I am unbelievably excited to share with you my first ever documentary film!
For more than a year, I’ve been working on a documentary short about my dad, Wayne Forte. He is a lifelong painter who has been one of the main influences on my ideas about productivity, creativity, and using art for personal growth.
It all started in March of 2019, when he had an exhibition of 30 years of his religious artwork at an art gallery in Hollywood. I was living in Mexico City at the time, but knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I decided to fly home knowing that it was unlikely to happen again anytime soon.
From there, it slowly became a project.
If I’m traveling all that way, I thought, I might as well make a short video of the opening night with my smartphone to share with those who couldn’t make it.
And if I’m taking the trouble to film one event, I might as well film a few other interviews while I’m in town and make it into a longer video about my dad’s career as an artist.
I usually advise people to “scale down” their projects – to make them smaller and shorter so that they have a better chance of finishing. But once in a while, an opportunity comes along that is so great you just have to scale UP the project to something bigger and bolder.
I realized that by making this into a video project, I could fulfill a few different goals at once. There’s nothing I love more than killing two or three birds with one stone.
Goal #1: I had long wanted to learn more about making high-quality videos for my business. I’ve watched for years as YouTube has become a cultural phenomenon, smartphone cameras have become professional quality, and video editing software has gotten more and more user-friendly, and have wanted to be a part of the video revolution.
Goal #2: At the same time, I had a personal motivation. My dad had had a cancer scare a couple of years before, and although he is fully recovered, it shocked me with the realization that he wouldn’t be around forever. I had a desire to document his stories and memories for the benefit of my kids who might not have the chance to know him like I did.
Goal #3: I even had a creative motivation! I knew that much of my thinking about the nature of work had its roots in his approach to art, creativity, and life in general. I wanted to better understand how he managed to live a life of creative inspiration while also raising four kids.
With all these motivations at play, and with quite a bit of nervousness, I decided to take on making a short documentary film.
At first glance, this was an absolutely ridiculous project for a novice to commit to.
I had made a few short, casual videos for YouTube, but never anything of this scale and complexity. I didn’t have any special equipment, didn’t know how to use professional editing software, and didn’t understand the first thing about lighting or sound.
But I did have a few tricks up my sleeve: my Second Brain, a system of digital note-taking that I teach in my course Building a Second Brain. As well as all the other productivity techniques and project management tools I had developed over the years. I was curious to see if I could execute this project with quick, light touches alongside my usual work.
It took me 16 months, more than 100 hours of work, and 30 hours of total footage from 4 countries, all compressed down to just 46 minutes…but I did it.
On June 7, my dad’s 70th birthday, I screened the first cut virtually for my family. We met at a coordinated time, watched it together, and then had a wonderful conversation on Zoom about our shared memories, how we experienced them differently, and how much we had experienced together.
It was truly one of the most special and meaningful moments with my family I can remember.
On July 11, 2020, I hosted a virtual film premiere for my audience using YouTube’s Premiere feature, which allowed me to organize a coordinated viewing that anyone could watch on any device from any location, while maintaining some of the shared experience of watching it together.
I’ll soon be sharing a lot about what I learned from the experience. From the gear and software I ended up using, to what I learned about interviewing, to how I planned and managed every aspect of the process using digital notes, to my philosophical insights into the rapidly evolving nature of filmmaking (hint: smartphone cameras as social revolution, reality distortion fields for all, and the world-building potential of multi-media).
But for now, I just want to share the film with you! And of course, get your feedback so I can make it better. This film isn’t just about my dad’s personal memories. It contains some powerful insights into:
- What it concretely means to live a life driven by creativity, while upholding your responsibilities and paying the bills
- How to maintain numerous interests and hobbies while also going deep into one of them
- How a life-long artist thinks about the stages of his artistic career (which all of us now have to do as creatives)
- What painting has to teach us about other forms of modern creativity
- How to work in a way that produces tangible, sellable artifacts as a byproduct
- How art can be used to explore deep themes of identity, agency, truth, and personal growth
My dad has been an artist since he was 5 years old. Although he often says he uses only 16th century technology in his paintings, in many ways I think he has been living in the future.
Being an “artist” was once an extremely rare kind of lifestyle. But today, all of us are creatives in one sense or another. All of us need to dig deep into sources of creative inspiration on a regular basis. We have a lot to learn from the artistic fields that have been doing that for centuries.
This is also an experiment in how to create a sense of community in the midst of all the crises and change we are facing in the world. I was curious to see whether we could recreate the same anticipation and excitement normally found at a red carpet event, in a virtual screening with people from around the world.
I hope you’ll watch the film, and feel free to share it with anyone who you think might be interested.