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Complications Ensue:
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Monday, November 24, 2008

DMc is on my feed list, and he should be on yours. If for some reason you're not reading him regularly, check out this awesome guest post by his story coordinator.

Denis makes an interesting point about the Twitter Generation being disinclined to get coffee. I have noticed a number of young 'uns in this business have lousy attitude and don't even know it. Some people don't take notes. Some people don't pick up their cigarette butts even after it's been pointed out that tossing them in someone's driveway isn't cool. You call to recommend them and they don't call the person you recommended them to. They don't go to parties or poker games you invite them to. They figure it will all come to them in due time when they're ready.

When I was in my 20's in the biz, I took a lot of crap. My first boss was a screamer, and I had to take his Jag in to be washed now and then. It was a great job because I learned a ton about development, packaging and production. I asked people advice, and took it, and went to every party, and even sent thank-you notes. (If you don't know what a thank-you note is, ask your grandmother.)

Show business is odd because it is creative, but it is hierarchical. (I have yet to see a good "open-source" screenplay.) So if you are a private, you should not feel like it is an imposition to do what the Sarge says. Or to salute the LT. I find the people who get ahead are those who instinctively understand that a peacetime mentality can get you killed in show business. Yes, those people are shooting at you. So do like the Sarge says and keep your fool head down, and start running when he says "run."

In other words, get your war on.

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I read an interview with Joss Whedon once, who said something like "when you're a screenwriter, you're in the Army." Sounded like pretty good advice to me . . . and 'war-time mentality' is a really clear way of summing up that get-up-and-go, in a way that doesn't have the sleazy connotations of 'hustling'.

Still, the next generation coming up are the most non-hierarchical in a very long time. They're no more anti-authority than any other generation, but they really don't like fixed structures because they grew up using the Internet, with its seemingly free-form networks. I wonder how the Hollywood system will change hen that generation is in charge of the world, 20 years or so from now. I bet a lot of those people will have hard lessons to learn, and will become more in favour of hierarchy as a result, but by then Hollywood may be a lot less hierarchical as well.

But I for one am not going to wait around 20 years to know for sure; the Army life for me.

By Blogger Rich Baldwin, at 12:27 PM  

One of the things with the internet is that entertaining and good work floats to the top. It makes chugging along and doing your own thing a viable business plan - once you get good enough, you get noticed.

I think it's like the difference between going to Juilliard and busking on streetcorners. You might end up in the same place, but through totally different paths.

By Blogger Emma, at 6:03 PM  

The only person I know to go the intern/PA route was a person who still relied on income from his parents while doing it. Some might call such an arrangement for a college graduate that of a pampered brat. If that's the kind of person able to choose that path, that might explain Alex's observations.

Put differently, the kind of people who could afford to live in expensive cities like LA and NYC and work for peanuts are people accustomed to relying on Mommy and Daddy. For better or worse, the people with the somewhat audacious belief that they should be in the movie business, unchecked by more grounded concerns for making a living, might arrive with a certain sense of entitlement.

Having been in the really Army, I can tell you one of the reasons you jumped when the Sarge gave an order was, if you didn't, you'd literally and quickly have his boot in your ass, at the very least. So Mr. Epstein, maybe you need to get your war on and shit-can some of those ne'er-do-wells. You'll be making the world a better place.

By Blogger David, at 8:42 AM  

*I over-generalized with the first sentence of my second paragraph. There should be an "if" in there, because I honestly don't know enough to make a broad generalization. I just have a suspicion and would welcome more information.

By Blogger David, at 9:21 AM  

How much would the average PA or gofer, etc, get per month?

By Blogger Will, at 4:51 PM  

Oh, don't worry. I got my war on.

I have not recommended / hired / helped the self-entitled guys. The ones who have their war on, I've recommended, helped and sometimes even hired.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:20 PM  

Having been in both the Army (U.S.) and the PA netherworld, I can say that working as a PA is much, much worse. People treat you badly in the Army, but there you have the consolation that, apart from the initial decision to enlist, you really don't have any choice -- you're legally obligated to take orders, even from schmucks. And you can't quit.

What makes being a PA tough is that you could quit at any moment. And you think about it. A lot. While you're standing in line at the catering truck to get Mr. Next-Big-Thing his protein shake and egg white omelette at 4 in the morning. But you don't quit because, at the end of the day, seeing a movie being made is the coolest, most amazing thing on earth.

