An Innie in an Outtie World - An Introverted Indie Filmmaker's Guide to Navigating the Social Scene
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It's not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it's just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.
As I continue to get older, I certainly thought I would become more and more extroverted. I just thought I'd get better in public situations, networking, and mingling in crowds. Unfortunately, I have come to realize this is not the case.
I worked an extrovert's job for about two years. As an operations manager at a non-profit theater, I had to talk. A lot. About the organization, mostly. Sometimes about myself. I had to make small talk, big talk, and everything in between. I hid behind wine glasses and always ended up drinking more than I naturally would. Why? Because I was so uncomfortable. This job fell apart for many reasons. Life threw us some unexpected punches, sure, but I could also feel my time as a lively extrovert was coming to a painful end.
While at this job, a co-worker told me that "all jobs were basically like high school with a ranking social order and I just had to get used to it, unless I wanted to live in a cabin in the woods and never see any human being ever again." I didn't really know what kind of point she was trying to make, but that cabin sounded quite lovely! For popular people and those who thrived in high school, maybe this world is your oyster. Every painstakingly, unbearable day of high school sucked the feeling right out of my life and just wasn't my cup of tea. Hence, I will not be attending my 10 year reunion, but I digress.
I got far away from the non-profit, socialite world. I ran fast into the little life Jon and I created post-diagonsis. This world was amazing! I worked as an organic grocery store clerk and had a little social interaction, but I mostly enjoyed the solitude of that job on weekdays in January. I was very content in this day to day world, but it was soon uprooted when the store closed and we had to find a new apartment. Times were changing and, with Jon's encouragement, I began pursuing my graduate degree. It's strange, the events that lead us to the present, but I'm thankful for where we are.
Which brings me back to my dilemma. I have become unbearably introverted. That's totally okay when it's me and Jon. Or when I'm writing, which I find to be my favorite activity these days. However, my head has lifted after years of isolation and the time has come for me to be more... I cringe... social! I know others can relate to this issue. I've talked about it with many friends. Many who are artists who feel the same pressure to promote themselves via social media and other outlets. It's really, really hard.
Currently, I am rehearsing a play and preparing my feature screenplay for competitions and pitching opportunities. This is not an ideal situation for an introvert. As for the play, I feel very insecure and I'm starting to wonder why I ever had the desire to act - especially in theater - because you have to do it in front of so many people. With my screenplay, I've come to realize writing was the easy part. Now, people ask me what it's about and I need to be able to present it and maybe even make them support it. I'm actually very surprised because I used to ace presentations, but when I pitched my screenplay in class... it was a disaster. And I am not exaggerating. A classmate offered advice at the end: "I want to see more Robyn" he said. I shuffled because the truth was I think he did. I think he saw too much of the actual shy, introverted, I always got sick at my friends' birthday parties Robyn. And it wasn't pretty.
In all of this, I don't want to lose myself - something I felt happened in the nonprofit job. I have to believe I can find some kind of balance between the real, genuine Robyn and the Robyn that can sell a movie in 10 seconds flat. After all, Jon and I have been through a lot and all that makes us who we are as artists. It may make us a little shy and awkward in public, but that's a price we have to pay for the challenges we've faced. I'm sure I can find a nice balance and I know I can always kill it in a sit down, let's have a cup of coffee situation. In the meantime, here are a few tips from one introvert to another on how to be yourself and resolve some of these issues:
6 Tips for Introvert, Indie Filmmakers Navigating a Festival's Social Scene
1) The INTRODUCTION is KEY! Jon and I were recently introduced as "young filmmakers" to a prestigious guest of honor. This, my friends, does not work for me. We are young but we're not making home movies in our backyard. We are legitimate filmmakers and just as accomplished as most at our age. We've also been through a lot - a lot more than most go through in a lifetime. And we're also super smart. I won't say that to your face, but I will write it in my blog. When I was introduced as such, my world turned upside down and my eyes probably glowed red. It felt patronizing and very condescending. I'm sure this person meant nothing of the sort, but it hurt. So, here's my advice:
A) INTRODUCE YOURSELF! I'm working on an introduction of myself that will sound both modest, professional, and (dare I say!) confident. I haven't figured out the logistics yet, but I'm working on it. If you have a hard time doing this...
B) Have someone you LOVE and TRUST introduce you! AKA - Don't ask anyone to introduce you to someone important, unless that person is Jen West! Jen West is one of my best friends and an incredibly amazing filmmaker. Jen is a kind, old soul. She could spend hours talking to filmmakers about her crazy talent and incredible accomplishments, and not even concern herself with others, but she doesn't - she helps others! I've seen her do it with us and with many others. Jen is compassionate, giving, and totally selfless. Jen gives the best introductions. Why? Because they are genuine. No BS! Jon and I have even pondered hiring Jen to introduce us on a full time basis. Just every time we enter a room - Jen goes first with the intro! It would probably make life a lot easier. So, my advice is to find someone amazing and supportive to introduce you. Those people, and ONLY those people, can introduce you to producers, filmmakers, and fans. If you don't have a Jen on hand, do it yourself. You are your best representation. PS: This works both ways. Intelligently introduce your peers with enthusiasm or don't introduce them at all.
2) PRACTICE what you PREACH. I'm working on this. I never wanted to be that person that practiced my pitch over and over. I thought it sounded kind of pompous and arrogant. Guess what? If you are an introvert like moi, you have to do this. I'm sorry, but you do. You have to practice talking about yourself, your film, your production company, your art, etc. It's all a part of knowing yourself, your story, and translating that to others.
3) No one wants to see me FAIL? Jon recently told me that my biggest flaw as an actor was my inability to believe in myself. Those words may sound harsh, but it's true. I don't believe in myself as an actor and I never really have. This has stood in my way. When I went to auditions, I was convinced the directors, casting agents, and producers on the other side of the table were secret members of the Nazi party and wanted to exterminate me. Now, I feel that way in social settings. "All these people want me dead!" I think to myself. Although it may seem that way, it's just not the truth. People want to see you do your best work. They may actually want to be your friend or collaborate with you. Just because their gaze trailed off for one second doesn't necessarily mean they want to strangle you. Keep focused and trust in humanity. Not everyone is a jerk. And if they are, screw 'em!
4) ALCOHOL! It's okay to have a glass of wine or two for relaxation. It may even be necessary! Meeting people you admire or want to work with is tough. And they don't always live up to your expectations. A glass of wine can take the edge off.
5) The Small Connections Are What Truly Matter! Yes, I know we all want Gus Van Sant to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon us into stardom, but it doesn't always happen that way! Meeting the big name filmmakers and producers is a lot of fun, but usually they have a billion things going on at these events. The connections that truly matter are with your peers and other indie artists struggling to be heard. Listen to them! There you will find your new best friend, future collaborator, and possibly a kindred soul.
6) Let your WORK speak for itself! If all else fails and you are still an awkward, bumbling mess who wants to cover her face with hair and sink into the earth, don't fret too much. Just get busy! Get back to what you love to do! Keep writing. Watch a movie you love. Plan your next production. Talking about what you do is tough, especially for us introverts. Forget about it! Just wait until you screen your film or keep sending out your screenplay. Let your friends read it - those you really trust (ahem... Jen West) - and let the work speak for itself. At the end of the day, the work will always be more powerful than any words or presentation you can put on. And that's wonderful news!!!