artist | filmmaker

Lessons I’ve learned


1. Work hard on your craft. Always.
2. Keep your ego out of the work… BUT also know your identity and what you’re about.

3. Tell stories that mean something to you. If you don’t care why should anyone else?

4. Don’t let your creative voice be diluted by other people’s standards… BUT also filmmaking is a collaborative enterprise. Find a positive way to lift people to your standards. (Remember Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”)

5. Have a skill / expertise that you can lean on, while at the same time, work on your weaknesses. When you’re starting out you’ll get known for one thing, but later on life will ask you to wear different hats.

6. Improve what you consume and you will improve your taste.

7. Be someone who solves problems not creates them.

8. Take criticism well and give criticism well.

9. Manage stress well. Learn to perform well under extreme pressure and deadlines. Remember… You got this!

10. Do great work and always hit your deadlines. Know how long it will reasonably take you to finish a task.

(If you can’t hit a deadline, be sure to give your boss / producer notice and a good reason why. People are reasonable, they just don’t like being unpleasantly surprised at the last minute!)

11. Develop meaningful relationships with your creative collaborators; they will be with you for life.

12. Be a good person to work with – that means being on time, doing good work and be a generous good-spirited co-worker.

13. Be patient. You will have to tolerate a lot of frustration. Don’t let that frustration make you bitter.

14. Read the room – saying the right thing at the wrong time gets you nowhere. A great filmmaker always says the right thing at the right time.

You don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to be heard. If you say the right thing at the right time that will set you apart from the noise. For introverts and those who lack confidence – practice engagement. For extroverts who take up the room – practice listening more.

15. Stand by what you say. Follow through on your word. Don’t be someone who talks a big game and doesn’t walk it.

16. Pick your battles! Some things just aren’t worth planting your flag on the hill for. Conversely, some things are worth planting your flag on the hill for. Know the difference.

17. Be good with money. Understand what things cost and why. Film is an Art and a Business.

18. Know your worth. Don’t allow yourself to be paid less by an employer than what you deserve.

Do your research on standard salaries in your area of skill / expertise. Research the guilds / unions and how you can qualify to join.

19. Do your research on what is legal and illegal behavior in the workplace. If you believe a boss, co-worker, and/or workplace is engaging in harassment and / or discrimination, report the behavior to Human Resources. If your workplace is lacking Human Resources, or you feel uncomfortable going to Human Resources, you may need to speak to a union representative, employment lawyer, and / or anti-harassment / anti-discrimination organization.

20. Keep updated on the industry landscape. This means reading the industry news. Get to know who is doing what.

21. Have your future in mind but manage your expectations. Life will work out but not always in the way you plan.

22. Open doors for others. Doors were opened for you so don’t be selfish. The film industry is a community and we all suffer when opportunity isn’t passed down the chain.

23. Most importantly, value your family and friends; they will be your safe harbor when you come home.

24. Protect your own time to care for your mind, body and soul.

25. Finally, don’t forget to dream and love what you do. Keep a sense of joy and childlike wonder always. Your heart will thank you for it.


All images copyright Emily Dean