Things I Wish I’d Done Differently When I Began My Film PR Career

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I turn 37 on Friday.

I’m completely fine with ageing- in fact, I relish it. I think my life has opened up in exciting new ways from the time I turned 30 and I can’t wait to see what my life will look and feel like by the time I reach 40.

Of course, with the dawning of a new natal year comes a time of reflection, and recently I’ve been thinking about when I started my film PR career in 2013 (with Film Sprites PR being born in 2014). There’s definitely a few things I wish I’d done differently. I don’t regret pursuing my career in a different manner, but there are some ‘tweaks’ I would have made earlier on that I believe might have made a difference.

So, why am I talking about this, and what are the implications for you, dear reader?

Perhaps you’ll gain some insight into your own goal-setting and career path. If you want a little bit more information about pathways to a job in publicity and digital marketing that are a bit more pain-free than the way I started, you can read about them in a recent guest post I did for We Make Movies on Weekends.

I’m also talking about this because so often on the Internet and on social media we see a very sanitized, edited version of people’s lives. We’ve seen an influx of beauty products touted to help you achieve a perfect selfie (including colour correcting concealer and tooth whitening pens)! I always talk about authenticity in social media, and here I am, pondering the past and bringing to light the messier, muckier aspects. It’s a crash course in not doing what I did! So what do I wish I’d done differently?

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I regret not having a business plan: when I started in publicity, I was working as a freelancer under my own name. I didn’t have a goal to start a PR consultancy…I just wanted to be head-hunted. But fate had different ideas, and when I popped on Twitter on April 17th of 2014 to ask if filmmakers were looking for publicity and digital marketing assistance, the influx of requests took me aback. I literally had to work backwards! I didn’t have any seed money, my branding was very quickly knocked out on Canva in about 5 minutes, and I definitely did not have a business plan.

By the time I met with a business mentor in 2016 to ask about drawing up a business plan, however, he looked at my website and branding (which by now were up to standard) and went; “you need a business plan…why?”

I still wish I’d had it. Back in 2014 I was flying by the seat of my pants which only worked for a small amount of time before I had to go back to the drawing board again.

And again.

And again.

Even if you’re not going to be setting up your own business, I thoroughly recommend sketching out your long, medium and short-term goals. I knew what I wanted, I also knew what I wanted to provide in my role as a publicist, but I couldn’t articulate it- never a good thing when you work in an industry which requires clear communication!

I regret not attending networking events sooner: the beauty of working at home is that, well, you work from home. If you’re an introvert, you have the ease of not having to stick your neck out. But that can also be detrimental. Although I had spent from July of 2013 right up to the day I asked if people wanted my services constantly networking online, doing online networking still can’t fully replace networking with your colleagues and peers face-to-face. Thankfully now I enjoy networking events and the chance to meet people in various industry roles. If, like me, you’re an introvert you might want to check out a recent post I did about self-promotion and networking. These are strategies I’ve found that work very well.

I would have learned how to set up my website earlier than I did: initially, I started with a WordPress blog. Although it was rudimentary,  it did the job…at least for the first few months. Eventually the blog morphed into this website, with a blog attached. But that would happen a year and a half into working at Sprites. That’s a long time when you consider that a website is one of the places people come to to ascertain whether you’re a suitable fit for their services or not.

There are times when I didn’t listen to my gut…and I definitely learned the hard way: your intuition is an incredible tool. It’s that voice and feeling inside that tells you when things are going well…and when they’re not. My intuition tends to be very highly tuned now. If something is amiss, I have an internal GPS that feels like a guitar string snapping. When things are going well or I get an intuitive nudge in the right direction, it’s all tickety boo. But there have been times when I haven’t listened to my intuition to my detriment.

I definitely find that meditation and mindfulness practices really help to fine-tune your intuition.

What advice would I give to my younger self, and to anyone chasing their dreams? Believe in yourself. First and foremost, you have to have the grit and determination to see things through. Sometimes a goal can be a very lonely thing- people may not understand what you’re doing, you may have to go it alone for a very long time. So it’s imperative that when all the doors seem closed and you feel like you’re in an echo chamber you truly believe in yourself and your capabilities. The more you believe in yourself, the more willing you are to prove yourself to the world. The more willing you are to prove yourself to the world, the more people will see what you can do. It’s a snowball effect. Never give up, never give in.

 

How I Built Film Sprites PR

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If you want to find out how to make triple digits in a year….this is not the right post for you.

Similarly, if you’re looking for juicy stories about red carpets and celebrity encounters…this is also not the right post for you.

