Welcome to Going Bionic #219! Today’s edition is coming to you from 37,154 feet above sea level, while I’m en route from Los Angeles to New York City. As this surprisingly packed red-eye flight rips across the midnight sky, I’m reflecting on the fact that my MFA from the UCLA School of Film and Television is dated June 17, 1994, exactly twenty years ago to the day this article will publish. Twenty years. Hot damn, it’s been a long time since I graduated. While I’m happy, content and excited about the fact that my future seems brighter than the blindingly orange polo shirt I’m wearing right now, I never thought it would take me twenty years out of film school to get here. Back in ’94 when I was 26, I thought I’d be here by the age of 28. Then again, if I were here at 28, I would have spent everything before I turned 29, so my journey took the path it needed to take to bring me here. Thus, today we’re going to discuss five things you should consider while managing your career expectations.
Understand That Hollywood’s Starting Point For You Is Different Than Your Self-Imposed Starting Point
The one thing I hear time and time again is how painstakingly long it takes filmmakers to get to their career going. Some key moments that can jumpstart a career include writing a screenplay that wins or places at a reputable screenwriting contest, or having a film noticed at a major film festival. However, while you may have rewritten your script 38 times over nine years before it got noticed, or whether you had to make 11 short films and two feature films before your “first feature” gets noticed, (I’ll explain that in a sec), Hollywood views your career start date as when you first achieved distribution from a reputable entity. This means that regardless of how long it takes you to get noticeable distribution, the powers-that-be will still see you in fresh new writer and or director whose public career just started.
Have a Clear Goal
Just saying “I’ll do anything, just give me a job,” may get you your first gig, but it may not get you closer to your goal. So, make sure you have a career goal in mind, and marry your goal with a well thought out plan to reach it. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to let people know your future intensions. This is because if you’re a smart, hard worker, your bosses may look out for key opportunities that are inline with your aspirations.
Understand What You’re Willing To Sacrifice
One thing I can assure you is that things always take longer than you want them to, so be prepared to endure the clutches of cinematic poverty for more than a few years. Trust me, it’s going to suck for at least some period of time, and you’ll want to quit the entertainment industry at least 14,000 times as you climb your career ladder. Furthermore, you may lose relationships, your confidence and even a few friends who don’t understand why you just don’t give up on your pipe dream and “get a real job.” But, if you remain smart about your decisions, focused and relentless, you will ultimately reach your goal(s). You’ll also most-likely look back at your early days of struggle as being the time when you had the most fun.
Don’t Make Your Timeframe To Reach Your Goal Unrealistic
While it’s possible you could shoot out of the gate and reach the A-list instantaneously, it is not the most likely situation. What is more likely is reaching your goal after years of struggle. Oddly enough, many film industry friends of mine tell me that I’m “damn lucky to be where I am 20 years out of film school.” This rings odd to me, because I always thought I’d be at this stage three to five years out of film school. Thus, don’t beat yourself up over how long things are taking, because film careers are like fine wines; they take years of aging to become amazing.
Have An Open Mind To Opportunities Outside Of Your Goal
While it’s always good to have a clear goal in mind, you should also be open to well-respected entertainment opportunities outside of your specific are of interest. For example, don’t shun a TV, cable, or online opportunity, just because you think it will detract from you being seen as a filmmaker. The bottom line is, earning good credits in areas outside of your specific area of interest will get you a lot closer to your ultimate goal than doing nothing will, so make sure you keep an open mind to all creative and career-enriching possibilities that come your way.
Okay, filmmakers, that’s what I have for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, have a tremendous week! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.