Meet Paul Donnett, a Writing for Film & Television student. Paul’s been keeping a record of his year in the intense one-year program at his blog, where this story was originally published. He was kind enough to let us share. Take heed, emerging artists and VFS students of tomorrow!
By Paul Donnett
There are two things I discovered early at VFS: I’d have to work with others to get stuff done, and most of the people I’d be working with had come from somewhere else in the world.
It’s the name of the game at VFS. Absolutely nothing gets created, produced or promoted in a vacuum. This is no surprise for people who already get the value and importance of working together with other creative types. But for those used to doing things solo, it can come as a bit of a shock.
“You mean I’m going to have to let others see my work and give me their opinions? What if they hate it? What if they laugh or simply don’t get it? What if I discover I’m really no good, or don’t have what it takes to make it in the industry?”
In the words of Marty McFly’s dad in Back to the Future, they’re just not sure they can take that kind of rejection!
By the way, “they” are us. More precisely, “they” were me for a good share of Term 1! It’s unnerving to jot down what you think is good, dramatic stuff – a solid premise, a compelling character, a great knock-’em-dead joke – then bring it to class and watch it get analyzed, criticized, vandalized, and possibly euthanized.
It’s the psycho-emotional equivalent of stripping down in front of strangers. Granted, some people are into that kind of thing, but it was a bit of stretch for me at first. I mean, I can get goofy in a crowd and say a whack of totally inappropriate things, but that’s different somehow. Seriously sharing your creative ideas – letting others hold your “babies”, as it were – can be scary, nerve-wracking stuff. Just speaking in front of others is, for some, a trauma beyond words.
Great thing is, you get over it pretty quick. Your skin gets thick, you learn to listen less with less emotion, and the value of others’ input (12 heads are often better than one) becomes clearer by the day. Eventually, you even come to crave the feedback of others, finding it an indispensable part of your creative process. Fact is, becoming a successful artist seems to mean finding that weird, tricky middle ground between trusting your gut with an almost arrogant confidence and being deeply suspicious of your own final judgment on an idea.
Personally, I love working with others. I’ll admit, collaboration at this level, and to this degree, took a little getting used to. But of course there is simply no way to work in the film industry without it. It’s just the way it is. The best strategy is to get used to it, and as quickly as possible!
VFS’s Global Village
The really exciting part has been discovering how much talent and how many eager filmmakers there are around the globe. This isn’t any big surprise; I just haven’t had that many opportunities to collaborate with international artists. But the whole world is literally hanging out at VFS: fact is, almost all of us are from somewhere else!
For example, I’ve had the chance so far to story-edit for students from China, Malaysia, and Syria, in departments from Entertainment Business Management, Film Production, and Digital Design. I’ve written scripts for productions with partners from Ecuador, Peru, Italy, England.
Of course, we’ve all had (and will continue to have) experiences like this at VFS. My fellow writing compadres have similarly honed their chops and spread their wings with students from various departments and different countries. The benefits are mostly obvious – being exposed to different cultural perspectives, discovering unique approaches to filmmaking, tapping into an increasingly global industry – but real chances to collaborate with international artists can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Enter Vancouver Film School.
One thing I’m certain of: we may never find a pool so full of eager and varied voices again. Now is the time to dive in and start swimmin’!
Paul Donnett is a blogger, freelance writer, songwriter, and composer currently enrolled in Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film & Television program. Read more at his personal blog, Reel-Focused.