So, why should I bother reading?, you might say. Well, if you want to gain some insight on chasing your dreams, being of service to a community you’re passionate about, and how to thrive (and not just survive) after disaster and loss…this is definitely for you. If you got up this morning, feeling hopeless about a cherished dream and stumbled across this post, then perhaps this is for you. In fact, when I first started I wish I had someone who could give me insight into their path and perhaps inspire me to pursue my dreams further. Maybe I can do that for you.

Auspicious beginnings

Film has been my great love for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, I recall my first trip to the cinema with my Mum to see Labyrinth on the big screen. I remember the colour and pattern of the cinema complex’s carpet, the other film posters on the walls (films like Blind Date and Masters of the Universe were playing), the smell of popcorn, Fizzy Fruits and Jaffas…and the magic on the screen. Growing up, I could remember every film I went to with friends, every film I saw at slumber parties and the classic films that made a huge impression on me. It was an illicit viewing of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting as a teenager that really cemented my passion for films, however. I began to seek out films that went above and beyond the traditional blockbuster fare, immersing myself in Kubrick, Bergman, and following Quentin Tarantino’s then-blossoming career. There had been the odd thought about working in the film industry when I was older…but I dismissed it as easily as you’d flick a fly away from your face. People I knew didn’t work in the film industry. They picked a trade or got a Bachelor’s, they went to nursing school or teacher’s college. I had considered working in PR, however- I had been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers from the age of 11 (yes really!), and was a freelance journalist at the age of 17 while still in school. I wrote articles for the Christchurch Press’s now defunct youth interests page.

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One of my articles for the Christchurch Press’s YOUth page (now defunct)

Unfortunately, a very severe bout of glandular fever with complications meant that by the time I left school I didn’t have the energy to pursue a definite career path straight away, and when I did I chose teaching. I should have known that that wasn’t the right path for me, because every Thursday when I didn’t have any classes or lectures in the afternoons I would sneak away and watch a film at the local cinema. I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of going to the movies alone, but I loved it. You block the rest of the world out. You become one with the screen. Nothing else matters.

Crisis Point

I didn’t finish my teaching degree, and ended up aimlessly working through my 20s in various roles, including retail and administration. But 2011 would dramatically change everything. The old would be swept away whether I liked it or not. I didn’t think a natural disaster could have such a dramatic impact on my life…but it did.

Christchurch Earthquake Building

We’d had an earthquake in September of 2010 and while it was large in magnitude, Christchurch managed to try and get back to normal as soon as possible. We had a huge amount of aftershocks, something which is unnerving and deeply unsettling, but we didn’t think it could get any worse than that. February 22, 2011 proved us wrong.

I was one of the fortunate ones- my friends and family all came out unscathed, and while we had to boil water that came to us from milk tankers for a week or so, we had power. My flat was structurally sound, my parents were fine and we even celebrated my partner’s birthday 5 days after the quake with a small chocolate mud cake we managed to source from a local supermarket. But I didn’t come out completely unscathed. I was a wreck. I lost hope. I grieved for the people who had lost their lives…and I grieved for the city I had grown up in. Things got very, very dark.

The Muses to the Rescue

It’s a very strange feeling to grow up in a place that seems to change gradually over time and then have everything seemingly change overnight. For months after the quake I struggled seeing landmarks and places I’d known by heart suddenly disappear. Huge swathes of land in the central city and in the suburb where I grew up suddenly became a blank canvas. You would have clusters of particularly violent aftershocks that would have you at your wit’s end. I stayed with a friend up north for a week and one day her dog bumped the chair I was sitting in and immediately my nervous system registered it as an aftershock. They thought it was hilarious. I didn’t. I stopped going to the cinema, which was a really bad sign for me. It wasn’t that I was afraid that a bad aftershock might happen….I just didn’t have the strength and energy.

But then a limited screening happened that tempted me out of my house and into the cinema….and something clicked. The muses of cinema poked and prodded at me, and I for the first time in what seemed like forever I felt like I was stirring from a slumber. I was so inspired that by the time I left the screening I couldn’t speak. I didn’t want to speak. It felt like such a sacred moment that words would feel dirty at that moment. I knew I had to make a change. I had waited too long to really, truly live my life and achieve my dreams. This was it- there was no turning back.

Thank You, Amanda Palmer

There’s a brand of cheese here in New Zealand whose tagline in their commercials is ‘Good Things Take Time’, and that’s exactly what happened with my career. I had gotten a Bachelor of Arts in my mid-twenties, but I pursued a Certificate in Public Relations and Business Communications as well. While I was studying, I began to network with filmmakers around the world and build up my social media network. I figured, hey- it’ll be easy getting a film job…right? Not quite. After asking for advice, a few closed doors and not really knowing where the heck I was going, something happened that I didn’t expect.

