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What Indie Filmmakers Can Learn from Simone Biles

Simone Biles pulled herself out of Olympic competition. This is arguably the biggest competition there is for a gymnast and she was the anchor to a team vying for a gold medal. She had trained all her life for moments like these but, in a moment, she realized that she needed to sit this one out. Why? Because of the 'twisties', a severely disorienting feeling that caused her to lose touch with where she was in space and time. She didn't know which way she would land or on which body part. Had she kept going, she would have been sacrificing her body as well as the dreams of her team of achieving a medal. Fortunately, she and the team doctor knew what to do. They knew the depth of the decision they were about to make but made the right one.

When I heard this story, I couldn't help but think, "The twisties! Filmmakers get that!" When indie filmmakers finish the long, arduous, yet rewarding process of producing a film, they often run right into the festival circuit. They go from the physically and emotionally taxing birth of their babies into a whirlwind of travel, networking, promotion, and screenings. It's disorienting. It's confusing. It's draining. And then, along come distributors with their deals. These deals are far from great, but the weary filmmakers can barely tell up from down. Instead of sitting it out to get their heads straight again, they press on and walk right into contracts that do little to care for the film they've so lovingly brought into this world.

But what if filmmakers followed in the footsteps of Simone Biles? What if they sidelined themselves just long enough to take a deep breath and recover from the exhaustion? What if, instead of placing their films in the first set of outstretched hands willing to take the pressure off, they sat back to admire their babies and realize what was truly best for them?

As a filmmaker, this momentary pause to regain your footing can be the one thing that defines the future of your film, the future of your baby. It's worth the time away from the hustle and bustle to just sit back, clear your mind, and prepare yourself for the journey ahead. What Simone Biles understood is that her future is much longer than those fleeting moments at the 2020 Olympics. Injuring herself when she had the power to pull herself out would have been a fool's errand with unknown, lasting consequences. The same is true for the hasty filmmaker who takes a deal that doesn't have their best interests at heart. The consequences often last for years as they are bound in contracts that are near impossible to break.

So, take a lesson from Simone Biles. Recognize the 'twisties' for what they are. Take a step back. Reflect. Relax. Recuperate from all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into bringing your film to life. Once you are in the headspace to make the right decisions, go forth and do great things!

As always,

Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.


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