Are you in charge of your work or some shrinking violet? Meaning are you walking into your office with Robert de Niro confidence or are you a lamb asking for permission to breathe?
Because if you are (a shrinking violet, a lamb, etc.), it’s alright. We’ve all been there. I certainly see it around me. But I see beyond it, too.
And know this: there’s a gateway. The bootcamp.
Here I am in the middle of nowhere in Romania, surrounded by 15 bright young things on a jaw dropping mission: deliver a (festival quality) doc in 5 weeks. Find a story, persuade the characters (village people) to surrender into an adventure they may have only seen on TV, film, edit and present to an international jury.
No wonder they’re not that enraptured with the postcard mountain scenery. To them it’s all story, story, story.
So they sit around soul searching for what makes them tick, and they scout looking for the character that will call them to action. Nothing an innovator or a thought leader hasn’t done. Except in office speak it’s stare at the empty page. Surf the web mindlessly. Streamline the email inbox.
There’s a galactic difference though. The bright things have a deadline. It’s all going to happen somehow. In a few days’ time they’ll have to pick something. Anything. And make it into a movie you may actually enjoy. Make it really good.
When things go right, it all seems so easy. The subject was obvious, the characters willing, the camera ready. How often is it like that, though?
How many glorious days do you remember? No, seriously. Take a moment and count.
There was that one when I went surfing and I caught seven waves. Also an epic aikido practise I had one Thursday in October a few years ago. I left the tatami all wet and light. There’ve been some amazing talks with my closest friends, mostly in London parks (not that we were too taken with the landscape at the time). And the elation of cracking some solid tag lines, hyped on White Snake tunes.
The rest is all a stream of days and weeks trying to pick the right battles, stay the course, score, pay the mortgage, and not take myself too seriously. (Don’t you just love it when people ask “why so serious?”. And when has the cryptic “Relax!” line ever worked?)
So I play a game of frameworks now. And that’s what the bootcamp is. It’s one sprint. (Or two, with a respite in between.)
For the 15 bright young things, it’s one month to the result: the screening for the jury. For me, it’s nailing the copy on one website. Structuring and getting a course off the ground. Nailing one thought leader’s voice.
Replicate it like fractals and you’re there in a place where performance does not exhaust you, you do it while munching nachos. Because the wiring is in place. You’re not wrestling with the bootcamp, you’re riding it.
My guys will find their stories. Historically, one in three films done in this setup ends up winning awards and hearts on the festival circuit. The framework is such that it takes (occasionally) shrinking violets and turns them into Robert de Niros, completely in charge of their work.
It’s not smooth. It gets messy at times. But it sure gets done.
PS: the pic of me riding into the sunset is taken by Ioana Ophelia, one of the bright young things, as we came back to base after an afternoon of scouting. We’ll hear from her again.
PPS: but the one with me and my 4 year old friend peacocking to a peacock (how more Bob de Niro can we get?) is taken by my best friend on one of the days we’d won the lottery. Because we were together.