This year my focus has been on growth.

It’s the word of the year, yes, but it means a lot more than that. I have finished a few films (yay!) but I’m eager to continue growing, learning, and improving my skills as a storyteller.

I feel like I’ve reached a plateau and wasn’t quite sure where to go from here, even though I have a film in production right now.

Hey, maybe that film is possibly the impetus for the focus on growth? I find that project especially painful because I know what I want it to be but there’s a gap in the resources I have available right now.

It’s super frustrating.

Words from Ira Glass

The best way to describe this is through the words of Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.

For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

— Ira Glass

New comfort zones

So, as part of my focus on growth, this year I stepped away from my own films. (Yes, there’s still a work-in-progress but I need a little clarity and renewed energy before I finish it up.) I’m spending more time freelancing to help my fellow filmmakers tell their own stories. It has been a lot of fun!

You know I focus on three strengths: writing, directing, and producing. While I absolutely love working in those roles on my own films, I stepped outside my comfort zone a little bit to help my fellow filmmakers. I am putting all of those hard-earned lessons to good use.

I’ve been serving as 1st AD, assistant producer, and strategist (among other things).

Serving as 1st AD has been so enlightening. I absolutely love this position. Being on set, working with different departments, organizing things, and empowering everyone to do their best really plays to my strengths. This is really one of my genius zones.

In other words, I want more. I am so hungry for more of this type of work. I would absolutely love it.

Being assistant producer and strategist also helps me share what I’ve learned. I have a lot of experience making and sharing movies, and it’s really cool to help other filmmakers navigate things like building an audience, marketing their films before they’re finished, planning film festival strategies, crowdfunding, and distribution.

Holy moly, I love it so much. But there’s one other area where I would love to spend some time growing, ya’ll.

Rethinking cinematography

Being part of the camera department is one more area where I want to see massive growth. The camera is really what gets my blood pumping.

I don’t know why it took so many years for this to dawn on me. Dude, I have spent my whole life with a camera in my hand! But I finally had a moment of clarity in August 2019: I want more time with the camera.

Yours truly on the set of Oh Crappy Day (as 1st AD, not camera operator), realizing exactly how much I love holding the camera.

See, I think I know what happened.

Because I spent my whole life creating images, I knew enough to ask others to help me with cinematography. I had so much to learn when I first started making my own movies. I was already “drinking water from a firehose” to figure out everything else, so I left it to “the pros” whom I assumed knew more than I did. Ironically, some of the people who helped me were just starting their careers, too. It worked out well, though.

Since I don’t have access to the cameras that I find especially dreamy, I’m going to spend more time with the ones I do have on hand. I’m looking for ways to make them more capable. In other words, shopping for a shoulder rig and external monitor for my DSLR.

Maybe one day you’ll see a behind-the-scenes pic of me on set looking like a boss. Check out this photo of Abby Linne posted by The SOC.

Abby Linne, posted by The Society of Camera Operators on Instagram.

This is why representation matters, y’all.

Representation is key

When I was a little girl, I thought the only option was to be an actress. I don’t have any interest in acting on camera, although I love the theater and improv. I have always wanted to be the storyteller: writer, director, or cinematographer. But I didn’t know that was an option because I never saw anyone like me doing it.

Today we have such dreamy role models! I am so thankful for people like Ava DuVernay, Dawn Porter, Patty Jenkins, and Kathryn Bigelow. These women are doing awesome things, and they’re just a few of the names I love sharing.

Want to help? There are a lot of ways you can be an advocate for women in film. Here are a few:

  1. Go to the movies and watch movies that have women behind the camera as writers, producers, directors because box office numbers still matter a whole lot
  2. Support the women in film by sharing their names, projects, or helping them get hired
  3. Learn more about women in film: statistics, hurdles, challenges, etc. so you can talk about them with friends
  4. Find female filmmakers on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Seed&Spark and give some money to active projects
  5. Reframe the things you’re telling yourself: you can tackle that big dream you’re carrying around, too

What was your focus in 2019?

This year has been a big year for growth. I am looking at 2020 to figure out what I’ll focus on in the next 12 months. How about you?