the art of working with what you have

As aspiring filmmakers we can easily fall into the if only mentality. You may have an inventive indie screenplay that would be sure to get noticed at Sundance. But, how do you get it there? More importantly, how do you make it in the first place?

We are prone to make the excuses: 'if only I had a bigger budget, if only I had that camera, if only I had that location, if only I had that crew, if only I had that actor,' and so on… This mind set will become a road block to your creativity. When you dwell on what you don't have, it will stop you from moving forward and that script will most likely not come into fruition.

When you start to focus on the resources you do have, this begins a momentum that will bring that film to life and ultimately onto the screen.

So how do you make a film with the little you DO have?

First, the foundation must be solid: the screenplay. If the script isn't good, neither is the film. It's a rookie filmmaker mistake to jump into production as soon as they've typed the last page. The best stories are developed, reworked, and rewritten. Get critiques from fellow screenwriters you trust. They will see something you missed. I know this takes time and like the rest of us you want to start your career already, but, as the old saying goes: good things come to those who wait. In this case, a better film in the outcome. Always study your craft. Read screenplays which have a similar style to what you wish to achieve.

Learn to adjust. Write specifically for the resources you have. I've encountered having to rewrite scenes because the location I envisioned it taking place was not feasible at the time. Instead of letting this stifle your production, let it become a creative challenge. With your imagination and skills you are capable of conquering it. The scene may turn out better than you initially envisioned because of your adjustment to the locations you do have.  

Once you feel the screenplay is perfected and your blueprint is mapped out, now it's time to gather all the crew and the tools necessary for this construction- the production. In order to lead a team to build a solid film, you must have a vision, a motive, and a goal. Why should this particular story be told? If you don't believe in your project no one else will. Getting others to understand, believe, and want to see that vision come forth is one of the most important aspects of directing. 

Build a team. It will take many years to find essential crew members you want to work with for the rest of your career. During every project your currently work on, connect with those who have mutual respect and similar motives with their work. I've been blessed to meet a few fellow filmmakers who I can call friends and work with me to achieve the vision of my project. 

Value those who do work with you. You never want to take those who are helping you for granted. This means doing more than supplying them with coffee, food, and compensation. If you genuinely care about those working with you, they will care about their job of piecing your film together. The director should know exactly what they want to achieve and be able to communicate that. But, I'll go even further to say when the director becomes selfless instead of selfish about their project, they are capable of accomplishing much more.

That's why you must learn to be a servant before you lead. Those who understand how it feels to work as a PA for 14 hours on a shoot with no pay, will treat their crew with the same respect they desire. As the director you should take all responsibility, even for mistakes that weren't your own. You are the captain of the ship, and the captain goes down with the ship. As an aspiring filmmaker I can assure you the first attempts will not be smooth sailing. However, you will reach the destination if you have the right mentality and approach.

You cannot accomplish this alone. Mother Teresa once said; "You can do what I can not do. I can do what you can not do. TOGETHER, we can do great things." I believe this also applies to filmmaking. Remember, your job as a director is to convey the vision to those you work with so that they can help you accomplish it with their skills and abilities.  A leader inspires and encourages their team to act.

Ur Allure Media Production shoot

Ur Allure Media Productions shoot with Ali Happer, Maria Ramirez, Vanessa Figi, and myself.

Start small. I'm sure you've realized your first project may not be a action thriller feature with car chases and explosions. Unless you somehow procured a Michael Bay budget. Personally, I am a fan of simplicity. I'm sure you have heard 'less is more.' Perhaps, try starting off with character-driven short films that take place at only one location. You are sure to learn from each project no matter how small and build upon what you've learned. This doesn't mean to let go of your big ideas. Save them and continue to develop them for when the right time arises. 

