Expedition Planet Earth at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam 2018.
I am a maker. Just like you, the neighbour, my mum and dad and everybody else. Creating is what we do. It’s human nature. The only thing is that we don’t always give ourselves permission to go ahead and make something.
Thoughts like: ‘This isn’t very useful, playing the piano in the afternoon. Am I not supposed to be working at this hour of the day?’ Or: ‘Creating? Is it safe or smart to be just creating, making a couple of sketches and drawings? Shouldn’t I be working my ass off instead, making a good living so that I can move into that huge villa close to the seaside where I’ve envisioned myself and my family living?’
Thank God I’ve learned to navigate these waves of doubt by consciously choosing joy over fearful thoughts occupying my mind. Permission granted. Let’s rock the piano.
But here’s the thing: giving myself permission to be creative within the safe walls of my home is one thing. Stepping into the world and sharing my first self-created attempts with others, is something else. I’ve experienced this several times over the last year. Here’s what happened.
In May 2017, I committed to making a documentary. After having experimented with a couple of episodes of CarolienTV, this idea of making a documentary landed in my lap and it didn’t leave me. Something like an itch that I needed to scratch. I decided to follow up on it.
The subject of the documentary wasn’t the issue. Transition Headquarters, the current working title, is all about facilitating people to do their lifework. That I know. What was highly uncomfortable though -or better put downright terrifying- was to step into this new role of filmmaker.
I vividly remember reaching out to three different Rotterdam filmmakers who I slightly knew or got introduced to by others. Four actually; one person never answered my emails. I asked them to have coffee with me, so that I could share my first ideas with them and ask for some feedback and advice. I bought them coffee, cake and drinks, just to make myself feel a bit better about asking for their time. At least they were well fed.
I can also still sense the awkwardness I felt, when I changed my LinkedIn profile and complemented my headline ‘Transformation Coach’ with ‘Documentary Filmmaker’. I also incorporated ‘Filmmaker’ in the signature of my email address. Another step taken. I realized that the sooner I started to present myself as filmmaker to the outside world, it would make it easier to perceive myself in this new role too. And by doing so, start to take actions from that new identity.
Last April, I shifted gears into advanced level boldness and applied for the Filmmaker Lab of the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona in the US. It was a moment of truth, as I now really needed to trust myself with this project, writing up my proposal for the selection committee and investing some real euros. I was very excited when I got accepted into the Lab.
Thank God I had a couple of days to enjoy the Film Festival before the three day Filmmaker Lab started. My contact person -and new best friend- who was involved with the festival introduced me to as many people as she could, using the following words: ‘Can I introduce you to Carolien van den Akker, she is a filmmaker from the Netherlands, working on a beautiful project that she’d love to tell you more about.’
Filmmaker from the Netherlands. That sounded good! It was official now. I was a filmmaker. After I had heard my host say it at least twenty-four times, I started to believe it myself. Just in time before the Filmmaker Lab started.