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When I started at Columbia, I came in with a plan.  I knew what kind of movies I wanted to make.  I knew where my skills and talents could best lend themselves to the filmmaking process.  I even had a vague image in the back of my mind of the kind of company I wanted to create: an independent movie studio that could put out the kinds of movies that I wanted to see in the world.

Some might agree with this approach. It’s a good idea to have a plan, something to shoot for.  With a goal in front of you, you can be more focused, more steady as the path unfolds.

But having this kind of plan poses challenges as well.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling in my classes.  As my professors continued to pile more information on us, it became impossible for me to keep checking, with every new insight and every new suggestion, how this information fit with my idea of what I wanted to do.  Even further, it became more and more apparent that my idea of what I wanted wasn’t real.  It was based on a combination of dreams, hope, and ego, only portions of which can probably fit into the real world.

I was forced into a choice: either give up my plan and trust the process at Columbia, or sink.

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Giving up hasn’t been easy.  These past few weeks, I feel like I’ve been treading water, simply doing what I can to keep up and stay afloat, while I’ve watched several of my classmates burst forward on new projects and new directions. I’ve been in film school, learning about producing movies, yet I have been disconnected from my passion, from why I came here in the first place.

I complained a lot to my family and friends.  I questioned myself, I questioned Columbia, and I questioned my decision to come here. I questioned why I was working so hard, why I’m entering a field with so little job security and such rampant cynicism and such a dominant me-first mentality, and why I’ve stubbornly held to these dreams for so long, when it feels like such a long shot for them to become reality.

Then, unexpectedly, things clicked into place.  It wasn’t a dramatic moment for me: it was quite the opposite.  I was at a friend’s wedding, idly watching the packed dance floor, when the next piece just came to me.  I suddenly understood.  It felt like the dreams of my past and the perspective I’ve gained now quietly merged, without fanfare.

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Maybe my vision from before Columbia was only partially cooked, but it couldn’t have fueled my pathway anyways.  To keep moving forward, a vision, an illusion, is not enough. You must have passion.

With passion, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a PA or an executive producer in a fancy office.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re working on your first shoot, or whether your movies have changed the world.

With passion, it’s the process that counts.  It’s the journey, not the destination.  It’s the love of what you’re doing.

Someday I might be that executive producer in that fancy office. But I’ll never get there if I’m not connected with what fuels me now, every single step of the way. Journeys are taken one step at a time.

That includes graduate school.