They Don’t Care About the Perfect Soufflé: My Conversation with Author and Filmmaker Robert Fuller
So you’re plugging along, working hard to create that next amazing scene, then BOOM. You look up and a massive brick wall is staring back at you. Starting my own production company has been a wild ride and there are times when I feel beaten down and like I’m the only one struggling through a certain process. We are in the middle of writing the script for our next short film while tirelessly crafting commercials for our clients, and the high intensity pace of it all started to catch up with me. That’s when God pulled me aside and gave me the best pep-talk ever. Enter, Robert Fuller. Robert is an amazing filmmaker, writer, and production company owner who reached out to grab coffee with me, and close to 3 hours later, reignited my resolve and passion for this line of work. I’ve done my best to capture some of his inspiration in this post (how do you capture inspiration in one post?!). Robert offered advice on facing fear and the discipline of creating. I think it’ll leave you as motivated as I was. In fact, it went so well, I’m hoping to do this again, with other filmmakers! Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the others!
Robert Fuller’s journey to becoming a filmmaker followed a long and winding road. In fact, if you believe what he says, he never even wanted to be one. But I think at least his subconscious knew, because in between telling me how he wasn’t interested in being a professional filmmaker, he dropped in, “well, I did make cheesy horror flicks with my brothers as a kid, you know with ketchup and butter knives.”—spoken like a young James Cameron/Peter Jackson/Steven Spielberg
Even if Robert didn’t know he wanted to be a filmmaker, he’s always known that he’s a storyteller at heart. “I can remember writing stories when I was young, maybe six-years old,” he told me, “And I mean seriously writing, spending time and working hard on my stories. As I got older, I’d spend more time writing. Sometimes I’d stay up most of the night working on a story.”
His journey to shooting video has taken him down a lot of paths since his childhood writing. Robert’s been a missionary, a janitor, a worship pastor, and has produced musicals and plays—none of it with a camera in his hand, but the theme of storytelling always finding its way in there. Finally, the call to the camera won out.
“I’m addicted to real true stories, real human stories, fiction or nonfiction,” Robert explains, “and I got to a point where I knew God was leading me to focus on telling his stories—stories of salvation and healing.” So, he decided to start travelling, looking for and listening to stories and writing them down.
“Before I left, I was talking with my old youth pastor, he’s a writer, and I was telling him about my project and that it was mostly going to be written—he basically told me not to write the stories because video would have a greater impact. So, I got a camera.”
“I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he continues, “but I knew I was not going to wait to tell the stories until I learned how to do it—that decision transformed my creative process.”
“It’s easy to want to know how to do it, then start. I think a lot of creatives get stuck there. They wait until they know what they’re doing or have a great product before putting it out there for the world to see.”
At this point, I knew Robert was the person I needed to be talking to. Then Robert dropped his advice on me. FILMMAKERS, HERE’S WHERE YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION: Robert’s advice—or maybe mandate—to beginning filmmakers: You have to be okay with failure.
He recognizes this is easier said than done. “I’ve literally written millions of words over my life. You wouldn’t believe how much content—unfinished work, even completed books—I have sitting on my hard drive! It’s taken me a long time to get a thick skin and conquer my fear of failure.”
“Actually, what helped me get over it was a dream I had. In this dream, I was in a kitchen cooking, trying to make the perfect soufflé. I kept trying and starting over; never happy with the results. And then I looked out the kitchen window and saw there were so many starving people waiting for food! They were so hungry and didn’t care about the perfect soufflé—they just wanted to eat!”
Once Robert woke up, he knew it was time to stop sitting on content, hoping it would eventually be perfect enough to release, and time to take the leap of faith to publish what he’d created. “I had to face my fear of failure and released my first book. It was tough to do. At every step of the process I kept thinking, ‘Are people going to think I’m a hack?’ or ‘I’ve always dreamed about this what if I fail?’” (…asked every visionary ever!)
“Perfect can be a killer sometimes. You have to just fall back on the truth that God has given gifts to everybody,” he’s says, “There’s no such thing as a magic wand; making good work happens through hard work.”
Robert’s other piece of advice (PAY ATTENTION HERE, it’s another golden nugget): Make your creative work—writing, filming, painting, etc.—a routine and a discipline.
“When I was younger, I’d write whenever I was inspired. I would go two weeks without writing, then an idea would hit me and I’d stay up all weekend writing,” he says with a slight laugh. “As I got older, I knew that needed to change.”
These days, he’s figured out a better structure. Every morning, he gets up before the rest of his family and writes for an hour, and to his surprise, his output increased significantly once he started this practice. “Writing became like muscle memory. I could sit down and my brain knew what to do and could move much more quickly. I’m finishing stories and books, and the writing momentum is like a train. Once it starts rolling, it’s hard to stop.”
Robert’s creative train seems to be moving full-speed ahead now. He owns a successful video production company, just released his first book (which is selling like hotcakes!), and is producing his first short film this summer. While his fear of failure is always lurking, it’s had to be pushed aside. “When I don’t write or create, I start to dry up a little and I feel off, which is always a good reminder. It’s not an option, I have to do it.”
This is just a small sample of what Robert and I talked about but it got me back on track to be disciplined in my trade and to not to let perfection keep me from moving forward in what God has called me to do. I hope this inspires you to keep pressing on, working WITH God on the amazing things He’s called you to. We’re running this race together so when you’re in a rut and your soufflé is burning the kitchen to the ground, never forget to reach out. You’re not alone and we’ve all destroyed plenty of kitchens before creating something really worthwhile.
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