Nothing in the world excites me more than making something out of nothing; creating new characters, stories and worlds in my mind, on then on the page and then lifting them off of the page and breathing life into them. This is why I do what I do. I am an admitted theatre nerd and almost love the process of creation more than the actual performance.
Over the years I have learned the importance of setting goals for my projects. Yes, of course, everyone wants to make bank, get recognition and have the project open doors for more work and lucrative creative opportunities.
That being said, the more specific your goals are for your film or theatre production, the more likely you are to attain them. There are many different reasons people want to mount a production: to showcase your writing or performance talents, to get representation, to establish a calling card, to get exposure, to go to festivals or tour with the project, to make a profit, and even for the sheer joy of creating something to see how it lands.
When I decided to shoot and direct my short film Details I called some colleagues and asked if they would be willing to join me for an experiment. I didn’t call it a film because I had a lofty creative vision and had no idea how it would turn out and if it would even work as a film. I was very clear in my own mind and with my entire team that this was a creative experiment and I was not about end-gaming with this specific production. Details was also my first time directing a film so I didn’t have huge expectations for the outcome; I was also wearing all the other hats (writer, actor, producer), so it truly was an experiment of sorts, for my vision, for my ability to direct and for my juggling skills.
To my surprise and delight the experiment was a success, Details went on to screen at two major international festivals (Festival De Cannes and The Cambridge Film Festival UK). This process validated my artistic vision and also showed me that I can in fact direct, something I was never particularly interested in before, nor did I think I was capable of. I do believe my goal of experimentation is what allowed me the freedom to create without the pressure I would normally put on my work. This freedom of creativity and process is what ultimately made the piece a success, I wasn’t focused on the outcome because that was not the goal.
Once you have a clear goal in mind that will determine several factors in terms of timeline, budget, team and so on. For the film Details we had a micro-budget because I knew it was an experiment and understood there was the possibility there would be no final product, so I budgeted accordingly.
Goals often change or evolve once the ball is rolling, projects can take on a life of their own and very easily run away from you. Once you are caught up in the excitement and have a team who is equally enthusiastic you might want to do a bigger production, get more money, get into a larger space and sometimes it gets overwhelming. That is why if you have a clear goal in the beginning it will keep you grounded and focused on the task at hand. Details turned out better than I could have dreamed so once we had a final edit my goals evolved, I wanted to get it out into the world so began submitting to film festivals, that was the new goal.
Another example of goal setting is my solo show Year of the Slut, I wrote the show for one reason – to find theatrical representation. In two years I did two showcases in Los Angeles spending very little money, then was accepted to a festival in New York City. I had a successful Kickstarter campaign and raised $4000 to cover my travel expenses, accommodations and pay for advertising and publicity. Now that the show was going to NY I had different goals. Having been an off-off-Broadway theatre producer I knew what had to be done once I got to NY. Before I set my fundraising target I had accounted for buying ads in the Village Voice and specialized publicity materials. The new goal was to get reviews and as much exposure as possible.
With Year of the Slut I never achieved my initial goal – to find theatrical representation. However, I won the Audience Choice Award at the festival and was approached by a literary agent who was interested in a novel adaptation of the show.
When I first started working on Year of the Slut I never dreamed it would go to NY, let alone win an award and never in my life did I expect to be writing a novel. Although things didn’t work out with the literary agent who was initially interested, I was already off and running with the novel adaptation. Countless rejections from traditional publishers and lit agents, five versions of the novel, three editors, two launches, one title change and almost a decade later Year of the What? is now available in print, digital and audio almost everywhere books are sold.
Not only are the goals important…I would say it’s just as important to be flexible and open to whatever opportunities come your way, even if they were not the ones you were hoping for.
Sign up for Jennifer’s newsletter here.
For more information about workshops and one-on-one consulting opportunities please email firstname.lastname@example.org.