Chronicles of a Fledgling Filmmaker: Procrastination Station and How to Fight It

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Fear is my number one block when it comes to lack of drive.

So I’m alive. Clearly. I’ve been under medical house arrest for two weeks straight and have been going pretty much completely out of my mind with boredom. Not that I was really functional for a little over half that time, considering I was mostly sleeping, hurting, or too high on narcotics to attempt to do anything useful, but once I was feeling better I really should’ve been keeping myself busy by, I don’t, maybe working on editing my film. Did I do that, though? NOPE. I pretty much just lived on Tumblr or read fanfics or watched V app videos all day.

Now, part of my brain says, “But, Alex, you weren’t able to sit up for very long at a time, so how could you possibly have thought about doing any work on your computer? You had a good excuse. You were recovering. It was good not to strain yourself.” Sounds legit, right?

Maybe, except for the part where I actually could be on my computer if I adjusted my pillows to just the right angle, and even though I could only do it for much shorter periods of time than my normal marathon computer-living, I could’ve accomplished some stuff in small bursts. I didn’t, though. I made excuses for myself and I told myself they were legit, but in truth, I know I was procrastinating. The Tumblr and fanfic and V app were simply more appealing to me, so I gave myself a reason to do that instead.

This, I believe, is a huge problem for a lot of people. We essentially get lazy, or scared, or we find something that’s simply more fun than the work we should be doing, even if that work is part of the whole making-dreams-come-true thing. For me, I’m absolutely positive that my excuses to continually put off my film edits (and there have been a few more “justifiable excuses” outside of the surgery) include all three of the reasons I mentioned above: laziness, fear, and preferred entertainment. Laziness and entertainment really don’t need any explanation. We all have those days where we just don’t feel like doing anything, or we want to do something more appealing. We should be adult enough not to act on those impulses, but we do. It happens. We need a break sometimes. It’s only when we let that side take over that things become problematic, but that’s strictly on you and your methods of self control.

Instead, let’s focus on the fear aspect. This, I believe, is actually my number one block when it comes to my recent lack of drive. See, it took five years between the time I came up with the concept for my short film and the time when I felt I was ready to finally shoot it. Five. I’m not sure if that’s a long time or a short time in the filmmaking world because I haven’t been in it long enough to gauge that, but I figure for something that’s going to wind up being roughly twenty minutes long and with a story that was pre-written eons ago, that seems like a long time to me. I had to make sure I was ready before I jumped into it, though, that I would be able to play the role of producer and director and screenplay writer and prop handler and set designer, etc, etc, etc. And I did, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, complete with a dream cast and crew. All the footage came out as well (better, actually) as I could’ve expected for my first go, the sound is clean, the material is funny, the shots were fantastic, and yet here I am, stalled out with the edits despite all of that. You’d think I would’ve been ecstatic to finish it, and yet I’ve hardly touched it.

So what’s my biggest procrastination excuse? Well, a) there’s still one more scene I have to shoot that involves blowing up a miniature model that hasn’t been built yet since my guy for that has been busy. Reasonable excuse, but not reasonable enough to put off finishing the entire rest of the film. That explosion is one of the very last scenes in the script. I could’ve had the rest of the film completely put together by now. But I didn’t, and I know the reason for that really boils down to me being just plain being afraid to do it.

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t expecting this to go as smoothly as it did. I thought things would be falling apart left and right, and I wasn’t really expecting my actors and my crew to be as talented and professional as they were. That sounds horrible, but it’s the truth. They surprised me. Everything surprised me. It surprised me so much that when the shoot was all over and everyone went home for the last time that I sat alone in the cabin I had rented for our last location and bawled my eyes out. And I mean really sobbed, the kind where you’re making freaky donkey noises and choking on your own tears and snot sort of crying. Everyone was just SO GOOD, and everything went so unexpectedly well that now I’m feeling a bit inadequate when it comes to finishing it up. I’ve never done an edit on a film before, not like this, anyway. I edited my own interview footage, I’ve made some fan films here and there, and my sister had me do her wedding video, but this is an entirely different beast. I’m terrified that it’s going to fall flat and I’ll let everyone down who worked on the thing. So there it sits, not being touched at all, and I know that’s even worse for everyone involved, but every time I even think about opening those files, I freeze. I mean, five years. I don’t want all that time to go down the drain because of my inadequacy.

Yes, I know, I know: get over it. You don’t know if you don’t try, blah blah blah and all that jazz. And I will try. I always do when it comes to stuff like this, but it’s taking me longer than usual to find my backbone, and that is intensely frustrating. Apparently putting the final touches on your dream project is the most terrifying thing in the universe, because then it’s done, and it’s either good or it’s shit, and if it’s shit, you feel like your whole life will be ruined from that point on.

But it won’t be. I’m sitting here telling this to myself, but also telling you guys this at the same time because I know some of you are doing the same thing. You’re gabbing on Facebook. You’re reading your favorite novel for the tenth time. You’re jumping at the chance to go out for a beer even though you don’t even like beer, anything that’ll give you a reason not to poke at your project, because once you start, you’ll have to finish, and then that’ll just be the end.

The thing we have to realize, though, is that it won’t be the end. It’s just a beginning. There’s another project waiting to be jumped on, and you can’t start that if you don’t finish the first one. If you can’t start the second one, you can’t go any further. You can’t improve. You can’t keep going until you’ve reached the point when you really find your confidence. You’re just...stuck. Dead end. Going nowhere with your dream.

So let’s not do that. If you’re stuck like me, let’s get ourselves out of the rut. Tomorrow. Just for an hour. Work on that project for only an hour, and if it wasn’t so bad, keep going. If we struggled for the hour, stop, and we’ll try again the next day. Little by little. Let’s finish it up so we can move on; and who knows, maybe we’ll all surprise ourselves when it’s over. If not, if we take our baby steps and find that our project doesn’t meet our expectations, that’s okay, too. It’s fine because we did it. It’s done. We’ve learned something and can officially move on, and the next one will be better because of it. All we have to do is stop making excuses and take that next step. Like I said in my last post, let’s leave our mark before it’s too late.