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The Process of Discovery in Filmmaking.

As I dive deeper into a career in the film industry, I find myself creatively stifled more than ever before. On one hand the money driven and hustling side demands an unforgiving fast pace. On the other hand the creative side demands meditation and patience while developing the craft and art. How can these two extremely polarized sides exist together? How can we as artists and filmmakers both create organically while making a living doing the things we love?

Spoiler alert: I don’t have an answer to this question. But I do have a suggestion.

Go out and make something!

Lately I’ve been writing a feature script and feel stuck a lot. I think I’m not at my best when sitting in front of a blank page on my computer. I love writing, but jeez it can be brutal.

With the birth of my son, I’ve been forced to take a step back from pretty much everything to focus 100% on taking care of him with my wife for the past 2 months. Now that he’s a little older and getting slightly easier to care for, I’m dipping back into writing and creating. The past 2 month weren’t, as I thought at first, a waste of time creatively. During this time I was able to just think about the project and about my practice in general. It was time that I needed, but never gave myself. Just time to think!

A question that kept arising was: What compelled me to make films in the first place?

The answer: The process of discovery.

My filmmaking practice really took shape during my time as an artist-in-residence at the Artists’ Television Access in San Francisco (www.atasite.org support local cinema!). I worked and hung out with legendary experimental filmmaker Craig Baldwin, saw almost every show while I was there, and met so many bright and brilliant creative people. It was an inspiring and awakening part of my life.

Craig has this breathtaking archive of 16mm films that he uses for his own films, and sells to others looking for archival material. On any night of the week I would go down to the archive, chat with Craig, and go through these films just soaking everything in. Eventually ideas would form and I’d be working on my next project using the footage from the archive. This process was so natural. There was no format, no formula, no right and wrong. Pure artistic creation.

Many years later, I finally realize I must embrace my own process of making. Duh! Why did that take me so long? :) This keeps things perpetually fresh, allowing me to experiment without the weight of failure imposed by an already saturated film and art industry.

Here are some tips to get you making, experimenting, and inspiring:

  1. Phones and cameras: Most of us have phones that can record video. Use them! They are amazing cameras and they are always on our person. I find that the phone can be a great way to practice framing, play with deep focus composition, and be super low-profile ninja camera person. Having a camera always with you is like having a notebook or journal always with you. You can use it to capture ideas, trying things out, and just have fun without any pressure of making some coherent piece. It can be just for you. Also, it’s fun to try “breaking” the image. For example, put the phone up to a colorful surface (like right up to it, almost touching) press record and wave your hand around. You can get some really abstract images out of a phone camera by just doing things with it that you might be able to do with other bigger cameras.

  2. Stranger than fiction: Life is pretty interesting just by itself. Find someone or something you find interesting, has a compelling story, or your simply just curious about. Try making a short piece about them. Try evoking their energy. Try recording an audio-only interview. Try going with them somewhere. Try going somewhere that excites you and trying to film the location as if it were a character. All of this can be a great way to start a nonfiction or experimental film, and it also can act as a sketchbook for writing fiction too!

  3. Family history: Everyone has a deeply rich and complex family history. Make a family tree and see how far you get. Jot down questions you have about certain family members, points in time, and missing links. Then go out and start finding some answers! (or at least try to). This exploration of family history can lead to very compelling stories that are impossible to make up. These specific stories often have a striking universal quality to them that everyone can relate to. I’ll write more about this in a separate post soon :)

  4. Still life: Take photos too! Motion picture has its foundation in still photography of course. So be a photographer! You can do all the things mentioned in points 1 and 2 above, just with still images. Then if your feel so inclined, post them to social media and get some conversations started. What do people respond to? What draws people to certain images? Use social media as a tool to work out some ideas without showing all your cards.

These are just some thoughts for now, and I’ll be adding more to this conversation in the future.

Do you have any tips to get our lazy depressed-artist selves making? Please share them! I’m always curious to hear what others do to keep their practice fresh and get the gears turning.

Thanks for reading and happy making!


Having a kid and being a filmmaker.

My son is just about to turn 6 weeks old, and I feel like the happiest and proudest dad alive. It’s been an exhausting 6 weeks, but also the most profound event in my life. It’s amazing to watch him grow, stare so intensely into my eyes, and hear his little baby sounds (and big farts).

As I dive into fatherhood, there’s a little voice in my head saying, “How on Earth will I be able to keep up my creative passions and career while also being a father?” Our schedule right now is, well, non existent. There’s no routine. Life is pretty much going at this little dude’s speed, and there doesn’t seem to be any time for anything else. Being that I absolutely adore him I can’t complain here, but it does make me wonder how I’ll be able to continue my cinematic practice, build a career as a writer/director/editor, and provide emotional and financial support for my family. This is, I’m sure, what all parents must go through, and I now have a first hand experience of the trials and tribulations (and awesomeness) of being a parent.