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Many filmmakers go the route of raising funds for production on or Once again, your vision has to be attainable for others to believe in, to the point that they will invest in it. Family and friends want to help you accomplish your dreams. Don't be afraid to ask them if they know someone with a camera, equipment, or a location you could use. But, be sure they are reliable. Demonstrate you are reliable with their resources as well. Out of everyone, you have to be willing to invest the most time, energy, work, and money into your project. 

Don't compare. Don't always be a perfectionist. Your short film shot on a DSLR may not have the same look as a major motion picture with a multi-million dollar budget. Although, if you know what you're doing you can accomplish something very close, maybe even better. I desire to do everything in excellence. Many times I have to remember this is the best I can do with what I have and I can't wear myself or my team down about the minor things. I continue striving to do better with each project, and it should remain that way forever.

I may not have a long list of credits on IMDb or an Academy Award. These are just the thoughts of one aspiring filmmaker to another, sharing what I've learned so far. As soon as I stopped focusing on all the things I didn't have, I was able to accomplish much more than I once believed. I am simply working with what I have. One step at a time towards the destination. I hope I can encourage you to do the same. The world is in need of new artist to rise up and shine. 

full tea cups & empty journal pages

This new year I am thankful for the little things.

I also prepare for the big events ahead. Some planned, others I may not even see yet. But, I am in great expectation. I believe 2014 will be a year of open doors like no other. I only desire the right doors at the right timing. 

I wouldn't call it a resolution, but I make a point to set aside time to read and write while sipping my favorite green tea.  I cherish my collection of unique journals and beautiful mugs. The simple yet invaluable things. 

We should strive to take a moment of quiet time out of every day to write, reflect, and observe, with no other distractions pulling us away. The act of writing our thoughts down on paper seems to be lost due to the open outlet of the world wide web. I personally rather flip back through journal pages to reminisce where I've come from then to scroll through my Facebook timeline. 

At the closing of 2013, I wrote out my goals for the new year. Before doing so I read the goals of years past. All were made with very good intentions of completing them. Some I superseded. Others I never touched. However, the ones I didn't reached, I understand now I was never meant to. In comparison, my current list of goals are so much more focused. I have a clear vision of where I am going. This is because I have gained the revelation of specifically that which I was created for. In the past I would've never thought theses goals would be possible for me to pursue.  And here I am moving forward in a new year with the best yet to come. 


2014 is a new blank page. How will you fill it?

Coming Home: why living with your parents after college isn't so terrible.

College graduation came with two extremes: the high of accomplishment and the low of great uncertainty. After living seemingly independently for four years, how could one return to the same dwelling of embarrassing adolescent years?

As graduation quickly approached, my optimal plans dwindled just as rapidly. There was disappointment from turned down internships in New York. Venturing out to LA to become an artist/waitress just wasn’t feasible. My personal plan including marriage, moving to Austin and pursing my masters to teach, shattered with it’s share of heartache. Moving back home to my humble beginnings in Miramar, Florida was not even plan Z in my mind. I failed to realize then how incredibly thankful I would be over two years later that my plans didn't come to pass, because a greater plan did. 

As quickly as we turned the tassel, I found myself nudging my belongings tightly into the garage of my parent’s home. With much resistance, I returned to my hometown; a city which never quite felt like home to me. I often scrutinized, focused on the ugly, loud, and harsh of the urban south Florida environment. Traveling the same roads which I once rode my bike and learned how to drive a car, seemed to bring back negative imagery of painful memories from my youth. However, returning forced me to seek out the beauty in the imperfections and eventually cherish it. The same can be applied when moving back in with your family. 

You are not alone. Roughly 45% of college grads move back in with mom and dad. Despite what your Facebook newsfeed tells you, you are not the only one. Relax in the reassurance that your situation is not unheard of, nor will it last forever. We’re going through this together. Stop comparing yourself to friends who are married, starting their own families or the ones who are ever too busy with their career advancements. Find friends who share the same priorities and are experiencing the same chapter in life. Read from their past experiences, like mine, I’m here to encourage you!

