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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Decide exactly where you want to go professionally, then act as if you're already there.
Paul Guyot makes this point in his blog. It not only sounds good, but it makes sense -- a big bonus for any aphorism, though not strictly necessary if it's in French.

It's not that believing in yourself will convince other people to believe in you too. No one will consider letting you run a show if you don't have a great show to sell them, and the credits and the experience to justify wanting to. It's not just that if you don't ask you don't get, though that's always true. Paul's point is that if you want to be, say, a staff writer, act like one -- do the work and quit moaning. Don't sit around dreaming of being a staff writer. Dreams are nice but they are not the job.

Another major time suck is making Plan B's. One of the interesting bits in A Chorus Line is when the director asks the dancers auditioning what they'd do if they couldn't dance. About half of them have no idea. All they want to do is dance. The others have intelligent plans -- teach dance, go back to the family business, etc. The director hires the ones who don't have any plan except make it as a dancer. Showbiz is hard enough that if you waste time on fallback positions, you won't make it. My mom was always trying to get me to go to law school, or consider teaching, or brush up my computer programming skills. I never did anything but work as a development guy for the money (one of the best day jobs a writer can have, I guess, after working for an agent) and write on the side until I could support myself. Had I brushed up my computer skills I could have fallen into a lucrative computer job, or worse, found myself with so-so computer skills and so-so writing skills.

If all you're doing is writing enough to maintain the pretense that you're a writer, that's okay, if it makes you happy. You can buy a lottery ticket, too. You're not buying a realistic chance at a million bucks, you're buying the right to daydream. Just know that that's what you're doing.

[NOTE: some of the comments below refer to an earlier version of this post, hence the above rewrite.]

11 Comments:

My grandmother used to say "fake it 'til you make it".

By Blogger MaryAn Batchellor, at 10:38 AM  

I said it on my Bog a while back, and recently, in an email to an aspiring writer...

The reason it resonated so much for me is that I don't think it's literal - "I want to be a showrunner, so I'm going to go around acting like one regardless of my credits." (not that you said that)

I think it means that if you want to be a professional writer, then act like it in the sense of - have a serious schedule where you work each and every day; don't hang out with poseurs who talk about doing things without ever doing them; don't have some lame-ass blog where you put all this personal and unprofessional shit into the cybersphere; don't bitch and complain about your script not getting picked for a contest or fellowship; if you have a blog understand that it is a huge self-promotional tool and you should be acutely aware of how it looks (and how you look) to some total stranger (think exec or agent or producer) coming across it for the first time; and on and on.

Writing is a job - like stock broker, firefighter, mechanic, teacher, real estate agent and so on.

You'd never be hired for a job where the person hiring saw you as not-right for the position.

By Blogger guyot, at 11:29 AM  

Weird - I just realized that a post I put up today has that ditty in it.

I wrote the post late last night.

We're simpatico, Alex.

By Blogger guyot, at 11:38 AM  

No offense to your grandmother Maryan but I never liked that saying. It always sounded like you're walking around like some hack trying to con people into believing in you. Not to say that convincing people you are the man or woman isn't a part of this business it's just the "faking" part. I would like to know I'm the absolute authority on the film I just wrote and am about to make otherwise I can't convince others.

There is this mentality, especially when you are starting out, that you should be extremely thankful for the opportunity that you have been given until the day you stop breathing. I don't believe that. I believe you as the writer are giving people the opportunity to make a living regardless of how writers typically get treated. I think it comes down to walking with some authority. This doesn't mean you have to be the set asshole but I think you will have greater success and more respect if you know what you do and you are concinced that you do it well. That in itself is the battle and if you win that battle you are half way there.

This one sits better with me,"walk in to that place like you own it".

By Blogger William, at 11:45 AM  

Well, William, I gotta tell you that I've had many a horrific experience with people with no experience walking into somewhere like they own it. I don't think that's a welcome attitude at all.

It's a difficult balancing act, to be sure. The way I think it plays out is that you cannot walk around, when you're just starting out like you own the place. Because that means thinking you know better than people who will usually have greater experience and a greater level of craft than you do.

Notice I didn't say, "talent."

You have to have faith in your talent. And when you get a break, you have to be prepared to offer your viewpoint and to offer it confidently, without apologies. "This is what I think."

