Few Things I’ve Learned So Far

I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a person in 2018. Right now, these life lessons are floating around in my head, but I’d like to write them down as a way of nailing the coffin. It helps.

1. Invest in yourself

I’ve always been a risk-averse person. You know how they say you need to spend money to earn money? That concept was foreign to me until recently.

I participated in an episode of Jubilee’s Real Monopoly, where we played Monopoly with real money. There I met a businessman who encouraged me to invest in myself.

“Buying a suit,” he said, “is investing in yourself. Anything that can create more opportunities for you, that is worth your money.”

Buying a new camera lens is investing in myself. Paying for online classes is investing in myself. Investing in a Roth IRA is investing in myself. Right now my money’s just sitting in my bank, earning minimal interest. If I have enough savings, there’s no reason I shouldn’t put my money toward my future. Risking a little money is better than hoarding it.

2. You’re not ready for every opportunity.

As much as I would love to be handed the chance to direct a feature film, I’m not ready. I tend to seek amazing opportunities for myself without asking if I’m even ready for those opportunities. That requires growth, both technical and spiritual. That’s why I make short films. To practice filmmaking.

But it’s not just about skillz. It’s about being an honorable, mature person who is capable of handling responsibility. Like Spider-man. Spiritual growth is equally as important as technical. One without the other means I haven’t fully grown into the person I want to be.

3. Time is precious.

I’ve blocked Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and several movie news sites from my laptop. Yes, I can still access them on my phone, but it’s a start. I’m using an Chrome extension called StayFocused, which allows me to view my blocked sites for a total of ten minutes, and I’m always surprised at how quickly I use those ten minutes up.

Those sites aren’t worth my time, no matter how entertained I feel. I used to think I was good under pressure, but I’m not. When I have too many tasks at hand, I try to numb myself. Do something lazy. Ignore the tasks until the last second. Surf the web.

I’ve already used up all my “blocked site time” for the day. That forced me to blog. See? Progress.

These are just a few life lessons I’ve been engraining into my psychology. It’s 3:30am right now and I wanted to make this short and sweet. Plus I have to pick up my sister from soccer practice in five hours.

Josh out.

I Don’t Need To Be A Director

As I get older, the person who I want to be becomes clearer.

All my life I’ve dreamed of working in movies, directing short films and eventually features. Teenage Josh had vision. Big dreams. I’ll always remember something one of my best friends once said to me during high school:

Josh, I really admire how you know exactly what you want to do with your life. It’s taken me years to figure out my own purpose.

I embraced that statement with pride. Most of my friends had no freakin’ clue what they wanted to be. Maybe a doctor, lawyer, the Asian stereotype. Many just wanted to have fun and live in the moment. But not Josh. Even as a teen, my train had one destination. Anything outside my goal was an unnecessary distraction.

For the past ten years, I clutched so tightly to my dreams that I lost them. Filmmaking became a chore. I used to make films out of passion; now I made them to advance my career. Funny thing is, when you make films to advance your career, they don’t.

A few days ago, I had a surprisingly honest conversation with Ien, the creative director of Jubilee Media. We chatted about what we wanted in life. I don’t remember what we said word-for-word, but here’s our dialogue paraphrased:

I used to want to be a director. But now I realized I was in love with the “idea” of being a director, rather than actually directing.

Yeah, I mean, everyone wants to be Christopher Nolan…

…or Steven Spielberg, exactly! It’s the honor, the glory associated with the title that makes it so damn attractive.  Now at Jubilee, I probably direct my own content thirty percent of the time.

That’s not a lot.

It isn’t. It’s not the role I thought I’d be playing. But it’s so incredibly fulfilling. I’m creating communities, building connections with real people. I used to want one specific thing, to direct my own movies. Now my life goals are less specific, and they could look like a number of things. I’m open to different experiences that may not align with what I imagined myself doing, but they align with the person I want to become.

The realization hit me. I used to be disappointed with myself when I wasn’t working toward “my dream.” Feeding the homeless doesn’t help me become a director. Going to Bible study doesn’t help me become a director. Only doing director-ish things helps me do that, and that’s a pretty narrow-minded way of living.

