11/29/2012 11:22 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Trust Your Inner Voice

You really have to believe in what you're doing as the writer and director of a film. Like most all creative ventures, you have to have faith in yourself. When you make a dramatic film, it's your idea, it's your words and execution. When you write a line, does it sound believable or does it sound like an industrial film that was made in the 1950's? When filming starts, and the actor says the line, do they say the line as you envisioned? If not, how do you clarify what you're looking for? More importantly, what if the actor adds something special that wasn't expected? Are you ready and confident enough to throw out your own idea, and go with what they offer? Do you trust yourself?

While thinking about being self-assured in filmmaking, it occurred to me that some people who work for others, in other fields, end up trying to second guess someone else. Instead of adding to a project it becomes, "Is this what they want?" Granted, an assignment from a boss isn't your project, it's theirs. You're the facilitator. What I'm suggesting though, is there anything that you can add? Do you want to? Is there confidence in your contribution, or are you trying to think like them; second guess what you believe they want.

As I've gotten older, I've become more confident in my decision-making process. By the way, that's not arrogance.

During my days at ABC News, I remember working with the occasional producer who was overly concerned with what higher ups thought about the final product. So much so, that they often didn't listen to their own voice. The voice that was saying to them that what they're doing is not just acceptable, but quite good. For a producer I worked with, that voice inside wasn't loud enough. They would lament about what this person or that person would think. In the process of trying to second guess what a higher up might think, the producer would create something that no one would like.

I remember getting into conversations like this:

Producer -"I don't know if the senior producer will like this."

Me - "Well, do you like it?"

Producer "Yes, I like it, but I don't know if they'll like it."

Needless to say, it was often frustrating working with these people. How can you know what someone else likes unless you know them personally; unless they're close friends? Even if you do truly know how another person will think and react, what's wrong with adding your vision, your voice, your contribution? Interestingly, the producers I've worked with who didn't seem to care what others thought and followed their own instincts and vision are the ones that often succeeded. It comes down to confidence.

Some may say, "You don't know my boss." That's true. Yes, we all work for others; even the boss has a boss. But my experience shows the more self-confident you are in your own ideas, the more you'll win over people with what you're doing.

The last few months has been a wonderful learning experience. My feature film The Nextnik forced me to make decisions on not just what I liked, but make calls on what others offered. The best part was that I was able to solicit the opinions of people who I respected. I'm hoping to develop even more confidence and take more chances in future film projects. Will I get bad reviews sometimes? I hope not, but I probably will. Does that mean I should create something that reviewers are happy with at the risk of losing my own voice? I hope I have the certainty to not be swayed.

Peter Martins, is the Ballet Master in Chief of the NYC Ballet. On CBS's 60 Minutes he was asked about working with Paul McCartney, who wrote the music for a Martins ballet. Some critics complained that having the rock legend's music was just a gimmick. When corespondent Leslie Stahl asked if the criticism hurt, Martin's said, "When you say "hurts," that would suggest that you always think that they know better, that they know what they're talking about. What matters really is what you think." That's confidence.

You'll never find your own voice if your just trying to guess how to make someone else's voice your own.

My film The Nextnik, a story of reinvention in your 50's, is being submitted to festivals now.