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Indie Movie Mastery: Who Are You?

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Last year my husband and I sold all our stuff and headed out on the road for an epic year-long road-trip. #lifeinateardrop

As uncomfortable as it was for this producer, we decided we wouldn’t really have a plan. We just knew there were some places we wanted to go no matter what. Maine was one of those places and last month, we accomplished that mission.

Today, as we were making our way back home to Los Angeles (a task that will take several months), our drive brought us to Erie, Pennsylvania along Lake Erie and past one abandoned factory building after another. The site was quite devastating. As Craig was driving, I was contemplating on these buildings and towns and the people who live in them. What does it take for a company to completely abandon a building, a town, a community?

I then thought of a conversation I had just a week before with another guest at a B-n-B in Maine, the conversation was about the economy in Maine and how it was really challenging to find a job. It wasn’t an unusual conversation. It was a conversation I’ve had many times, with many different people both inside the industry and out. The conversation typically goes like this:

Other person: “Yeah, it’s just hard because no one is hiring/building businesses/creating jobs/etc. here.”

Me: Yeah, I’m a big believer in creating your own job. I believe that’s the way the world is going to go, for the most part.”

And then they usually just move on because they don’t know what to say to that.

This gentleman said something that really got me thinking. He said something like “Yeah, the people who want to create the companies and jobs are usually in California because the weather is good. There are no Mark Zuckerbergs or Steve Jobses in Maine.”

To which I replied, “it only takes one.”

The conversation ended shortly after, but, it really stuck with me.

That conversation coupled with the fact that the B-n-B we were staying in was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad for slaves trying to escape to Canada. We toured this house and learned of the secret cellar under the small house out back where these brave souls were hid and protected until they made their way across the border by one soul who made a choice to help because “it only takes one.”

As I was looking out the window, recalling this interaction and this home with such a courageous history, we drove past a beautiful mural that simply said, “Not a Rust Belt but a Robust Belt.”

It struck me that this person was stepping up. They were taking charge and changing the narrative of what their community was. Because “it only takes one.”

All of this struck me in such a profound way because I often hear people in the film community talk about how jobs are leaving or the budgets for projects aren’t big enough for filmmakers to make a living and I always say exactly what I said to that man, “it only takes one.”

We are in charge of our own lives, our own careers and our industry. We can make change, but it takes courage and conviction and (what I believe is the first step in the “development” phase) it takes knowing WHO you are.

And that brings me to the productive part of this article. I believe there are “5 phases of producing,” the first is development. The thing is that I’m not talking about developing the script (which is super important), I’m talking about developing the project as a whole and when it’s your project and you’re the lead on it, developing yourself is just as important (if not more) as developing the script. And, within developing yourself and the project the first thing you absolutely, 100% need to know is WHO you are as a human.

What are you made of? Are you that one person? The one person who would start a business where there is none? The one person who will change the way people view your community? The one person who will take on this project and make sure you raise enough money to pay yourself and your team? The one person who will take on this project and make sure that you are making things happen for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to do it for you?

If not, that’s cool too, but you better know before you decide you’re going to start making movies. Because it really does take that kind of commitment if you want to create a career for yourself in this business. You can certainly count on other people to make it happen for you, but from my experience, you’ll probably end up miserable. The reality is (and this is really exciting if you think about it), we are in charge of our own destiny. But, you MUST know WHO you are.

Here’s the key to this though, once you’ve decided you’re that one person, you absolutely, have to be working on a project that excites the pants off of you for one reason or another. But, we’ll talk more about that next month.

This month, I really want you to think about WHO you are. What makes you tick? There are no wrong answers to this question. Each of us is unique and brings a special sauce to the mix. The key is knowing what that sauce is.

For me, my special sauce is my ability to plan and execute. This trip has solidified that for me. It has been even more challenging than normal because we decided to try and make a go of it without a plan. It’s been a great challenge, but one I’m not eager to repeat. Lesson learned. Moving forward, I’m happiest with a plan.

So, again, I will ask you, WHO are you?

Jenna Edwards

About Jenna Edwards

With a passion for acting and the business of show-business, Jenna moved to Burbank, CA in 2000. Soon after, she appeared in UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE. In 2008 she produced her first feature, the award-winning film, APRIL SHOWERS. Building on the success of April Showers, Jenna produced the first narrative feature film exclusively for Hulu. Jenna helped create and was the “resident producing advisor” on the Movie Maker Magazine top ranked podcast, FILM METHOD and wrote an advice column called the Film Method Mailbag. She also taught producing at New York Film Academy. Years of teaching, consulting and coaching filmmakers made Jenna want to do more so she started her company, Indie Movie Mastery which focuses on teaching producing through an online course and encouraging filmmakers to think outside the box though her podcast and blogs