Creative Crisis Averted

I wanted to write about the pros and cons of working on multiple projects at a time and how I have changed over time in that area, BUT I had a more immediate topic that I felt like I should discuss.

What do you do when you're in a "creative slump?"

I just hit one of those pretty good for a few weeks. I'm not sure exactly what caused it, but I know it was at least partially because of a couple things: 1, I hadn't written a film script in over a year (after writing at least a few a year for the last 5-ish years). 2, I had just worked on a shoot that fell apart miserably and led to the entire crew getting so sick that we had to cancel shooting the film. 3, my animated stuff wasn't moving along properly. 4, I had just helped on another short film made by a bunch of old classmates and friends, and it reminded me too much of my own work... and not in a good way. 5, my two current short films seem to be stuck in post-production purgatory.

The first one is completely self-explanatory. I hadn't felt inspiration to write or shoot a film in months. Which is super weird, because I had just had the previous 4 years of my life dedicated to making shorts. I was almost always working on one, if not multiple films and scripts. Now, I was getting nothing. Well, that's not true, it wasn't nothing. I was writing some great animated scripts again, which was super exciting, but all my focus was on animation. My life seems to have gone from film (when I was really young, like 8-10ish), to animation (from like 12-18), to film (18-22), and all of a sudden back to animation at 22. It's not that I completely switched to one medium, but the majority of my excitement and ideas were falling into one of those mediums. And right after finishing film school, I seemed to revert back to animation again... which was a bit troubling (this switching between film and animation thing of mine might be worthy of its own blog post at some point).

The second one, working on a shoot that completely fell apart, is also fairly self explanatory. We all got very sick and had to cancel the shoot, and that alone is just a tough experience that makes you question filmmaking. The shoot had issues beyond us getting sick, but overall it made me quite weary and tired of the grind that filmmaking can be.

The third one is funky. It's not that I COULDN'T animate, or not even that I didn't want to, but I'm so far in between finishing any one project at the moment that the "long road ahead" is still kinda scary, AND I keep getting script ideas and reverting to writing before I get properly into animating. Which is nice (especially because I was in an "animated script slump" for the years during film school), but also means that I'm constantly in pre-production. Also also, and this might be the biggest problem, I'm currently stuck on trying to figure voice actors out. I need a ton of talent for a bunch of projects I've got coming up, and the main problem is that I'm having trouble finding true, dedicated actors. I've used friend's voices for years, which is fine and all, but some of these roles require real acting experience, dedication, and heart. Not to mention reliability. I need to be able to contact some of these people for years to come to get them to reprise their roles (I hope), and I can't have flaky people (and I've had to deal with TOO MANY). I might contact you in 3 weeks, or it might be a year and a half before I contact you again, but I need to be able to get a recording from you within a few weeks if I come knocking. And I've been going through auditions and some have been great and some have been less great, but many have been concerning in the reliability department.

The fourth one might be the biggest one? I'm not sure. I just helped on a friend's film shoot, and it was great. Everyone was super dedicated and great, but... the script is what got to me. It's not that it was bad by any means, but it was so... it was too close to something I would make. And for a very specific reason: at our super-low budget, less experienced mid-twenty-year-olds, very-indie-end of the spectrum, the stories you can tell are limited. I mean, yes, they're technically always "unlimited," but there is definitely a narrower band of things we can do with out stories. Dangerous stunts are out of the window, anything that might cost too much money is out of the window, crazy CG special effects are out. We can do SOME things, but there are plenty of things we can't do. Many of them are due to lack of experience, and many of them due to funding or lack of equipment (which can of course be related). There's just nothing we can do but march onward, but it pulled me down. Many of the stories I really want to tell right now are animated specifically because that's the only medium I can tell the story with relative ease. Let's say I want to set the story in a school: where do I get a school to shoot in? How do I get all the extras for it without paying anyone (because I can't afford that at the moment)? So many logistical and legal things pop up quickly. Red tape is everywhere. In animation, I simply draw a school and some students and move on! In real life, the one time I tried to shoot in my old high school, I was greeted with very upset people on walkie talkies thinking I'm trying to plant a bomb. Getting real permission might take months, cost money, and come with restrictions (such as nothing rated higher than G can be shot on a school campus or something, I don't know). I just didn't have any stories that currently fit within the constraints of film and real life that I wanted to tell, either due to actors, locations, budget, equipment, or whatever the heck else.

Five: my two short films are stuck in post production. Both have been in the works for over a year (one of them for just about two years at this point). Both have been stuck in post for at least half a year (one of them nearly two years...). And in both cases, it's entirely that I'm waiting on scheduling or even just purely waiting on others to get something done before I can move on right now. How can I make more films if I'm having such trouble finishing my last two?

So, suddenly, I wasn't feeling like working on anything. I was writing some animated scripts, but that was about it.


It was a series of things that pulled me out of that slump. In animation, one particularly good audition, and two more voiceactors being decided on and recorded, were helpful steps in the right direction. Things were finally moving a bit. In film, I forced a tiny short out to test out some of my tools and skills (Selfie With It), and it came out pretty decent in my opinion! Meanwhile, one of my two shorts stuck in post finally made it through two major steps, and is hopefully on its way to being complete soon! I can only hope. AND, in a crazy turn of events, a new film script finally hit me. And it hit me hard. It's been the main thing on my mind for the last 2 weeks at least, and I really want to shoot it. A first draft is already completed, though I've got at least a few more drafts to go before I can seriously start considering producing it. And, as a bonus, ANOTHER script hit me. I didn't write that one yet, but it's nice to have some good ideas again.


Okay I think that's it. A lot of complaining about film and animation and creative projects going wrong, and a ray of light at the end. I'm good for now! I have too many things to work on to be in a rut at the moment. Here's to hoping I can avoid these ruts in the road!


-Alex Zajicek