Zack Morrison is a filmmaker, YouTuber, and creator/host of the webseries “We Have A Show.” He has a MFA in screenwriting and directing from Columbia University. Here he discusses directing techniques for indie filmmakers…some he learned in school, and some he learned the hard way.
Happy new year everybody. It’s been a while since I posted one of these, and my new year’s resolution is to be more active in Blog/Vlog Land in 2019. I hope everyone’s holiday treated you splendidly.
Today I want to kick off the 2019 Zack’s Declassified by talking about something that we as artists always keep in the back of our brains, but maybe never fully articulate. No, I’m not referring to our desire to constantly rank the Star Wars movies every three months. I’m talking about a thing that us creatives deal with on a constant basis, but often don’t even address, or even consciously perceive. It’s FOTU: Fear of the Unknown.
I just moved to Los Angeles. As a New Jersey native and adopted New Yorker, that was difficult. All my friends and family are back home. Every professional contact I ever made was back home. Even the locations and geography that I’ve grown so accustom to shooting in or writing about are located between Exits 9 and 18W on the New Jersey Turnpike. Los Angeles is an entirely foreign place for me as a creative professional, and despite the countless jokes about how much I hate it and the poor SNL ‘Californians’ accents I do from time to time, it was a surprising yet inevitable turn of events for me to actually suck it up and punch a ticket.
I don’t think there’s ever been a project of mine that hasn’t in some way included us taking over my parents’ house in central New Jersey. If you’re going to do that, make sure you buy groceries that week.
I’m writing this post from my new kitchen table in Venice; a far cry from my old kitchen table in Harlem on 118th street & Morningside Park. As I’m snowplowing my stream of consciousness into Microsoft Word, a plethora of thoughts and anxieties are going through my head: am I going to find a job? Am I going to make rent this month? Am I going to be able to get my work in front of the magic eyeballs that grant access to the universe out here? It’s all rather terrifying. But as a filmmaker, as a creative no less, I’m working on telling myself that it’s a necessary evil I have to overcome.
My favorite movie of all time is The Blues Brothers, and a running joke is how God sent them on a mission to reunite their band. A line that slips under the radar is when John Belushi says “the lord works in mysterious ways.” Granted this is shortly after they drive the Bluesmobile through the inside of a mall, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m not trying to take this on a religious tangent, but express my faith in the idea that the universe has ways of opening doors when you least expect it to. There are gold in them hills, and whatever the hill is that you’re trying to overcome in your creative, professional, or personal life; it’s yours for the taking, but only should you choose to take it. Sometimes we need to jump off the cliff and learn how to fly on the way down if we’re ever going to accomplish our creative goals.
This was the movie that made me want to start making movies. Musical numbers and outrageous car crashes included.
So when you’re working on your next thing, remember that each project is an opportunity to push yourself, to try something new, and most importantly, to encourage those around you to do the same. Don’t let complacency or the desire for stasis to get in the way of what needs to be done, even if that means putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. Do that weird genre thing you always wanted to try. Write that script that’s been inside your brain. It’s a new year, which means it’s a fresh start, but January is almost already over. The clock is ticking. As Jed Bartlett would say, “what’s next?”
The lord works in mysterious ways. When I got to LA, it rained for four days straight, the most the town’s seen in a long time. On 6:00am Pacific Time on Monday morning last week, on the first sunny day since landing at LAX, as I sat down to begin the daunting task of job applications, I got an email letting me know that I was nominated for a student Emmy award in the comedy category. In that moment, it felt like a sign that I made the right move.