How Filmmaking Teaches Us to Live a Good Life


For those of you who know me, you know that I do an awful lot of reading. Whether it’s longform journalism, literary fiction, philosophy, personal development, or books about filmmaking, a good chunk of my time is spent with my eyes glued to a page (or a Kindle).

And it’s through all of this reading that I recently had a pretty interesting realization: the process of making films teaches us many of the essential components of living a good life. What started as one connection between film and life soon turned into many as I thought about it more and more.

So this article won’t be quite as formal and structured as what I usually write. Instead, it’s just a few stray observations about the similarities between the process of making films and the essentials of living a good life. Hope you enjoy it.

Filmmaking teaches us how to take huge goals, break them down into their smallest, most essential parts, and complete each part in a systematic way. 

Nobody gets up one morning and says to themselves, “Gee, I think I’m going to make a film,” and then all of the sudden a finished film manifests itself in their life a few moments later. Instead, films begin as an idea, and then it’s the filmmaker’s job to reverse engineer that idea into a series of actionable steps so that the idea can become a reality.

Life is much the same way. We all want to accomplish things, and the most valuable of those things take a good deal of time and planning and persistence.

If we could approach our careers, our side projects, our relationships, or anything else with that same level of clarity and commitment that we bring to filmmaking — with a systematized approach where everything’s broken down into small and actionable, but not insignificant steps — we’d be well on our way to achieving and being more.

Filmmaking teaches us that when we work together, we’re stronger and capable of so much more.

Much like raising a child, it takes a village to make a film. Though many of us have romantic ideas about the lone “auteur” whose singular vision is what makes it to the screen, filmmaking is, and likely always will be, an inherently collaborative process.

It not only requires a good deal of manpower and a wide range of skill sets, but those many different creative inputs often make the finished film stronger. Every person who works on a film in a creative capacity leaves their mark on the film in some way, and that’s a beautiful thing.

How does this apply to life, you might be asking? Well, it’s hard for me to admit this because I’ve been such an introverted and reserved and shy person my entire life, but I’ve come to believe that relationships and community are most likely an essential part of a good life.

Like in filmmaking, when we can let go of our ego and let go of the idea that we have total control over everything, we invite constructive relationships and collaborations into our lives. And that’s a powerful thing.

Filmmaking teaches us to be resourceful and to solve problems creatively.

Part of what makes independent filmmaking such an admirable endeavor is that it’s firmly rooted in a rugged sense of resourcefulness and problem solving.

Whereas high-end Hollywood producers are more likely to throw money at a problem, independent filmmakers are forced to solve that problem through creativity and a never-give-up DIY attitude. For them, procuring more money just isn’t an option, so if they want to see their film to completion, they have to find other ways to work around problems.

Life is the same way. Every single one of us has problems, struggles, and battles we’re facing. And a good deal of the time (this is true for me, at least), we think we don’t have the internal or external resources to solve those problems ourselves. However, a simple shift in mindset can lead us to be more crafty and creative and resilient with our attempts to solve them.

Filmmaking teaches us to do our best, practice the art of acceptance, and move on.

Chasing perfection in filmmaking is a surefire way to drive yourself insane. Quite simply, perfection just does not exist in film. There are just too many variables and details, many of which are completely out of our control, for us to come anywhere close to perfection. And frankly, what does perfection even mean any way?

Some of the wisest filmmakers I know have learned this the hard way. They agonized over every last detail on projects early in their careers, only to become crippled by anxiety and a fear that their work wouldn’t be good enough. Now though, these same filmmakers have learned to give every project their fullest effort, but they’re self aware enough to know that at a certain point, you have to let go of that project and move onto the next one.

And sure enough, life is often the same way. Many of the things that influence our lives (either positively or negatively) are out of our control. Yet agonizing and obsessing over these things is the norm for some of us. It really can be crippling.

However, what’s always within our control is how we choose to perceive these things and how we let them affect us. When we learn to take responsibility for the things that are in our control and accept the things that aren’t, a good life tends to follow.

Wrapping up

That’s all I’ve got for the time being. I’m sure there are plenty more lessons filmmaking can teach us about living a good life (especially in regards to expressing creativity and being practical), but they’ll have to wait for another day.

-Robert Hardy 



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