It’s Oscars Week! And while the Academy Awards don’t always honor everyone’s ideas about the best movies or performances of the year, it’s a fitting time to examine the careers and passions of your favorite performers and filmmakers.
They all started somewhere, most in total obscurity, with nothing but the movies they loved and a wealth of creativity they just had to exercise. Whether you’re a young person who likes making short films on her iPhone or an aspiring actor just now getting up the nerve to audition for his first play, the five pieces of advice below apply to you in one way another. You’ve got to learn to dream, collaborate and persevere in the right ways. Take it from the best of the best. Then, go do it.
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1. “When I was a kid, there was no collaboration. It’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” –Steven Spielberg
Let’s start with a legend. Spielberg has made some of the most entertaining and humane movies (for every Jurassic Park, there’s a Schindler’s List) of the last 40 years. He’s dead on here. Most creative people find their initial spark or ambition when they’re alone. They dream something up and later realize they need others to help execute it. But remember, you can’t grow as an artist if you only see collaborators as a means to an end. Value and grow their talents for maximum effect, and cherish the ways in which they make your work something totally different than it could be on its own.
2. “I’ve always studied people and been fascinated by their reactions and feelings. And I think that’s the best acting class you can take — watching real people, listening to them and studying them.” –Jennifer Lawrence
Sure, when a director calls cut, actors are technically off the clock. But a good student of human behavior is never truly off work. With this quote, Hunger Games and Silver LInings Playbook star Jennifer Lawrence speaks to the value of truly hearing and comprehending the people in your everyday life as part of your training as an actor. To act like a different person, you first must understand what it means for people from different backgrounds to live as human beings.
3. “You have to write your favorite thing that doesn’t exist.” –Jordan Peele
Most of the world was shocked when Jordan Peele wrote and directed the phenomenon known as Get Out. “Wait, what? The guy from that sketch comedy show made a horror movie about race in America? And it’s amazing!?” But Jordan Peele isn’t surprised. In the quote above, he makes a great case for trusting your own taste, your own love of entertainment and art. When you’re doing something as important as beginning your journey as an artist, don’t try to be someone you’re not! How would that even work?
4. “Writing is just self-doubt interspersed by drunken arrogance.” –Greta Gerwig
Like Jordan Peele above, Greta Gerwig broke new ground in film this year. She’s only the fifth woman ever to be nominated in the Oscars’ Best Director category. (Coincidentally, Peele is also just the fifth black person nominated for that same award.) With Ladybird, Gerwig made a film that speaks not only to the thrill and hardship of being a teenager but also how important it is to be true to your own goals and principles. Her quote here may be a little on the self-deprecating side, but if you unpack it, there’s a great lesson. Creating something from scratch is hard, and you should always respect the process. But at the same time, your best work might happen when you’ve forgotten your limits and pushed through into a new place where self-doubt doesn’t even exist. You can always edit yourself later!
5. “Don’t over-analyze why something works. Just go with it.” –the Duffer Brothers
Storytelling is storytelling, so let’s go to the realm of TV and the creators of Stranger Things for our last piece of advice. When the Duffer Brothers unleashed their incredibly successful Netflix show on the world, no one knew who they were. They were just a couple of people who wanted to make a TV show that recalled all their favorite ‘80s movies and spoke to what it was like to be a kid surrounded by mystery and wonder. Trusting your instincts is one of the most important things an artist can do. Again, there’s plenty of time to evaluate your work after you’ve been inspired, but don’t let an over-active mind get in the way of buckling down and doing something you think is amazing.