Thursday, May 16, 2013

What I Wish I'd Heard at Graduation, Addendum: Don't Blow It

To paraphrase Rick’s description of Renault in Casablanca, filmmaking is like any other job, only moreso.  Did you choose this job because you don’t want to have a boss?  Well I have bad news for you, you won’t have one boss, you’ll have dozens, and many of them will be ten times as arrogant, exploitative and contemptuous as the worst boss you’ve ever had.

Above all else, beware of this: Hollywood producers, agents, stars, directors, etc., are some of the most thin-skinned people in the world.  On those lucky occasions that one of them offers you an opportunity, it’s ridiculously easy to blow it.  They have a lot of unspoken rules, and it’s not hard to break one, which will be the last you ever hear from them. The sense of entitlement these people have is overwhelming.

Remember, these people are constantly pestered by job-hopefuls who have memorized everything about them and are desperate to be part of their world.  On one level they find these people really annoying and try to avoid them, but on the other hand, they also come to take them for granted…they have unconsciously concluded that there must be a good reason why all these people are obsessed with them.

Inevitably, they internalize the assumption that everybody out there on the street knows everything about them, including their tastes and preferences, their contact info, where they hang out, etc, which helps explain why power-people are so bizarrely uncommunicative.  It takes a Herculean effort to get them to confirm the day, date, time, place and address of a meet-up.  If they mention the name of a restaurant to meet, you’re just supposed to know where that is, and if there’s more than one location, you’re supposed to be able to guess which one they prefer.  If you don’t, you’ll have to badger their assistant to get that information, and the assistant will be even more contemptuous.  They know everything about their boss, so why don’t you??

And by the way, the super-hip places they want to meet invariably have no street signs whatsoever—restaurants without signs, private clubs without signs, even hotels without signs.  They don’t even notice that these elite places are designed to be completely invisible from the street and it would never occur them that this might not be the best place to meet someone for the first time.  You’ve been there before, right?  Everybody goes there.

Most of all, these people assume that everybody will be agog when hearing their voice on the phone.  They’ve gotten so used to hushed awe that anything else seems downright contemptuous.  The last three people they spoke to were in awe of them, so who the hell are you to act differently?

The trick is to always be deferential, but never dazzled.  Profoundly respect their power and their peculiarities, but don’t surrender your self-respect. Yes, you should be grateful these power-people are giving you some of their genuinely valuable time, but keep looking for the opportunity to quietly prove you’re good enough to be there.  The trick is to prove your excellence in a way that doesn’t even remotely smell like insolence.


j.s. said...

"The trick is to prove your excellence in a way that doesn’t even remotely smell like insolence."

Awaiting the Roman-a-clef version of said scenario in an addendum to this addendum.

Matt Bird said...

When I figure it out I'll let you know.