So there I was…. on a plane…. to South Africa… to shoot my first documentary… ever. And I was reflecting on how and why I was here.
It all started with a Facebook post from a friend of a friend who was looking for a documentary filmmaker to shoot a film about saving the life of a baby lion and exposing canned lion hunting in South Africa. Right away when I read her post, I though to myself: “Man! That looks like an amazing project! I love animals and I love shooting video. BUT….”
We all have that self inflicting doubt. This notion that we’re not good enough. And our brains can easily and logically tell us we’re not good enough. Here’s what my brain was telling me: “You’ve never shot a documentary film before so your film will suck. You don’t have professional video gear so your film will suck. If only I had shot a few small docu-style projects before this, I might have some basic notion of what I was doing but I didn’t so I’ll suck.” And I can go on and on. This little self-defeatist voice can become very loud and it feeds on our fear and our ego.
Luckily for me, it wasn’t the first time (and it won’t be the last) that this voice whispered nasty things in my ear. It was there when I left my job as a school director to become a photographer. And again when I got my first ever professional photo shoot with a huge international publishing house… Just to name a few.
How do I overcome this fear of not being up to par? I ask myself two simple questions.
1- Will doing this be a growth experience both personally and professionally?
2- Am I passionate about doing this?
If I answer YES to both of these questions, then I brush the little self-doubting demon voice off my shoulder and just do it! The result isn’t important. It’s the journey. I’m sure a wise man has said this before me but I live by this philosophy as much as a can as an imperfect human being.
Coming back to my documentary story, after stepping on my fears, I wrote to Alexandra and told her that I would love to be part of this awesome project even tough I had never shot a documentary before. I sent her samples of videos I had shot… and the rest is history. That’s all it took. One moment in time where I took action to follow my true self.
I shot the documentary in 5 days, had carte blanche on the storyline and editing, spent over 120 hours putting it together and the result is a 30 minute “diamond in the rough” that made its way to the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York and ended up winning the “Wildlife Activism film of the year”. Again, it’s not about result. It’s all about the journey I took.
Coming back to my 2 questions above… For question 1, I developed a more acute sensibility towards animals and made some wonderful friends. Professionally, I was outside my comfort zone, made tons of mistakes which made me a better filmmaker. I even had the privilege to learn on the spot from professional filmmaker Nick Chevalier as he was interviewing Alexandra for the highly acclaimed documentary Blood Lions. For question 2, my passion for film making and animals keeps growing! I’m actually going back the South Africa this Fall to create new visuals for Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, where Serabie now lives.
My message to you is simple: JUST DO IT! It might sound simple but you truly need to be aware of who you are and what you’re passionate about. Be aware of that little self-doubting voice and laugh at it. We are not perfect and if we wait to be great or perfect before doing something, we’ll be waiting all our lives because what makes us great is DOING SOMETHING! You can’t become great at something without starting somewhere.
So remember to ask yourself: “Will I become a better person if I do this? Am I truly passionate about doing this?”