Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Real World

Graduation was Saturday and once again we unleashed young people, who a week ago were sweating finals, into the real world. When I graduated from college I, too, was full of piss and vinegar and felt I knew everything. I left school with a solid portfolio, I had a film job lined up, but mostly, I was young.

The killer reel I created and awards won as a student meant nothing. The film job out of school ended up COSTING us a few thousand dollars; and before long I was just another dumb broke kid with student loans. Then, slowly, really slowly, things began to change. I got a job at a little corner restaurant/coffee shop and was in charge of the mornings. (Had the term been invented I would have been called a barista, but mostly I poured coffee and schlepped bagels.)

One day I left the job and took my student film to the Chicago Film Festival. I double-parked, ran in and when I submitted the film I also asked if they had any jobs available. The man who took my film asked me to wait a minute and a few minutes later out bounced the director of the festival- The Boss Lady, Sue- who hired me on the spot and asked if I could start working right then. I told her I was double-parked and asked if I could start tomorrow. She said yes. Ten years later we worked together again, this time as faculty at Columbia. Small world. Thanks, again Sue for hiring me.

From the running round for the film festival- I wrote my own acceptance letter and mailed myself the Silver Plaque- I took a job at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. I worked there for two and a half years, writing a script the entire time.

That script became my film Victimless Crimes, but I was still broke, and relatively young. I needed to make a living, so while my film was being shopped around Hollywood I took a job at a toy store in a Chicago mall. I was at work at the toy store when I received the phone call that the film found a distributor. Even though I now had a film that was on its way to the Cannes Film Market I kept the job at the toy store for a few more months.

My point of course is to stick with it. It takes time. A lot of time, and the hardest part of being a successful artist is just enduring the business, the easy part is making the film. I once heard Michael Caine talk about all the down time one has as a film actor. Someone, probably an aspiring actor, asked him, “Isn’t it hard to wait between scenes?” Caine responded, “I get paid to wait, I act for free.” That’s how feel as a filmmaker. I get paid for the days I don’t work. I make the film for free.

By the way, that toy store and mall are long gone, I’m still here. Good luck class of 2007, welcome to the real world.



Starmedia Communications said...

Great post! :) I remember how young and inexperienced I felt once the wonder of graduation was behind me and I had to start thinking "what next?!" It must be strange and yet thrilling to watch others go through a similar experience and to wonder if you've prepared them well enough... can you ever?

This post makes me nostalgic. I think I'm going to go and pop in some 80s TV.


blindeh said...

Great story. And the lesson goes beyond art. Patience is the key to any profession. If you're lucky enough to find a job that you love, just being there is worth it and the pay is just bonus. You have to be willing to go through the bad to reach the good.

I think. I'm still waiting for that myself. :P

Lyn said...

What an excellent message and inspiration for Anyone...

PeterH said...

Thank you all for the comments. I am waiting to hear from some students on it- but they don't like to be told to wait on anything.