Recently I laid out my plans for the movie we will spend the next two years making. It began with a decision, and ended with a choice. These two words may sound similar, but they are for me, profoundly different, operating on different mechanisms inside our heads.
How The Decision Was Made
First, the team and I spent the whole day offsite, going through EVERY project we had – there were 21 separate scripts / projects. Friend and editor Simon Reglar came along to help add new perspective, and even he had to admit, making a decision was SOOO hard as every project had it’s strengths. So we got out a whiteboard and started rating, comparing and contrasting – each project could be weighed up with advantages and disadvantages such as budget level, development level, genre clarity etc. Eventually the process allowed us to decide on a single film. That film was ‘Transplant’, a body shock psycho horror that was developed in the past for Channel 4 but never produced. Everyone agreed it was a stand out project.
Seven days later and I had endured a rather challenging screenwriting week on ‘Transplant’. For all of the really great reasons we decided on Transplant, neither Judy nor myself went home at night, lay awake in bed and imagined the film. We were making progress, but it was slow and painful progress. I knew we had made the wrong decision.
How The Choice Was Made
I shared this thought with Lucia, my other half, and she encouraged me to go through the process again. But this time, to make a choice instead. I did – looking at all the pros and cons – then threw that all away and made the choice – and I chose ‘Rocketboy’, a rights of passage love story between two young kids. It’s what I wanted to do. Plain and simple. Don’t get me wrong, we needed to go through our difficult decision making process in order to be clear about the real ‘choices’ available to us.
And so the choice was made and we are now full, tilt on ‘Rocketboy’.
Decision v Choice
In life we are constantly faced with options. Sometimes, overwhelmingly so. As adults we often resort to the mechanism of decision making because it absolves us of responsibility.
As children, we make choices. Let’s splash in the puddle.
As adults, we tend to make decisions. Let’s not, we will get wet. And there will be consequences to that.
A decision is the result of a process whereby you weigh up all the options and come to a result – that result is a logical, often pragmatic decision.
We can take comfort in that result because it’s fully thought through and analysed. If it goes wrong, heck you looked at every option and made the right decision – it’s not your fault. In effect, we pass up personal responsibility, laying the blame at the foot of the process. Of course, blame or not, we will pay the price for the decision, just not the emotional price of being wrong.
How often have you heard the phrase ‘I had no choice?’ Those words are usually used when you are unhappy with a decision but go with it anyway, because that’s what we do when we make decisions.
Don’t get me wrong, we do live in a world of consequence, that’s why as adults we should always look to the process of decision making first.
But I often find that after looking at my options and making a tentative decision, it’s best to consider that process merely a way of familiarising myself with the ramifications and impact of the variables, and of making sure you I am not about to do something truly stupid – let’s go on holiday in a war zone for instance. Once I am sure of those major ramifications, I throw the decision out and choose freely like a child. And it’s often very challenging.
Choosing is VERY different to deciding. It’s what you would do if there were no consequence to your action. Again, kids grow up making choices and learn to make decisions. As adults we really do know about consequence – and we fear those consequences, os much so, it can often immobilise us.
Think about it – the word decide literally means kill your options. In latin -cide ‘death’. Decide shares its roots in other lovely word like homicide, suicide, patricide. It’s not a great way to live life.
In an evolutionary sense, decisions have helped us stay alive – we can quickly weigh up all manner of variables and decide – so they are important to us. But really, how often is a bear going to chase you down the high street trying to eat you? There is no bear in our lives, at least most of the time. We don’t need decisions when it comes to choosing our lives directions, passions, loves… we need to choose like children choose.
So look at your life now – what have you decided not to do?
Remember, decisions KILL off possibilities. Think of something your heart REALLY wants to do, but you have previously said ‘I better not do this because of these reasons.’ Re-examine those reasons then throw them away and see what you choose.
Do you really want to lie on your death bed and say ‘well I made a lot of well thought out decisions?’ or do you want to ‘work with dolphins’, ‘write a movie’, ‘offer help to homeless people’, ‘insert your own passion here’…
The world of ‘grown-ups’ often look out from their self imposed prisons of decision-making, down at the few free souls running around making choices outside of their tall walls. And they just can’t decide why they are unhappy and why those other people running around outside seem to be SO happy.
