So you find yourself in the middle of a cutthroat industry. You attempt to navigate through all the adversity, rejection, and disappointments, but you constantly find yourself having to get back up and start again. Struggling to find your own place in the creative industry, facing situations like this could often result in demotivation. Especially when faced with failures and doubt, we get petrified and anxious. For clarity, let me dramatize this feeling into a super sad horror story;
After completing his short film, he was left with only one question: “now what?” He couldn’t put his anxiety into words, but “proud” was certainly not a word to describe his mind. He then attempts to focus on other things in his life, pushing this finished short film to the back burner. But, every now and again, this short film came back to haunt him, projecting questions that made him even more frightened. “What if it’s not good?” “What if people dislike it?” “Did I put too much effort into this nonsense?” “Will people be disappointed?” “What if it doesn’t work?” Then the worst of worsts came into fruition. He feels comfortable in the blur, the not-knowing, and the mystery. Not only did this film stay quietly in his hard drive, but he got used to the demotivation, eventually believing that “maybe I’m just not good enough.”
Okay. Enough with the fiction. However, different versions of this story occur in the real world. As a film student surrounded by people from various backgrounds seeking to achieve the same dream, amidst those struggling to keep going, I witnessed people caving in left and right. Honestly, it’s hard to see giving up as such a frowned-upon thing. When faced with reality, especially the brutal reality of the creative industry, sometimes folding your chair and finding another place to sit is an understandable thing to do. So I don’t think it’s necessarily kind to see people who venture elsewhere as the “fallen ones” or as “the other.” Because from where I see it, moving forward is not a given; it’s a choice.
So, let’s go back to an alternate beginning. So you find yourself in the middle of a cutthroat industry. Now what? Even when you decide to continue, turns out, the scary questions that’ll pop into your head are still the same. The anxieties continue, no matter which path you choose. What has to be fundamentally different is your attitude and your perspective towards it all. To move forward accounts for a significant amount of grit some of us struggle to find. I am currently standing in the middle. I obviously don’t know all the answers, but what I am trying to do is seek answers wherever I can get them.
Speaking of seeking answers wherever I can get them, during my internship with Minikino, I had the opportunity to speak with Clarissa Jacobson, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker. Just a few minutes into the meeting, I realized Clarissa has the same passion and tenacity as the various people I met in film school. A kind of raw and exhilarating thrill for creativity and telling stories.
From the talk, Clarissa seemed like the type of person whose energy could fill an entire room, even our virtual zoom meeting. During the talk, she explained in great depth her journey as a filmmaker. And believe me, her journey is wild. She first dreamt of being an actor, even attended acting school, and studied theater in college. Then, After realizing her passion for screenwriting, and being behind the scenes of the creative process, she pivots into a dream of filmmaking, a dream she graciously realizes through her phenomenal short film, Lunch Ladies (2022).
From her stories about her uphill battle to get the short film made, the first thing I realize is that most of the time, what truly matters is not what kind of film you are making; however, it’s who you are making with. Clarissa shared that surrounded by people who support and believe in her, she manages to bottle up this confidence into the creative process. A great support system consisting of people who help each other creatively and mentally could feel like a necessary breeze of fresh air. Especially in a cutthroat industry like short filmmaking.
Personally, having wonderful people who believe in me and my work has brought me past tough times. Just recently, I found myself in the middle of a difficult episode. I was struggling to find my footing in this industry and started questioning just how capable I was creative. I started burying myself in doubt, uncertainty, and self-hatred. Having gone past this, I can safely say that the most effective medicine for self-doubt is having great friends willing to pull you back to the surface. Hearing Clarissa acknowledging that being surrounded by good people is essential affirms this even more. Because, believe me, demotivation is very real, and I struggle with it almost daily. Okay, you know what? I have a confession to make. That horror story I wrote at the beginning? It isn’t entirely fictitious and maybe just a tiny bit autobiographical.
Speaking of the horrors of being doubtful, Clarissa is shining proof that being confident about your work is also hugely fundamental in this field. Yes, sometimes acknowledging your worth and qualities could seem obnoxious or embarrassing. Still, the way I now see it, thanks to Clarissa, confidence as an attitude can be used to fuel your creativity towards and even beyond the creative process. Being confident about your work helps you be passionate about delivering your projects artistically and strategically.
A cool example of this is how Clarissa distributes and promotes her films. The promotion for her short film Lunch Ladies, for instance, was handled extensively by Clarissa. Through outlets like social media and the film’s fantastic website, she published materials and funny blogs as the characters of the short film, writing festival reviews about where the film has been screened as the Lunch Ladies themselves! As expected, most of the answers I was desperately needing for were found during our talk. Most of all, she has that inspiring grit I talked about before, that immense determination towards her work, no matter how big the consequence she’s about to face.
Though Clarissa definitely motivates me to be more confident and eager to create, what I love about our talk was that she clearly wasn’t there to just blindly encourage us. A big pet peeve of mine in the world of “self-help” books and motivational quotes is that “just do it” has completely lost its meaning. Honestly, it’s excruciatingly hard not to roll your eyes whenever someone’s natural response to your struggle is simply “just do it.” Clarissa, on the other hand, did not fall into this trap. Her way of motivating us is by validating our struggle. She even shares her own specific problems she faced throughout her ongoing journey. Hearing her talk about her past struggles as a filmmaker, and being vulnerable about it, somehow validates the struggles I’m currently facing.
So let’s again go back to an alternate beginning for one last time. So you find yourself in the middle of a cutthroat industry. Now what? From the conversation with Clarissa, here are the answers I got. First, Surround yourself with the “right” people. Find people who don’t put up barriers, but rather somebody who helps you get through them. Because when you surround yourself with smart and kind-hearted people, every hike will feel lighter and joyous. Second, and probably the most important thing, is to believe in your projects. This is vital because when you source your energy into something you truly believe in, you will feel happy doing it, and from what Clarissa has proven, great energy results in great art.
Clarissa is an enlightening reality check for me. As someone still learning and struggling to find a place in this industry, I can use Clarissa as proof that if I’m one of the people who choose to chase this dream of making films, I better be prepared to fall, rise, and repeat.