all our heads.)

I can't count the number of times I wanted to quit, thought I was wasting my time and money, was rejected by someone I really wanted to help me with the project or was just worn the hell out from hustling and trying to maintain a life outside of the project. Understand that these doubts ARE the very first tests. It's all part of the process. It's where 90% of the people with visions are shut down before the vision even sparks. I suspect there are hundreds of would-be indie hits, #1 tv shows, or even bonafide Oscar contenders half-written, half-shot, half-edited in closets and paper piles all over the world...dreams deferred.

I submit the below review from a American Cinematographer as proof that those voices are all full of shit and that if you have a film, a business, a book...any major personal achievement that you want to get off the ground and bring to completion- you've gotta do your damnedest to protect that vision from your own self doubts, because you truly never know how people will react to your vision unless you complete it and get it out there.

And in the best case scenarios you'll discover what I discovered in this process - completing a major artistic vision ain't easy, but it ain't impossible either. People with far less brains, talent, and character than you and me have successfully completed their visions. In my experience as an educator and film consultant, the biggest thing stopping us is usually us.

Pick a specific goal, ignore the negative voices and never stop moving towards it (however slow or meandering a path you have to take) and you will ultimately achieve it. Here's the proof: