The Wild West: The W-i-E
It is impossible to build a career in this industry without tremendous support from many other people. Film and television are crucially dependent on numbers of people coming together to make a project come to life.
The same is true for any individual’s personal career. It’s such a rare occasion that one achieves measurable success while remaining a complete loner. However, it is just as true that you need to be fiercely independent or else you can easily find yourself on the short-end of many situations.
I recently sat down with a friend of mine to give him my feedback/support on the completion of a new feature film he’s been writing. A year earlier I met him after he’d hired me to help him develop another script, which he’s now showing around town to potential investors and producers.
My friend casually told me about a good meeting he had with a production company that read the script after it made its way into their hands through a strange maze of friends and business relationships. The company showed enthusiasm, but felt the script wasn’t right for them at this time. However, they wanted to build a relationship with the writer and keep doors open for any future projects. The company was created by formidable entities, so, understandably, my friend was very encouraged. Short of hearing the name of the company, I would have been equally supportive.
However, this company was greatly responsible for my move to Los Angeles. They’d read a script of mine, then two and pretty soon we were all enjoying the process of moving the scripts towards production. I enthusiastically introduced the company to an investor whom I’d worked with prior, and after a group dinner and breakfast in the investor’s home, the team was formed and heading towards production!
In film terms, ‘cut’ to ten months later and I find out in the trade papers that the investor is committing millions of dollars to the production company to fund a completely different project. The many hours of meetings, passionate pre-production discussions, and musings about our bright future together now seemed like a bad dream.
Sitting across from my friend, I wanted to go into detail about the people and circumstances that led to a very distasteful experience. However, I now understood that for him, under the right circumstances, with certain events lining up, he could have tremendous success with this company.
The point of the above musing is to say that it is always necessary to find the ‘I’ in ‘we’ in every business interaction one has out here. It’s crucial to define one’s personal goals in every creative endeavor, no matter how strong the personal relationships seem to be. Often this can be perceived as aggressive or self-serving, and believe me, there are enough people to support that observation. Yet, you can have strong personal goals alongside others with different, yet equally passionate ambitions. In fact, most endeavors only get off the ground when the individual self-interests lean on one another to birth an idea into existence.
Perhaps the biggest lesson that one should learn when trying to start a career in this business is to clearly define one’s personal goals and then seek out individuals whose own personal goals benefit from your own. It’s an essential lesson, yet rarely learned without one life-changing personal experience or two.