It was April 17, 2014. That morning, I had stumbled across Amanda Palmer’s TED talk on The Art of Asking. Another truth bomb, another flash of inspiration…but I didn’t do anything with that inspiration immediately. Prior to this, I think I expected the Universe to do the heavy lifting for me. I’d actually missed out on a really huge opportunity in 2013 but I was 2 weeks too early for it (my intuition kept telling me on the day I was due to fly to Wellington and it was snowing that I should re-schedule my flight for 2 weeks’ time, but did I listen? Noooo!). I went about my day, doing rather mundane things but a little voice inside me kept saying: “ASK.” Ask? Ask for what? Ask who? It then suddenly became clear to me- I have built up a reasonable following on Twitter, primarily within the film community…why don’t I just ask if they want publicity and digital marketing help? So I did.

At the end of the day I had my first 3 clients.

By the end of that weekend I had 6.

By the end of April I had 12.

And Film Sprites PR was born.

Of course, here’s the caveat: don’t do what I did! Or, if you do, make sure you have the things I didn’t have when I started; things like seed money, a clear brand with a clear message and a great website. I ended up having to cobble things together and pick up things I had no clue about, like SEO, because I didn’t have the money to outsource. I learned website design. I learned graphic design basics. I began to build up a fully fleshed-out and realised brand. Even though it was a messy start, I don’t regret that at all. It makes for a cute story, but also I look back at what I didn’t know then and compare it to what I know now and I’m proud of my progress. Film Sprites PR has assisted over 25 filmmakers in NZ, the US, UK, Canada and Australia with publicity, digital marketing and crowdfunding campaign assistance. Sprites has worked with filmmakers whose portfolios have included films that have starred the likes of Norman Reedus, David Carradine, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Claire Foy. Most importantly to me, Sprites has helped to connect filmmakers to their audiences and helped them create a strong brand around their filmmaking.

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Some of Film Sprites PR’s past and present clients

The Future….

Believe it or not, I never actually wanted to work for myself. It’s true! I had always thought about building up my skills and expertise and a strong portfolio and eventually take on a role with a distributor or studio. That’s still something I’m aiming for, and something I would like to happen in the future. But for now, I’m really excited about what’s happening and what the future holds, both for me and for the filmmakers I’m honoured to work with.

If there’s anything you can take away from my story, I hope it’s this: following your heart and honouring your truth are vital. There are so many things the world can take away from us physically, emotionally or mentally, but your truth is something that can never be denied within you. You don’t have to do something as dramatic as starting a business, but you can start your own personal revolution right now. Don’t wait.

 

 

 

Lessons From the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Recently, it was my 36th birthday (hooray! Or maybe boo…I still haven’t decided). For the past 5 years I have been celebrating my birthday the same way: I have a Marvel movie marathon. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a massive Marvel fan- I love the comics and the MCU equally. In fact, you can hear my own “origin story” on the Cinema After Dark Podcast! In fact, working in the Publicity Department of Marvel Studios was definitely my dream job. But, hey, I love what I do now.

Each year, the selection of films in the marathon tend to change due to the fact that the Marvel cinematic universe grows more each year, but the level of enjoyment is still the same.

You may know that on the blog there is a semi-regular feature about cinematic life lessons (Doctor Strange was one of the films to feature recently). During my Marvel movie marathon this year, I thought about how so many of the Marvel films have a wealth of lessons in them (as do the Marvel comics themselves). So seeing as today is National Comic Book Day, I’m bringing you cinematic life lessons from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To avoid frustration: SPOILER ALERT! Yes, there will be spoilers. Hopefully there’s a little bit of inspiration for everyone in this post.

Ready? Suit up and let’s get down to business:

Let the past make you better, not bitter: Ahhh, Loki. He’s got more daddy issues than Gamora and Nebula (and let’s face it- they have a right to be screwed up due to the fact that they have Thanos as a father). Abandoned by his Jotun father for being sickly and small, he was taken in by Odin in case he could be used as a bartering chip with the Jotuns (considering he had been abandoned to die by his father, he’s not exactly going to be a particularly useful bartering chip, but I digress…). Growing up without knowing that he was really an Ice Giant and believing that he was the blood brother of Thor, Loki discovers the secret of his heritage to his horror…and things go downhill from there. Cue slaughtering his birth father, falling from the Bifröst, attempting to enslave Earth, faking his death and ousting his adoptive father from the throne of Asgard. Oh dear.

Now, Loki wasn’t exactly snow white to begin with (no pun intended), but the truth behind his heritage solidified his stance. Instead of rising above his untraditional start in life, he channeled his efforts into rage and maliciousness.

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Loki: cold-hearted….literally.

 

But look at some of the other characters in the Marvelverse- Tony Stark loses both parents in his early twenties, Steve Rogers becomes an orphan as well, and even though T’Challa seeks revenge initially after the death of his father, he ends up offering refuge to the man he believed was responsible for his father’s death.

