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Indie Movie Mastery: What’s Your “Why”?

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As I write this, it’s an early fall morning and the sun is just waking up, stretching her beams in hues of orange, yellow and blue. It’s going to be a beautiful day in more ways than one for me.

As I do each time I begin to write this column, I am contemplating my topic. Today it is WHY. Specifically, why do we do what we do? As I begin to think about it, my thoughts wander to my beautiful new nephew who is coming home from the hospital today. He will certainly be a big why for my sister and I think about whether he would be a why for me. The answer is no. He’s wonderful and I love him, but I am not motivated to do what I do because of him.

I think about how great knowing that is. As we’ve discussed before, I truly think the missing link in development is the development of the self. You’ve got to know what motivates you and you’ve got to be really honest and clear with yourself about it. So, if I were to decide that because I have this new little person in my life, I should go out and make kids’ movies, I would most likely fail. Why? Because making kids’ movies for my new nephew is not a strong why for me. Do I think it’s a noble why to make content that helps little kids? Absolutely. However, when push comes to shove in the middle of a project, I cannot guarantee myself that I wouldn’t just throw in the bag and walk away.

Your why has to be strong enough to motivate you when all hope is lost.

For me, that why is showing people they can create the life and career of their dreams no matter their current circumstances.

Why is this why so strong for me? Because I grew up in a small town with 2,000 other people in rural Minnesota where the closest mall was 30 miles away and all I dreamed of was moving to Los Angeles to be an actor and work in the entertainment business. And, I got lucky. My mom was a working rock musician out of this small town. I know that if it wasn’t for her influence, I would never have imagined my dream could become a reality. Without her example, I wouldn’t have understood the kind of attitude and work ethic needed to make my dream come true.

I don’t know what her why was/is, but I can imagine it was for her kids as well as for the love of performing. She oozed determination and passion on a daily basis and (along with her bandmates) became one of the most successful bands in the state. I can also state with certainty that her why must have been really strong because she lived in that same small town where the only opportunity was the opportunity she created for herself. On top of that, she had two small children at home that she needed to take care of. Oh and she was a woman in an even tougher (if that’s possible) industry than film and TV in a time where there weren’t many rock bands lead by women. To say the cards were stacked against her would be an understatement. Yet, she did it. Why? Because she had a really strong why. And, because of her, I had an example of someone who truly created the life they wanted and because of that, my why is to help people realize that they can make their dreams into realities. That’s a why that burns in my chest and I know it will get me through any obstacle. How do I know? Because it has.

That’s why this month’s article is dedicated to helping you figure out your why. The process is simple but requires complete and total honesty with yourself. I have found that the hardest part is that sometimes we have to admit that things we (and society as a whole) find noble, like children, aren’t our personal motivation. We have to really hone in on ourselves and sometimes the realizations that come up can make us feel, well, icky. We can feel like we’re being selfish and that our motivation isn’t acceptable. If that happens to you, you’ve got to push that aside. You don’t have to tell anyone else your motivation if you don’t want to, but you do have to be completely honest with yourself or it won’t work.

OK – I want you to sit in a comfortable spot, close your eyes and bring yourself back to the point when you decided your dream was your dream and it was worth pursuing. For me, it is when I was 3 so this might take you way back. Go back as far as you can remember having this dream.

  • What was it about being an actor, director, producer, etc. that excited you?
  • What was your life like at that time?
  • Were you motivated by getting out of a situation and creating a better one?
  • Were you motivated to tell stories like yours because you didn’t see any out there?
  •  Were you motivated by the fame?
  •  Were you motivated by the money?
  •  What was it that made you think you could make this dream come true for yourself?
  • What was it that excited you the most about that dream?

Once you’ve answered these questions, sit and feel what it would be like having all these things.  Then create a visual of your life having achieved your dream (including ALL of the motivations that excite you) and hold onto the visual with a determination and belief unlike any other. That’s your WHY.

P.S. If any of your motivations (for example, money) make you feel shame, you need to work on that because it’s most likely what’s holding you back. Your motivation is your motivation and as long as you’re not hurting anyone, there is no shame.

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