A Dreamer Walking

Turning 30!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on November 4, 2019

I’m at another milestone. I’m 30. Just turned it yesterday. I made the mistake of looking back at a blog I wrote 9 years ago when turning 21. HOLY COW! I was talking about feeling like I don’t have much time then?!?! And now, with hardly any big achievement to attach my name to I am nine years older. Maybe the best choice now is to give up. This whole, “follow your dream” thing is just not working out very well…

Sorry, I’m being a little facetious. In all honesty, I’ve hardly ever considered giving up. This dream I have is just too precious. Sure, there have been times where I haven’t seen my direction as clearly. There have been times where I’ve slowed way down. And, there was once a time I really did think about dropping a big part of my dream because the weight felt too heavy to bear. Yet, one of the things I am most proud about is my ability to get back up and continue to plug away.

A good question might be, if you have been pursuing your dream all this time why the hell are you not farther at such an old age? Well first of all, my parents would be offended; I’m not that old! And sure, it would be nice to be working on bigger projects, getting some recognition, or at the very least living on my own by now. But despite the fact none of these things have happened, I actually feel a weird sense of accomplishment at this point in my life.

It hit me when reading my “Turning 21” piece that I don’t feel the sense of time going by as quickly as I once did. I feel like I am where I am supposed to be. The reason for this? Well, because I have not been dawdling. If there is such a thing as being cinematically ripped, I’m that. I know this comes across a bit pretentious, but I think this blog speaks for itself. I know cinema. I understand the nuances to what creates great story.

Even now, when my time is spent working on writing scripts, filming and editing projects, and working a thirty five hour a week job, I have continued to build my knowledge on cinema. I keep track of my hours and I still average about 10 hours a week studying. The notes I have are countless. The books filled with highlights and the in-depth analysis on films, along with a continual dedication to looking into the corners of the world of cinema is something I am extremely proud of. (I SWEAR one of these days I will even dive into the French New Wave).

One of the reasons I am hovering over this part so much is because most of the work is NEVER SEEN! I don’t really need it to be seen. I am fine never having anyone read the 25+ notebooks filled with notes on commentaries, interviews, and “making of” documentaries. I am okay with people thinking I just listen to music rather than listening to countless hours of downloaded film and story analysis. They don’t need to know the details. But, selfishly I wish they could be impressed by the effort a little. You know, like those people at the gym who drool over the guy who adds the extra twenty pounds to each side and can still pull off the lift like it’s nothing. Or at the very least, a recognition from those who think I have been twiddling my thumbs, that this type of “exercise” takes its toll, even though it has its benefits in the long run.

The reality is if I were simply doing film studies these days you would have great cause for concern. Luckily my 20’s have witnessed some other developments. I have started to actually film projects these last five years. In fact, I’ve managed to work on A LOT of projects. The only issue: very few have been published and the ones that were haven’t gotten the traction they deserve. Yes, I have some responsibility in not marketing my own work, or at the very least not partnering with people that market well. Yet, there are more than a few examples where when I provided a high quality product the producers failed to do their job. What can I say, small towns aren’t made for marketing film.

The inability to finalize three documentary passion projects has been the biggest disappointment of my magnificent 20’s. I would love to have someone else to blame. I do wish I had more help in the trenches. But the man with the vision is the man who is responsible to lift the dream off the ground and get it across the finish line. Who knew dreams were so heavy? They are important stories to tell, covering some fascinating people and difficult situations. And I am still determined to get these projects done.

The reason I bring up these projects is not to simply complain. Due to the personal nature of these projects, and never having enough money, I’ve needed to participate in each aspect of production. I have been the director, shooter, and editor of most of the pieces I’ve worked on. The lens stopped being a figurative symbol to me. Instead it’s become a physical tool I needed to figure out in order to produce images equal to those I’ve written so much about. Putting the concepts explored on this blog into physical practice has been a crucial stepping stone.

After excelling in the use of the physical process of filmmaking these last few years I chose to try to tackle the thing that scared me the most in the film business… WRITING! Um… you have cause to be confused here. I mean, you can accurately say, “Isn’t that one of the first things you managed to tackle?” “I mean isn’t “writing” what this blog is all about?” “Aren’t you writing at this VERY MOMENT?!”… :/ … You might be on to something there. Yet, though I have been willing to publish these pieces through the last ten years, I have never counted myself a good enough writer to express myself in a professional way. At least, I have not counted myself strong enough in the form of writing to bring my actual stories to life. Of course, I am now talking about screenwriting.