I no longer need to be a director. For the first time in ten years, I can safely say that. I’ve just been fooling myself this whole time, not wanting to let teen Josh’s dreams down. I still love telling stories, in whatever form that takes. I don’t need the accolades or affirmation. Being the truest version of myself is enough.

In fact, by admitting I don’t need to be a director allows me to freely say I want to be one! I want to make movies! It’s fun! I love it! My sense of self-worth doesn’t hinge on whether I become Ridley Scott or not, that’s stupid. But through films I can express my self-worth. And that’s awesome.

Gee, I haven’t blogged in a while. There are A LOT of thoughts that I need to get out so expect more on the way. I’m stuck on a cruise ship right now and paying $119 bucks for a week’s worth of internet is totally worth it.

Josh out.

Pure Filmmaking Intentions

Jubilee Fellowship starts tomorrow, but I have some quick thoughts to get out:

What are my intentions when I make films? What is my desired outcome? Recognition? Or is it enough just to create?

Josh began making films at twelve years old, using one of Canon’s first digital cameras. A brick. He made a Narnia spoof. No one was watching, except his family. He just did it because it was fun.

One year later, thirteen year old Josh screened his fifteen minute magnum opus, Ultrakids, at his church’s retreat. People were ecstatic. They like me. They really, really like me.

Teenage Josh recognized this admiration as a “good feeling” and subsequently desired more. So he made more films. And more films. And many, many more films. All while chasing this high he felt when people praised his work. He forgot what it was like just to make films for fun. The reason he started in the first place.

The sad irony is that the best films come not from an artist attempting to gain recognition, but from a pure expression of the soul. Josh realized this, but how could he retrain his brain after eleven years of making films for the approval of others?

He doesn’t know how he’ll do it. But he knows he has to try. A problem can’t be fixed until it’s acknowledged.

Why did I write this thing in third person?

I Really Love To Do What I Love To Do

I hate thinking myself an artist. It sounds pretentious and probably is. A little voice in my head tells me, “Hey, what about contributing to society?” or “Why should expressing yourself be your job? Why shouldn’t everyone also get an equal opportunity to do so?”

Then I remember how art has impacted my life. How my friend’s short film about relationships led to me having an honest conversation with Jenine about ours. How Disney’s Frozen, believe it or not, restored my relationship with my dad. That may seem silly but it’s true. Art has not only entertained me, but inspired, changing me into who I am today.

I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing. I read it when I was a teenager, but don’t remember a word. It’s my favorite type of book: the type that re-energizes my passion for stories so much that I have to stop reading and start writing myself.

I published a novel back in 2014. After writing, editing, designing the cover, formatting the interior, and self-publishing the damn thing, I burned out. Told myself I was going to take a break. Besides blog posts and a few short film scripts, I haven’t written much in the past four years.

The problem is many of my ideas are based in fear. I started writing “The Mansion” because I knew Goosebumps was a best-selling series and I wanted to write a best-selling series, only to discover that I didn’t like Goosebumps.

This past week, I watched two short films that changed my life. Both made by friends. “Ella” by Dan Chen and “Our Last Normal Conversation” by Cole Bacani. The latter isn’t even finished yet. Both films were profoundly personal and that surprised me. I didn’t know you could do that. I didn’t know you could simply tell your own story and make human connections through film. I thought you needed explosions or a movie star to keep audiences interested.

But that’s what art is. It’s about connection. I realized I needed to stop trying to entertain people and start connecting with them. That’s why I’m more proud of certain blog posts I wrote in an hour instead of a four hundred page novel.

Sometimes I get confused and think that I don’t like creating art. It’d be safer to get the filmmaker’s version of a corporate job. Again, more fear-based thinking. The best art works against logic. If it’s safe, it’s stupid. And I’m done being safe.

I don’t know what I’m going to create next. I’m finishing up a short film called “A Roomba’s Tale” but after that, who knows. My only goal is to make something outside my comfort zone, something new, something bold. Something personal. I’ll keep you guys updated.

Josh out.

Things I’m Learning About Stories

If I’m going to keep up blogging once a week, I need to change things up. It usually takes me about two hours to write and publish a post. That’s too slow. So this is going to be a highlight reel of recent things I’m learning, specifically about storytelling.

