Have you ever been frustrated with your work? Have you ever thought, "I'd much rather be anywhere else than sitting at this edit desk or standing behind this camera?" Have you ever thought about what ELSE you could do instead of creating video projects for your clients? Well, you're not alone, and you are probably over 20 years old.
I've been creating television and video productions for 25 years and i would be lying if I told you that every day was as exciting as the first time I hunched over and put my eye in the ocular of an Ikegami broadcast camera and slid my hand under the view finder and laid it on top of the servo zoom control to reframe a shot. Or, the first time I sat at a large format 3 M/E production switcher and reached up and grabbed the joystick of a DVE and reframed a graphic element. Back then, it was exciting. I was like a kid in a candy store every day thinking, "Wow, they're gonna figure out I don't belong here but this is SOO cool! I can't believe I get paid to do this!"
Everyone in this business, whether above the line, or below the line, whether you work in the field or in a suite somewhere, EVERY ONE of us got into this crazy business because we thought it was cool. We thought it would be fun to "make movies" or "make TV shows" or, if nothing else, at least we would get to play with really cool toys. When I was a live technical director for corporate broadcast and my short stint as a "wanna be sports TD" I, on more than one occasion, would be known to say, "Yes, he who dies with the most BUTTONS in front of him DOES win!" and I think I really believed it too.
If you were born in the 90's you won't understand this because you are still overwhelmed with the excitement of video and film production but I'm here to tell you, it WILL get old. There will be days when you think, "ARGH!, do I have to get up before dawn again? Do I have to work another evening? Do I have to be at the stadium while all my friends are at home drinking beer WATCHING the game I'm working at? Do I really have to load this WHOLE van by myself, AGAIN!"
Believe me, it will happen, and it may not take that long. Unless you are among the VERY lucky few, there are going to be many many days when you are working on projects that are NO WHERE NEAR the dream jobs you thought you were going to get when you got into this business. That fact is either a tragedy or a harsh reality.
Well, I have a solution to this problem and it is a VITAL bit of advice that every one of us needs to follow. From time to time you must participate in "passion projects". (This is a term that I heard my friend John King use today, and he hadn't even realized what he had said. I promised him I was going to steal it and call it my own.)
A passion project is a job that you take on with no hope to ever making a dollar. There is no financial reason for it, but it is the kind of project that you just DO because you love it. It may be your personal fan film. It could be a video diary about your grand parents that you will share with your kids one day. It could be a nature video about the birds that nest in local ponds and trees. It could be a music video for your kids Alternative-Punk-Ska-Funk band. It may be a documentary about driving Route 66 this summer during the month of June. (Wait, I'm doing that.)
Ultimately it doesn't matter, but it just has to be something that you LOVE and something that, when you sit down to watch it, it makes you smile. It will be these "passion projects" that will bring you to that level of excitement that got you into this business in the first place. No one knows how often this has to happen for you. You may need to do one "passion project" in your career. You may need to do one a year, or one a month. Only you know how "fuel efficient" and how much milage you'll get out of it, but I do know this fact, you almost certainly will benefit from pouring your heart into a personal project once in a while.
My challenge to everyone is to find YOUR "passion project" and go out and do it. Don't worry what other people think. Don't worry about the time you are spending doing it. Don't worry about the logistics, and to some extent the cost. BUT find your 'passion project'. Find it and do it.