The need for failure in YOUR film making success strategy…

One of the strategies I find useful is to always think and behave like you have nothing to loose.

Every time I complete a major project, I can’t help but reflect on the genesis of the very first Guerilla Filmmmakers Handbook in 1994 – we are fifteen years down the line now, on our seventh edition, and over 100,000 copies sold – which is truly amazing. But back then, both Gen and myself were truly at the bottom of the barrel when we first said… ‘let’s write this book about low budget film making…’

And that’s what resonated with me in this video of JK Rowling, a woman we can all learn something from. Great speech.

New-cjgjBack in ’94, after the theatrical release of our second feature film ‘White Angel’, Gen and myself got a dawn raid from the police. It’s all detailed in the Guerilla Film Makers Handbooks (though it won’t be in the pocketbook as it’s a much smaller and denser field guide so something had to be cut)… the results were catastrophic as we pretty much lost everything – the accounts, records and film impounded by the  police, so we lost deals, our home and in all honesty, our dignity – I ended up sleeping on a living room floor for a year. It was during this year that we decided to write the very first edition of The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook, and of course, every publisher turned it down.

By luck, we had a friend whose other half worked at a small publishers, and I think out of no more than sympathy, they put the book out. Six weeks later and they had run out of two years worth of stock. They had an unexpected hit on their hands!

So I know from experience that failure is integral to success. I also know that for creative people, the fear of failure can also be crippling and shut down ideas before they even had a chance.

But when you have nothing to lose, heck, people just go for it!

One of the strategies I find useful is to always think and behave like you have nothing to loose.

I find that one of the things we fear risking most is often an ephemeral thing – our perceived (not actual) social status… ‘what will people say if I do it?’, ‘what if I fail and people think I am talentless or stupid…?’ ‘What if I loose their money?’… Paradoxically, we don’t actually fear losing our day job, or losing some money by making a film. We fear what people will SAY if we lose the day job or the money. Crazy huh?

Ironically, everyone else is too busy worrying about their own perceived social status to be bothered with anyone else!


Sure there may be idle gossip if you fail (or succeed – bonkers huh!), but anyone who has time to gossip is usually projecting their own fears and failures onto others. So ignore gossip. And don’t gossip about others. It’s BAD BAD karma.

I know we had thought about writing The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook BEFORE we had our dawn raid in ‘94, but at that time, we were building a career, and we chose NOT to write it because of how we thought people in the business would perceive us. It took the catastrophic dawn raid to kick us into action and out of our ‘fear of what people would say…’. We needed to loose our percieved DIGNITY…

Nothing but amazing things has come to us from the books and I am truly grateful that we were…

A. Blessed with being experienced enough to write the first edition.
B. In the right place (that would be sleeping a living room floor)
C. At the right time (that would be in ‘94, three months after a dawn raid)

…to write a book with passion and commitment, and reach an as yet undiscovered readership.

So next time you think of doing something ambitious but fear what people will say… get past it and take the leap! It’s your life and it’s ticking by pretty fast… it’s time to DO IT!

Awesome! And thank you for following the blog and reading the books!

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author


2 Responses to The need for failure in YOUR film making success strategy…

  1. Simon Cox February 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Fantastic blog entry Chris!

    As the great George McFly said to his son Marty, “when you put your mind to – you can do anything!!”

    Very best of luck with the new book and for keeping the dream we all hold so dearly alive.


  2. Ro J. Goodwin February 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    As someone put it you fail your way to success. I’ve won some local awards for my early films 5 and 6 years ago. I thought I was going to hit the big time sooner than I had imagined and then something knocked me back – my next film took two years in post and even then it wasn’t finished. (A valuable learning experience). I abandoned it and took 7 months out to fight an incinerator proposal locally.

    Then last November I threw myself back into filmmaking and wrote and directed a Gaelic short for a ‘FilmG’ competition and guess what? It didn’t win. And then out of the blue, yesterday, BBC ALBA phoned me up to tell me the film has won their ‘Visions’ award and I’m picking it up next Friday:) That film was conceived, written shot, edited with soundtrack and made the deadline in 4 weeks.

    The thing is you never know what the right time is for doing anything. All you can do is plan and execute the plan. However, the right time for doing ‘something’ is right now.

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