I see a story in everything, all while simply going through my daily life. I see it in a couple getting into their 1997 VW Jetta, in the way a thirty-something man rubs his temples in long circular motions on an airplane, in a mother and child silently sitting on opposite side of the same bench, lost in their own thoughts. Most of the time, these narratives, once examined more thoroughly, just end up being amalgams of movies or tv shows I watched at some point or just preposterous ideas that fall apart as inconceivable.
None the less, the narrative never stops coming and sometimes it leads to something good.
I remember the first time I consciously noticed this phenomenon… this constantly generated narrative. I had recently broken up with my then girlfriend and was in the throes of a full-on, thoroughly self-indulgent bout of heartache when I saw an elderly couple standing next to their car on one of those perfectly gloomy fall days that are perfect for a self-indulgent bout of heartache. The woman, clearly now her husband’s caretaker simply zipped up his powder blue windbreaker and guided him to the front door of their home. In this small gesture, their whole life spun out in front of me. I saw their living room bathed in the silver light of that crisp fall day. It looked like the living room of scholars… eclectic knick-knacks everywhere, shelves of old books, various well cared for plants, beautiful wooden, solid, honest furniture and the centerpiece of the whole scene was a deep red and brown Persian rug that looked perfectly worn by years of that couple’s footsteps.
That singular moment turned into a short I did called GOOD PEOPLE. The film actually looks nothing like the real-life scene I saw on that autumn day. It has absolutely nothing to do with that narrative what-so-ever, except for one crucial and tiny detail… the knick-knacks I saw in the flood of images that came out of it.
They were so specific and fascinating and kept coming back to me in the weeks that followed. I do not have an interest in odd collectables or a fetish for hoarding, but it stuck with me and out of it came a film that led to a monumental shift in my career.
It was that film that got me a meeting at CAA. It was CAA that got my sci-fi web series BZRK sold to Sam Raimi, it was the social content we did for BZRK that allowed me to build my first sizable audience which exposed me to a whole new world web series buyers. All of that now allows me to get paid for my work and coach other filmmakers in how to do the same.
So, what’s the lesson? Well, it’s simple. Never take the things you see during your daily life for granted. They just might be the things that launch your career. It can literally be the tiniest detail that, when listened to, can give you the gift of telling stories as your fulltime job.
Don’t wait for them to come to you. Go out to them. They exist in your neighborhood corner market, they exist when you’re on the train, they exist in the unassuming corners of your life and should never be discarded as inconsequential.