There comes a time in the life of every creative when you’ll have to work with material that you don’t feel any personal connection to. So what do you do? You could just half-ass it and hope a better job comes along next time, as many do in this situation, but why waste the opportunity? In every project there are lessons to be learned.
Here’s some ways you can connect with material, even when you are not feeling it.
Find Something Small
No matter what the material, there is bound to be the tiniest element of something that you can connect with. Try to boil the project down to a single word, phrase or feeling. Is it about love, change, heartbreak, fear of failure? Chances are you’ve experienced at least one of these. On the face of it the scene may just be about a man walking into a bar… But what is it REALLY about? As a writer or director it is your job to find that deeper meaning. If you can make it connect for you, then who knows? Maybe it’ll connect for someone else too.
Twist it to Suit
This will depend on the project but there is usually some leeway in how much you can change the project to suit your tastes. Test the boundaries and see how much you can change. Worst case scenario, they ask you to change it back. Maybe you’ll be able to slip in a few things without them noticing. A great technique here is to propose one big change that they will obviously reject to hide the little changes that you actually want to make. Sneaky, but effective.
Experiment / Play
Try something that you’ve never tried before. Any small thing that gives you a reason to be excited about the project. Try a shot you’ve never tried before or use a piece of technology that you’ve never used before. Film technology moves so fast these days that there is always some new toy to play with. This is a golden opportunity to learn and grow on someone else’s yen.
Embrace the Opportunities
Maybe you are not excited about the artistic side of the project but there’s plenty else you could get excited about. Maybe this is your chance to work with cast or crew that you’ve always wanted to work with, film on a location that you’ve always wanted to use, or get your work in front of the right people. Maybe you are working on some bland advertising project or a daytime soap opera. It might not be a glamorous project but keep in mind that your work may be playing to your largest audience yet! And that’s certainly something to get fired up about. Catch the right persons eye and maybe you’ll get the creative freedom you crave next time.
So that’s it! I hope you’re feeling a little better about your situation now.
And if you still can’t get into it? Then walk away. There are plenty of other people waiting in the wings eager to step into your shoes.
Got any coping strategies of your own you want to share?