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Filmmaking Basics

How to Overcome the Fear of DOING IT WRONG as a Filmmaker

March 25, 2022

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Article by Colette Nichol, Story Strategist and Solo Filmmaker

True or False? You want to make films but are afraid of doing it wrong?

No matter where you are in your filmmaking journey, you can experience the paralyzing FEAR OF DOING IT WRONG!

You want to learn how to start filmmaking or you just want to get out of the crew-based filmmaking trap. You want to make films but you’re afraid of doing it wrong.

And this can lead to the Zone of Zero Action.

Duh, duh, duh….

The murky Zone of Zero Action is full of quicksand, gloopy mud, and dark swirling thoughts that halt you into a state of endless pondering.

The fear of doing it wrong is uncommonly common.

Even Steven Spielberg gets it every time he starts a new movie. I watched an interview with him where he mentioned that right before he goes on set for a new movie he always gets struck with this last-minute panic.

He’s thinking to himself, “Have a forgotten how to do this? Is it all going to be a flop? Maybe this movie will be terrible!”

(I’m not quoting him verbatim. But that was the gist.)

So if Spielberg experiences the fear of doing it wrong, it makes sense that the rest of us mere mortals would as well, right?

Yeah, even this guy experiences the fear of doing it wrong! (IN PIC: Peter Deyell, Steven Spielberg, Allen Daviau)

Acknowledging the problem is a great first step.

But how do we make sure this paralyzing problem doesn’t stop us from world domination…erm, I mean making films.

I have a few solutions. These are things that I use on myself. So one of them might work for you.

How to Overcome the Fear of Doing It Wrong as a Filmmaker so You Can Actually Start Filmmaking

I’ve got three filmmaking success tips for you.

Each one has been important to me as I’ve navigated my own fears and anxieties along my filmmaking journey. See if one of these lands for you!

1) Use mindset-shift catchphrases that you create for yourself.

I have A LOT of catchphrases that I use on myself when I’m stuck in the Zone of Zero Action thanks to the fear of doing it wrong. Here are some of my self-talk bits and pieces:

“Failure means you’re growing. So don’t worry about doing it wrong. Worry about doing it at all!”

“If you learn from your failures, then they become successes!”

“If you’re not failing, then you’re not growing.”

“The road to success is paved with spectacular failures!”

Okay, I’ve got way more than this, but you get the idea.

When you’re stuck in the fear of doing it wrong try to re-frame any fear of failure you have. Those two words SUCCESS and FAILURE are major triggers that get us stuck in the fear-of-doing-it-wrong territory.

One of the ways I dug myself out of serious depression was mastering the art of the reframe. There’s always some tiny shard of light within any dank tunnel of darkness.

You’ve just got to be like Indiana Jones about it. Seek it out and grab it…no matter what!

2) Cultivate a bias towards imperfect action.

To do this you have to know when there’s something serious on the line and when you’re just in learning and experimenting mode.

As long as you don’t have $1,000,000 on the line, it’s okay to mess around and take imperfect action. If you’re just practicing your filming techniques, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Nor should it be.

When you tell yourself that the goal of the day is to take imperfect action you’re instantly given permission to just act.

Perfection isn’t required most of the time. Yeah, I want my brain surgeon to be a perfectionist. But if I’m buying a piece of expressionist art, I could care less if it’s so-called perfect.

Art isn’t meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be interesting to a small group of people. Even a blockbuster movie isn’t interesting to the majority of citizens on planet earth.

Thus, no need to get mired in perfectionism when you’re getting started with a filmmaking project or just learning the basic rules of filmmaking.

3) Learn from the right people in the right way for you.

Finally, if you’re really in the weeds with an idea or project and you’re afraid of doing it wrong and wasting tons of time or money, reach out to someone who knows more than you.

You might not have access to a bevy of experts who are just waiting to take your calls. But you do have access to the library.

[ Insert peanut gallery: Booooo! The library…so boring!!!! ]

Over the past 8 years of growing my filmmaking skills, I’ve found that if I can’t ask a real live human about something, my best bet is an online course or a book. (No, I’m not pitching you right now. This is just a fact IMHO.)

I’ve got a filmmaking library that cost me over $1000.

What?

Well, yes, filmmaking books are expensive. But as the daughter of a librarian, I value the written word!

But back when I was struggling to rub two dimes together, I just took tons of books out from the library.

Although I love YouTube for those moments when I’m trying to figure out why a piece of software is glitching or some other random critical thing, I’ve gotten more value from books, courses, and blogs than from YouTube. (Despite that, I still plan on making more YouTube videos for filmmaking, lol.)

The main reason for this is because with a book I can access incredible information in a super organized manner whenever I want without having to watch ads.

My top two picks are The Filmmaker’s Handbook and The Writer’s Journey.

The Filmmaker’s Handbook is old but good. It gives you a massive overview of all the main things you need to know about filmmaking as a solo filmmaker. Sure the digital details are not up-to-date but the idea isn’t to read it cover-to-cover.

Meanwhile, The Writer’s Journey is a pre-requisite for feeling confident with your storytelling. Best book out their on classical story structure.

These two books are worth every dollar, and will serve you well over the years. Especially if you struggle with storytelling, The Writer’s Journey is a goldmine!

So those are my three tips for pulling yourself out of the perilous fear of doing it wrong. If you’re stuck. If you’re worried that you’re going to make a mess. Just go for it!

Make a mess.

Be wrong.

Wrack up some failures on your pathway to success!

I know I have. But, boy, has every failure taught me how to get better.



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About the Author

Hi! I’m Colette Nichol. I’m a solo filmmaker and story strategist based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been making videos and micro films for small businesses and global brands since 2014.

Plus, I LOVE to help aspiring filmmakers pursue their dreams and start making films. This blog is designed to help you gain the knowledge you need to become a filmmaker.

If you want more, get on the waitlist for the Story Envelope Academy Solo Filmmaking Mentorship Program. It opens up 1-2 times per year and is the best way to become a filmmaking or video pro fast!

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I'm Colette, here to give you a filmmaking skills boost! 

Welcome! I’m a story strategist, filmmaker, and digital media consultant based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. My mission is to give you the tools and tactics you need to pursue your filmmaking dreams, so you can start making films this year! No more waiting for the right time.  Join the inbox party: take my free mini-course and start building your filmmaking skill set.

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