Artists need to believe in Magic

tinkerbell wth butterflyThere’s a funny thing that happens as you approach the shooting of a major film project, something deeply meaningful for you, as important as the very breath you take. I’m not sure how to describe it except to say that there are these shadows of doubt that will creep up all around you as you approach shooting your movie. These shadows will come in all forms, all shapes and sizes, some can be subtle and others can be more blatant, but basically for most filmmakers these moments manifest in the middle of everything that’s going on as these sparks of disbelief. You begin to suspect that ‘no one believes I can do it… not even me.’

I’ve heard about these moments on film sets before, once from one of my favorite filmmakers Richard Linklater, and then again from friends and colleagues. These moments where a director can feel that some of the crew is against her. You never really know if its true, but there can hang about the crew a general feeling of expecting mistakes, expecting failure. (And there will be some failures but that is all part of the process.) It can be subtle to be sure–I’ve never heard a voice on set that has suggested such a thing, and yet I’ve felt it. I’ve felt what other filmmakers have expressed so many times: that perhaps I’m not a filmmaker at all; maybe I’m just pretending.

Sometimes these doubts will come in the form of veiled encouragement –a light suggestion that you can do better than you’re doing, that you’re not doing enough; sometimes it comes in a form of practicality –you should work with less than you require or try another approach another time; perhaps you should altogether try something else. (Here I want to distinguish between the times when we must work within specific constraints, and the times we make sacrifices that diminish our art and our selves–these choices are very different.) Many times it will be clear–when someone will say to you that there’s no way you can possibly do what you want to do. Other times someone will agree too quickly to console you. But we must resist these ideas. One popcorn kernel of doubt can destroy an entire dream in these moments.

…Which is why what’s really important to remember during these times is magic.

I love the peter pan quote that the moment we consider that we may not be able to fly we cease to do so forever. I think that is true and especially so for filmmakers.

What is magic? Magic isn’t only believing that we can fly. In our lives, it’s the small things–the perfect apartment appearing after we’ve given up after the previous 50 visits; a man moving his limbs when the doctors say he will never feel again; it’s finding your lost ring in a field of grass days later. On my set it was finding a way to shoot a film without all the funds needed. Magic happens everyday; it’s just that most of us don’t choose to see it.

There will always be people on your set, in your life who will cast shadows of doubt, some so slight you will barely even recognize it. You’ll only sense them by the churning feeling that develops in your tummy, or by the odd notion that you should do something even though everyone tells you not to do it. The hardest things about these moments is that they will come from the people you trust, the people you care most about, and the opinions that matter. But we must resist them because here’s the thing about magic:

Only the truly brave believe in the power of magic because most of the world is sadly afraid–I know because I have been one of them. But magic does truly exist not merely as some fairy tale in books, but as real energy that allows us to accomplish things that appear nearly impossible. That’s why it’s so hard to fly. Our rationale blocks us from believing what we know to be true so that we forget that there are things that we DON’T know to be true that still CAN be true. Simply because we haven’t climbed Mt Everest before does not make it impossible–it may be unlikely but never impossible. We forget that magic gives us the power to make anything true.

This is why so much of us veer off the track of our true calling in life. We allow these shadows of doubt to become realized obstacles. Unlikely becomes impossible. Magic becomes a figment. Wishes and dreams become something impractical. What seems obtainable becomes what we strive to achieve. Safety becomes manageable. What’s been done before, we do again because we think we know the outcome. We stop stretching ourselves and we settle. We busy ourselves with the things we know how to do instead of the things we were meant to discover. We learn to accept that there is no neverneverland. But that is wrong. We each can create a neverneverland of our choosing. It’s just that we lose the courage to make it so.

Believing in magic is declaring that you believe life has something better to offer you in a world that wants to exist platonically, it’s considering that you can be more than others expect of you. You admit that souls and spirits exist just like angels, not simply as beings separate from us, but as beings who exist to help us achieve our higher selves. They are where the magic comes from; all we need to do is ask for their help, something hard to do if you don’t first believe.

The hardest things for filmmakers to remember in the face of budgets, investments, numbers and formulas is this: in the creation of any project of true heart that you can and will do the impossible.

In the world now there exists more so than ever before the concept that there is only one system of achieving your dream, whether it be filmmaking or any enterprise you are passionate about–do you see how creativity and innovation are getting lost? This single system, correct way, right path idea is untrue. There are so many ways, new, old, changing, evolving to achieve what’s important to you. Our paths are and can be different and that is not only OK, that is the way it should be. We diminish our power when we lose our origins. Our job as vessels of the universe is to surpass these shadows of doubt so when the angels present themselves and call our magic to the surface, we can believe that it is there and wield its power.

My advice to other filmmakers: Never let anyone tell you what you can and cannot artistically accomplish. Only your heart knows the truth.

I would’ve never thought that my colleagues, friends, and crew would come together to support a production that budgeted so little and yet appeared to be so much. But it happened. Not because I doubted, but because I believed. I prayed, I hoped, I asked that the magic within in me would be enough, and my goodness–it was. I have rediscovered my true calling in life: to make beautiful pictures and tell meaningful stories. My fervent wish is that others will join me in creating more of the same.

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