Embarking on a Journey to 10,000 Hours // Shooting a film a day for one year
There are a variety of ways that one can choose to approach their career and 1,001 ways to learn along the way. Every mistake made is another opportunity to improve upon one’s skill set. For my journey, I decided to speed up the process by increasing the amount of work I produced. After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, I was inspired to embark on the 10,000 hr rule and chose to shoot a short film everyday for an entire year.
What I want to do with this post is talk a little about the project and then get into a month by month breakdown to give insight into how I evolved along with the project.
A FEEBLE BEGINNING
When I first picked up a camera, the furthest thing from my mind was using it to make a living, let alone a film a day. I didn’t pick up my first (Sony Hi8) camera until 1999.
Before getting involved in filmmaking, I was going to school to be an optometrist. (I think this decision was strictly based on the fact that I was colour blind). Go figure! I distinctly remember the moment I decided to make the switch from optometry to filmmaking. Any free time I had outside of school, I was creating some form of visual art – whether it be a photo, a painting, or a drawing. I remember visiting my cousin’s advertising company and thinking, is it really possible to make a COMFORTABLE living making art? He definitely proved that for me.
Well, the short of the story is that I actually stumbled upon it unexpectedly. My parents instilled the need in me to get a degree so I applied for a transfer to two local art colleges, one that was 6 hrs from where I grew up and the other only 2 hrs away. I choose the later. Little did I know that the Media Production & Studies Program was actually a film program…
THE PROJECT – 3 MINUTE SHORTS – A FILM A DAY
Before embarking on producing and posting a short film everyday for a year, I came across a book by Malcolm Gladwell titled, “Outliers”, which mentions many times throughout the book a concept known as the 10,000 HOUR RULE.
The 10,000 HOUR RULE was derived from a study by Anders Ericsson, a psychologist who researched the success of violinists at the Berlin Academy of Music. In his study, he found that in every case, the violinists that performed the best were the violinists that spent more time practicing.
“Outliers”, further describes how the magic number of 10,000 hours was the average number of hours the violinists as well as athletes, composers, writers, artists, even criminals spent to achieve their success.
After reading the book, I didn’t immediately start the project. I spent about one year prior to creating 3 Minute Shorts filming shorts off and on, averaging about 15 shorts a month but never felt confident posting the work I was doing. I felt it wasn’t ‘good enough’.
Producing and posting a short everyday is a lot of work. Much more than I could have ever imagined. At the start of the project, I was putting in at least 5 hours a day from conception to completion per film, not including the development of the website or maintenance. The hardest part about the project was maintaining my day job as a full time web/multimedia developer. If it weren’t for the flexibility of my job, I would not have accomplished the project.
For the first few months, pure dedication and drive kept me going but at about the three-month mark I was really struggling. I wanted to give up. However, at about the five-month mark, filmmaking became part of who I was. Without the support of family and friends, I would not have accomplished the project, nor would I still be creating a film a day. There were some days that I would produce two films and others when I wouldn’t produce any. However, in the end I was able to produce 365 films in 375 days.
The project also allowed me to experience many things I would not have had the opportunity to otherwise. I would not have been able to travel as much as I had during the project (Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada). Most importantly, I would not have had the opportunity to work with Philip.
Would I recommend a film a day to others? The only way to become a better filmmaker is by filming as much as you can. The more films you make, the better you will get. However, if you plan to undertake such a project, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. I have created a list of things to consider before embarking on a film a day.
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL WHEN EMBARKING ON THE 10,000-HOUR RULE
- CAREFUL SELECTION: The most important aspect of using the 10,000-hour rule is finding your passion. Discover what it is you love. Can you see yourself doing the activity for an extended period of time?
- TIME SPAN REFERENCE: 10,000 hours is about 3 hours a day over a 10-year period. Spending this kind of time on your passion will not feel like work nor will it feel like 10 years.
- FLEXIBILITY: Make adjustments to your 10,000-HOUR SCHEDULE, if you are working part time, try putting in 4 or 5 hours a day. Add additional hours on the weekend or any other time you have off.
- ADAPTABILITY: The key to being successful is the ability to adapt to your surroundings. It won’t be easy and you will want to quit. Ensure that you have a support system in place to help you when you want to quit. Involve your friends and family in your project because there will be times when you will need that little push.
- FINANCIAL SUPPORT: If you plan on producing and posting a short a day, financial support is key. If it wasn’t for my parents, my full-time job, and freelancing, I would not have been able to complete the project.
- FOCUS: Ensure you stay on task and are maintaining a level of consistency in the work you produce. This does not necessarily mean embarking on similar projects; rather focus on how this will help you grow. Collaboration is key to ensuring you are successful when attempting the 10,000-HOUR REGIMENT.
Below are a few of my favourite films from the project.
The first month of the project was a feeling out process with lots of long nights. I did not have any processes in place and was very fresh with visual storytelling. There were a bunch of challenges I had to overcome in this month including the weather and upload speeds. I was extremely motivated this first month but most projects were very one dimensional. Looking back, I noticed that I relied heavily on post-colour effects with most work being over-processed.
I was still fairly motivated in month two. My focused shifted this month towards collaboration and trying to include as many in the work as possible. The work didn’t improve that much during this month but I started to see more dimension in the work. I shot my first DSLR time-lapse is February and didn’t get the best results. I felt demotivated with time-lapses after this failure. It was shot with the Nikon D80.
March was full of many collaborations and I spent a lot of the month editing larger pieces. I started to see some improvement in the visual storytelling as I took more risks with the edits. For the film below, I spent one day re-approaching an edit and adding a few shots on the day.
With the weather improving, there was a huge shift towards nature cinematography. I did quite a bit of traveling this month throughout Alberta / Saskatchewan and documented the journey.
May was an extremely flat month for content. I experimented a lot but felt that the quality of work was very stagnant and boring. I was somewhat demotivated this month and wanted to give up at a few different points in the month.
June was the turning point for me. The films didn’t see a huge improvement in quality but it was the first time that I attended a meet-up with a room full of like minded individuals and it was also the first time I met Philip Bloom before our upcoming documentary project. I felt very inspired and motivated this month.
The month was the most productive of them all as I made my way out to Idaho to work on a documentary with Philip Bloom. I took a leave of absence from my day job and spent three weeks on the road to Idaho as well as working on the project. This month was a turning point for my career. I made a full whorl wind trip from Saskatchewan to Idaho and then back through BC and Alberta on my way back.
Traveling continued this month as I went from Banff, Alberta to Toronto to Montreal. My focus this month was on honing in my visual story-telling and I saw a huge improvement in the quality and diversity of films.
I spent a lot of time this month editing and found myself honing in my editing skills. Shooting-wise I didn’t see a lot of improvement. I wanted to give up during this month but my friends and family did a good job of motivating me to continue.
November was very documentary driven. I spent a lot of time interviewing and capturing doc style footage. I feel that I levelled out with my visual storytelling and that the skill-set was the best it had been all project.
The focus this month was on interviews and corporate documentary edits. I tried to team up with as many people as possible to produce these short vignettes in a variety of styles.