To kind of respond to both Will and David's point -- a PA, if he's getting paid at all (i.e., not working for free on indies to get started) can get paid between $100 and $200 a day, depending on experience and what kind of job it is. (Advertising always seemed to pay a lot better than features.) That's enough to live on IF you're working all the time. And how do you get work? By doing what Alex says -- being the guy who will do anything, the guy who shows up, the guy who's glad to be there and ready to take orders.

By Blogger S, at 6:54 PM  


Interesting and amusing post.

At least I take it that, as a PA, you were never tear-gassed.

By Blogger David, at 8:22 PM  

You can have all “The war on” you want. Talent might get in the way eventually.

“That’s a great big gun … are you sure it’s loaded.”

I love enthusiasm but we aren’t painting houses. Find out if you have infinity for writing first…then subject yourself to the pain. Less starf#$cker’s please.

You do not learn to write in college or from a writing course and if you do god help us all.

Write because you can. Not as a means to be famous. Writing is a trade but not one learned in a book. It is not dentistry. after one thousand hours of practice all off a sudden I am a writer. “Get your war on”…if I hope and pray and try soooo hard one day you’ll make me a real writer.

Hemingway really wanted to fight bulls. Larry David wanted to be a great stand-up, Sorkin wanted to be a Broadway star. Writing TV/Movie scripts is a fall back plan.

If you really, really care about writing, write for the stage. That’s where words and the author matter.

“Get your war on” thank you Anthony Robbins.

By Blogger DJ, at 11:29 AM  

@ David: No, never gassed. A lot of sleep deprivation, though.

@DJ: So, wait -- I have to fail at bullfighting first? Crap. Couldn't I make bullfighting my backup? That way I'd have time to take lessons.

I reject the idea that theatre is the realm of serious writing. Theatre is the realm of serious talking. Playwrights get credit for being serious because their characters DECLAIM about serious things. Ugh.

By Blogger S, at 5:23 PM  

“I reject the idea that theatre is the realm of serious writing.”

Wonderful, reject all you want because I never said that. Yes ever-great writer must want to fight bulls…that is exactly the sole qualification to be a writer…I was trying to make a point, very badly I confess but a point.

If you set out to write the “Great American Novel” you won’t. If at an early age you enter college to become a screenwriter you won’t. There is exception to every rule and LA writer’s rooms full of them. Live life a bit. Then write. Write because you have something to say. Not something important (We will judge that) just something.

If your goal is to be a cog in the wheel of the LA factory of creativity and get a staff job on CSI-NY more power to you.

But ‘getting your war on” cannot simply be enough.

If it was all about effort the NBA would be full of people 5’3 and shorter. Talent and god given ability come into play once and awhile.

By Blogger DJ, at 6:05 PM  

How do you know when something is leading nowhere?

It's one thing to blindly follow orders, but it's another to taken advantage of.

Working for free sucks. Working for free with no signs of your situation changing is worse. Especially since Visa doesn't care that things might get better one day.

By Blogger Adriano Ariganello, at 9:38 AM  

You say getting your war on cannot simply be enough, that writing talent is a must, but have you seen some of the crap on TV lately? There's your proof right there that waging war in LA sometimes can be all that's necessary.

I really, really love writing, and I enjoy plays, but playwriting does not interest me in the slightest because I find the storytelling much too dialogue oriented - more so than TV. Consider that it's not just writing for TV but the whole production of TV and being apart of that world that people here are interested in. Of course everybody gets rewritten in TV, and the 'artistry' of writing gets sabotaged, but it's an enchanting medium for many other reasons.

Incidentally, obviously every writer needs life experience, but if we all 'lived life first' before putting pen to paper, we'd all end up alcoholic wasters without two coins to rub together.

By Blogger Will, at 1:42 PM  

Entitled people are horrible to work with, regardless of industry.

Yow know what is a surefire entitlement inoculation? Temping while you write and work towards a job in the industry. One that you accrued $20,000 of OSAP debt to study because your parents didn't pay for your education. Most of the people I know are in debt because of schooling and did not get a free parental ride. Perhaps that's why my friends are realistic people who are easy to work with...

I don't like working with entitled people from my generation either, but I certainly know they don't speak for all of us.

I have a job in the industry now (for how long in this climate is hard to say) and had a weird experience yesterday in which a sweet admin offered to wash my soup bowl. Having unloaded many an office dishwasher and stocked a specific brand of pop as a temp admin in the last three years, it caught me off guard. It was a very sweet offer but I realized I WANT to wash my own soup bowl. I dirtied it dammit.

I'm glad I've endured as many crappy jobs as I've had. It's been great for perspective.

Not ALL boomers were selfish. We're not all bad either or god help us all;)

By Blogger terflog, at 1:52 PM  

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