Hello there! Thank you for joining me today. I’m Phil Svitek and I’m grateful that you’ve clicked on this lesson. Let me ask you, have you ever heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour principle? Chances are you have, even if you didn’t know that it came from him. The theory is that in order to become a master of a certain craft, you need to dedicate 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
How much time is 10,000 hours? It amounts to about 5 years if you spend 6 hours each and every day working towards your goal. In this instant gratification era that may seem like a hell of a lot of time, especially when you account for no weekend or holiday breaks. But that is what it takes. I’m not here today to argue against him because in the end it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that as an artist you continue to grow on a daily basis – that you’re better today than you were yesterday. And this applies to all levels – beginner to expert because even once you reach the level of expert, there’s always new ways to challenge yourself.
That’s the lesson I want to go over today, which is to challenge yourself every day. This idea is something I thought a lot about during my 2018 holiday break. I wanted to get back more into filmmaking and storytelling and wondered what were the ways I could do this that were cheap and practical. I find that no matter what each of our individual passions are, there’s a financial barrier to do it at the level we desire. For example, even a short film done the way I have it visualized in my head would cost around $5,000. That’s a significant amount of money for just a short film. I’m not knocking short films by any means, but if we’re being honest, they’re more like calling cards than a product that yields financial returns. I see musicians face a similar dilemma because of the time and cost associated with getting a group together for a recording session in a studio. And there’s other examples to be named. Hell, just think of the limitations you probably face.
Looking at it this way frustrated me.
How in the hell was I supposed to grow when I could only create something sporadically. Worse is the fear that by the time I did get to create something would it be good enough?
Here’s the good news. There’s a way to overcome these limitations. The secret is to think of it in terms of baby steps and find ways to practice your craft in out-of-the-box ways daily. For example, if you Google “Daily Photography Challenges” you’ll get a heap of results for exercises photographers can tackle. One challenge may be to take a black & white photo to learn about lights and shadows. Another challenge may be to capture an image from a high or low angle. A third one might be simply to shoot a photo through a window. What each of these does is it begins to train your eye to see the world more interestingly. You’ll begin to see compositions others haven’t thought of. These types of daily challenges work just as well for videographers because both share the core value of striking visuals.
In fact, looking up daily photography challenges was my jumping off point into thinking of new ideas that I could do which led me to an article about a filmmaker who shoots short films within one hour. One hour! Isn’t that crazy?
I’ve included a link to the article in the description box for you to read firsthand, but essentially the way he got into doing this was by having the same line of questioning as I did. When I read it, it was really powerful because unlike me, he found a solution to the problem. But the nice part was, reading about him inspired me and I started thinking of exercises for myself.
Interestingly enough, I did have a concept a few years ago that was a different form of exercise. The concept was to take pre-existing movies’ dialogue and re-contextualize them into something completely different. We called it Scene Scrambles, although we only did one. We took the famous lines from Taken and spun them into a babysitting story. You can check out the video. Or if you’d like, take the concept and run with it. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Anyway, the point is, the article about the filmmaker who shoots short films within an hour reminded me of what’s possible. Which is to say that anything is possible. All it takes is thinking about it from a new perspective.
What you have to understand about these exercises though is that they are not about perfection. Quite the opposite. They are play time. It’s about trial and error. It’s about learning. It’s the fast fail. It’s about figuring out cool ways to do things for the future. That’s what makes this fun. There is no judgement. That right there is the key. Often times, what prevents creatives from accomplishing their goals is not external limitations or lack of skills. It’s their own fear. Doing daily challenges eliminates that because it provides you a level of comfort. When you feel you have the right knowledge to do something, you become liberated. There’s a charisma that oozes from you.
When you study the filmmaker who challenged himself to shoot short films in one hour, you begin to see how quickly his talents blossomed. And because he was doing something so bold and unheard of – I mean, who shoots even a short film in just one hour – well, it made people flock to him. Big caliber actors were interested to work with him and now he’s got short films with them in it. That’s insane.
So, what’s the take away? It’s that no matter what your field or medium of passion is, find ways to exercise that passion daily. If you’re a musician, try a new instrument daily or write lyrics for a song based on various and random subjects. If you’re a poet, construct a poem using different sets of rules. Be creative because the more inventive you are with these challenges, the more you’ll grow. It’s that simple.
People ask me a lot how I became such a good editor. The answer is when I was young I used to film everything, regardless of what it was or how bad it looked. But I’d take that footage and splice it together to see what cuts worked or what story I could mesh together, which is probably why I’ve always gravitated towards documentary style projects.
But enough of my rambling. You know what to do. Create daily challenges for yourself. Better yet, form a group and have everyone participate in the brainstorming session and execution. It’ll be fun to see what the end products are because no matter how singular the challenge is, there will always be infinite ways to execute it. And that’s the fun. So get to it. And by all means send me some of your stuff. I promise not to judge. I’ll just applaud you for the efforts.
Now, before you click away to another lesson from me, here’s a few more things. For your benefit, the transcript of this episode is on my website. A link is provided so you can always review it. Leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions and what lessons you’d like to see me tackle next. The more specific you are with your questions, the better I can cater these episodes towards you. Also, you can support this show on patreon.com/philsvitek if it doesn’t burden you financially in any way. Every contribution is truly appreciated and helps defray the costs of putting on this show – which as you can imagine takes a lot of effort. But honestly, one of the best and easy ways to support this show is when you hit that like button, rate the podcast, and tell your friends and family about it. It’s free to do that and helps tremendously. If you’re new to the series and you want to be notified when future episodes release, subscribe on Apple Podcast, YouTube, Facebook, Google Podcast, Spotify or any other platform that is most convenient to you. Specific links are provided below. Should you be a new host in the LA area and are looking for opportunities, I encourage you to check out AfterBuzz TV. It’s a network I’ve been a part of that has taught me much of the things I know and has groomed some of the best hosts in the world including US Weekly’s Jackie Miranne, MTV’s Morgan Willett and hundreds of others. Plus they have a fantastic internship program for college students if you happen to be one. I’ve provided AfterBuzz TV’s contact page link in below as well. Lastly, I want to give credit where credit is due. I couldn’t do this show alone so big shout outs to my producer Juliet Vibert and my new editor Anthony Becerra. They work hard behind the scenes to help bring these lessons to you. To stay up to date with all the creative projects we’re doing, follow me @PhilSvitek, follow Juliet at @BonjourJuliet and Anthony at @TonyBTony_. Thanks for watching. I’m Phil Svitek and I’ll see you next week with another one of my lessons. Bye!
Full Transcript: https://philsvitek.com/daily-artists-challenge/
1 Hour Filmmaking: https://www.indiewire.com/2016/06/how-to-shoot-short-film-one-hour-become-better-filmmaker-cameron-miller-desart-1201686775/
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