Every one of us goes through tragedies in our lives. They’re painful, unexpected and life-altering. And while it’s so easy to feel helpless, we have the choice to be better, or remain bitter.

This too shall pass:  Who’d have thought the MCU could teach you about impermanence! Doctor Stephen Strange is a hotshot neurosurgeon. He’s pretty sure that his prowess, success and accolades will last forever. He will save lives and be rewarded for it with praise and a hefty salary. That’s what he went to medical school for, right?

But then a near fatal car accident strips everything away. What he thought was permanent was not. On the flip side, when he came to Kamar-Taj almost completely penniless and hopeless with hands that he believed were worthless, he discovers that this was an impermanent state as well. With the guidance of the Ancient One and opening up his own latent metaphysical abilities, he saw that he could again use his hands for something better. He could again save lives but in a different capacity.

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Stephen Strange: from world-famous neurosurgeon to Sorcerer Supreme

Bad things do not last. But neither do good things. Our lives resemble an ocean’s tide patterns: it ebbs, it flows. So what does one do with this impermanence? I’m not eloquent enough to explain it, but I discovered a beautiful post about the lessons of impermanence and the story of King Solomon’s Ring (which is where the phrase ‘this too shall pass’ comes from) over at The Emotion Machine. It really is worth a read.

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When he’s actually opening the door for you but you think it’s a hug… #awkward

Got goals? Find a mentor: Peter Parker has Tony. Doctor Strange had the Ancient One. When you’re learning new skills, or reaching for your goals a mentor is a huge asset. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to traipse through the streets of Kathmandu or be found via YouTube by a billionaire philanthropist playboy. Check out our post on How To Find A Mentor (And Be A Fabulous Mentoree).

With friends, it’s quality, not quantity: in the digital age we’re likely to have a huge amount of friends and followers on social media, but how many good friends do we have in ‘real life’? The most poignant friendship in the whole of the MCU has got to be that of Cap and Bucky. Steve and Bucky were childhood friends who grew up together and eventually fought together after Steve managed to rescue Bucky’s captured squadron in Italy during WWII. They would end up fighting together again in order to keep Bucky from being captured after he was wrongly accused of the bombing which killed T’Challa’s father during the signing of the Sokovia Accords. Even though Steve counts Sam Wilson (Falcon) as one of his close friends, and was close to Tony Stark pre-Civil War, Bucky will always be the numero uno bestie in Cap’s life.

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Steve without Bucky is like macaroni without cheese

As for other prominent BFFs in the Marvelverse? Tony’s got a lot of fame and prestige, and that has a tendency to draw a lot of fake friends. Thankfully, he’s found a cerebral chum in Bruce Banner, the two of them sharing a love of science and tech (even if they did unleash Ultron and have to clean up the mess afterwards). Peter Parker’s got Ned, a massively devoted bestie who ends up being able to help Peter under pressure (and sometimes egging him on to do things he shouldn’t do, like disabling the tracker in his new enhanced Spidey suit and unlocking the full range of features in the suit). You don’t need a million friends to make your life interesting! You’re an interesting person as you are and a few good friends are worth more than a million fakes.

Don’t just settle for what you’re good at: Post- Super Serum infusion (and the melee that followed), Steve was offered a role touring with the USO as Captain America, a patriotic character to help bolster support for the war effort and the purchasing of war bonds. After initial reluctance, he began to shine in the role, the character of Captain America being good publicity for the US war effort overseas. But there’s only so many times you can punch Hitler onstage without getting tired of it. By the time Steve and the USO land in Italy to entertain the troops, he’s pretty much had enough of not being able to fight alongside the troops. So when he hears that Bucky’s squadron is MIA, he defies direct orders, saves the squad…and the rest is history.

You can spend a lifetime doing what you’re good at, or you can stretch yourself further, gain new skills and expand your world even more.

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Gamora and Nebula: taking sibling rivalry to the extreme

Sometimes family are the people we choose: the Marvelverse is definitely a place of family dysfunction. There’s the whole Loki situation, Gamora and Nebula’s fractious relationship (which, when your Papa is an intergalactic megalomaniac who forced you to fight one another is pretty understandable), Natasha never knew the meaning of the word ‘family’ and was trained to be an assassin from a young age, and Peter Quill’s papa was a Celestial! These families aren’t the stuff of dreams by any imagination. Sometimes, instead of having close ties to blood relatives, we form bonds with people that are unrelated to us. We create a family. The most obvious example of this in the MCU is the Guardians of the Galaxy. Here’s a ragtag bunch of intergalactic outlaws, but they’ve banded together as a familial unit (albeit a chaotic one). And before Peter met up with Gamora, Groot, Drax and Rocket, he was welcomed into the fold by Yondu and his Ravagers…even if Peter spent most of his life convincing the Ravagers not to eat him. Of course, by the end of GotG Vol 2 the team have got a teenaged Groot on their hands…ohhh boy…!

