Last year, I challenged myself to release 1 film a month, for the entire year...and some how I was able to complete it in one of the craziest years in modern history.
Prior to embarking on the journey, I set intentions for myself, and I not only met those intentions, I walked away with so much more knowledge of who I am as a filmmaker and as a person.
I also blogged for the majority of the films I released to keep a record of my experiences, things I learned, and things I wanted to continue doing. You can find the blog here.
Although, my journey was through film, I have a few key tips that any artist, of any concentration, can apply to their creative lives.
So, here's what I learned:
- Complete is always better than perfect.
As artists, many of us are wired to seek perfection. We toil over minutia, obsess over every detail. Of course, we want to put out the best work we are capable of, but the quest for perfection can be to our detriment. The works “in progress” pile up because we feel we can’t get it quite right and we’ve essentially wasted time and energy on something that we will never share. But what if the goal was completion rather than perfection?
Prior to beginning the challenge, I let go of the idea of making 12 perfect, or even good, films. I embraced the fact that I would make mistakes, in fact, rather than seeking perfection, I sought out error. It’s so true that we learn much more from making mistakes than we do from getting it right. Mistakes are a launchpad for learning and growth. As students of a craft, and of life, you are not living unless you are learning.
With a simple shift of focus, you can do more and learn more.
- Trust your gut.
If there was an essentials kit for artists, at least a sample size of self doubt would easily be in the pack. Because artistry is so subjective, it’s insanely easy to question whether something is “good” or not. And to be honest, I’m not sure if you can ever completely eradicate self doubt, but what you can do is get in tune with your gut; that instinctual feeling that pulls you in a direction when your brain is busy over analyzing.
There were many times during the film challenge when I planned to do one thing, and with less than two weeks or sometimes one week left in the month, I abandoned my initial idea and did something else. I got really good at trusting my instincts and when I did, I feel like I was able to create a better film as a result.
I also want to be clear and say, sometimes you have to just commit to a thing, knowing you’ll live to create another day. Sometimes it’s too late to abandon ship and turn around, but getting in tune with your gut, sharpening your instincts, and trusting yourself, will help you make the tough decisions to get to the finish line every time.
I know we hear this all the time, but it’s because it’s a major key. Collaboration provides inspiration, motivation, accountability, and so much more. Collaboration challenges us to see things differently. It pushes us to broaden our perspective, to sharpen our skills. It allows us to have, and be, a soundboard for ideas. But what I think is most important about collaboration is the ability to create and cultivate community. I was able to work with new people as a result of this challenge. I was able to strengthen relationships as a result of this challenge. I was able to expand my tribe as a result of this challenge.
We do not exist in a vacuum and neither does our art. When we release anything publicly, it stands alongside the work of others, creating context and dialogue amongst its consumers. Creating relationships with other artists, whether in your field or another, is an invaluable asset and one that should be approached with intention, authenticity and vigor.
- Commitment will carry you further than passion ever will.
The life of an artist is so romanticized. There’s still this notion that the driving factor of creativity is passion. That is not true, at least in my experience. I’ve found that the driving force for me is commitment. There are a handful of times when I considered quitting the challenge. It was becoming laborious in ways. Sometimes, I didn’t know what to do a film about. Sometimes, it just wasn’t any fun. What pushed me to keep going was my film tribe (shoutout Karla!!!) and my commitment to the challenge. Commitment grounded me when passion and inspiration abandoned me. I learned how to create without the “need” for inspiration. Sometimes, many times, the inspiration does not come until you’re already in the midst of making something, which is why commitment to creating trumps passion for creating.
I harken back to letting go of the idea of perfection and shifting focus. In the case of how we view creativity, looking at creativity as a practice is key. Practice is actionable, it is void of the pressure of goodness, and its purpose is progression. Treating creativity as an exercise requires a different thought process. Just like working any muscle, you must be dedicated, be consistent, and be disciplined in order to see progress. Concentrating on doing what you know how to do when you don’t know what to do will always garner a spark before waiting on some outside entity to strike you.
Passion can be fleeting. Commitment is a conscious and intentional decision.
About Briana Clearly:
Briana Clearly is a director, screenwriter, and self published author based in Chicago. She is currently an MFA student in Directing at DePaul University.
Clearly’s focus as a filmmaker is to tell Black Womxn stories. She believes in Black Womxn and other marginalized people owning their own narratives, in front of, and behind the camera.
Clearly was the winner of the Dear White People Film Competition in 2019, and won "Best Chicago Doc" at The Windy City Film Festival in 2019.
Clearly's works have been featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gentleman Jack's Real to Reel Chicago 2018 & 2019, Big Shoulders International Student Film Festival 2019, and more.
Briana's Silver Room Recommendations: