The Chicago Bulls are making an unlikely run into the 2014 playoffs. Absent superstar MVP Derrick Rose and former team leader and All-Star Luol Deng who was traded in January, the team is 36-15 in the New Year and one of the most feared in the league. I’m occasionally asked why I think so many who aspire to be filmmakers aren’t succeeding and my answer is always the same: they aren’t willing to do the work it takes to allow success to materialize. They don’t have the burning desire to win that drives the undermanned Bulls every time they step onto the court and in a word, they lack toughness.
Being successful at anything first requires a work ethic that outperforms the pack. Putting in the extra time and doing the little things that count often determines the difference between successful people and those who don’t achieve success. In almost every situation, talent takes a back seat to hard work and this season’s Chicago Bulls are living proof. Their star center Joakim Noah, though a proven player at the collegiate level, was given little chance by experts who doubted his ability to play at a meaningful level in the NBA. The ninth overall draft pick in 2007, he has improved every year and made the NBA All-Star team the past two seasons. He is surrounded by a rag-tag group of players that have been traded by other teams that no longer found them useful and they are the hardest working bunch on the floor on almost any given night. They create fits for their opponents and have defeated the World Champion Miami Heat and league-leading Indiana Pacers not once, but twice apiece this season.
The filmmakers I encounter most often don’t have any desire to do the hard work it takes to get a film made. At the independent level, it requires sacrifices that you wouldn’t be asked to make on mainstream movies with blockbuster budgets. This begins with learning how to approach investors and taking on the responsibility of finance, which scares the living hell out of young filmmakers who just want to practice their art and nothing more. They want to coach the team, but avoid the bloody battle that takes place in the trenches. They fail to understand the connection between hard work and success and want nothing to do with anything that puts them in a position of responsibility. I’m not talking about a few people here, but the vast majority who call themselves filmmakers. They want the perceived prestige they believe comes with directing a film, without any of the bruises that go along with getting there.
I blame this delusion on society. We’ve coddled this lost generation of Millennials into submission, and not taught them the importance of being self-sufficient. We’ve told them it’s okay to blame the economy and just about anything else they can find to blame for their failure to launch. In indie film circles, we’ve led them to crowdfunding waters where everyone can drink and they’ve never known what it means to be thirsty. We’ve championed the democratization of film and led them to believe that anyone can become a filmmaker. We’ve failed to give them a proper education in the value of hard work, where getting knocked down and getting back up is part of the process of being independent. Ask almost any young person what he thinks the moniker independent filmmaker stands for and he’ll tell you that it means free film—it means making any kind of film you want, even if you’re not getting paid for it. Free film is nothing more than another excuse for not getting off your ass—it’s another way of rationalizing your lack of success.
The opportunity to get into the game has never been greater for filmmakers. Investors are once again investing and they’re investing in films. The filmmakers who understand this are doing something about it—they’re incorporating their production companies and setting up Limited Liability Companies that allow them to solicit investments in their films. If they’re smart, they’re spending the majority of their time learning how to pitch those investors. If they are, they know how much work is involved. Financing movies is a ball-buster and quickly wears out the strongest among us. Those who succeed at it push on, every single day. They may not have the talent of those around them, but they’re outperforming their opponents and winning. They’re not relying on anyone but themselves to get movies made. They’re doing the work and finding success.