Daily Success Routine For Filmmakers

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We have entered into a new era in history. One might refer to it as the culture of constant distraction. As we wake up each day, we are quickly assaulted by ringing smartphones, updates on social media, emails, and articles that are designed to be irresistable. For example, you know you have to move forward with your screenplay, but someone just shared a link on “The Five Essential Daily Routines for Filmmakers” and now you feel you need to read this and then you’ll get going. But the truth is, most of go through our day sifting through one distraction after another, and this habit, although it seems innocent, will push your goal of ever making a film further and further into the future.

Distraction is kind of an addiction. It’s not easy to unplug. But there is no way to accomplish anything without one key thing: Focus. Focus is essential to every aspect of filmmaking. It’s true, there is a time for learning new things. And filmmakers especially need to watch films to be inspired. But there comes a moment when you’re not so much learning anymore, but procrastinating.

The good news is, focusing on one task makes your life much easier. Making a film may seem like maze of individual tasks all with complications upon complication. However, there is a simple phrase that I would like you to remember that I learned from Jeremy Frandsen & Jason Van Orden from Internet Business Mastery, “Progress, not perfection” It’s so much more important that you move forward a little each day than doing everything perfect. In fact, failure and making mistakes are 100% part of the process. You will fail and have to pick yourself up. The first draft of your screenplay will be terrible. You will make fuding mistakes and probably look like an idiot. On set, you’ll probably make tons of mistakes. And when you’re film is ready to get distributors, you’ll probably make plenty of mistakes there as well. So get used to it. One of the most important things that I ever learned was that everyone who has ever had success has failed constantly. What’s the difference between those and the actual failures…people are failures because they give up. But you can’t fail if you never give up.

As filmmakers we need to move the ball forward a little every day. Some days you’ll accomplish a lot. Maybe you’ll make a deal or write 10 pages of your screenplay. Other days, you won’t be as motivated so you may move the ball a little less. But the key is that the ball is just a little further along each day. If you work 1 hour a day, at the end of the year you’ve worked 365 hours. I mean, I didn’t become this math genius in one day, it took time.

1. Sleep

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of getting enough sleep. Sleeping well will refresh your mind and body and allow you to be energetic and creative. Sleep also allows your mind to go places you can’t go. Certain creative areas of the brain start working harder during the sleep phase and many artists have come up with masterpieces while waking up in the middle of the night. Try to get to bed as early as possible. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants at night. If you need to, take some melatonin to help.

2. Set The Pace For Your Day

If you can, the first thing you should do when you wake up is take advantage of your brain’s creative state. Put a notebook and pen beside your bed and as you wake up, concentrate on the goal for that day. If you are working on a screenplay, focus on your characters and the story. I often play a scene in my head and come up with some new ideas. Although this isn’t true for everyone, many of us are our most creative from the morning we wake up through until around mid day. So take advantage and relax later when the creative juices have stopped flowing.

(NOTE: Some people advise writing full pages in a notebook of whatever comes into your head before you make coffee or do anything. The idea is that doing anything outward will slow down the creative process and bring you back into the world. For me, this usually doesn’t work because most days my son wakes me up. So some days you can’t always do this. But on days when you wake up before everyone, sit in bed or in a quiet room and listen to your brain)

3. Avoid Distraction

There is no quicker way to kill your ability to create than outward distraction. If you want to maximize your work time, you absolutely must turn off everything that can deviate you from your course. So just turn everything off. No TV, No Social Media, No Email, No Telephone, and establish with those you live with that you are not to be disturbed until mid day unless it is an absolute emergency.

That’s right, your husband/wife, roomate, girlfriend, mom…nobody gets in! Lock your door or find a place free of distraction. I even know people who have locked themselves in their car or bathroom just to be able to focus. If your house is too distracting, go to a library where the librarian will have your back.

4. Create Your Daily Goal

Focus on one thing you need to accomplish that day. One thing that is surprising about this is that usually the one goal typicall takes less than an hour. For example, if you say to yourself “I want to write 10 pages of my screenplay today” it’s actually not that hard provided you are completely focused and not checking your Facebook and Twitter status.

You will also have more confidence each day as you move closer to your goal. There is nothing worse than putting off doing something because it’s not perfect. If you don’t feel like you’re writing well, it’s ok. Just write!

On the producing end, if you are looking for funding, say to yourself “I’m going to call 20 people today.” and just sit down and start dialing. There is nothing more powerful in producing than just calling people and connecting. Yes, it is scary. But if you’re not interested in facing your fears, you really shouldn’t work in the film industry.

On the directing end. If you aren’t in the process of shooting something, create something to shoot that day. Focus on setting up a scene in your house and edit it together. Or try shooting different techniques outside. But don’t sit at home clicking social media saying to yourself “Maybe tomorrow I’ll shoot something” Pretend like you only have 1 year to live and if you don’t get it done this year it will never happen.

5. Create Sacred Hours

This is very important for those of us who work. It can be very difficult to do a lot of these things if we have to work all day. But we must find sacred hours. These are the hours when you are the most productive. If you are a freelancer, this means one key thing. You are on YOUR schedule, not the schedule of someone else. Many of us feel an obligation to open our emails to check and see if our client’s have requested anything from us. There is a giant misconception that getting back to clients as quickly as possible is a sign of good work habits. But it’s actually a horrible thing to do. Your schedule and hours are sacred. There is no work that can’t wait. If you start trying to handle the problems of your clients during your sacred hours, then you are putting their needs above yours. Of course you need to work. Most of us don’t make enough as filmmakers to live comfortably. So set aside a time to read your emails. They can wait. But there is no quicker way to sabotage yourself than reading an “urgent” email from a client and dropping everything to help them out. To be honest, your clients will actually respect you more if you let them know you have certain hours you are available rather than a 24/hr free for all.

6. Diet and Exercise

Ok, go ahead. Roll your eyes. But I’m going to give you the secret here to exercise for people who hate exercise. You need to move around or you’re going to feel like crap. So what do I do? I do the quickest workout possible. Right before I get in the shower, I do as many pushups as I can, then change over to deep kneee bends, and then do a bunch of jumping jacks. Just get your heart rate up for a minute or two. This obviously isn’t ideal, but it’s better than nothing. You also go directly into the shower so you’re nice and clean. Try it! Another thing you can do is planking and squats. I’m not a trainer so I can’ really tell you specifically what to do. But working out just a minute is a million times better than nothing. You can also put on your favorite music and dance for 1 full song. Just get your blood pumping.

As far as food goes, you aren’t children so you know what eating well is. A screenwriting friend of mine gave me a good tip though. If you are writing and want to be alert for the maximum amount of time, eat lots of good fiber. It is slow burning and will allow you to focus. So grab an apple or eat some oatmeal. There are tons of food swith high fiber so just find something that you like and eat that before you start.


Now one final note. There are times when I don’t do any of these. I treat every day like a clean slate. Just start the next day and if you miss a day don’t worry so much. This is a general rule for moving forward. Just keep telling yourself….progress, not perfection.


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  • sbarkshire@rockisland.com'/
    Susan Barkshire

    Thanks for your tips, I will add some of yours to my “new” morning routine for daily success.

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