Producing Your Own Life


I woke up this morning feeling a little bit introspective, so forgive me if I go all Jack Canfield on you for this entry with a bit of “Reality TV For The Soul”.

Life, like reality television, is a tailored version of actual events that producers have some control over and upon which fate controls the other half.  The best that you can do is learn to be a good producer.

PREPRODUCTION

Well, there’s not much you can do about your life before you start it, but you really should plan your future “shoot dates” out a little.  Just like a reality shoot, moving forward without a plan can leave you with a lot of footage that doesn’t really mean anything.  You’ve heard it from me before, but I always have a one, five and ten year plan cooking.  The plans shouldn’t be about stuff (like, “I’m gonna have a Bentley when I’m 35” or such nonsense), but about personal growth and career.  This is the year, for example, that I’m working on my first documentary, just as I planned to on my “5 year” list in 2010.  

CASTING

While I’m sure you already know, the people you choose to surround yourself with affect you deeply, so you want to be sure you’ve got a handle on “casting”.  When a reality television cast member gets to be too demanding or becomes a huge pain in the butt, the producers may decide not to invite them back the next season.  Relationships that sap your energy rather than inspire you and bring you comfort are no good… but know that it’s also important to cast for conflict, selecting creative friends who will challenge you with conflicting, but inspiring, ideas.  When hiring staff, I always say that I’d rather have people with vision who are willing to challenge me on our content choices than people who just say “yes” and execute. I feel the same way about my friends. 

PRODUCTION

Always remember that you call the shots in your own life.  Barring acts of G-d, you are responsible for the story.  Don’t blame your camera operator or some random issue with the location… figure out the workarounds that will yield the most story.  So you didn’t land your dream job after you aced the interview… find a way to turn it into a relationship with the folks who brought you in, and find the next best version of your dream.  I moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, and the city handed me a shot in reality television just as it really started to boom.  Be open.  Adapt.  

POST-PRODUCTION

What you do with the content (experiences) you gather in the field is up to you.  You can be the person who allows their experiences to sour them and turn them hard, or you can be the person who uses those same experiences to take them in new directions.  You own the footage… how do you want to cut it?  

Let’s say you’ve just been through a breakup.  Are you talking about the person’s faults more than remembering the good times you had together?  Are you putting your experince in a box that says “Well, this person didn’t work out, so no one’s ever gonna want to be with me” or extending your story with “I really liked, X, but from this, I really think I know more about what I want and how to be treated, so I’m ready to look for someone who’s a little bit different”?  As with reality storytelling, every scene should be about advancing the story.  There should be no dead ends, only lots and lots of turning points.

PICKUP SCENES / INTERVIEWS

While in post, we often realize that we’ve missed something in the field or that something that happened needs a little bit of clarification in interview.  If you make the discovery in time, you might be able to ask for a pickup scene where cast members can discuss a topic you need in order to contextualize something else, or you can direct them to answer and clarify in pickup interviews.  

Have you not been in touch with someone for a long while because they blew up at you and you can’t tell why?  Reach out for that interview content.  Think you can resolve the issue over coffee so that you can continue your story together?  Sounds like a great pickup scene.

Remember, you’re the producer, so it’s your job to ask for it.

SCORING: EDITING IS COOL

Need a kick in the pants?  A little soundtrack to produce your life by?  Try this anthem by Bubbles and Cheesecake. It’s always worked for me. 

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