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I’m not sure I’m ready for Teenaged Groot, so here’s an excuse to put a picture of Baby Groot in this post for maximum cute factor. Awwww.

It’s not about the super-suit: it’s cheesy but true: it’s what’s inside that counts. Look at Steve Rogers! Even when facing Red Skull he declares he’s “just a kid from Brooklyn”. Well, that kid from Brooklyn was skinny and small until he was given the Super Soldier Serum via Dr Erskine and a dose of Vita Rays thanks to Stark Industries. But the Serum enhances what is already inside the patient. In Johan Schmidt’s case, it amplified his evil and turned him into the grotesque Red Skull. In Steve’s case it made him faster and stronger. But pre-Serum or post-Serum, one thing remained the same with Steve: he had a good heart and a sense of right or wrong. He lined up countless times at recruiting offices (albeit illegally sometimes), because he was passionate about serving his country and defeating the enemy. When he hears about Bucky’s squadron being captured in Italy, he’s not going to wait for anyone else to intervene when he knows he can help. His good nature may have enhanced his abilities post-Serum, but it was there all along.

Here’s another example: Peter Parker. Yes, he’s got superpowers, but before Tony Stark got involved (and gave him a tricked out new suit), he was saving people in a DIY suit. He doesn’t just have the superpowers, he’s got the brain to match, something that no bite from a radioactive spider could provide. And when he gets into a massive mess and Tony takes the enhanced suit away, he’s left without web options, suit warming and other functions the Stark suit had provided. He’s got to rely on the powers he has, his cunning, and the help of bestie Ned.

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Yeah, you’re cool. But are you “Peter Parker in the enhanced Spider-Man suit, sitting on a balcony, eating a sandwich” cool?

And speaking of Tony Stark, remember Iron Man 3? Tony spent most of the movie without his suit. He has to rely on his ingenuity and an array of home-made weapons. What happens when you lose everything you’ve relied on, including your home and your tech? You summon up your wits, your strength, and everything you have inside you to face the challenge.

Doctor Strange may have become the owner of the Cloak of Levitation, but prior to the Cloak becoming part of his arsenal he was a fast learner of sorcery, using his photographic memory to whiz through ancient texts that would take another student twice as long. He transcended the failing of his hands as a surgeon to become a sorcerer and defend the world from intergalactic threats. This ability had been in him all along, but he needed the right guidance and training in order to bring it to light.

The suit, the tech, the outside trappings….they’re nothing compared to what’s inside us all. We don’t need capes to be heroes. We don’t have to be genetically enhanced or be the child of a Celestial to achieve greatness. It’s all there inside us, an untapped source of power and greatness. Go forth and find your own inner superpowers.

You Matter: A Call To All Creatives, Dreamers and Entrepreneurs

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When I was 10 years old, I had a teacher who decided it was a good idea to put the word “eccentric” on my personal record. I would never had found out about this, had it not been a rainy day when all of the class was inside and my personal record was open on the desk. Her bowels turned to liquid the moment I saw her after lunch and said: “I’m eccentric, am I?” I remember the blood draining from her face as she realised she had left my record open on the desk for all to see…including myself.

For years, that one comment, written in ballpoint pen, haunted me. I’d been called “weird” by my classmates…but to have an adult say it (especially one in a position of prominence in my life)…it must a)be true and b)also be a really, really bad thing. So I let it rattle around in my head for years and years, and instead of embracing the fact that being eccentric could actually be a good thing, I let it erode my confidence and my interactions with other people. As I got older, however, I discovered that being a little bit “different” in other people’s eyes is actually a good thing. I used to get bullied for being interested in computers, and now they’re commonplace, and as a result of being an early adopter of personal computing in the 1980s I was able to jump on the social media zeitgeist early as well.

Why am I telling you my personal sob story about being the “weird kid”? Because so many of us out there were the “weird kids” growing up. We were the ones who were bullied for what was deemed socially “uncool”, the things our peers  (and sometimes family members) didn’t understand. Quite often, it’s the creatives, dreamers and entrepreneurs of this world who have had to endure the pain of being isolated for what they love and who they are. I love this quote from George R.R. Martin (when Tyrion is giving counsel to Jon Snow):

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

 

Whether you’re in the process of making your first film, working on a fledgling business, or trying to make your life better after tragedy, know this- you matter. Birthing anything into the world can be a lonely process, filled with doubt, regardless of the medium or purpose. There will be some friends and family who don’t understand what you’re doing. Well-meaning people will tell you “horror stories” to try and make you “see sense”. Sometimes, you will walk the path alone- it’s your path to walk, nobody else’s. There’s a reason for that, and it’s got nothing to do with your inherent worth. Remember (and I’m about to geek out on you again here) in The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda was instructing Luke, and Luke had to enter the cave by himself? Exactly. Did he end up alone at the end of the film? Nope. He was alone again *SPOILER ALERT* when Rey meets up with him at the end of Ep VII, but again there would have been a reason for him to be alone, because that was yet another point on his journey where he needed to tread the path on his own.

