Nine Things I Learned About Life While Making Foreign Correspondents

Me, left, directing Foreign Correspondents (with Corin Nemec)

My first feature Foreign Correspondents is now available on video (on Netflix and Amazon). Getting here was a long, hard road. Between the time I started writing the script in 1996 and this very moment, almost six years later, I've learned a number of life lessons. Take from this list what you will.

  1. Nobody wants advice. Everybody wants sympathy. The only time people take my advice is when it doesn't matter, like "Try one of those red jelly beans" or "You can get free booze at the party next door." And even then only about half the time. However, when things go wrong, the best you can hope for is for someone to say "I know exactly what you mean."
  2. "Obvious" truths only become obvious when they confront you head-on. I say "Everybody wants sympathy" and you think "Well, of course." But you won't really know what I mean until you bottom out and everybody's trying to tell you what to do and you scream, "I just want to know that somebody else has gone through this!" Then it's like you suddenly learned it for the first time.
  3. Women find indie filmmakers only marginally more attractive than they do ordinary men. My love life improved slightly after making a film - everybody admires a person who accomplishes something - but if you fellas want to get into directing just to score hot chicks, I suggest you become an actor or musician instead.
  4. You relate to money differently after you've written a bunch of checks for thousands of dollars. I used to be a real penny-pincher. But after several rounds of "How much do I need to make this out for, in order to save my film from destruction?" it now means nothing if I spend $2,000 or even $10,000 on something. I'll still fight a $30 parking ticket, but I'm becoming more generous as time goes by.
  5. Nobody will ever love your pet project like you do. One of those "obvious truths", but I've seen a lot of creative people get frustrated that, with all the money in the world and all the silly things that people spend it on, nobody is willing to give it to them for their art. I once fumed over people who said they were "too broke" to invest in my films, then went out and dropped fifty grand on an SUV. But then I learned to curb my ego. It's their money, after all; if they support an artist with it, that artist should be surprised and grateful, not feel entitled.
  6. Nothing happens for a reason. Things just happen, and it's up to us to come up with reasons for them. I too once believed there was a meaning behind every event, but now that I see that everything is random and that there are no cosmic expectations, I have calmed down a great deal.
  7. The longer you argue, the more you're trying to convince yourself. There comes a point in any heated discussion where you've given up trying to sway the other person - whether you know it or not - and are just trying to articulate your position to yourself. Once you accept this, arguments are less angering and more personally fulfilling.
  8. Nobody cares what you do - and if they do, that's their problem. I used to be self-conscious about a lot of things. "What will people think?" But who cares if you go to a club to dance and you are a lousy dancer? Whose life would it upset? No one's, so get over it. I know, it's easy to say this to someone else. But it's still true.
  9. You might as well make a pass at the person you're attracted to. It's better than never knowing. And as someone once told me, a true friend who is not interested in you romantically will stay your friend once the awkward moment passes. If they freak out and you never hear from them again, then the friendship wouldn't have worked out anyway. Good advice for the single person. But don't blame me if you get fired for it, or if somebody's significant other kicks your ass!