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The Importance of Letting Go of Ego in Filmmaking

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by Hoji Fortuna
February 3, 2014 12:13 PM
3 Comments
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Hoji Fortuna

A few years ago I had an idea for a film. So I started writing it down and with tips from a few of my filmmaker friends who had written and produced their own work, I began writing the script.

I was very excited about it. As I finished the first draft, I kept on re-writing - you probably heard the saying "Writing is re-writing", and being married to a writer, I certainly knew that.

Two years passed – of course I wasn't only writing, and if you live in New York you know the million of things we have to do while at the same time giving life to our creative passions – and I came to the point where I thought the script was kind of done and it was time to get some feedback from friends.

Most – if not all – of my friends where highly supportive and encouraging, telling me it was a good story, with the right ingredients of a blockbuster – it had action, drama, sex, blood, you know, the whole nine yards. Some of them suggested a few changes, mainly in the technical format – I’m not a scriptwriter, so you can imagine my script wasn't technically perfect.

I was very excited, like I've seen many before me excited about their creations.

But somehow, there was something in the back of my head telling me to look closer. Doubting. There was something not quite right in that script, despite the enthusiastic feedback from my friends.

Then I started watching – or rather reviewing – the films I enjoy watching and the good references in the same genre as the one I'd been writing. I like smart movies, movies with great clever dialogues, movies with unpredictable twists, movies that keep me guessing, movies that feed my intelligence appetite.

And after watching them, I came to a shocking, but very enlightening, very relieving conclusion: What I'd written, what I'd spent two years re-writing was, in fact, crap! It was mental masturbation. There was potential in the script, don't get me wrong. But I am limited. I don't have the trained or experienced complex storytelling mind that a professional storyteller has. A professional scriptwriter would take that script from the point it is and turn it into the kind of movie I would enjoy watching.

Now, you might be thinking "What a waste of time! Two years?" But guess what, I never felt happier in my life than when I came to that enlightening conclusion. I had learned a lesson, and nothing makes me happier than learning. And it was so liberating!

It is important to give the right job to the right person, if we want our projects to have a successful outcome. I have realized with that experience, that I am no scriptwriter. I can have great ideas, sure, and I can even give valuable insight regarding a story arch – I do that to my wife's stories – or some technical aspect of a script, but that doesn't qualify me as a scriptwriter.

It is very important to acknowledge our limitations when creating something we want to succeed. It’s important to remove our ego – this thing responsible for so many shots in our own feet. I have seen that happening over and over and I’m sure you have seen it, too. Project ideas with great potential, but that don’t go anywhere because the person who had the idea decided that because he or she had the idea, it made perfect sense that he/she would write it and/or direct it and/or act in it.

I may be telling you something you already know, but it is important to realize that your idea can be better served if you enroll the best people for each job.

If you have an idea for a great story, for example, you will want to sell that story. You can even start writing your story or the first draft of it, or as many drafts as you want to write. But at a certain point, it would be useful to the success of your project if you hand it over to a professional scriptwriter to assure that your story’s selling potential is maximized.

The same goes with directing. It would better benefit your project’s selling potential if you enroll a known director, than if you do it yourself. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you’re not capable of directing a project and making it in an outstanding way. But a named director would make more waves in the media world, hence enhancing the possibilities of your project’s success.

And the same goes with acting. While I was writing my two-year fiasco/success, I was toying with the idea of playing the lead in it. At first it was obvious, as I’d written the project as an outlet for my acting skills – yes, I’m an actor, not a good one, if you ask me, but the critics seem to think otherwise and I’m not going to mess with the critics. Anyway, as the time went by I began thinking that perhaps it would be a good idea to enroll someone else as the lead actor, since I was also thinking about potentially directing the project. Can you see the ego working its voodoo?

So, if you have a great idea for a film, TV show or any other form of visual media, don’t sabotage your project by wanting to do all or by wanting to be the person everyone will look at or thank for whatever. Think of the life of your project first, before thinking of you. The success of your project is more important than your success. Do that and I can guarantee it won’t take long till your name starts ringing bells in the media world and eventually you will be able to attach your name the way you – or your ego – want to see it. If your project succeeds, you will succeed.

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3 Comments

  • Ryss | February 4, 2014 10:19 AMReply

    I worked w Hoji so i know what wrote is true. Perfection. Ego. Same thing. Write and let people read it.
    Not worry about his acting. He is a legend now.

  • kwan | February 3, 2014 7:59 PMReply

    just wanted to say really apreciated your adivce. While i didn't agree with all of it, i do agree that sometimes we have to just seperate our "dreams" from reality, and do what's best for the film/project.

    Also i really love your video reel! What were the titles of those movies and where can i watch them?

  • barney | February 3, 2014 12:24 PMReply

    Hoji, you have written truth.... for artists. But you're not considering the business aspect. And if you can figure out how to make cold, hard cash with your ego-driven product, no matter how awful the package may be, you will be a successful. Best of luck to you, good brother.

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