Do I have answers? No. But I do have some thoughts on how to keep that creative flame burning while stepping into parenthood. These thoughts are merely just me trying things out and by no means have any scientific evidence. :)


1. This intense schedule that newborns have will taper off into a more fixed routine. (Or so I’m told!). Newborns have to eat every 2 or so hours. All the time. That’s right, every 2 hours. So this means I and my wife haven’t seen sleep longer than about 3-4 hours for the last 6 weeks. It’s intense to put it mildly. But as I’m learning, this crazy schedule begins to even out. The baby will start to figure out day from night, have to eat less often (at least at night), and become a bit more predictable with wants and needs. There is light at the end of this tunnel. 

The interesting thing here is sleep deprivation. On one hand, I’m so tired that I have no idea what day or time it is, and I feel like a zombie. On the other hand I’ve been having these weird and spontaneous ideas for the films I’m working on that I can only thank the exhaustion for. So now I religiously carry a mini notepad and pen with me (I did before too but now more than ever) so I can jot whatever down. I also have been using my phone’s notepad a lot more. Although I don’t like using the phone to do creative things, at this point I’ll use whatever I can to get the idea down to remember it.

2. Work out a schedule with your partner. I’m lucky enough to have literally the most amazing life partner ever, so we work out times in the day (if possible) where I can work and write. So far I do this at home in case she needs me during these times. And sometimes it’s only 15min, sometimes an hour. I take what I can get. I can feel myself becoming more efficient with even the shortest period of time. This is something that I recommend to anyone even those without children. Give yourself a time limit to work. This limitation can have very positive and rewarding effects.  

3. Talk to your baby about what you’re working on. Sometimes I’ll just tell him what I’m thinking about, what ideas I’ve been playing around with, or even try to tell him the story I’m writing from start to finish. This has been fun and also gives unexpected clarity to the stories. It kind of forces me to think “how do I tell this story so even a baby can understand?” It has taught me to distill the story to its essence, which has really helped with the big picture brainstorming. Plus it’s just fun to tell your baby what your doing. 


These are just 3 points to start, and I’ll have more as life goes on.  

I’d love to hear what you all think! Any words of wisdom from parents and others? Feel free to comment!   

Happy new year and happy parenting:)  



Cyrus TabarComment
Keeping a Dream Journal

Have you ever tried to document your dreams? Apparently it’s pretty difficult. About 6 months ago I decided that I wanted to record my dreams, mostly for my own amusement and in the hopes that it might inform my creative writing process somehow. If you Google “how to keep a dream journal” you’ll find about a gazzillion links to tips and tricks. I guess I’ll just add to that pile, but I’ll do it from my own experience and hopefully it’ll help you.

I began my quest with the goal of lucid dreaming. For those of you who aren’t familiar, lucid dreaming is basically the ability to make conscious decisions in your dreams. Pretty cool right? It’s like the ultimate trip. Kawabunga. But in order to get to the point of being able to lucid dream you have to practice. The idea is that you need to become familiar with your dreams and your subconscious; to become aware of this other world that you go to every time you sleep.

One way to do this is to record your dreams in a dream journal. Documenting your dreams is the first step in being an active member in your dream world. After some time keeping your dream journal you might be able to actually “take part” in your dreams. (I have no scientific data to back any of this up, by the way, so just sick back and enjoy the ride.)

So I began my dream journal. Every night I had my notebook and pencil ready to go the moment I woke up. Don’t be fooled, this is a long process that requires some getting used to. It wasn’t easy at first. I often would wake up and totally forget to write down whatever I might have remembered. But after some time I got better at grabbing that notebook and pencil to jot down my psychedelic subconscious immediately after waking up. If you try keeping a dream journal, you’ll find things that work and don’t work for you too. It’s a very personal process and you have to have patience to find what clicks for you.

How does one do this, you might ask? Here’s some tips to start your dream journal adventure:

  1. First you need a notebook and a pen/pencil. No, you can’t use your phone. Just don’t. Paper and pencil are the best bet. Keep them right next to your bed, in arms distance. Like on your nightstand or something. Open the notebook to a fresh page, ready for you to write on.

  2. Meditate a little before going to sleep. Some people say you should focus on the idea that you will be remembering you dreams when you wake up. Like saying to yourself “I will remember my dreams when I wake up.” I’m not so sure this actually works. But what I did find is that a bit of meditation goes a long way. Just focus on your breath. Get into the zone to sleep. Try to let go of the stress of the day and relax.

  3. Sleep. Duh!

  4. When you wake up (and this is the hard part that takes some getting used to) grab your notebook and pencil and write whatever you remember. Doesn’t matter how much or how little you remember. Anything is good. If it’s just one image, write it down. If it’s just a feeling, write it down. If it’s a whole story, write it down! And if you don’t remember anything, whatever! You’ll be sleeping again soon. Also, I found that doing all this with my eyes still closed and moving as little as possible worked the best. The more I moved, the less I remembered.

