So it occurred to me that I only email or call my friend Wella when I need something. Like advice on buying a car, or advice on where to take the car when somebody hits it. But it’s rare that I call or email just to say Hi! Things are going pretty great, and I wanted to thank you for being my friend! That’s it! I don’t need anything! Isn’t that awesome!?
To which Wella promptly responded by asking me to have lunch with his film production grad students last Friday.
Ha ha ha. Turnabout is indeed fair play, and I owe Wella ten thousand talks to his students. But for now, we’ll start with one talk.
Wella teaches at an unnamed Christian university, and had brought his group of about 10 - 15 graduate students up to my unnamed movie studio for a tour of the production facilities, so I scooted out on my lunch hour to meet up with them at the commissary and drag a couple of tables together so I could share a general knowledge of what I’ve learned living in Los Angeles and working in this industry for (cough cough coughing over the exact number of) years.
There’s a quote that Bill Gates said somewhere, I’m horribly paraphrasing him, but I think he was talking to a group of students, and one of them asked Bill Gates how someone should break into the industry these days. And Bill Gates replied, “Well, don’t do it the way I did it, it’s already been done.” And that’s what I felt like. I can’t tell these grad students how to break into the industry like I did. Those ways don’t work anymore. The industry changes at such an accelerated rate, you can’t do it the way I did it. When I was starting out, crowdfunding on the web didn’t exist. Crafting a social media strategy to promote your film on a grass roots level didn’t exist.
So what do I have that’s of any value to say? They’re all looking at me with their bright eyes, and poised pens, like really well dressed, inquisitive… badgers or something.
(I don’t know why badgers came to mind just then. Badger in Wind In The Willows was a learned scholarly sort, I think. He also hated society. Moving on)
I tell them what I know. My new job at the Unnamed Movie Studio does afford me a particularly fascinating and valuable viewpoint of the development process (and since I signed a non-disclosure agreement, that’s all you’re gonna get from me online.) I talk to them about the mistakes that producers on the movies I wrote made along the way, and how you need to form a marketing strategy not after the movie’s over, but before you’ve shot a single frame. I tell them about how the two most important questions about your movie (or piece of material if you haven’t secured funding yet) are #1 – Who is your movie for demographic wise (and the wrong answer is to say “everybody!”) and #2 – How are you going to reach your audience to tell them about your movie?
I tell them to think of their career in this industry as not a sprint, but a marathon. A marathon that will take most of your life. So temper your expectations accordingly. Any momentum you get might be fleeting, so plan your finances accordingly.
And lastly, I tell them that the most important thing I can say is Always check in with God.
I tell them what turned the light bulb on for me, when I heard a guest speaker at church say whatever your passion is in life is a passion that God put within you, because He wants you to pursue that passion for His glory. So if your passion is for animals, be the best veterinarian you can be. If your passion is for numbers, be the best accountant (and hopefully honest) accountant you can be. And if you are a writer, or producer, or director, or someone who is convinced that you have to have a career in the movies, be the best filmmaker you can be.
And that doesn’t mean make horrible Christian dreck movies, where a main character falls to their knees, gives their lives to Christ, and their lives improve the very next day. It means making movies that are truthful to the human experience. And the human experience is so wide and varied. It can be glorious, it can be wretched. But a person knows truth when they hear it, and when they see it. Truth is authenticity.
I tell them God gave them their passion. Sure, I thought I wanted to be a writer when I saw Heathers , or when I saw Blade Runner, or Memento. But the movies I saw just ignited the passion God had already written into the DNA of my soul. (and interestingly enough, I can’t write those kind of movies. I write comedies. I adore watching things that I know I can’t write. Make of that what you will. In other news, WATCH BREAKING BAD! THE BEST WRITTEN TV SHOW OUT THERE CURRENTLY! Ha ha ha.)
God gave me the ability to write, because He WANTS me to write. I don’t have to hide it from Him. I don’t have to consider my career as something separate from my relationship with God. He doesn’t want me to.
So I tell these bright eyed intelligent badger grad students sitting around the table with their salads and sandwiches, and their poised pens that are now madly scribbling notes, and HEY GOD, PLEASE MAKE SURE I’M SAYING THE RIGHT THING HERE BECAUSE THEY’RE WRITING EVERYTHING DOWN NOW, that above anything else I say, please please PLEASE for the love of GOD, consult GOD with everything having to do with their career. Do I take this internship? Do I write this script? Do I accept this job? This assignment? This offer of potential money?
Because He wants you to. Nothing is trivial. Do you know that’s a quote from The Crow? Another one of my favorite movies. Check it out (quote happens around 3:00 in)
Nothing that happens in your life is trivial to God. Nothing. Talk to Him about it. Scream to Him about it, bitch and moan and shake your fist and stamp your foot about it. Or, if things are going well, pop a champagne cork and toast Him with it. I prefer the method of getting good news and immediately ducking into the bathroom, where I thank Him repeatedly in the privacy of a bathroom stall. Thank You God, thank You. Thank you, God, thank You. Thank you, God, thank You.
God is your champion. He WANTS you to succeed. Can you believe that?
So I babble my head off, and give everyone my email in case they have follow up questions. And yes, they are starting to pour in. Over the weekend, I got two separate ones, from two separate people and they both mentioned the same thing:
“what you said about God was something that I really needed to hear as I'm trying to discern my career/life path (you probably saw me taking frantic notes so I wouldn't forget anything)!”
“Also, not to get sappy, it was a gift from God that you reminded us that he gave us skills and desires for a reason, and that he wants to be apart of them.”
Oh, wow. Aw, geeze. I… I showed up not knowing what I was going to say at all, and just babbling things as they showed up in my brain. And now I’m memorable. I don’t need that kind of responsibility.
No, no, no, that’s not it. It was God. GOD was showing through the rambling of my brain, God was showing in between the lines of me babbling about temp agencies and why you can’t submit a spec script as a newbie writer to my Unnamed Movie Studio. And God was showing through when I was being authentic and talking about how, seriously, just talk to God about what’s going on with you.
People, when pastors talk from the pulpit about how God uses the most unlikely of people to get His point across – HI! HE DID THAT WITH ME!
I’m nobody. Seriously. Really. I have three produced writing credits to my name, and I still have a day job, and live in the Shabby Shack that’s just shy of 300 square feet. To the industry, I am nobody. I am Nobody with a capital N.
But I’m Somebody to God. And He’s gonna use me, in the most unlikely of ways.
Hell yes, He is. Just you watch.