Sing Your Song

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There are a number of things I’ve learned in my few decades on this big blue planet. Aside from the important things, like the benefits of making friends with the local baristas, that Sydney traffic is insane and dogs are the most incredible source of unconditional love, I am learning the significance of my voice.

It doesn’t matter what field or sector is your arena – you bring a unique (yes, that word again) vision and perspective. All of your life experience gives you a take on the world that no one else possesses, even if they’ve had a similar upbringing and training to your own. And not one person knows it all. No matter how shiny and brilliant your particular mentor or inspiration may seem, they are flawed and limited, just as we all are. And that, my friends, is fantastic.

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I agree. It boosts your confidence to know that someone sees what you do or how you do something as worth emulating. It can inspire you to keep your own bar high and cause you to aim higher. Or, it can lull you into believing that you can just ‘maintain’ your level and that will be enough. But if you’re not constantly seeking to move forward, then a maintenance mentality is effectively a backwards slide into mediocrity.

I’ve learned that the pursuit of excellence can’t be just a slogan or tagline but needs to become a reality if I’m ever to explore the potential that resides within me. Success and fulfilment do not arrive with imitation.

What do we do? Learn to sing your own song. When I look at those who inspire me – no matter what arena – I see a common thread. These people know the value of their voice and follow the courage of their convictions. They’re not constantly looking at everyone else and trying to copy them. They focus on where they’re going and how to get there, taking note of and applying only what is useful. Of course, there are conventions and boundaries which are good to keep, because these benefit others overall. And while we follow our passion firstly for ourselves – we’re good at something, we enjoy it or we see results – ultimately what we do affects others.

We don’t all travel the same path. Some will follow the more traditional route, while others will carve their own trail to reach their potential. It all depends on what works for you. A good example is the art of filmmaking. Some will graduate from film school with diplomas and degrees, others will learn by picking up a camera and just making films. And yet both can produce something that not only makes the screen but also impacts audiences.

And remember, not everyone will like your voice or what you’re singing. There will be critics, those who are jealous or those who just don’t ‘get you’. No problem. Not everyone likes jazz music either. There would never be diversity if we relied on only what was popular.

So, sing your song. You don’t know who you’re influencing or who is listening. Your voice might just be the one someone needs to hear.

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Closer to Home

Remember the glamour and wonder of old Hollywood? When the personal lives of the silver screen stars were a mystery and the glitz and glitter seemed a world away from our mundane lounge room existence.

Now, we are treated to celebrities and their lives – in glossy detail – on social media platforms, websites and newsfeeds, whether we’re looking for it or not. This generation of entertainment consumers seems to aspire to the dizzying heights of fame and followers, rather than being inspired by talent and character. Although there are plenty of artists in all areas of the entertainment industry who offer both in bucketloads.

So what makes those celebrities so popular whose main claim to fame is, well, being famous? Are we so destitute of our own dreams and purpose that we begin to live vicariously through these people who seem to ‘have it all’? Or is it that the fear of failure halts us in our tracks before we even begin to try?

No matter our position in life, perceived or otherwise, those dreams we harbour deep in our souls are the keys to our fulfilled lives – not just existence. While I am seen to work in the creative industries, I believe that we all operate in a level of creativity no matter in what field or profession we are employed.

So take a look closer to home. What are your passions? Where do you excel? Make your life count by pursuing those things that make your heart beat faster, stir your energy and put a smile on your face. You will find meaning and purpose in your own life and in the lives around you, and look less to the shooting stars of fame whose light glimmers for a moment until the next one comes along. And the people who matter will cheer you on.

Invest in yourself. You’re the only one we have.

 

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The Value of Real Life Heroes

CameronCroweDirector_reallifeOne of the best things about writing fiction – in whatever form, is that we create a world with its own set of rules and parameters and people who live in that world. We then put our unsuspecting characters through all sorts of dramas and impossible situations after setting them goals which they probably should never achieve. And our audiences travel on the journey with them, enduring the emotional rollercoaster, danger and heartbreak that is a part of a great story. But this is the magic of fiction. Of course, we claim to make it all up, but the truth be told – it is those people around us – friends, family, neighbours or even across the other side of this ever-decreasing globe who influence and inspire us more than we often admit. Unless we say, ‘based upon the true story of’ . . . And so it should be – these really are the best stories.

However, the current glut of remakes, reboots and comic book hero adaptations, primarily by the studios, has led our audiences to think that we filmmakers have run out of ideas and that they are only worth rehashed stories with a 21st century tag to make it contemporary. Now I enjoy a good adaptation and the likes of Marvel and DC comics stories, but it seems the studios have decided that this is what makes money. There have been many articles, speeches and conferences about the state of the industry and its outdated model of both creation and distribution in recent times, so I will keep my comments minimal. The model needs to change, it’s that simple. But the dynamic of that change may well be determined by the audiences themselves. What about the real-life heroes?

I endorse Cameron Crowe’s point. In these times, more people than ever have access to the technology that allows them to make – and star in – their own movies. And get an audience. And in some cases, a sizeable budget with which to do it all, thanks to the crowdfunding platforms. I think, well go for it. Why not? The challenge then returns to the screenwriters, directors, producers and the whole gamut of fantastically creative people dedicated to their craft to conceive, carry and deliver their stories to screen to entertain our audiences. Because despite the lack of respect that the entertainment and creative worlds might endure as ‘real jobs’, the reality remains that the arts and associated industries provide essential components to any healthy society. They bring the opportunity for the soul to soar and be expressed through both artists and audience. Our emotions are given time to be explored and touched and our hearts inspired. Even a good horror flick can give you an adrenaline rush and a chance to have a laugh at our own expense as we shriek along with our fellow audience members. Just for a little while, a bunch of strangers sit together sharing an experience that no other would ever have connected these people.

Ultimately, the arts are about connection – with ourselves, with others and with the artists. And while escapism into impossible situations and miraculous escapes seems to be quite the opposite to connection, the experience of stepping into that realm for even just a short while can change someone’s perspective and maybe give them a way to cope with whatever real-life situations they may be facing.

If this can happen with the ‘possibly-might-happen-stretching-the imagination’ type of film, how much more when we create characters and stories around real life and actual events? Now there’s real connection. Nothing gets to me more when the movie is not only well-crafted, performed and produced but it has the elements of an authentic life lived encased in the story. Sure, the details may not be completely accurate, but the essence of the story is there and each person can draw from it whatever they need. Where historical fact and detail is necessary, then be true to it but otherwise, be inspired by the real life heroes and write your own story from their experiences, adding your own flavour to journey. After all, isn’t that what story-telling is all about?

We can wax lyrical about movie-making models and distribution, but no matter how it gets to our audience, let’s give them cracking stories to engage and entertain. Society, in general, seems to have become a generation of observers. I believe that cinema and media have the power to contribute to a move to stir us to participate again.