Season 2 – epiBLOG 7:

AUGUST THEME – “BACK TO SCHOOL”

Today is the day that I’ve been waiting for – a day that seemed to take forever to get here! I get to spend an entire week as a student learning from Mr. Jack Canfield himself! Yes, that’s right — Mr. Chicken Soup for the Soul! How awesome is that? The teacher becomes the student. I am definitely looking forward to this business seminar!

Obviously, this is perfect for the “Back to School” theme for this month’s blog series, as learning is always an important part of life. Today’s topic is about personal and career development. Some people believe that they stop learning when they graduate from high school or college. However, after each of these rites of passage is when the real life lessons actually begin.

Artists get better by honing their craft. As a screenwriter, I write, I read screenplays, I watch films, I read screenwriting blogs and books, and I read industry trade publications, etc. I do whatever I can on a regular basis to submerge myself into my craft so that I can get better. Every newly completed script is better than the last because I’ve learned something in the process of writing each one. I’m sure every working artist can relate to this process. The more you do, the greater you become.

The problem arises within some of us when we believe we’ve “arrived,” or are entitled to success because of who we know or because we picked up a paint brush… once… five years ago. It doesn’t work that way. Success comes to the people that have learned what they needed along their journey towards their goal, and are then rewarded by not only reaching that goal, but by experiencing the serendipitous benefits that surround the accomplishment.

Let me explain…

For example, I just wanted to produce my feature film Running on Empty Dreams because I was extremely passionate about the project and believed in it. That was my goal once upon a time. After the countless rejections of not getting producers in Hollywood to read it, and with the many more countless rejections from investors that I sought out myself, the experiences of temporary setbacks awakened within me a resolve that became unquestionable. I had to make this movie!

The journey of those rejections, speaking to my mentor to find solutions, filming a trailer to prove to investors that I can write, produce, and direct, and receiving the funding for the film less than a year after shooting that trailer, is the journey that I went on to reach that goal.

I learned from each of those experiences.

The rejections reminded me of my determination and persistence that was originally created within me as an athlete in high school. Speaking to my mentor taught me to be a better listener. Pulling scenes from my script in order to shoot a trailer over the course of a September weekend, taught me that I really can write, produce, and direct; it gave me a lot more confidence as a filmmaker before shooting an entire feature. Receiving the funding taught me that everything I learned along the way prepared me to have that money.

The benefits that came from creating that movie included an increase in self-esteem from accomplishment; fans who have watched the film and said that it positively touched their lives; actors who felt great about doing a movie that they were not only getting paid for, but one that they believed in; and this project, along with my Master’s degree, helped me to reach another goal of teaching Screenwriting at the college level – a job that I’m still currently doing simultaneously with film today.

What does this have to do with you as an artist? A lot. I am NOT one who enjoys the journey all of the time. I will be the first to admit that. Sometimes I just want to hurry up and get what I want. However, I understand why it’s there and why it’s part of the process before reaching your goal. That understanding helps me to stay focused on what I want and to keep moving forward.

Part of the journey for artists should be a constant in taking workshops and seminars within your field. Subscribing to relevant blogs, watching tutorials to hone your craft, and attending events and mixers to associate with like-minded people so that you can feed off of one another.

If you are an artist who owns your own business, you should also take business seminars, which is similar to the one that I’m in this week. My production company Balanced Entertainment Films, LLC is important to me and needs to be taken care of properly. In order to do this, I need to learn from other successful business owners and apply what can work within my field. This, in turn, helps me to be a better Screenwriting instructor to my students because I will share with them what I will use and what works for me within the independent film industry. This is what I’ve always done. A teacher that has done the work is a lot more effective than one who has only picked up a textbook – at least when it comes to screenwriting and producing movies.

Most importantly, create your art on a consistent basis. Don’t be a talker. Be a doer. Be a finisher. Be successful.

Create habits that constantly contribute to you learning!

Today’s LESSON is to always look for new opportunities to learn and grow as a person and as an artist.

FUN ASSIGNMENT: Research seminars and/or workshops online within your local area. Read the reviews and testimonials on them to make sure they are legitimate. Choose and register for at least one workshop or seminar within the next two weeks that you believe would benefit you in one or more of the 3 following ways: (1) with you personally, (2) with your art, or (3) with your business.

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