Now - sometimes what you think will be on the money and sometimes it won't be. And if you're lucky, when it's not, you'll glean insight from those who you're working with into why. (If you don't, they're not being communicative, and you should try to get them to talk about it -- maybe not right then when you're in the thick of things...but later.)

Where your POV resonates with me is in the idea of being made to appreciate a break until the day you die.

The funny thing is that, to a person, the people who are ACTUALLY responsible for my breaks, who gave me a leg or a hand up -- aren't the ones who go around and take credit for it. There are producers I've worked for who have expected me to bend and scrape out of gratitude for 'the break they gave me' and in most cases, I'm the guy who saved these guys' unprofessional asses, so eff them.

The people who really help you don't demand ego tribute every waking second.

Self doubt is good. It should be an important control rod for you, especially when you're starting out -- but just because it has an affect on your inner monologue does not mean it gets you points to display that outer doubt. Be confident in your ideas, and your opinions -- and show judgement in reading the situation in the room and your environment.

But arrogance in a writer isn't any more pretty than arrogance in an actor or a director. I'd rather work with the competent and nice writer over the excellent but difficult any day.

By Blogger DMc, at 12:09 PM  

Damnit, that should be "effect" up there. Not "affect."

Must be tired.

DMc

By Blogger DMc, at 12:12 PM  

Back to you DMC, I think you make some great points but by no means am I saying don't be thankful for your breaks, you should be, always. To add, I don't want what I'm stating here to get mixed up with arrogance. When I say, walk in like you own the place I mean it to reflect the confidence you should have and need, even if it's just in your own head, to weather this industry. A good sense of humor doesn't hurt either. Like I said, This doesn't mean you have to be the set asshole but I think you will have greater success and more respect if you know what you do and you are convinced that you do it well. I'm very humble and always am looking to expand my knowledge with people who know more than I do, I'm just not for anyone walking around like an open wound and I think that can easily happen when you are trying to break in. Not everyone has an agent, not everyone has a three picture deal.

You're right, it is a balancing act. I've crewed and made films myself so I do know what it's like on both sides of the line and I have to say if you are supposed to be the one with the answers, you better have them. The truth is, you won't have all the answers, that's the balancing act. A lot of this industry is about "playing nice". I've played nice and gotten results but sometimes I didn't. Again, a balancing act.

Be professional, create great work and have respect for yourself, that is all I'm really saying here.

BTW, great avatar.

By Blogger William, at 2:32 PM  

I think it's a great point. I also don't think it's considered posing. My dad always made it a point to push outside of our comfort zones, and that's helped me in life more than I could have possibly predicted. I think that pushing yourself to a higher level also means stepping outside your comfort zone. The only difference here is that you're doing it with confidence rather than reluctance. I think that's a positive thing and something I've been doing for a long time.

And if you're a leader (lets say, a first time director), I also think it's important to make sure the people you're working with believe in you and your abilities. If you're a creator, I think it's important to make sure the people hiring you for a project believe in your abilities, even if you're not sure yourself. Sometimes that means you've got to maintain composure and confidence (or fake it) when deep down inside, you're feeling unsure of yourself.

There is a difference between the illusion of confidence, and posing. Putting yourself in the state of mind to become successful and going after your goals, is quite different than pretending you're successful and allowing others to believe you've achieved those goals.

By Blogger Kody Chamberlain, at 3:23 PM  

Okay then, Guyot, off to give my blog litmus test for "lame-ass blog where you put all this personal and unprofessional shit"

By Blogger MaryAn Batchellor, at 11:33 PM  

Not to beat this subject to death but I saw this and it seemed fitting...

"In meetings with executives, I'll say no if I think they're wrong. But I'm very accommodating if they have a good idea. I've always thought of meetings as if they were cocktail parties. I think of it as my party--I'm trying to make them comfortable even though it's their office. Otherwise I can't see where I fit. I can't even see myself as their servant, which sometimes infuriates people.

More than one producer has told me that I don't behave like a writer. Well, I don't know how writers are supposed to behave."

by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, The Night Before Christmas)

By Blogger William, at 4:04 PM  

Yikes. It's their party, for heaven's sake!

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 4:15 PM  

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