"When you have a dream, you've got to grab it and never let go." —Carol Burnett
When you were a kid, did you ever take the Universal Studios tour, and as the tram was driving up and down the backlot, fantasize about how incredible it would be to work there one day, to actually belong on that lot or another just like it? If you did, you're in good company. And do you remember how alive you felt when you made the decision to go for it and finally started taking steps toward a career in the biz?
Whether it's getting into film school, making your first student film or getting your first job as a PA, there's something magical about this time when your feet rarely touch ground. You're full of passion, excitement, creativity and anticipation. You can't believe you're part of this amazing, exclusive world, even if it's only a tiny part, and you're willing to do anything it takes to succeed. It's exhilarating to work with seasoned professionals; to walk onto a real studio or television lot or stage; to walk the halls of famous agencies such as William Morris and CAA; to meet your idols; to learn, to watch and to strive to impress anyone you can. You love reading scripts, going to movies, critiquing movies, talking about the industry and associating with people in the industry. You've heard the dire warnings about the insecurity, rejection, competition and uncertainty, but your selective form of tunnel vision prevents you from taking any of it too seriously, because it's going to be different for you. What a high! You're starting out on the biggest and most wonderful adventure of your life with the goal that one day, you, too, will be discovering great talent; landing substantial roles; writing scripts that create studio bidding wars; marketing and selling films throughout the world or working on shows that will entertain, influence and touch the minds and hearts of anyone and everyone who turns on a television or walks into a movie theatre. No one can dissuade you from your dream; because you live, eat and breathe it.
Now the trick is to find a way to remember these feelings once reality sets in and the harshness of the business hits you right between the eyes. Having the ability to recall those emotions, revisit the thrill, reminisce about what drew you into this line of work and remember what it is you love about the industry will help you get through the tough times.
Director, writer, producer and Action/Cut Seminar instructor Guy Magar recommends that we put all that passion and excitement and all those memories into a little box and tuck it into our back pocket for safe keeping. Then throughout your career, whenever you're feeling discouraged, frustrated, rejected, beaten down by the politics or competition, you can just take that little box out of your back pocket and open it up, re-releasing all those wonderful emotions and reminding yourself why you got into this business to begin with.
I love the little-box-in-your-back-pocket analogy, but you can also write out your feelings and leave them in your computer, in a journal, in a file, wherever-just as long as they're accessible and easy to get to when you need them. Re-reading your notes after a considerable amount of time has passed is sort of like the thrill one gets when re-reading old love letters and remembering what it felt like when you first fell in love with your spouse or partner after the demands of everyday life have taken their toll on your romance. Here are a few other ways to recapture the magic.
• Collect the shows you work on (or appeared in), watch them from time to time, and remember the good times, the crazi-ness, the locations and the people.
• Save memorabilia from your projects (cast and crew gifts, photos, scripts, etc.).
• Stay in touch with the special people you've met and worked with throughout your career; get together with them from time to time and reminisce.
• Help and mentor others just getting into the biz, and share your experiences with them. Teaching definitely does it for me.
If you're in it for the long haul, you're likely to get involved with projects that will fall through. Then there will be times when you're out of work longer than you'd like to be or you might very well end up working on exceptionally tough projects with people who test your patience beyond all reasonable limits. Whatever it is, there will undoubtedly be times when you'll find yourself disillusioned and questioning what demon ever possessed you to choose this insanity.
I hope you'll always be excited and passionate about your work and that the sense of wonderment never leaves you, but should you ever find yourself up against it and questioning the path you've taken—that's the time to pull the little box out of your pocket. Open it up, take a deep breath and soak up the memories. Or reminisce with people you've worked with, share your experiences with those just starting their careers, watch the shows you've worked on or find the love notes you once wrote to this business and revisit the feelings. Find your own magic elixir that will keep you from crashing and burning and will effectively ward off cynicism, frustration and defeat.
No matter how long your showbiz career lasts, your ability to remember why you chose this profession to begin with should give you the boost you need to keep going and to tackle most of the obstacles in your path.
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