Hey There, Creative!

As with most professions, there are always things as a filmmaker that you wish you'd known earlier. Simple pieces of advice, tricks or tips about your industry that might have helped you get further along than where you are today. Hindsight is 20/20, as "they" say. Well, my goal as a (according to my mom) successful filmmaker is to bestow upon you the advice I wish I had been given when I started out. Something that amounts to what I'd hope is at least 20/40 foresight vision. Here it goes! 


1. Be a good person.

I know this comes across as a giant “Duh, Anna” but kindness and empathy are essential qualities to have when you work in an industry that runs off referrals and recommendations from your peers. This goes for everyone - from heads of departments to PAs and interns. I’ve heard horror stories from my assistants about other jobs where a producer or department head is mean or stressfully condescending. I have no tolerance for that – we are all here to do a job together, and everyone’s time and talent should be appreciated. If you are kind, people will want to be around you. So essentially, kindness = more work. Yay!


2. Say yes.

During a lunch break on a recent shoot, a group of us were discussing how we got our starts in the industry. The unanimous response was, “We said yes to everything!” I agree with this 100%. Hands down, the absolute best way to learn about filmmaking is to work on set. I jumped on many PA jobs while still in film school, many unpaid so I could understand exactly how a film set worked. Take PA jobs, take internships, take assistant positions, learn how to edit - say yes to as many roles as you can while you are still green!


3. Get uncomfortable.

During my PA years, I also volunteered to work in departments I knew less about, like camera – so that I could be well-versed in all aspects of production. I remember having to load actual film in and out of a camera for the first time on set. I was sweating bullets, convinced I was going to ruin the all of the footage these people I barely knew had just worked all day to get. Thankfully everything turned out fine, and I can now say that it is something I have successfully done. Now as a director and art director, I have been told numerous times by producers that they appreciate the fact that I am able to wear so many hats on set. It makes my decision making that much more informed. Also, having multiple skill sets makes it easier to produce your own projects.


4. Be on time.

In a world full of traffic jams, subway delays, slow walkers and alarm clocks that mysteriously fail to go off, it is easy to have an excuse for being late. No, it is not going to kill your career if it happens occasionally, but trust me, chronic tardiness is a bad look. It will overshadow your talents and frustrate your peers. By consistently being on time, you are showing your peers that you value their time and that you also value the work you do. It is unfortunately one of those traits that often goes without verbal gratitude, but just know it is definitely appreciated!


5. Ask questions.

I still ask questions when I don’t know the answers to things. Chances are, someone around you does know, and by asking and getting an answer, now you do too; best way to learn. I think some people are afraid to do this because they think it makes it look like they don’t know what they are doing. It doesn’t, I promise!


6. Stand up for yourself. This one applies mainly to females, but is useful for everyone. If you are a woman working in an industry historically dominated by men, you may sometimes find yourself in the position of having to defend your talents and abilities. It is frustrating that it is 2017 and we are still dealing with this, I know, but discrimination based on gender (or sexuality, or race) still occasionally happens. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something as well as someone else solely because of who you are. We all share a passion for the same art form, and that should lead to inclusion, not exclusion! Some of the most talented cinematographers, directors and grips I know are female, and they are amazing! Do what you love, and people will love you for it


Creative Outlets for a Happier Life

As we grow into adulthood, our lives become filled with responsibilities, meeting expectations and maintaining our day-to-day routines. It is no wonder that many of us experience constant stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with our quality of life. Working in the legal field is a prime example of a profession where many individuals work insane hours to meet the billable hour requirements. Lawyers, like other professionals, take their work home with them and experience many sleepless nights.

Research shows that when we primarily focus on just the things we “have” to do, or “should” be doing, whether at work or home, we feel drained, unmotivated, stuck, and lack zest for life. In addition to the overall discontentment with life, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to many types of diseases and illnesses, such as ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, and fibromyalgia to name a few.

With this realization, many psychologists, researchers, and coaches have emphasized the need to balance our work with our personal life in order to feel contentment. There are many tips out there for how to feel reenergized and balance our need for fun and productivity. However, from my personal experience, as well as working with my clients, I have found that a great way to bring spark and enthusiasm back into our lives is through a creative outlet.


Can you think of a time in your childhood when you were writing an interesting story, drawing a pretty picture, even playing a sport or instrument? How did it feel to be engaged in such an activity? Generally, when we are engaged in a type of creative expression that we enjoy, time tends to stand still as we pour our hearts into our creation. The feeling of time standing still, or being “in the zone” is such an exhilarating feeling, not to mention completely freeing.

I grew up playing the piano and from middle school through college, I sang in various choirs. The feeling of being on stage, and singing a melody on pitch and in harmony was such an ecstatic experience. I could play the piano and sing for hours at a time, without even thinking about taking a break. Even when I rehearsed alone, a sense of joy overwhelmed me when I allowed myself to succumb and be enthralled by the melody.

After college, I figured it was time to get into the “real world,” which meant pursuing a career, building security and working a stable job. I stopped singing and most of the time I didn’t even have the energy to sing. As I found myself regularly unhappy, unmotivated and borderline depressed. I desperately sought ways to improve the quality of my life. What my heart kept yearning for was that feeling of euphoria that I felt every time I sang, even off-stage. That was when I committed to making changes in my life.

Aside from the fact that I began to pursue my real passion in life by helping people heal, I decided to hire a vocal coach once a month for singing lessons. The goal wasn’t to become a professional singer. Rather, I needed to have a creative outlet that would allow me to switch from “doing” to “being,” i.e. being a creator of music and a vessel for melody to pour through me.


All too often, many of us get so caught up in the need to mark things off our “to-do” lists, that we do not engage our creativity enough.    

Everyone has some type of creative expression. An article in Psychology Today mentions how creating something and changing inner states into outer productions, acts as a mood enhancer as well as a natural antidepressant. Having an artsy or playful side helps to alleviate feelings of frustration, anger, depression, and anxiety because of the natural healing advantage creative outlets have on our overall well-being. This has a lot to do with feel good neurotransmitters that our brain releases when participating in such activities.

Anything that allows you to create and innovate, especially with your hands, relieves stress, has a grounding effect, and promotes mental clarity. Best of all, creative outlets have also been proven to increase and renew brain functions! Most of us engage our critical thinking side all day long, but studies have shown that creative outlets promote the development of new neurons because different parts of the brain are being nurtured.


With all of this in mind, I have included some suggestions for how we can incorporate more creativity in our daily hustles while adding to our quality of life.

One suggestion is to incorporate more of the things we enjoyed doing as kids. What activity made you feel as though you couldn’t get enough? Whatever that may have been for you, try to dedicate an hour a day of doing just that. If an hour is too long, even 30 minutes can do wonders.

Also, if you have children, spend some time playing games, cooking, baking, or gardening with them. Whether you spend time together playing with toys or encouraging them to join you with chores around the house, children are naturally joyful, and their happiness is contagious. It will also bring out your inner child and make even mundane tasks feel fun. Not to mention, your children will love the extra quality time that they will have with you too.

Dedicating some time to honor your creative side is an act of self-love. The key is to express your creative side without any judgments and to allow yourself to be fully present in the activity!