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Photo by Rich Lock on Unsplash

Believe in yourself and your dream. First and foremost, you need to be your own cheerleader. When others see how much you believe in what you are doing, and how passionate you are about it, that’s when you start to open doors.

The world needs you. Whether you’re writing your first novel, teaching drama to underprivileged children, or composing a score for a film, we need the creatives, entrepreneurs and dreamers of the world to help make the world less lonely, less bland. And yes, there have been times throughout my journey where I have had dark teatimes of the soul, times when it seemed easier to tap out than to continue…but if you get into a similar situation, ask yourself: if I quit today, what will tomorrow look like? In my case, I couldn’t bear to think about a tomorrow that didn’t involve working in the film industry. I just couldn’t. It was a lifelong love, and would physically hurt if I quit. Things have been tough, but I’ve taken it one day at a time and kept going.

So, why did I choose to write about this, instead of a post about social media marketing, filmmaking or publicity? Because sometimes you just need to hear that there are other people out there that have gone through the same things you have. Sometimes, you need to know that other people “get” the creative struggle. Let this be your sign that you are seen and heard…and that you matter.

Want To Give Up On Your Dream? Read This

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Trying to achieve any kind of dream is hard work, and seeing progress is the fun part. But there are times along the way when you may feel like chucking it in: the project stalls, you can’t see any forward momentum, or you’ve faced a massive disappointment. It’s completely natural to feel all the feels and want to give up. And yes, I’ve been there! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up. I’m still here to tell the tale, though, and right now I’m moving further towards my next goal more than ever before.

One of the reasons I was compelled to write this post was because, admittedly, I did have a recent period where I was ready to give up, and thankfully I didn’t. I wished, however, that someone had been able to give me the sort of pep talk I’m about to give you…and thus this blog post was born. So here’s some of the things I’ve learned about wanting to give up, and how to reset it and move forward:

Acknowledge that you want to give up…but do something about it: I think we’re conditioned to want to eliminate all the bad stuff and just be happy. But putting on a brave face can sometimes be worse than if we faced the issue head-on. So you want to give up? Acknowledge how you’re feeling. Say it if you have to. And then ask yourself why you want to give up.

Here’s an idea: Set a timer, grab a piece of paper and a pen (or open a document on your tablet/computer) and write for 5 minutes. Don’t judge it, just let whatever comes through come through for you. After 5 minutes, look at what you wrote down. Is there anything on the list that you can do something about so you don’t quit?

Let me give you an example: let’s say you want to give up on your dream of working for yourself, and one of the things you wrote down was that you can’t get enough time to do online courses that could help you. How can you change that? Look at the way your day is scheduled and see where you can make changes. Can you exchange a few episodes of Orange is the New Black for time dedicated to an online course? Being proactive when it comes to the things that make you want to give up can give you renewed momentum and help you to turn things around.

Never Lose Hope Graffiti

Take a break: true story- a year before Film Sprites PR came into being, I was studying, working, and networking. Not uncommon when you’re changing career, but I was so driven and determined that I took it to the extreme. I would be up until midnight, writing, networking, chasing leads, then I’d be working 8 hours in a day job the next day. Then I’d come home, pull out my textbooks, do my assignments, and subsequently continue networking again from about 9:00pm until midnight. And on and on it went. Weekends? Fugheddaboutit.

As a result, I caught a cold that turned to the worst case of bronchitis I have ever experienced. And I crashed. In fact, when my niece and her dad came down to stay with us on holiday, I couldn’t get out of bed for most of the time. She would show me souvenirs from her day trips and say: “I hope you can come next time”….and it broke my heart. There will be times when you do have to amp up your efforts, but don’t sacrifice your physical and mental wellbeing for it. Sometimes, when we want to give up it can be a subtle sign that what we really need is rest. Put things aside for a day, a week, a year. Have social media-free days. When you give yourself a break, regardless of the time period, chances are you are going to come back to your goal with renewed energy, vigor and inspired ideas.

Remember WHY you started: if I had to give just one piece of advice, this would be it. So often we get caught up in the minutiae of goals. Sometimes, we can seem completely adrift from what it was we wanted to do in the first place. When you’re wanting to give up, that’s the absolute best time to remember why you started. Write it down, blog about it, revisit whatever it was that inspired you to achieve your dreams and goals. Does that WHY still resonate with you? If it does, go forward bravely. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too- you might want to try the techniques above and re-evaluate or tweak your goal. Our goals change with us, because our lives change. Some dreams stay relevant, some transform and grow as we do.

