There are 2 major creative tragedies:
- Starting a project, and not finishing it.
- Doing something well that shouldn’t have been done at all.
This is why, for me, choosing an idea to pursue is a BIG DEAL. It should be a big deal for you as well.
In fact, I think many people don’t fully grasp the gravity of deciding to start a project. This decision effects your time, attention and your future success.
I’m an animation filmmaker, so for me it’s usually choosing the next film idea. For a fine artist it might be a painting, for a musician it could be her next song or album.
Before I move forward with a certain movie idea, I spend a lot of time thinking, researching and testing before giving myself the green light. This process of none-crippling decision-making is very important.
What should you ask yourself?
Creative people tend to jump to the next exciting idea, or go on a whim/hunch. This could lead to abandoning a project mid-way or creating bad work.
Here are a few things I consider before pursuing a project:
- Is this the right time for me to do this? (It might be too early for me to peruse a project this big).
- Can I finish it in a reasonable amount of time? (if it takes me 7 years to complete it might be worth shelving in order to priorotise accomplishing a project sooner).
- Does this challenge me in a new way, compared to my previous work? (Or am I staying in my comfort zone for too long).
- Is it something I can actually do? (Am I being reasonable or am I going after something I know I can’t do as a way of having a valid excuse of why I failed).
- Does it fit with my style, language and vision? (Is it a good piece of my creative puzzle or just a “cool” idea?)
- Will I be proud to have it in my body of work 10 years from now?
I also ask myself film-specific questions:
- Does the story of the film work?
- Is it consistent with my personality? Am I reflecting my true self through this work?
- Is this what I need to do right now to improve my skills?
- DOES THE STORY WORK? (again)
- Is this going to be worth spending the next year/few years of my life doing?
The last question is the most important one, and it includes within it all the other questions.
This brings me back to the tragedies I mentioned earlier.
I don’t quit projects mid-way.
That’s why I spend so much time making the decision. Spending half a year making a film just to realize that (a) the story doesn’t work (b) you don’t have the means/budget/skills to do it (c) you’re bored of it, is a horrible horrible tragedy.
Looking back to the reasons you decided to do the project will help you stay motivated during the times you feel like quitting.
I sometimes write these reasons in a text document so I can look at it when I feel unmotivated.
Decision making as a form of procrastination
Having said all of that, make sure not to cripple yourself with the decision making process.
I’m not writing this so you can procrastinate getting started with the work as a form of “decision-making-process.”
The decision-making process should be very deliberate.
It is not intended for you to ponder the idea and contemplating it to no end. This should be a logical, almost mathematical process of reaching the right conclusion as fast as possible.
The decision I made
I mentioned in recent posts that I have started developing an animated feature film.
Getting to that decision took me about half a year. In that half a year I experimented with a bunch of other project ideas, even writing a lot about many of them before throwing them away.
I developed 2 different graphic novel concepts. For one of them I even wrote over 100 pages of script. It wasn’t the right direction for the time.
I then played with the idea of making another animated short, and that led me to the conclusion that if I want to move forward with the studio, making another short is not the way to do it. It will keep me in the same place.
I already made 3 animated short films, and I’m very proud of them, but making another one will not take me to the next step.
That is how I decided a feature film is the right path for me to take at this point.
I evaluate every project this way. Some take faster to decide pursuing, and some (like the one above) could take months. But skipping the process altogether could result in a massive waste of time, or in going in the wrong direction.