Documentary filmmaking is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging things to work on. It’s not scripted in the same way a fiction film would be. There are not actors playing a part, but regular, everyday people you rely on to tell the story in the way you hope is interesting to the audience. Some scripting is involved as far as how you want to tell the story, but you’re relying on the people, places, environment or animals to do that in a compelling way. Because it’s unpredictable, it means you must be ready at all times for any possible change to your plans.
I recently worked on a documentary where we had planned the exact location we were going to shoot as well as had an idea of the way the story was going to be told. It was a small production with only four of us for the shoot. I never worked with the camera man or the production manager before, but have been acquainted with the executive producer from past work. This often happens in film where you meet new people on every project. One key thing I noticed about this project was that the camera man, was never ready. Ever.
The experience inspired me to write this post because it’s an example of how in life, you might miss great opportunities because you aren’t ready.
On other productions I have worked, the Director of Photography (DOP) and other camera crew are always ready to take the next shot. It doesn’t matter if the director or producer has instructed them to take a shot, they were always prepared in case something came up unexpectedly. In this particular case, we were driving to the location and on the way there were many scenes that would have made great b-roll. Most camera people I have worked with are always shooting while we are on the way. They even take the initiative to tell the team they want to stop and shoot when something interesting is spotted.
The person we had with us on that particular day was instead relaxed in the car and not paying attention to the environment as we drove. Sometimes even closing his eyes to sleep along the journey. The executive producer would frequently notice interesting scenes and call out to the camera guy instructing him to shoot something. He would be startled, suddenly start fidgeting with his camera and trying to focus or change the camera lens. Before we knew it, we’ve driven past the ‘great shot’ and lost the opportunity for great b-roll. When it came to shooting me as the reporter on the show, he also would be challenged in his preparedness to get the right shot. Even though the camera was his, he didn’t seem to have a strong level of comfort with it and it frustrated the executive producer many times.
How does this story relate to you?
If you’ve ever talked about your goals, dreams and aspirations, then the concept of being ready, being prepared applies to you. It’s one of the most important parts of success. Every day I see people posting things on social media about pursing dreams, success principles and more. For the most part people talk about what they want, but they don’t prepare for how they will get it.
Malcolm Gladwell is often quoted for something he said in his book, Outliers, which was that a person needs 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. This theory focuses on the idea of practice. Honing your craft. Being prepared and ready for when that opportunity knocks.
3 Ways to Be Ready for that Opportunity
1. Practice Your Craft Daily.
When you practice every day you’ll get better at what you do. For example, if you’re a writer, it’s a good idea to set aside time to write every single day. Even if it’s only for a few minutes. The more you do it, the better you’ll become.
2. Be ready to pitch yourself or your great idea at any given moment.
Being ready to pitch is so important because you never know who you might meet that will ask you to explain your idea or to tell them why you’re the best for the job. If you’re not ready to do that in a short 30 seconds, you may miss out.
3. Take initiative when you’re in the element.
When you’ve already been given the opportunity, take advantage and do things without being told. Give it your full 100% effort and even go above and beyond. If you’re working on a project and you see that something specific that needs to be done, that the boss didn’t notice, take the initiative and do it without being asked. Then tell your boss you noticed what needed to be done and executed it efficiently.
These steps are effective no matter what industry you work in, or are striving to be in. It’s about staying ready and being prepared to jump when that opportunity presents itself.