I want to be outside those walls, free to choose. Do you?
And so, after all the decision making, even after living with the commitment to make ‘Transplant’ for one week, last weekend I choose not to pursue ‘Transplant’, but to make ‘Rocketboy’. And I now have the spring back in my step.
Have a think now about your life. Make a choice. Something crazy. See what happens.
Onwards and upwards!
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I think you made the intelligent choice rather than the decision to make the quiclear shorti term financial return and I am sure this will bring you the more valuable rewards you deser’ve.
you will now be making the film you really want to make and as a result your film will be all the better for it .
good luck and keep us all posted
I can see how transplant would be the right choice but pleased you chose Rocket boy. This is not just a labour of love but a film that will appeal to everyone and I think motivate a lot of people into wanting to be a part of it.
I’m biased, as I personally can’t take horror in any guise. Your reasoning, in the article, is excellent. I had wondered whether something untoward had happened to have given Rocketboy the wobbles and I’m glad – for YOUR sake – that you will go full steam ahead with it (or a more modern form of fuel if preferred).
One comment I’d make on your ‘process’ is that sometimes you can have too much sharing and collaboration and opinion getting. It reminds me a lot of one of the main differences in politics between the UK’s first-past-the-post system and much of continental Europe’s prop. rep. In the latter you never end up with a proper majority (ie, in your case, a clear choice) but a gradual arrival at a government that seems to tick all the boxes (maybe like your opinion of Transplant). In the UK we end up with a Government (apart from at the time of writing, of course, and look where that’s heading!) where you know what you’re going to get. CHOICE is a beautiful word. I’m 50,000 words into a first novel that ‘should’ have been written years ago. I ‘chose’ to start it last autumn after having ‘decided’ to drop the idea countless times, countless years ago.
Spring in the step is a lovely walk to have, don’t you think?
Good choice. Right choice.
All the best,
I think you just made a really good decision, for the right reasons. Good luck! xx
That is really helpful. I have been pouring over a decision in my work which would take it one way or another. I have been through all the pros and cons, the consequences and the up and down sides to it all. But reading your piece makes me realise that a rational decision would point marginally one way while my choice overwhelmingly would take me the other. And that that choice has been nagging away in the background for months.
I’ll go with my choice and I believe, be all the happier for it.
Best of luck with Rocketboy.
Great post Chris,
funny, I was just discussing this with someone yesterday, instinct is the magical, life blessed know how, that lets you know what you want to do in the right way… and anything else is having to appease a formula of what everyone else thinks is the right way.
Well formulas are man made and instinct is life made.
Possibility is hindered by formula, impossible is liberated by unorthodox, the only rules that work are the ones you make for yourself, and learning to be yourself is the hardest choice for many.
Always be yourself… it’s the truth… and especially if you are artistic, as that is what we pursue and strive for in our creative everyday.
Best A 🙂
ps love splashing in puddles… but sssshhhhhh don’t tell anyone!
Good for you Chris.
I think one of the problems that we all come across at the bottom end of the film world is over intellectualising the potential behind a myriad of projects that sit around us. Money may be short but ideas arent… and all ideas have strength
I really honestly believe that there is something to be said for the ‘just do it’ attitude! In the film world you better have some passion and drive to see you through to the end and if thats what you have for Rocketboy (and given the artwork that we’ve all seen, its easy to see why!) then it really has to be Rocketboy that you put body and soul into.
Onwards and upwards Chris! Do it in Gaellic…then you can get a foreign language oscar! LOL
Right on the money, Chris, right on the money!
Great insight, Chris.
I have been laboring under the weight of a series of life-changing decisions made years ago. I have dutifully carried the weight, because I believed the thinking behind the decisions was valid. Now I struggle to reconcile the outcome with the planning I put in place back then.
If I had the decision/choice model back then? Life would be different now.
But not to worry. You have opened my eyes in the most wonderful way with your words, and now I can see clearly as to how I’ll walk the way forward.
Thank you, and the best of joy with Rocketboy. By the way, first visit to this site. I’ll dig in and see what treasure I find!