It’s OK to ask for what you want: one of my favourite people in the entire world is singer/songwriter/performer Amanda Palmer. In fact, just prior to establishing Film Sprites PR I watched her TED talk The Art of Asking…which prompted me to hop on Twitter and ask filmmakers I knew if they needed publicity and digital marketing for their films (and thus Sprites was born!). Subsequent to the TED talk, Amanda wrote a brilliant book of the same name. I thoroughly recommend seeking out both, because whether you’re an artist, an entrepreneur, a filmmaker or a dreamer they are indispensable on your journey. Which brings us to our next point, in an albeit rambly way: ASK. Whether it’s reaching out to a potential mentor to help you so you don’t want to quit, or asking for volunteers to help lighten your load, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need.

And remember: if you want to give up on a dream or goal- that’s fine too! Ultimately, you are the best judge of what is right for you. No matter what your decision, just know that you’ve got one big supporter here.

Great Reads for Filmmakers

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It was the great Groucho Marx who said: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read”. I’m hoping that anyone reading this post has not mastered reading inside a dog, but I think Groucho’s assessment of the magic of books is correct. And if you are an indie filmmaker, books can be a wise investment on your journey. Whether it’s technical texts or books to inspire, having a resource library at your disposal is very useful. Quite often when conversing with filmmakers, if there’s a book I know of that I think will be useful or that they will find interesting, I definitely make a recommendation. I also try and do an update on this subject on the blog as I find books that I know filmmakers, producers, people aspiring to work in the film industry, or entrepreneurs may find useful (and most importantly enjoyable).

Here’s an updated list of reading recommendations for filmmakers, people wanting to broaden their film industry knowledge base, entrepreneurs and dreamers everywhere.

Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign- 2nd Edition- John T. Trigonis

If you want to gain funds for your indie film via crowdfunding, this is THE book to read. John T. Trigonis knows his stuff. Filmmaker, strategist and so much more besides (check out his exceptional bio on his website), he has successfully crowdfunded his own projects, given a TEDx talk, and mentored some incredibly high-profile crowdfunding campaigns with successful results. This is the book I recommend to every single filmmaker who is about to undertake crowdfunding. It’s also an enjoyable read. Think of it as like having John sitting you down for a quick consult to make sure you’re prepped and ready to go.

Success in Film: A Guide to Funding, Filming and Finishing Independent Films- Julia Verdin and Matt Dean

This is an excellent guide for anyone getting involved in independent films in any capacity. Whether you’re a producer, director, publicist or actor, it’s a guide I thoroughly recommend, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s also a guide that will interest film-lovers who want to know more about the filmmaking process (and in particular the world of independent film). Julia and Matt detail the steps involved in independent filmmaking: from finding your script, through to creating a business plan for potential investors and/or distributors, right through to publicity and marketing of your film and the filmmaking process. It’s a dynamic and inspiring read with practical, no-nonsense advice. And it’s advice that comes from a deep well of knowledge: Julia Verdin is one of Hollywood’s leading independent producers/directors, so the knowledge comes from a wealth of experience. It’s definitely the kind of book you can read in one sitting.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It- Steven Pressfield

So, why should you believe Steven Pressfield when he says nobody wants to read your sh*t? Pressfield has had the benefit of having a career that has spanned advertising, screenwriting, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and self-help. His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, became a Dreamworks film, but it took seventeen years for his first writing cheque. He’s someone who has been ‘in the trenches’ and knows his stuff. Whether you’re writing a screenplay, aspiring to be a novelist or wanting to know how to connect with your audience authentically through your narrative, this book is excellent. You can read a sample on the Black Irish Books website.

Choose Yourself! and Reinvent Yourself!- James Altucher

Choose Yourself! and subsequently Reinvent Yourself! are two books I recommend to anyone. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, an entrepreneur, or if you’re currently striving for your goals but have nagging doubts about how things are going to pan out, these books are for you. We’re no longer living in a world where we take one job in a little cubicle for the rest of our lives. Society has changed, technology and communications have changed. These books are a rallying cry to the self-starter, the indie filmmaker, the dreamer and anyone willing to take a chance on themselves and make things happen.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die- Steven Jay Schneider (editor), updated by Ian Haydn Smith

I’ll never forget receiving the first edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I pored over it time and again until it became dog-eared, coffee stained and with a cracked spine. I would put little red ticks on the top corner of the pages of the films I had seen and aimed to see all 1001 films in the book. Unfortunately, I can’t recall how many I managed to see in that edition! Updated with each edition, film critics from around the world write magnificent entries for the films they believe require inclusion into the list. It also contains gorgeous colour photographs and vital statistics about each film. This is one resource that is always a cause for great discussion, especially when it comes to debating the merits of one film over another, or arguing for a beloved film that didn’t “make the cut” in the latest edition (pun fully intended). It’s such a gem of a book that I recommend it to every single cinephile.

