“Do what you can do.”
I’ve probably said it before in other pages on this website, but those five words may be the most influential I’ve heard in my life. They were spoken to me by Erika Sánchez Bacalao in 2009. At that time, she was my manager at the Stamford Marriott Hotel and Spa in CT. I was 24 years old and aspiring to be a hotel manager. I had decided not to do much with my Bachelor’s of Architecture and thought I was headed into a life in Hospitality. Then something of a quarter-life crisis hit as I approached age 25. I felt I was not giving myself fully and sharing the totality of who I truly was. I knew I had something creative to share with the world. Then it soon hit me in the way of a spiritual epiphany: I will be a filmmaker. But first, I will be a still photographer.
Where did that come from? Other than a deep enjoyment of watching and learning about film, I never thought my life path would be visual creativity until a random February 2009 day sitting in my childhood home where I’m sure I heard the voice of God. I began to do a lot of homework on photography and photographers, feeling like a digital photography career could be possible. I boldly and brashly started verbalizing it to others, even those at work, at the hotel. This was not a problem, other than the fact that I had also verbally committed to wanting to move up in Hospitality and work towards Front Office supervision and management. My boss, Erika, caught wind of my creative ambitions and it prompted her ask to have a private conversation with me. It was on the mezzanine level of the hotel, and I’ll never forget it:
Erika: How serious are you about being a photographer?
Me: Very. I want to do it.
Erika: Okay. Mallury, I know the kind of person you are. (pause) If you think you’re going to save up 10,000 dollars and go buy the camera you want to buy and then go be a photographer, you’re never going to do it. (another pause)….Do what you can do.
Erika: Do what you can do. If you can buy a flash, then buy a flash, if you can buy a new computer, then buy a new computer…
That was it. Those five words set me free. I had never looked at progress or success that way. Those words are about manifestation and changing your reality. It’s a very powerful practice once you start to use it and see the benefits. Those words changed my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I give plenty of credit to my parents for disciplining and urging me towards success in my youth. Thinking of accomplishment in terms of your parent’s influence, most of the time that dynamic turns success into a bar on a ladder you’re constantly trying to reach. I think it’s the nature of children wanting to make parents proud. Sometimes the bar feels impossible to reach, but I will say that it’s better to have parents that push you to try and grab that bar. It’s far better than ones that tell you can’t reach the bar, or that there is no bar for you or your future.
I share that story about that conversation with Erika often, probably for myself, as a base, as a way to remember how to move forward. The idea of taking on anything new, big or different, whether it’s a creative career or not, can be daunting, especially if your current surroundings do not reflect that goal or desire. “Do what you can do” WORKS. You just climb the mountain one step at a time. I remember leaving that conversation and putting the words into practice. A desire, a thought, turned into small pieces of equipment here and there…then it turned into a website, more equipment, a first paid job, another paid job…and then it became plane tickets from clients to fly me to photograph their destination wedding and eventually standing in the same room as celebrities and being paid to photograph them. My story is an inception to manifestation story in it’s purest form.
Enough patting myself on the back…
I shared my origin story yet again because I just reached a good milestone in my journey and it felt necessary to re-tell it. Since the beginning of 2017, I’ve had a documentary film on my mind (the subject of which I’m not ready to divulge yet on this site, but will be sharing soon.) Per usual, I can see the final product and therefore the task looks and feels like a mountain. Naturally, I have leaned on those great five words to approach the project. I’m doing what I can do.
I live in Los Angeles, and there are plenty of collaborators around, plenty of professional who do and have done what I am aiming to do. While collaboration is huge in filmmaking, I’m taking a simple, patient approach with this first film project, and I’d like to see what my old mantra can do. In other words, I’m keeping this pretty close to the vest and doing as much on my own as possible.
My documentary will be in an interview based format and is intentionally trying to resemble the look and feel of a set of documentaries by a New York photographer, Timothy Greenfield- Sanders. I was inspired by his “List” films. They involve a very simple, bullseye framed, talking head shot interview of some famous faces you’d recognize. The first thing I thought when beginning my doc was, “well…get all the stuff.” I found a few behind the scenes images from the List films and have reverse engineered them to no end. I even worried about what kind of chair the interviewers were sitting in. Crazy? Thorough? I don’t know…but I’m just doing what I can do.
Here is a quick summary of those five words at work:
January of 2017 - highly influenced idea for a film pops into my head. Jot down and outline the film that very day.
Feburary of 2019 - camera, lens, light, sound, and backdrop equipment all purchased/owned. In touch with a professional documentary filmmaker willing to help and mentor. In touch with a film composer excited to provide music for the film. Many contacts (and a lunch) with people (not giving it away yet) that fit into the demographic of the film’s subject, all encouraging and supportive of the film idea. Held a first test shoot with a model in a space in downtown Los Angeles, and now this, the subject of this post…
I held a second test shoot recently to finalize equipment choices and to run through how the interviews for the actual film will progress. Again, to a professional filmmaker this is probably child’s play, but to a guy that’s taking on his first professional film project and started from zero just putting little pieces together…this was an awesome day and moment. Everything came together with the equipment, and I was very excited to have the same model from the first shoot, Karla Avila, sitting in for a mock interview. I was also thankful to find Cee Nelson on relatively short notice to be a helping hand for the setup and sound.
We had a fun time as the photographs will show. At the end of the film practice, we changed backdrops to shoot a few stills (something that will also be pertinent to the documentary). A fun day with a mini-crew, and I look forward to sharing the documentary subject soon: