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The theme that seems to be emerging today is about taking risks. When all of us filmmakers introduced ourselves this morning at our yummy breakfast we were asked to talk about the craziest thing we had done so far as filmmakers. Doug Liman during his keynote talk carefully cut our risks in two categories. Physical danger risks which umbrella all the scary things we filmmakers do to pull off a shot, most illegal. And the often scarier emotional risks. Allowing yourself to be true to your vision, to pull back the layers… to essentially trust.

My introduction story was about a moment when I was creating an installation piece for a gallery show in San Francisco. I was not quite sure how to pull off my idea, part of which required an ancient olive tree. Turns out if you buy one, they are baby trees and need decades of love to become what I had in mind. So I went to Golden Gate park on a rainy day and found branches that resembled olive branches… already cut down. Then I found my tree trunk, also cut down. I tried to lift the tree into my back seat only to realize the impossibility that stood before me. Somehow I conjured up some cojones that helped me to lift a tree into my car. Since that moment I was barely able to roll it on my own but in that moment, I needed that tree trunk in the car. It was in me somewhere.

But the scariest thing thus far has been leaving a career and a paycheck to follow a passion. A free fall. Still falling and being embraced on the way has been exhilarating, scary and without regret. But enough about me, Doug Liman who has been there and done that a few times had some juicy wisdoms for us.

On directing: Never trust that it’s good enough, always ask yourself how this can be better.

On performance: If you don’t believe it on the set, you can’t fix it in editing. If you see an actor waiting to speak his lines instead of listening to the other actor, you cut.

On how to stay fresh: Mix up the crew, the genre, any of the elements you can. Always try to go back to your mentality when you were making your first film.

For those of us on our first projects, this is the most creative we will ever be, the most free. If successful, people will want us to replicate that, so make it yours from the start.

For those of us still trying to get a film made (like me), Doug relayed some of the only advice he remembered from a USC screenwriting class. On the back of your printed script make ten horizontal lines and ten vertical lines. Essentially 100 boxes. For each NO, check a box. The last one will be a Yes. This has been something I have learned along the way — each no is closer to a yes. The first few made me sad, now they barely phase me and I celebrate when there is a yes. This project is teaching me about commitment.

Sorry, Doug, if I butchered what you said but that was some of what I heard today and am grateful for your honesty. Here’s to trusting yourself and staying fresh.

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