60 Days in Action – Or, How to Get Things Done {Thoughts on Writing and Filmmaking}

Now that I've shared my 60 Days strategy with you, I think I ought to come right out of hiding about my pre-occupations. You see, in order to let you know where I'm coming from and how I came up with the 60 Days Plan, I actually had to put it in to practice before I shared it here. After all, how embarrassing would it be if I shared with you a 60-day strategy that never gets past its 60th day, right?

Well, okay, I'm not quite on the 60th day yet - officially. I only wrote down the 60 Days to Something Plan on the 1st of September. But, I've pretty much been putting it in to action since mid-August. Yeah, more than 2 months ago. Definitely past 60 days unofficially.

So, hopefully, I'm close enough to know that it seems to be quite a good strategy for me. And, this has even become more exciting for me today.

Hmmm... okay, before I go there... let me backtrack again a bit.

Over two months ago, I started writing again. As in, really writing. Like I mentioned once before, an idea for a story came to me during REM sleep. It was one of those ideas that was just all consuming. I couldn't think straight. I was totally and utterly distracted. So, in order to get rid of it, I decided to start writing about it. I just pretty much wanted to do a brain dump. So, I began writing. The story kept growing, and I kept writing.

Since that story had something to do with celebrities and filmmaking, it somehow ended up launching a new hook in my life: FILMS. I couldn't get enough of them. I just wanted to keep watching films. Reading about them. Thinking about them. And, not too long after, I started wanting to write and to make them.

Crazy, I know. I can't tell you just how annoyed I was with myself for even thinking about that idea. Not just because of everything else that I have on my plate (graduate school, work, family, existing web projects...). I did, after all, just decided that I am finally going to finish a novel again in my "spare" time.

And really, trying to write a book at this time of my life seems silly enough as it is. But, get in to filmmaking too? Totally Absurd.  

But, without trying to get in to the details, that's how I ended up with the 60-Day Plan. I figured, I'll give both the novel writing and the filmmaking time to incubate. See if anything interesting comes up whilst in the incubation period. If something comes up, great. If not, well... tough luck.

So far, the novel writing's going well. I'll most likely share more about this another time. All I know is that the writer in me has definitely come to life again. And, I'm thrilled.

film-clix-sxc.jpgOn filmmaking... Well, I knew that from the moment I thought of it, I'd be facing too many challenges. For one thing, I've had very limited experience with movie-making. Yes, I've co-produced, co-written, co-presented, and co-edited an online video show a few years ago. Yes, I'm the official home video maker of my family so I've had some extra experience working with movie editing software. Yes, I had a friend who tried to introduce me to the world of scriptwriting for a series of children's TV show over a decade ago. And yes, I've taken a workshop on video production and editing, where I ended up co-writing, co-starring, and co-directing a one-minute information commercial which was aired on community TV many aeons ago. But, that's it.

But, writing a proper script and making it in to a real film? Uhhh....

That's why I haven't really talked about this idea with anyone before. I've only bravely mentioned it in passing with 1 or 2 people.

In fact, I've started to become too intimidated with the whole filmmaking thing after my initial research, that I started to wane a bit on the whole idea. It hasn't been 60 days yet since I first started obsessing about filmmaking/scriptwriting, so I was almost ready to give up on it altogether. Especially while I haven't invested in it too much just yet!

Then today, I went out to a casual dinner party. Something I don't usually do, I must say.

At the get-together, I started talking to someone I've known for the last couple of years or so. We've seen each other a few times, but we've never really talked for real before. Anyway, we began the getting-to-know-you-better talk. You know that type of stuff --- Where do you live? What do you do? What do you enjoy doing?

It so happened that we're both mums to two kids (our kids are about the same age too; our eldest boys often play together when they see each other). She's also a working mum, and she's doing further studies too. Then, she mentioned that on top of it all, she just finished making her first ever short film.

So, I asked her to tell me the story of her journey. And, I was really fascinated to listen to it all --- from how she had the first spark of an idea and how she revised her script to how she networked and made the whole thing with a limited budget.

She also had a lot of great advice about how to get started on the road to filmmaking.

She made it sound doable. Extremely hard, but doable.

And, if I had to take some notes and tips from her experience based on our talk, they would be:

1. Just get started. If you have an idea, just work on it. Then, keep at it. She said it took her about two years from start to completion of her short film.

2. Learn and be familiar with the resources around you. She said that reading a book on scriptwriting was one of the first push she had to get started. She also attended a couple of scriptwriting courses. Then, she found out other resources available locally. And, she started using them.   

3. Network, network, network. Filmmaking is not a solitary affair. Nothing is, really. But, when it comes to making films, she realised immediately that networking will be extremely valuable. So, one of the first things she did was to become a member of a local media organisation, which enabled her to be in contact with different players in the local film industry. Her contacts in the organisation helped her in many ways --- from finding people to work with to getting access to funding and/or equipment.

4. Work with film students. They can be great collaborators, as they're already trained and passionate about the medium. Plus, a few of them might be looking for different filmmaking experiences.

5. Get other people on board! Other than the network contacts and film students, work with other people who can champion your project too. Having someone to do proofreading and editing is valuable. Having more than one reader is also great. And, if you can have folks who can help you to do fundraising, that's cool too.

6. Don't be afraid to edit and to revise. Listen to input and adjust your project accordingly.

7. Know who you want to listen to! Yes, taking on feedback is great. But, you know your project more. Someone might have a particular vision for your project. Listen to it, but figure out if that also meets your initial vision for your work. For example, she has had input that her project may suit the educational market. However, she wanted to bring her film to the public. So, she sought another opinion and found someone else who shared her vision. The person who shared her vision was then able to offer valuable advice on how she can adjust her script to fit that vision.

8. Work with your budget. Find a grant. If you can't get funding there, raise your own funds. If you have just a few hundred dollars to work with - stick with it. You can still make a quality film with a limited budget.

9. Finish it. Just get it completed. Wrap it up. Submit to film festivals where possible.

10. Sell film in different ways. Provide viewings and talks. Tap in to existing networks. Talk to possible distributors.

11. Get started on the next project! The only way forward is to keep making more films.

So yes, I can't help it. I'm inspired again. It's always exciting to learn how people can make things happen.

It helps me to believe that maybe, my crazy ideas aren't so crazy after all.

Image source: Clix (from sxc.hu)

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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