How To Find A Mentor (And Be A Fabulous Mentoree)

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When I first founded Film Sprites PR, I did everything on my own. I came from having my Bachelors’ degree and my PR certification to building a business from scratch (and almost accidentally!). But the time came when I could no longer learn through doing…I needed some mentoring- I was looking for my Yoda, my Obi-Wan, my Ancient One, my Tony Stark. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go to some far-flung galactic swamp to be taunted by a wrinkled green Muppet to receive the assistance I needed.

No matter what industry you are in, mentoring is a great idea. Having a mentor means you can receive insights and assistance from someone who is removed enough from your situation that they can give you impartial and practical steps to help you step fully into your greatness.

So, how do you find a mentor? Thankfully in the digital age it’s not difficult to find your own Yoda:

1. Business mentoring schemes: research business mentoring schemes in your community. Some business mentoring schemes are free of charge, some charge a small fee and then subsidize the rest of the fee that would be going to the mentor they select for you, based on your goals.

2. People in your industry (or the field you’re interested in entering): chances are, if you’ve been networking (either in person or via social media), you may have identified people who could be valuable mentors. Perhaps they’re working for a company you desire to work for, or they have qualities you want to embody. Whatever initially led you to pinpointing them as a potential mentor- go with it! Be aware, however, that some people are not keen on mentoring and that’s okay. They may be able to refer you to somebody else who could be of assistance, or resources that can help you.

Start networking with these contacts prior to getting in touch via email/LinkedIn message. One of the things I have found in the 5 years I’ve been working in film is that independent filmmakers in particular are quite amenable to having a chat about their work. It’s not always the case, but try it and see.

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3. Virtual mentors: thanks to the digital age we have mentors available everywhere! Chances are, many of us aren’t going to have the chance to kiki with Oprah, David Lynch or Richard Branson, but we have these thought leaders at our fingertips. Seek out books. Listen to podcasts. Glean everything you can from the people in your industry you most admire. When I first started out, I read Kelly Cutrone’s book If You Have To Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You. Recently I’ve been watching Lewis Howes’ The School of Greatness interviews on YouTube while I’m on the elliptical. There are podcasts, books, interviews, audiobooks…the stream of information is astounding and it’s available right now.

Aspiring filmmaker? Set aside some time, pick a filmmaker who inspires you and watch their films. Have a notebook to record anything that strikes you about their aesthetic. Then go and read books, reviews, critical examinations, etcetera. If you really want to go even deeper, seek out academic papers written about their work.

4. Your muses and inspirations are important too! You can learn so much from the people you admire and who spark inspiration in you. If it wasn’t for a massive spark of inspiration, Film Sprites PR may never have existed. What is it about these people you admire? How can you distill lessons from their journeys into lessons for yourself?

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If you’re looking to have a mentor in your life, you’re going to want to be a great mentoree. There’s many people who receive dozens of requests for mentoring every day…so how do you stand out and make them say ‘yes’?

1. Be of value: what value can you offer to your potential mentor? Perhaps you’re a whiz at coding, can assist with social media or have a knack with great graphic design. Let your mentor know the skills you could potentially offer them in exchange for their guidance and assistance.

2. Have a genuine interest in what they do: you would be surprised how many people will seek out advice and assistance from someone in a field they are interested in without actually being interested in the person themselves! Don’t just seek someone out because you think they’ll be a good fit and they do what you would like to do. Find someone whose ethos and personality genuinely inspires you.

3. Observe the basic courtesies: I shouldn’t have to write about this, but unfortunately there are times when people don’t observe basic courtesies when it comes to potential mentors. If they decline, send a follow-up message to thank them for their time. If you do have a mentor, show up to meetings promptly. If you’ve arranged a Skype meeting, for instance, and there is something wrong with the connection that could potentially see you signing on late- get in touch with your mentor via e-mail or Linked In message. If you have a set time period for your mentoring, follow up with a thank-you card and/or gift.

If you’re keen to start the mentoring process, here’s an idea for you this weekend: grab a pen and paper and write down definite steps you are going to take to start the path towards mentoring. Map it all out, down to who you will contact, who you’ve contacted and the date of any follow up messages. Writing it down is better than just keeping it in your head, and that way you can cross off each step as you do it.

No matter where you are on your life path and career journey, there’s a wealth of people and resources out there to help take you to the next step. Best of luck!