Welcome to “Going Bionic,” #103. Today we’re going to step aside from our series on Cannes and discuss something even more important than the world’s greatest film festival, breaking through your career roadblocks. That’s right, You are far more important than Cannes, because without you, Cannes (and all other film festivals for that matter) would cease to exist. So, buckle up. This ride will be quick, but it’ll pack the punch you need to barrel through your career roadblocks. So, here are four moves you can make to help obliterate your roadblocks and get your career launched to its next level.
Most Career Roadblocks Are Self-Inflicted
While some roadblocks may seem like they are out of your control, like having an investor fund your film or finding a studio to buy your script, most of them are not only controlled by you, but they are created by you. For example, if I had $1 for every time I heard a filmmaker blurt out useless excuses of why they couldn’t make a move to better their career, I’d have a million dollars, after taxes! “I can’t send my script to a studio, it’s not ready,” they’d say. “It needs at least two more polishes. Besides, what if they steal my idea,” they’d mumble. The simple truth is that if you don’t send your work out to be considered and possibly criticized, then your career will never progress beyond where it is now. So, the next time you find yourself seconds away from passing on a potential life-changing opportunity, DON’T! Take that chance! Give that elevator pitch, send that e-mail and make that call. The worst that can happen is that the “powers that be” will say “no,” and you’ll be exactly where you are now. But…what if they say “yes?”
Offers Are Never Perfect Until You Become An Asset
The Rolling Stones famously quoted, “you can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you just may find, you’ll get what you need.” The same applies to filmmakers fielding offers early in their careers. Whether it’s a directing offer for a genre you don’t like, or a writing/producing a story that you’re not thrilled about, you should think twice before you turn the offer down. Most independent filmmakers try to stick to their idealistic guns and say they would never make a film they didn’t love. Meanwhile, those filmmakers are getting left behind while other filmmakers who are saying “yes.” So, ask yourself, what means more to you, sticking to your guns, or making money, earning credits and building a career? Whatever you decide, just remember that until each film you make earns hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, you will never get everything you want (i.e. the budget, control over the final cut, casting, release strategy). Thus, the smart play is to avoid creating a roadblock for opportunities you wouldn’t ordinarily consider.
Stop Hating Studios!
One thing I’ve always found amusing is how fiercely filmmakers hate studios. This is because I have only met two filmmakers in the last 20 years who actually turned down a studio directing or writing offer. Not surprisingly, both of them regret it in a huuuuuuge way. Their careers never took off after they passed on the studio opportunity, and now both of them still pine away about what might have happened. What could possibly be wrong with turning into an A-List director/writer/producer and earning several million dollars over six months to make a $100 million dollar film? Losing creative control? Not having final cut? Are those things really worth having your career stagnate? I think not. Besides, the “I will never do a studio film” indie film pledge is a mountain of bullshit, with countless valleys of bullshit on the other side of the mountain. Nobody wants to be broke. Absolutely nobody, including those who claim they’d rather live in poverty than work for a studio. So, if you eliminate your “I hate studios” roadblock, endless highways of career opportunities will soon appear right in front of your visually talented eyes.
It’s Not About Money…Yeah, Right!
Here’s one thing that most of you will disagree with me on: “it” is always about money. It is, it is, and it is! I’m telling you, regardless of how much you believe your gift to the cinematic world is your art, money, not your art, navigates your level of worth in Hollywood. The more money you have, the more money you’ve made your investors and distributors, which means the more you’ll be able to make the films that you are passionate about. So, you can stop feeling guilty about wanting to make money as a filmmaker. Everybody wants to make money in the world of film and TV. Everybody! That’s why they do this for a living. Think about it, if the financial world were reversed and being a wildly successful filmmaker made the money that a part-time worker at a coin-operated laundry mat made, and that part-time tumble-dry expert made millions like high-end filmmakers do, then everybody would want to become a part-time laundry mat worker! Sure, people would still make movies, but the unbelievably rigid competition to get into the industry would cease to exist.
When I was in graduate film school at UCLA, my professor Peter Guber used to always say, “it’s not called show, show, or business, business. It’s called show business. This is clearly a business.”
Okay, everyone. Thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.