What I Learned From Filming Myself

I just spent the past hour and a half filming a video about me as an assignment for Praxis. I’ve never really done something like this before. I’m a filmmaker: I’ve made short films. But I never star in them.
This was a completely new experience for me. And while I put my camera back away in my bag, I began thinking about what I’d learned.
I wanted to share it with you.

(I want you to know how dedicated I am to this post: my fingers are about to fall off because of how numb they are, because it’s November outside and I was a genius and decided to film my video outdoors, but I’m doing this for you. I’m typing because I want to help you, if ever you have to film yourself. You’re welcome.)

What I Learned:

You’re going to hate yourself, and hate the world.

I can’t tell you how many times I had to start over my whole shot simply because I said one word wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I had to stop in the middle of a take and wait for a car to drive by (don’t you love filming outdoors?). And I can’t tell you how much my perfectionist self hated me. I hated myself for not being able to get it done in one take. Because I’m perfect, right? That means I can’t mess up, right? That means I’ll have boundless amounts of energy and enthusiasm and charisma and blow everyone away with one shot, right?

No. You won’t.

You’re going to hate yourself because you’re not going to get the words right every time. You’re going to hate yourself for every time you have to start over because of that one slip up. Because you want to get this done. Because you want to make a good, impressive video. You’re going to hate yourself, and the world, for being against you being awesome.

But I have a little tip here:

You’re already awesome.

You’re filming yourself. You’re freaking videoing you. You’re showcasing yourself to the world. You’re proving that you’re not scared of that little piece of metal sitting a few feet in front of you. You’re doing something that most people are terrified to do and leave to others to accomplish. It’s a lot harder than you thought when you turned the camera on, isn’t it? But you still did it. You’re still doing it. And you’re amazing.

I’m proud of you.

You’re going to be exhausted.

I could curl up into a ball and sleep for five hours. I don’t want to talk to another single soul. And I only ate about half an hour before I starting filming and dang it, now I’m starving. Staring into the dead lens of a camera is a lot harder than staring another person in the face. At least you know that person is alive, and present, and — hopefully — listening. The camera doesn’t care what you tell it. It doesn’t bat an eyelash at any of it. It doesn’t care how many takes you do; it’ll continue to patiently stand there and film you, no matter what. But it also won’t congratulate you when you do succeed. That’s more exhausting than talking to a human. At least a human reacts to what you’re saying. But the camera doesn’t. It just stares. And it’s a little scary, to be honest.

You’re going to want to give up.

Because every time a bird caws, you have to start over. Every time your neighbor turns their car on, start over. Every time a plane flies over. You’re going to mess up so many times, you’re going to think, “Surely that’s good enough. That take was good enough. I don’t have to do another one.”

Word of wisdom from someone who’s been making short films for four years:

It wasn’t good enough.

If ever you think “that’s good enough” you’re going to hate yourself later when you come back to edit and discover, Wow, it’s actually not good enough.
You’re not going to want to do that last take when you’re filming but I promise you, you will wish you had. Your future self will thank you, profusely, when you bit back the urge to give up and move on, deciding to work through the awkward, hard thing that is filming yourself, and did just one more take. You’re going to be grateful that you said, “Just one more take.”
Because maybe in that one more take, you got the emphasis on that hard sentence just perfectly. Maybe you finally felt the enthusiasm you’d lost twenty takes ago. Maybe there’s an adorable little twinkle of triumph in your eye because you knew this take was right.

At the end of the day, filming yourself is hard. Harder than telling other people what to do. Because you have to find the will in yourself to be good at it, and do it better with every single take. But when you finally get the take right, you’ll love it. You’ll find a confidence and strength in who you are, because you saw the camera and told it, “Nope, you don’t scare me.”

And that’s empowering.

This is why I make films:

Because it makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you feel alive.

It reminds you what it means to be human.

And making a film empowers you beyond what you could ever imagine, until you make one.

So go out there and film yourself.

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