  5. Repeat! Do this every time you sleep. Make it a ritual.

Some tips to help:

  1. A cool trick I stumbled upon is to set two alarms: The first is set to about an hour before I’m supposed to actually wake up. The second is set to the time I need to wake up to start my day. I found that short bursts of sleep tend to yield best results for vivid dreams, and remembering those dreams. So if you have to wake up at 8am, set an alarm for 7am and 8am. When the 7am alarm goes off, write down your dreams if you remember any, then go back to sleep. When 8am hits you might have a whole new dream to journal! And for me, those little burst dreams have been the most vivid.

  2. Some people say that eating certain foods before sleeping helps too. I haven’t had any noticeable results from this, but maybe I’m just not doing it right. Things like sugary food, maybe some apple juice or some fruits, could help get that imagination going.

  3. Keep this journal religiously! Do this every time you sleep! Try to be diligent about it. The more you do it, then more results you’ll have. Pretty soon you’ll have a dream journal full of some pretty strange stuff!

If anything, this is just a fun thing to do. It might lead to some revelations about yourself, help you solve real world problems, or even inspire stories you’re working on! For me, I’ve discovered themes in my dreams that I never knew existed. Also the imagery tends to be really symbolic and metaphoric, which is super cool and has inspired me to approach some of my own filmmaking in different ways. Plus, like I said before, it’s fun!


Is there such thing as "Writer's Block" ?

As I develop and write a feature script I'm working on now, I'm constantly confronted with this pesky little thing called "writer's block." This thing that comes from nowhere to stifle my creativity and ensure I cannot continue even with one more word. 

While staring at my blinking text cursor, or sometimes a completely blank page, I can think of a million other things to do, but can't seem to focus on what it is I need to write. Which is what brings me to this simple question: Does writer's block actually exist? If so then how can I overcome it. If not, then why do I find myself stuck?

I never thought of myself as a writer until recently. My elementary and high school educations never covered creative writing (or writing in any depth for that matter) so I never thought I had the skills to approach writing at all.

I still find writing to be incredibly scary and daunting. What will I write? How will I come up with what to write? Why am I writing? Who cares? Am I really even remotely good at this? But slowly and gradually I've been visited by the little fairy of creativity: Flow. 

Flow is a beautiful thing. I think all of us have met Flow. Have been completely immersed in Flow. Flow is "the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task," as defined by Scott Barry Kaufman in his The Huffington Post article The Creative ‘Flow’: How to Enter That Mysterious State of Oneness . 

As I've learn how to write, that is, how it is I feel I can write, I've understood that I can reach a state of flow, completely surrounded by my story, by my process. It's the best thing ever. 

But how do I reach that creative flow? Well I don't have an answer to that other than to JUST WRITE. 

Here's a few tips that I use on a daily basis:

- Write about your day: What did you do? How was your morning? Who did you see? What happened? How was the weather? What did you think about? What's on your mind? This kind of writing isn't necessarily creative but I've found that it can get me in the mood to write. Get the vibe going. 

- Write about what's happening around you right now: This is an observational exercise that works best if you're out and about. Maybe at a cafe. Maybe on public transportation. Maybe at a park. Anywhere but home alone. Who do you see? What is going on? Describe the people around you. What are they wearing? Describe your surroundings in detail. What are people doing? What are people talking about? What are you hearing?

- Daily journal: Simply keep a daily journal that you write in any time of the day. This can be any kind of writing. Mostly personal. Mostly subjective, but could be purely observationally objective too. A journal can be a great way to dive into a very intimate space with yourself. I find that my daily journal often starts off objective (talking about my day or what's on my mind etc) then gets much more subjective. My journal is a way for me to work through the things that float just beneath the surface of consciousness. 

- Throwaway writing: Before you start writing the thing you want, begin by writing anything at all! Sometimes I find that if I just free write before starting the real work, I loosen up and feel a little more ready to attack my main task. It's kind of like stretching and warming up before actually playing the sport you intend to play. You need to stretch and warm up before diving into the good stuff.

Anyways, I hope these tips help. I definitely don't take credit for any of them since I've pick these tips up from other writers and artists. So a big thanks to them.

And a big thanks to you all for getting to the end of this seemingly endless post! I'll definitely be covering more on this topic in the future.


The start of something new

Hi there, 

Amidst many life events, both good and bad, I’ve decided to start a blog. A place to collect thoughts, discuss current events, and work things out. I’m not sure what it will turn into, nor what I even want to post about! Not yet at least. But I most definitely want to talk about filmmaking. The entire life of filmmaking from my perspective; an independent filmmaker who’s just trying to make stuff. From brainstorming to screenwriting to directing to editing to music making to everything! I want to talk about it all. And maybe we might even figure some stuff out together. Thanks for visiting.  


Cyrus TabarComment