The Next Ten Years

This year I'll be turning 30. It's now more than ever that I realize I need to establish something for myself, I need to have a firmly planted stake in life; something I have built myself with my own hands. What it comes down to is I need to start cultivating relationships and there's multiple paths to this, I just need to understand and decide what kind of person I am, what kind of person do I want to be, what kind of person am I capable of being.

There's the independent path where I continue full-steam with the production company and my acting work; the problem with this path is it has always held the same personal issue: becoming very comfortable with the prospect of networking. It's a stupid, likely fatal, hang up to begin with but it also makes the idea of "doing it on your own" practically impossible. No one makes it without the right connections, no one funds a movie without the right money people just a phone call away. I think there's still the romantic vision of self-funding or crowd-funding but that's a much different world than playing with the big studio folks.

I know the idea in this business is to shamelessly self-promote and upsell yourself but, when that's not your personality, it's difficult to force it. Worst of all is the crippling self-doubt of asking yourself why to things people just seem to accept as life; the questions like what reason you have to walk up to someone you don't know. Unless they're wearing a cool shirt, a nifty hairdo, or are holding something interesting then it must be their face; you have an interesting face and now I'm here to talk to it. And there's too many tips about how to be less anxious about networking, all that seems to do is increase the level of self-doubt by confirming already recognized shortcomings and then adding a few I never worried about before.

Independent and freelance work requires that strong meet-and-greet personality, the ability to self-promote, the ability to sit down with powerful money people, sell them on an idea; and without those and other skills it's hard, if not impossible, to find success as an independent producer or working actor.

The other path is to pursue regular work, something ideally industry related, to build up my work credits around something that's not merely my own or a family company. In the sense of the family business, there's a strong desire to not just assume an unearned, and unwanted, legacy merely for being born into it and, frankly, not having the interest in or passion for the business or its mission.

Of course, I'd love a small loan of a million dollars to get my life started but that's not something feasible in my struggling, middle-class family.

So the option seems to be attempting to start to build my own life, reputation, connections, and work history. I realize that, while I enjoy the downtime of working freelance, my personality is much more suited to a stable, salaried job. It's a shame I was born into the generation that isn't looking good on that front, be it in the film industry or outside, in the job market broadly.

But perhaps the weight of poor networking follows me to this path, it's possible without those strong networking skills that regular work could become the same dead-end that the independent path is seeming to lead currently. Today's world seems all about schmoozing the right people, being a strong networker; the competition is fierce so the resourceful and fearless know they have to push hard to be noticed in our heavily overcrowded market.

One side effect of all these over-analyses and endless attempts to claw and struggle for stable footing in this business, I've stopped actually enjoying the industry for the art anymore. Everything becomes about the pursuit, everything that matters now is the pursuit as years drag on and the personal outlook appears more and more desperate. People endlessly talked up shows like Breaking Bad or The Wire, shows I still haven't watched at all; even as a big Star Wars fan, I haven't rushed out to see the new movie. Because, instead of enjoyment, after settling into the movie, the jealousy starts to set in, it becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy the movie when you can only think of how far you are away from that goal and how likely impossible it would ever be for you to reach it. There are millions of aspiring actors and maybe a few hundred people know by name, maybe a few thousand that are working and making a living. That means hundreds of thousands are wannabes hoping for a shot at the big time, or, at the very least, a paycheck.

My listless pursuit of some sort of semblance of success has put me at odds with the very industry I claim to enjoy, I don't seem to be enjoying the industry very much at all; I just seem to be plugging away at small tasks in hopes to find some footing for a way into the coveted category of "a working professional." I used to believe that it was only perseverance that could get you there, all that really mattered was sticking it out and working hard until you finally pushed your way in somewhere. I'm getting to the age now where I can't just wait for it, I don't think it's an all or nothing situation but one certainly does have to take precedence over the other.

I need to carve out some niche for myself, to have something for myself; I need to be able to quit a job, take a couple year hiatus, and then be able to return to some semblance of strong employment. I need that safety net in place so I know, while I can go out and experiment from time to time, I have a comfortable position I can fall back on at basically any time. It's a spoiled, pipe dream in today's economic and business climate but it's what I look to as having the necessary pieces to go forward with confidence. It's the concept, the idea of having built up a reputation that can get you snapped right back up into the big game, or at least the living wage game. Without the reputation, the alternative is petitioning your way inside, in the form of job applications, in hopes someone, somewhere feels like giving you and feels like you deserve, earned a shot in an ocean of worthy applicants; it becomes increasingly hard to believe you'll be the special one without that strong reputation established.