Screenwriting has been the most intimidating aspect of all of cinema for me. Like some of my great influences in the medium of film – such as Pete Docter, Martin Scorsese, or Steven Spielberg – I thought maybe I could get away with never really needing to know how to write scripts. I could just find someone to do it for me. It’s fair to say I have just as much of an excuse as any of them. I have been clinically diagnosed with dyslexia and you will hardly be able to find a dyslexic who is known for their magnificent writing skills. It does happen, but dyslexia is a medically diagnosed reading disorder where translating their natural visual thinking into the written word is extremely difficult. I’m embarrassed even now. Despite looking through and editing these pieces multiple times before publishing them there are constantly [ ] I end up missing. The whole challenge of figuring out when to use “then” rather then “than” has proven to be the bane of my existence….Case in point.

Despite this struggle, or maybe because of it, this last year I decided to challenge myself and see if I could write a script for one of my story ideas. After a solid 30 page story I decided to go even bigger. I’m proud to say I have finished a very strong first draft of a feature script and am in the middle of writing my second feature. Figuring out a way to use a weakness – such as the struggle to write well – and turn it into a strength has not been easy. But the sharpening of my writing skills through this blog and my dedication to thinking in great detail about the themes and nuances of my stories, have produced scripts I can genuinely say I am proud of. And even more importantly, this new found skill has given me yet another way to find success in the film industry.

These three ventures during my 20’s – developing my knowledge of cinema, applying those insights into the physically shooting and editing of film, and forcing myself to overcome my reading and writing struggles to literally produce scripts for my stories – have all been indescribably helpful in allowing me to pursue this great dream I keep talking to you guys about. Yet, what towers over everything can hardly be described as anything to do with storytelling or cinema. Or, maybe I could describe it as having everything to do with those things. The magic sauce in any good story or profound image is the ability to translate one’s life experience into one’s work.

As Akira Kurosawa put it, “I’ve forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new. I couldn’t do it out of nothing.” The man is right. The life experiences I’ve had in my twenties are vast and deep. I walked with a friend through his struggles with alcoholism and deep depression. I acted as a meditator and person of council over the past six years as my parents processed through divorce. And, I have tried my best to be a strong mentor for my younger sister who just now is starting high school.

The amount others have walked with me through my struggles is significant as well. I’ve faced three significant surgeries: open heart, wrist surgery, and a hip replacement (I swear I’m only 30). Without the kindness of family and friends I would have been homeless multiple times. And then there is the toll of the vision. Something I couldn’t possibly bear all by myself. These life experiences are the building blocks of great storytelling. Having the the type of people who allow you to examine yourself rather than close yourself off, makes all the difference.

There you are. My short argument for why these last few years have not been a waste. Why my 21 year old self was not completely right about his insistence on getting on with making movies and becoming famous. Success in the film industry needs to happen simply as a way to get some of my bigger ideas off the ground. I’m not in this in order to become famous or rich. I am in this because I absolutely must figure out a way to tell these stories. All this said, I do feel with my 30’s comes the need to take the next step. I am ready to break through.

What must happen next is the thing I am most scared of. You may find this funny, seeing how much time I just put into arguing my case for being prepared. But I do not see preparedness as a direct correlation to success. There are aspects of this “movie making” thing I don’t know if I can figure out. The biggest one being the ability to show my worth to the right people. How do you get that right producer to check out your script? How do you promote a documentary piece so it will be given funding? What does one need to do in order to have his well researched and thought out insights on film, read by a broader audience?

I’ve put so much time into preparing myself for this journey. Yet studying film, developing projects, and writing scripts is NOT enough. Simply doing those things would be a waste if I don’t eventually have others with whom to share the vision. I believe now is the time to forge those relationships. I have been standing on this edge long enough. Studying its terrain and building up strength to fly. Heck, the view is magnificent. But I have not been called to only be an observer of the view.  I will never forget the path that has lead me here. But the vision is calling me and now is the time to leap. Now is the time to demand recognition and cast the vision so others will contribute. In some ways how this happens is still to be figured out. Yet the fear of not knowing enough or having a strong enough vision is gone. It is time.