Time to accept. This does not mean become complacent in your current position. This is the time to pursue your dreams more than ever. Don’t be afraid to fail; you have a support system backing you. When you’re figuring out your future, what better place to do so than in the comfort of your family. In case you haven’t already realized- they want the best for you. The greatest joy in their life is to see you happy and fulfilled. Those habits or characteristics of your family which once irritated you to no end; its time to accept them. In fact, embrace it. I know we hear it often, but, I can’t stress enough: cherish the time you have with your family now. You will miss this time, during the periods when you only see loved ones by flying home for the holidays. We take for granted the time with our family during our teen years with it’s fair share of “I’m out of here when I turn eighteen!” moments. For the first time in our lives we can glean from our parents, as one adult to another. View dad and mom as your mentors, closest friends, and biggest supporters.

Time to prepare. Most likely, you don’t have to worry about rent. You now have the benefit of working to pay off student loans, or save up for your own place. Develop management skills for your finances and time before you enter into the responsibilities owning your own home. Learn from a pro. Nothing says ‘wife material’ like a woman who's cooking is just as good as her mother’s. I’ve learned to serve my family just as my mother has all my life. Learn to be a servant to your family, not a squatter, during your time of free home-cooked meals. Instead of longing for the past where my household duties consisted of cooking for myself and cleaning after myself, I’ve embraced this training for the day I have a family. What better way to say thank you to your parents for the lifetime they have cared for you, than to serve them?

Build & restore relationships. Living with my mom again caused misunderstandings to be mended and barriers were torn away. Our mother-daughter bond is stronger now than ever. I can proudly say she is my best friend. We recently took a road trip to Savannah, Georgia just the two of us. We wandered through the historic district and enjoyed the vintage/antique shopping. The unforgettable experiences we shared, and lessons I continue to learn from her, I will carry with me into the future. Share an activity or hobby with mom or dad. You never know, they may enjoy it as well. These are truly once in a life time opportunities with your family. I may have missed out on the opportunity to have such a close bond with my mother had I not returned home. I would’ve truly regretted that later in life. View dad and mom as your mentors, closest friends, and biggest supporters. 

A lifelong student. Although our schooling may have ended, we should never cease to be scholars. Create a summer reading list that you would enjoy. Perhaps reread books that were assigned to you in college. I guarantee you will discover something new this time around. You don’t have to go by a professors syllabus anymore, instead create deadlines for your own creative projects or writings. Continue to develop your gifts. Challenge yourself to read material daily that will further assist your growth in your chosen field.  Develop a plan for growth as found in Self Improvement 101 & Leadership Principles for Graduates by John C. Maxwell. Instead of sinking into post-grad sadness, I suggest reading one of those encouraging books. Keep a journal with inspirational quotes and helpful points to turn back to often. 

A new routine. The void of schedules can actually become stressful. For the many post grads in search of employment, it becomes an easy habit waking of up at 12 pm on a weekday and grabbing a bowl of cereal to watch a marathon of your favorite show on Netflix. Just as we once had class schedules, create a daily schedule for yourself. Set your alarm, and although tempting, don’t hit that snooze button. There are gifts in you longing to be poured out. Inventions in your mind in need of creating. You may be the next award winning writer, successful entrepreneur, or a leader of this nation. The world is earnestly awaiting people of this generation to rise up and take their place, using what God has placed within you to influence, impact and cause change. What you choose to do today, will determine that outcome.  

The constant in life. Sometimes life can change so rapidly, other times you're counting down the seconds in hopes the day on the calendar will change. Whichever season you're in, take a deep breath, and a mental (or physical) pictures of your current surroundings, environment, and situation because one day, sooner or later, this will all change. 

As a college graduate, filmmaker, writer, actor, artist, entrepreneur, teacher, leader, dreamer and doer, living at home with her parents, (and pet bunny), I am absolutely cherishing it. Change is quickly approaching. I don’t want to miss this moment. Neither should you.  

- Jennifer Joy O.