It's been a big year

It’s been just over 12 months since we starting shooting Season 1 of Starting From … Now! This milestone of sorts has made me somewhat reflective, so please bear with me. It’s been a big year. During the last 12 months we’ve shot the equivalent of 18 short films, released 12 of those, and amassed views in excess of 2.6 million across the first two seasons. It’s been, by far, the most productive year of my life and, in many ways, one of the most rewarding.

Needless to say I’ve learnt a lot over the course of the last year. You can’t be engaged in that level of output and not learn something. What’s surprised me most, however, is not what I’ve learnt about filmmaking, but what I’ve learnt about myself.

Firstly, the filmmaking. I expected to learn a huge amount about directing in making this web series. I hadn’t done a great deal of directing prior to this so I knew I’d be learning as I went. Even though I read as much as possible about the craft prior to the shoot, directing is one of those things you have to learn on the job. And boy, did I learn. Like a lot of things, you learn the most by making mistakes. I can’t even count the number of mistakes I’ve made across the first three seasons of Starting From … Now! Things I look back on now and wish I could do over. But you can’t and that’s all part of the learning process. What you can do, however, is make sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice. I’m hoping I’ve managed to do that but, if I’m being honest, that may not necessarily be the case.

As well as leaning a lot about directing, I’ve also learnt a great deal about writing. I have a Masters degree in screenwriting, I’ve been writing scripts for about 15 years and yet, over the past 12 months, I feel as though my writing has improved enormously and I’m a much better writer now than I was a year ago. This has a lot to do with the process of taking the work from script to screen. You can sit at a desk and write and, don’t get me wrong, you learn an incredible amount about writing by doing, however, it’s when you have to then work out how you’re going to shoot any given scene, when you sit in rehearsals with really talented actors who ask you what the conflict is in a particular scene, and when you see the rough cut of an episode and you know which scenes aren’t working, that’s when you learn a lot about writing. Again, if I’m being honest, on some level you probably knew which scenes weren’t working when you signed off on the script. For whatever reason you chose to ignore your gut instincts and send the script out anyway. It’s only when you’re on set or even in the edit when you realise what a mistake that was, which makes it harder to ignore next time you find yourself in that situation. 

On a more personal level, I’ve learnt an enormous amount about myself throughout this process. The events of the past 12 months have had a profound effect on how I see myself and my place in the industry. I’m much more confident than I was a year ago, both in terms of my craft and as a person. Prior to this I’d fallen into the habit of finding excuses not to do things. I was second-guessing my instincts and my ability to get things done. That’s no longer the case. While I’m still capable of being as insecure as the next person there’s something to be said for having to just get in and do it. The sheer volume of output over the past year has meant that even when I do have doubts and am feeling insecure, there’s not a great deal of time to dwell on it. In the end, you’ve got a deadline to meet and if you don’t meet it, then no-one will.

It’s been a big year and one that has, on a number of occasions, been extremely stressful. There are times when I’ve questioned my ability to do what needs to be done, when I’ve wept from sheer exhaustion and when I’ve had to prioritise the series over partner, family and friends. However, even during the most difficult of times, on some level, I’m aware of how lucky I am to be doing this. Not only have I learnt an incredible amount about filmmaking and about myself, I’ve also had the opportunity to share this experience with some incredibly talented, wonderful people, many of whom I now consider to be my friends. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how supportive some people have been and, not as surprised but still eternally grateful, for the support my partner has given me during this time.  

I had no idea when this started that it would turn out the way it has. You never do. There’s something to be said, therefore, that no matter how scared you are or how much you doubt your ability to pull it off, sometimes you just need to dive right in and see what happens. It’s a cliché but I fully subscribe to the belief that you only regret the things you don’t do. I’ve spent too much of my life putting things off and living with that regret. Having seen what’s happened over the past 12 months and how much we’ve been able to achieve, let’s hope that’s one lesson I’ve well and truly learnt for good.

By Julie Kalceff