While most of her teenage peers are just beginning classes at film school, 19-year-old Emily Hagins is already a seasoned pro in the industry: After writing and directing her first film at age 12, she went on to premiere My Sucky Teen Romance at SXSW in 2011 and released it on DVD and iTunes earlier this month. Debuting during the height of vampire-mania, Emily's movie is timely, answering the question: What happens when an awkward vampire-geek romance blossoms at a sci fi convention? (Scroll down to see the trailer.)
Emily has three finished films under her belt and is currently working on a fourth film -- a coming-of-age story centered around Halloween. But for most of her career, she's been juggling film and school. So, who better than Emily to spill secrets about being a productive, creative, and all-around awesome teen? Read on for her tips for success.
Be observant! If you like being creative - whether that's making your own movies like Emily does, writing, music, photography, or whatever else you like to do - keep your eyes and ears open. The best inspiration is right in front of you. "I'm pretty shy and geeky," Emily says, "and [My Sucky Teen Romance character Kate] talks about sweating in front of a boy she likes. I did that kind of thing. I try and keep a little database of those things, and when they happen, it's like, 'At least it'll be good for a movie, even if I just horribly embarrassed myself!'"
Take one step at a time. "If you think too hard about a big project you're undertaking, it becomes very overwhelming. [When I filmed my first movie], I wasn't thinking about how big it was, I was just thinking about how badly I wanted to do it. Persevere through all those little obstacles that are inevitable and just finish it, because at the end of the day, you end up with something you're proud of."
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Emily stresses that keeping track of her priorities was crucial skill for success. If you're juggling school and extra-curriculars, she says, "You kind of have to give and take both your extra-curricular things, even if you're taking it seriously." Sometimes, reading two chapters for your English class and studying for your math test take top priority, but occasionally, it's okay to make a big football game or your dress rehearsal the main focus instead.
Don't force creativity. Whether you're blanking on the intro to your essay or lacking motivation to finish a DIY project, hitting the creative jackpot can be tough. Emily explains how she deals with writers block: "I think the best thing to do is to write something else entirely, even if it's not involved with your project. If it's just feeling wrong, it doesn't matter how many drafts you do, because it's not there. So, you kind of have to wait for your brain to sit on it, like, 'Aha!' You can't force anything creative."
Talk to your parents about your goals. Emily spent her college fund on producing My Sucky Teen Romance! But that type of trust from her parents didn't happen overnight. "I've always had a very respectful relationship with my parents," she says. "They kind of trusted me with what I believed to be the right thing, while still being my parents. When they realized I was very passionate about this, they just wanted to help me achieve my goal." If you have a big dream you'd love to achieve, sit down with your parents and see if they can offer any guidance or support to help you get there.
Do you agree with Emily's advice? What other tips would you add? Sound off in the comments below or tweet @HuffPostTeen.