Hi Film Folk!
This week we’re setting fire to the old notion that ‘good things come to those who wait’. The virtue of patience is being heralded in this classic quotation (and rightly so) but for those who have climbed a few rungs up the ladder already, you’ll be more than aware that there was NO waiting going on in your journey upwards (apart from the agonising wait to hear from agents/producers etc).
So here’s the lick. There’s nothing coming your way. Nothing. Not unless you’re ‘stoking the fires’ or ‘putting in calls’ or ‘man hours’. Even then you have to crank up the engine to set the wheels in motion. This is not a push-the-button-and-its-done operation, no matter what ‘advances in technology’ have gotten you used to.
Waiting breeds more waiting breeds more waiting breeds zero return. Your initial investment of time was zero and your return is the same.
We’re talking to a collective international YOU here, so we don’t know what you, reading this, want. Maybe to simply participate in Film/TV is good enough for you. Maybe you’re a writer content to have one screenplay produced. Maybe you’re a director who wants world domination and to ascend to studio movies. Maybe you’re an indie producing guy/gal and want to make all your films on your terms for your audience only.
Whoever you are, if you feel like you’re lost in the ether and you’re blaming your circumstances, luck, film council, lack of contacts etc, then let’s whip the magnifying glass out and hover it over you for a little minute or two:
I like my other hobbies/activities
You like to bake cakes on the weekends, moan about your boyfriend/girlfriend over a few drinks after work, watch every single TV drama available, watch darts/rugby/football/tennis (every league in Europe). You like to club, go for walks. You’d like to spend time on your script or shooting your short or raising investment but you’re always SO busy and you never have the time!
Well let’s get something straight. Dinner with friends is NOT BUSY. Watching back-to-back Breaking Bad is NOT BUSY. Footie and beers with the lads is NOT BUSY. Sorry to break it to you but you are a slacker. You’re just having fun. Any pretense that you’re busy, that you’ve got better things to do (and of course this is subjective) is just wrong.
Busy people are constantly working towards something industry-related. The agents and studio heads and producers and investors that can’t email you or return your call are actually working (in most cases!)
Something’s got to go. The cakes may need to take a rain check for a couple of years. Do you really have to watch darts and tennis on top of football when you’re more or less impartial anyway?
You are working independently, therefore the boss you must report to is yourself (confusing initially) and you must be strict with yourself. You must be a ruthless boss who gets work done!
Analyse your time spent in the week and see what to keep and what to cull to make room for that all important work can be scheduled. You know? That work that you said your heart is really in?
My job is too demanding
You know in your heart the answer to this. If you’re comfortable with the money and that’s the only reason you’re toiling away and neglecting your heart’s love then you’re going to have to get a new, less demanding job or trim something out to find time.
Author Patricia Highsmith used to work from 9-5 and would come home, shower and sleep for an hour and then work on her stories from 6 until midnight.
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote scripts on napkins during his bar job.
When there’s a will, there’s a way.
I have kids
So?? I think you’re already getting the picture. Kids, job and activities require balancing. Things don’t just even out for you. They don’t balance themselves. You have to arrange them so they work for you. If you’re one of those people who likes to let time go by and organise itself then it’s time to get yourself a diary and start learning to juggle (with time, not literally with the diary!)
I have creative block
So sit around in melancholy then, right?? Nope. Sometimes a project reaches a stage where developments have not been made, or aren’t coming your way and you can’t see the wood for the trees anymore.
Then work on something else. Go back to another project to relieve your eyes from the edit. Or start something new.
I don’t know anyone
Then get knowing! Attend events. Seek people out. We don’t need to say anymore. You’ve got the internet. Find people in your area doing the same.
It’s not my job
“I’m a writer. I’m a director. I’m a cinematographer. I’m a composer. I’m an actor. My job isn’t to put in phone calls or go to events or chase work. I like to focus on the creative things. That’s what I’m best at.”
Unless you’re jobbing in any of the above and have an effective agent, then WHAT’S not your job?? Because guess what?? You don’t HAVE A JOB as any of those things anyway. So your ‘job’ is NOT writing or acting or composing, they are just things you are trying to get work in.
So now guess what?? Your ACTUAL job IS to get one. Your job is to get a job doing what you love. Be good at what you do and then get work doing it. Unless you’ve chosen to take a sabbatical to perfect your craft (which can be a great idea!) then it absolutely is your job to solicit work.
I’m waiting to hear back from someone
You’ve submitted your script/pitch/package to agents/actors/producers and are ‘just waiting to hear back’. Well here’s the thing:
1. You can be getting on with OTHER things in the meantime now can’t you?? Use this time to work on the next one or to go over older projects.
2. You’ll most likely have to chase at some point. These people are busy. Make sure not to dog them of course and read the signs if they’re not interested, but don’t just wait like a princess expecting them to remember you. They’ll probably need a nudging!
Now, as we said before, we don’t know who we’re talking to here (that is the magic of writing – you are speaking to somebody that you’ll often never meet) but let’s weed out a few possibilities to help you:
- I’m poor/maybe it’s not in my genes?
Perhaps you’ve been raised in a situation where money itself was a luxury. Perhaps you feel that your upbringing/class don’t compute with this industry. Maybe you’re from a family of mechanics or butchers and the ethereal rippling pool of creativity inhabited by writers and cinematographers and the like seems too distant.
It doesn’t matter. You must find time. Find money. Find entertainment. Find artists. And leave anybody who does not embrace your life decision coughing and spluttering on the dust you’ve left them to chew on.
There are hundreds of stories of actors/writers/directors who came from less than humble beginnings or were considered the ‘freak’ of the family for wanting to express themselves or make a buck from some showbusiness.
Find those stories and rise.
- I’m sorted for life
Perhaps your talent is so innate, so refined from birth, that you can afford to mess around with guys, girls, parties, sports, drinks, television lounging.
Perhaps your family is so very wealthy or well connected that you might be able to get several leg ups straight off the bat.
Perhaps you’re an actor so disgustingly attractive that you KNOW you can walk into each and every casting room and have agents and directors fall at your feet in a heartbeat.
If any of those are relevant to you then all we have to say is: great. If you think that’s all you need then stop reading this, go forth and do what you know. If you know it’s not all you need then good because it’s not, because all of those listed above are head-starts, not head-finishes.
Talent, money, connections and looks without dedication is meaningless. For every A-lister who got there through family, there are thousands who tried and vanished into obscurity. As they say, looks/money/connections will get you in but they won’t keep you in.
You’ve probably got the picture now. Good things come to those who try and try and try and try and actively pursue the things they claim to want!