It's Ok If You Don't Have It All Figured Out—I Don't Either

Am I a filmmaker? No. But, that’s not the answer I would have given to that question two years ago. You see, I tried very hard to be a filmmaker. And not just any filmmaker, the coolest kind: a documentary filmmaker. I thought that was my calling. I thought that was what I was supposed to do with my life, and I wanted to start doing it as soon as possible. But when I tried my hand at documentary filmmaking, I discovered that I didn’t like it. 

There’s a lot of pressure on young people to figure out what they want to do with their lives early on. Growing up, I always felt like I had to have it all figured out. I had to have my 10-year plan all mapped out, and any deviance from that plan was a failure. But a few summers ago, I studied abroad and discovered that deviance from your plan is a natural part of figuring out what direction you want to take your career path in. And as you try new things you think you might like; you gain experiences and memories. And boy, do I have memories from my attempts to be the next Ken Burns.

The summer of my freshman year of college, I went to London with Florida State University’s International Programs. In the effort of pursuing my dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker, I was signed up to take a course in the subject, not knowing any of my classmates and with no real filmmaking experience. But I was ready to work hard and finally begin my journey as a filmmaker. When I hit the streets of London ready to make my documentary, chaos seemed to follow me every step of the way. Combining my love for theater with film, I decided to make my documentary on Stage Doors—the door at the side of the theater audience members can go to meet the cast of the show they just watched. It is a bonding experience between lovers of theater art I wanted to capture.

I needed to get some footage of someone going to a Stage Door and interacting with actors, so I dragged my friend Caroline out with me to the West End to pretend to be a theater-goer, wait in line at the Stage Door, and get her playbill signed by actors in various shows. Fortunately, the afternoon shows end at roughly the same times, so we were able to theater hop getting different shots of different shows, with different actors. We went to Aladdin first and then we stopped by Les Misérables, interviewing audience members and thanking cast members for assisting us. As we walked back to our flat, I remembered a show called Mousetrap that was on our way was just getting out. I asked Caroline if it would be ok with her if we stopped by one more show briefly before we went home. She said she was fine with it, and so we went to the Mousetrap Stage Door expecting to get in line and wait to meet the cast with a group of enthusiastic theater lovers. But when we got there, the alley was empty—not a single audience member was waiting. As we were turning around to leave, the stage manager walked out, saw me with my camera, and his whole face lit up. He ecstatically asked us, “Are you here to meet the cast?” I said that we were, but it wasn’t a big deal if they were too busy, we would just head out. 

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Minnah? What’s the big deal? Interview the actors. Who cares if no one else is around?” And while this is a great point, I would like to remind you that my friend and I had never seen Mousetrap before, and there were only two things about the show: mouse and trap. 

The stage manager insisted that we stay. We tried to make excuses, but it was to no avail. He then proceeded to call cast members of the show over a theater intercom and tell them to hurry up because there were fans waiting for them outside. Caroline and I broke out in a cold sweat—WE DIDN’T KNOW THE SHOW! But it was too late. One by one, cast members exited the theater with the sole purpose of meeting us.

As one would expect, theater small talk includes asking the audience members if they liked the show. That, we could handle, “Yes! We loved the show. You were amazing!” But that’s where our ability ended. See, what we didn’t know at the time was that Mousetrap is a murder mystery show. We soon found this out when the actors started asking us if we guessed who had done it. Giving the actors blank stares, we scrambled and stammered to come up with answers to their many questions about our detective work during the play. 

Eventually, after meeting six out of the eight actors in the play, we came up with an excuse that got us out of there. My only hope is that before the afternoon show the cast chatted and shared a laugh about the two girls who watched a two-hour show and couldn’t put together one complete sentence about what we thought about it. 

London Original photo by Minnah Stein If you are interested in watching the final product of me awkwardly taking photographs with Mousetrap actors who think I am stupid, you can watch my documentary here. In all of the insanity, remembering this moment brought me moments of joy during my newly discovered least favorite thing to do: video editing. 

So sure, I won’t be a filmmaker—I’m too impatient. But I have an understanding of filmmaking and video editing skills now that will be useful no matter what career I choose. Every experience you have is one that shapes you. If you think you are going to like something, go for it! It might take you off the path you think you’re supposed to go down, but you don’t know what new path it could lead to. Or in my case, it could lead you to develop new skills, getting to explore the world and making the best friends anyone could ask for. You gain something from every risk you take. Good or bad, it will get you where you need to go. Every pursuit of a dream leads to a journey that can take you to shenanigans at a Mousetrap Stage Door and answers about your future.

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