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July 14, 2017

What makes a good mentor? Part 3: What, no film mentors?

Some of you who read the first two parts (what makes a good mentor and who were my good mentors) may be asking, what no film mentors.  No, no film mentors.  Why no film mentors?  Don’t you make films as a living?  Isn’t Ptara a film, storytelling and history company?

Why no film mentors?

Perhaps it’s just amnesia. I don’t feel I’ve had anyone really take much time out to observe my work in film, I’m pretty much self taught.

So, even though I’m in my very early 40s, the slot is still open. If someone who is an expert on filmmaking process, and there are a few people out there who have a lot to teach me, wishes to take me on, I’d like to study under them. I still have a lot to learn, from the right teacher.

Okay, so there were a few teachers at Pima Community college, and even high school and middle school, who deserve some recognition. What they taught me is very personal, and some of it may even seem political in this day when everything is political. For film, most of my mentors were men (and one woman) who taught me before I really had any paid film work, men who were willing to warn me about the pitfalls I was likely to fall into, who went down the same road I was taking and knew of its dangers. I didn’t heed all of their warnings, and suffered some headaches, and perhaps even what you might call creative heartache, as a result. But, when what they had said finally sunk in, I was better prepared to complete projects that might not have been completed otherwise.

They had all made films or plays before, and worked closely with a large number of students, guiding them to success and improvement.  (The history mentors were a bit different, more on that later.)

And, along the years, there have been colleagues and instructors that helped me improve in one area or another, whether it be a shortcut in photoshop or a way to film a stunt.  Perhaps there will be someone who teaches me something new this month.  I certainly hope so.

What were the lessons I learnt? That’s the thing about mentors. They don’t teach universal lessons to everyone, or if they do then that’s not what makes them mentors. Instead, they focus on what you need to know, as an individual. We aren’t all Telemachus, I’m not you and you’re not me. Our mentors will be different, and our needs will be different.

What they do have in common is that they watch, listen, observe, and understand. They aren’t tomtoms, they aren’t self driven cars, they aren’t repetitive recordings, they are able to adapt their directions to what you need to hear. And, mostly, a mentor has enough confidence in your ability to get in the car with you, whether that means taking you on as an employee and paying a salary, working in the same office, or investing time, money, emotion, or other resources to further your success.

Now, even if I were a mentor, I don’t know if I could mentor just anyone. I’d have to know enough about your career goals, and current desires and abilities, to know whether it would be worth my time and investment to risk a crash. And, I’d have to know enough to know whether my guidance would really be of any use to you. Mostly, however, you’d have to have enough confidence in my ability as a mentor to contact me directly and convince me that it’s something you want to do, and perhaps convince me that I have something to offer. People who don’t know my name, my work background or where I’m based don’t know enough about me to convince me of anything.

When looking for your mentor, look for an internship or an apprenticeship, maybe even a course with someone who has done what you want to do. Make sure this person has experience that you don’t have, and is willing to speak to you as an individual rather than just one of the crowd.

Now, I put a lot of time into writing this. If you gained anything from it, then perhaps you could put my name out to help me find work, or investors, or a co-founder or something.  A link to this post, pointing people to ptara.co.uk, any kind of reward helps me to know that I’m not just talking to a wall here. (And no, critical “feedback” isn’t helpful; I have plenty of inlaws to keep me aware of my flaws, thank you very much.)

Thanks for your time, and here’s wishing you success in all the good things you try to do.

Vasco 🙂

p.s. If you’d like to know how to become a better mentor, that might be coming soon. However, I think I’ll return to history and mise en scene for the time being.