I often go back and watch the work I created in the past. A small portfolio of stories I conceived, brought to life and shared with the world. Watching my films takes me back to the times when my creativity was at its optimum. Whether I teamed up with other creators or worked alone, my work brought me joy and a huge sense of achievement.
At the time, it felt great because I was creating work that people could see and engage with. I was leaving my mark in the very saturated world of indie filmmaking and this alone was extremely gratifying. Despite only having a handful of loyal viewers, I felt quite fulfilled within my filmmaking bubble. I smiled everytime people said they recognised my filmmaking style, this style I had developed over the years and worked so hard to perfect. I loved the fact that this style was becoming clearer, edit after edit.
I was working with people I loved, creating the type of stories I wanted to see on my screen and, on a more personal note, allowing myself to be vulnerable: Open to not only criticism but praise too, because if you know me well you’ll know how hard I am on myself.
I took pride in the fact that I was making my own content and creating a brand. I was a black female filmmaker, part of an under-represented and often misrepresented demographic. I had aspirations to impact the industry in a positive way, hopefully have an Ava-Duvernay-Shonda-Rhimes type influence as I grew more and more into the art form. And it’s not like I didn’t have a good support system. For years I worked with the man I considered to be the best. I had an example to follow, I had the time, I had resources, at one point I even had people willing to invest in my film work. What more could I ask for?
The term “Girl boss” would probably apply here – ambitious, forging my way into a male-dominated industry, inspirational, as people would often say. But never accomplished; I never ever felt accomplished as a creator.
When I made the choice to leave it all behind, it was because it was time for me to pursue a more stable path. The type of stability I had never really experienced before, you know, a profession, a job that could afford me the financial freedom I craved.
Once I found it, my life changed. Starting a career in a more corporate environment turned me into a complete different version of myself. I became a lot more focused, even the way I run my household has changed – much more organised and disciplined; verging on OCD at times.
In the midst of all this I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that I no longer have the time to create the type of work I did in the past. Sadly I’ve forgotten how to write a script or shoot a movie. I miss being able to come up with new stories and turn them into experiences. Writing, producing, directing… all these things have become somewhat foreign to me. I turned to vlogging as a way to keep one foot in and nurture that creative side of me but vlogging is a much more informal outlet. It’s fun, but it will never allow me to display the technical skills I developed as a filmmaker.
My passion lies in media, design, film, making things, creating, telling stories. But this isn’t my profession. It could be, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve already accepted that.
I’ve had to accept that I’m no longer an inspiration to young aspiring filmmakers. I can’t remember the last time I received an email from a college student wanting to shadow me on a shoot or help me with production-related stuff. My social media presence is decreasing; I’ve lost my Twitter mojo. My films don’t get shown at film nights anymore, no more festival submission forms to fill in and send to festivals across the world, no more awards to pursue, no more actors’ headshots to stare at, no more casting decisions to make… I no longer get requests from online publications wanting to feature or interview me. I’m not in charge of my own schedule anymore, or an entire film crew’s shooting schedule, for that matter. No more glamorous industry nights to attend, a lot less clout and influence. My routine is now a lot more rigid, even my social life isn’t as vibrant as it used to be.
In a way I’ve lost some of my ambitions. The independent, self-made success I once dreamed of is now a thing of the past.
And slowly, that “Girl boss” feeling is starting to disappear.
But this isn’t where the story ends. Because as the Girl boss feeling starts to disappear, a new one surfaces – that feeling of being pretty darn satisfied with my choices. Content and perfectly comfortable with my new life. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
I may not be at the top of my game right now in terms of my creative aspirations, or the pursuit of happiness commonly referred to as chasing your dreams, turning your passion into a profession… but I feel I’m where I’m supposed to be.
I may not be as visible as I was when I was creating work that I was proud of, my writing, everything I did with my producer hat on, the stories I told through film… Nowadays I have anxieties about sharing my vlogs for fear that people will notice the lack of aesthetics, the lack of production value. When you are a perfectionist vlogging is the most frustrating way to create content. But the fact that I’m doing meaningful work in other ways and thriving in a different sector is something I must learn to celebrate.
I may not have as much control or freedom as I did when I was a freelancer in charge of my own schedule, my own growth. But working under someone else’s leadership does not diminish my own abilities. If anything it’s been great seeing how much other people are rooting for me, bringing the best out of me, helping me develop my potential.
So, a little note to self… for those times when ‘hashtag Girl boss’ seems like a distant concept or a status you’ll never reach… Remember that it’s up to you to define your own success. Reclaim the term and apply it to your own life. If your accomplishments are good enough for you, then they’re good enough, period.
Photo credit: Debra Chosen