Be open to anything. 

Fear kills creativity. Too many times I shy away from an idea because I don’t fully understand it or how to execute it. I have too many questions. Will it be interesting? Will people like it? Hate it? Will this be a giant waste of time?

These fear-based questions that prevent me from being truly creative and bold with my stories. Or worse, they prevent me from telling a story entirely.

Pace your edit. 

Rushedstoriesarentgoodstories. Youredeliveringanexperiencenotjustinformation.

Editing is important, but there’s a difference between editing and ripping the soul out of your movie. Sometimes a five second establishing wide shot isn’t enough to bring your audience into the scene.

Take one of my favorite scenes of all time, the argument between Bob and Helen in the Incredibles:

It takes a full twenty-two seconds for Bob to enter the house and start fighting with his wife. It’s not just him walking around either. That’d be boring. He sees a piece of cake, is enticed, then eats it. Okay, maybe that does sound boring in writing. So why is it there and why is it important?

There’s something about simply being with a character that helps the audience empathize. When writing, it’s important to have both the boring moments along with the intense to create contrast.

Ugh, I feel like explaining this concept further, but this is supposed to be highlights, people. But here’s one last prime example of what I’m talking about.

So here we have a scene with just the antagonist. He’s a murderer. We don’t like him. So why, when the car stops sinking midway, do we feel tension? Shouldn’t we want him to fail?

We were with Norman as he sank the car. We were with him as he tried to hide the evidence. Storytelling can take you to unexpected places and allow you to experience emotions with people with whom you wouldn’t normally associate. And that’s power.

Sorry if this feels more like clip notes and less like an actual blog, but honestly this is mostly for myself as I try to understand narratives better.

Stories are about two things: empathy and danger.

This is pretty straight-forward.

If you don’t care, you won’t be interested. Empathy.

If nothing important is happening, you won’t be interested. Danger.

Yeah. That’s about it.

Josh out.

I Don’t Have Time

Man, oh man. In a perfect world, I could relax in a cabin somewhere in the Poconos, sip a glass of orange juice, and just write to my heart’s content. With lots of naps in between. I would wait for inspiration to hit.

I have jobs. Freelance gigs. I have responsibilities. Things I promised others. There are a couple things on my toodoo list that are a couple months old. Ouch. What’s preventing me from just…doing it? Laziness? That’s it, right? Just…laziness.

I was supposed to apply to Buzzfeed as a visual effects artist several months ago. I haven’t. I need to revamp my resume for that to happen. And that’s just not…interesting to do.

You suck. You really, really suck, Josh. You can’t do a simple thing like revamp your resume for SEVERAL MONTHS?

After I finish writing this post, I’m probably not going to revamp my resume. I could. I totally could. It’s within the realm of possibility. That’s one of my favorite things to say, that something is within the realm of possibility. It reminds me the only thing preventing me from making something happen is myself.

I feel like I don’t have time. The reality is I have the same amount of time as everyone else. And it’s time to start moving.

Josh out.

Motivated For Thirty Days

Wow. I did it. I blogged every day for an entire month. Woot.

This all started with a podcast. Two successful screenwriters talked about how they got into the business, indirectly mentioning how they both used to blog every day. That didn’t sound too hard.

Listening to said podcast happened to coincide with watching a Youtube interview with Akira Kurosawa, whose films I still have to watch. Yes, I can see my filmmaking cred floating away before my eyes. If someone can recommend one of his films to me, that’d be great.

Anyhoo, Akira’s advice to aspiring filmmakers was write. Commit to the monotonous task of writing one word at a time. Filmmaking is expensive. Two bucks for a pen and some paper is not. Writing will help you understand good storytelling. You can make many mistakes writing, while you only can make so many mistakes in film before someone goes, “Hey, maybe let’s not hire this guy again.”

So this blog was supposed to help motivate me to write a screenplay. I needed to get over my fear of putting words on a page, always worrying if it’s “good enough” or not. JUST WRITE, YA MORON. Well, I haven’t started my script yet. I have a synopsis and some ideas.

I’ll keep you guys updated as I progress. I’m headed to Vegas for the first time this weekend. Probably will have something interesting to blog about. Or vlog.

Josh out.