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How to Overcome Creative Block (When Nothing Else Has Worked!!)

Do you have a creative block?

Have you ever felt creatively blocked, stuck or totally uninspired?

Maybe there are voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough to take that next step. Or perhaps you don’t even know what the next step is.

As creatives, our process has peaks and valleys.

It’s not always a smooth and inspiration-filled ride. Sometimes your creative life might feel dry. You try to make something, come up with a good story idea, brainstorm….

And nothing. Your well is completely empty.

I’ve been there. Many times.

Just last year, my inner creative landscape felt as dry and barren as an abandoned baseball field in the middle of an August heatwave.

In this post, I’ll walk you through some of the things I did last year and other things I have done over my whole life to overcome creative blocks.

Storytelling

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Learn the Film Lighting Basics First, Then Go Crazy with Pro Gear

If you don’t know the basics of film lighting, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in the shallow end of an Olympic pool.

Your footage doesn’t look quite right, but when you try to figure out what lights to buy or rent, you’re lost. There are so many lighting choices. Should you use LEDs or tungsten lights? Soft lights or hard lights? Do you need a reflector? What about flags? Should you be using a soft box or do you need something with barn doors?

You might look up lighting techniques and see images with 17 huge lights and an entire film crew.

If you’re just shooting a short film or doing a solo filmmaking project, then many of the film lighting tips you’ll find online are useless. You probably don’t have the budget to buy or rent 3 HMIs (these are incredible daylight balanced cool lights that are ultra powerful i.e. amazing but expensive).

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I discovered the power of story while watching my bleary-eyed ESL students fall asleep in class at 7:30 in the morning.

How to Tell a Captivating Story

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There’s more than one way to become a filmmaker.

One of the most famous 21st-century filmmakers, Casey Neistat, has never made a feature for the big screen. He’s an online video content creator, i.e. filmmaker who has made thousands of short films. He’s also made a TV show for HBO. But it’s his short online films that have made him a household name in the US.

When we think of the word filmmaker, the image of a man running a large crew (probably wearing a baseball hat) often pops into our heads.

Because, yes, there is a gender assumption too.

This imaginary filmmaker is huddled with his DP (Director of Photography) and AD (Assistant Director) knuckling out the next shot while a busy crew buzzes around him like a horde of technical bumble bees.

Let’s expand the definition of filmmaker to include people from all backgrounds and genders who create stand-alone story-based moving pictures.

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A Good Headline is Enticing and Has a Clear Benefit

Your headlines need to be as enticing as an offer of free, freshly made cookies.

Your reader is always filtering through information with the question: Is this for me? The only way they can decide if something is right for them is if there’s a clear benefit.

Yet, when we write our websites, we biz owners are often self-centred.

We don’t put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and write for their problems, dreams, fears, and needs. We don’t offer up cookies. Instead, we write about how awesome we are and give a million esoteric details about what we do.

Often, we don’t even use headlines. We jump straight into shop talk without flagging our client down in the first place.

It’s like trying to leap into a moving taxi. You’ve got to flag that taxi down first before you can open the door and get in.

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Your about me page should make the RIGHT people fall in love with you and roundly turn off the wrong peeps. Wait, what do you mean the wrong peeps? The nightmare clients who aren’t the right fit, of course!

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Becoming a Filmmaker Isn’t About Gear

When you’re learning filmmaking, it’s easy to get caught up in the endless rabbit hole of YouTube gear-review videos.

Hell, I know I did!

But here’s the truth: most of those videos won’t make you a better filmmaker. They’ll make you a better gear head for sure. But if you’ve watched a few Oscar Round Tables with well-known Directors, Cinematographers, and Producers, you’ll notice the marked absence of gear discussions.

Okay, it’s true that Cinematographers do go ape-shit over a nice lens.

But other than that, the thing that’ll make you a better filmmaker is an understanding of the basics.

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How’s your email list growth going?

I don’t consider myself an email list-growth expert.

But I am an expert at struggling with list growth and avoiding list growth like it’s my end-of-year taxes. Thankfully those are two issues that I’ve now overcome.

Where before, I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to decode the key to driving traffic and bringing in new subscribers. I now have a system that helps me grow my email list by more than 200 subscribers each month. My goal is to continue improving that rate by adding one new strategy at a time and finessing it until it works well.

In addition to the list growth strategies I’ve used for my own business, I’ve helped my clients grow their lists.

One client went from zero lead capture system and relying on just word of mouth to capturing and nurturing over 100 new leads per month. (For perspective, each lead had a value of over $1000.)

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I’ve just spent the last two days doing something I never (in a trillion years) thought I’d be doing: taking grad portraits.

Yup, those cap and gown pictures that mark a teen’s entrance into the big wide adult world and the end (thank god!) of high school.

Why was I doing this? Well, one of my clients is a school. Since the photo studio, they typically use is closed right now, they wanted to host the grad photos themselves. Side note: it’s actually pretty easy to do physical distancing when you’re using a 100mm lens!

There’s one lesson I’ve confirmed and re-confirmed in the past two days of knocking out portraits that I want to share with you.

Lighting is personal.

Nope. Lighting is exceptionally personal. If you’re actually trying to shape light, your set up will need to change with each subject. You’ll create a lighting set up that makes one person look like Kate Moss.

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Discover Your Filmmaker Archetype

Discover Your Filmmaker Archetype

Free Quiz

Have you been dreaming of making films for a long freaking time? Maybe it's time to get started. Take this 2-minute quiz and discover your filmmaker archetype + my tips on how you can get started based on your interests and skills. You'll also get gear advice based on your exact filmmaker archetype. This is great info, so click below to get started.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE FREE QUIZ