96: Conceiving, Believing, and Achieving

96: Conceiving, Believing, and Achieving

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Conceiving, Believing, and Achieving

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

~Jim Rohn

In college, I kept my leisure activities to a minimum. No television, partying, or socializing for me. I was determined to succeed and leave my mark on the school and at the same time, increase my knowledge about my chosen career in filmmaking. Somehow, someway, I wanted to be the absolute best I could be.

My journey actually began when I interned at Paramount Pictures the summer before beginning school at the Academy of Art University. I didn’t care about earning the credits, but was interested in the inner workings of the entertainment industry. The internship taught me the difference between the professional world and the college world.

I took the work ethic learned from the three-month internship and applied it to college. Not only did I do well in my classes, I also purchased numerous books on filmmaking and studied just as much during my free time as I did in my required courses. I wanted to focus my efforts and achieve success according to my own standards. So I asked myself three questions:

1. What is my goal?

2. Can I accomplish it?

3. What actions must I take to reach it?

At the end of the first year, I attended the school’s annual film festival showcasing the best work of graduate students. I discovered that film awards were given out to the most outstanding projects and at that moment, I found the answers to my questions:

1. Win the school’s Film Award.

2. Sure. Someone wins every year, so why not me?

3. Produce a high-quality short film.

To my amazement, this goal fueled me for the next few years and propelled me to learn as much as possible about storytelling in order to produce a project that deserved an award. The odds of success were against me, as only two percent of graduates had ever won an award, but once I focused on achieving this goal within the time-frame of college, it set in motion an extraordinary self-transformation. I felt an enormous amount of energy and passion that was dormant before I set my sights on the prize. Partying, socializing, and drinking were unimportant compared to the possibility of winning an award, something that would increase my chances of finding work in the real world and also give me a great sense of accomplishment.

I wrote ten short screenplays so that I could understand screen-writing. I produced half of them as short narrative films, and one of them ended up as my thesis film. It was fairly complex and ended up costing $15,000. Surprisingly, we only had a crew of two people, just the Director and me, because he was afraid of working with other people besides the actors. I don’t know how we did it, but we constructed sets, built miniatures, found costumes, and even created special effects — extremely daunting for two people. Somehow we managed, even though it took us two years to complete the project.

When we finally submitted it to the film festival, it was my last year in college and my last chance to realize my dream. I felt confident that our film would win at least one award in the category of Writing, Producing, or Directing. To my surprise, it didn’t win in any of those. Instead, when the director of the Motion Picture Department announced our film, he said it excelled in every category of filmmaking and because of that, they created a new award, called the “Special Jury Prize.” It was the first time the award was ever given and remains that way to this day. I set out to achieve my goals early in college and found enormous rewards by conceiving, believing, and achieving my dreams.

~Joe Lam

More stories from our partners