Love what you do and – Oh Shut Up – it just ain't that romantic

Ahh, the romance of the film life. It’s been good, and fun, and I have traveled and seen so much of the world, and usually on someone else’s dime.

So the other night, I bundled up my stuff and met a friend and we went and recorded at the Bitter End. Let me explain –

1. I have a full time job now, so I don’t go out late at night shooting shows anymore.

2. I have never really enjoyed shooting shows, you are out all night, it is loud, and frustrating. Not that it isn’t at times rewarding. I mean video taping Mos Def at a performance for an hour, WOW. But still I don’t like it, there is never enough support, it is always disorganized, very frustrating.

3. I had to arrange for a babysitter to watch my kids that night. Special thanks to my sister Jessica who stepped up and helped me out.

Now note, my friend asked, and Adam is a great friend. Also he produced my short film VeenotPH – now in post production – and so I’m just not going to say no. But I’m still grouchy and crabby and unhappy leaving my sleeping angels to go shoot.

After the shoot, I’m talking with Adam, the point was to do this shoot, and then figure out which songs we might choose to do a music video of.

Okay. The shoot went well, as well as it could when you have one camera and can’t move around – well I did for the last song. Also the singer/songwriter – Jess Turner is very talented, with a beautiful voice, and I like her style of music, you know where you can actually hear the vocals above the instruments. Unfortunately she’s playing the piano, and there is no light on her. I grab Adam, and send him with two flashlights to get a little light on her face, anything will help. At some point the booth tech comes out and asks if we want him to relight, Buy that man a BEER. In between songs he jumps up on stage, and spins a light, and now she’s lit. Easy enough to give up, make do, but I guess they saw us trying to light Jess with the flashlights, and saw that we cared enough, so they made the extra effort. Shoots are so much better when you aren’t working alone.

The music is cool, lots of fun ideas about which song(s) to do and now after the show, Adam and I are chatting quickly before I head back home. Jess comes by, says thanks, and takes care of everyone – including her musicians, it’s only a token, but she isn’t making any money on tonight, so it was really nice to find that she is that kind of person. Most people act as if they are doing you a favor by letting you shoot for them, or play on stage with them. Jess is very cool. Very cool and talented.

So Adam and I are talking, and excited, and I tell him. Look, I’ve chased after it, you’ve chased after it. Success, fame, money, whatever – in the film biz, we’ve never hit it. Adam has made a decent living, supported wife and child, and I’ve gotten by, but neither of us has really made it BIGTIME.

When I gave up on freelancing as a way to earn a living, and started looking for a full time job (it took a year to find one, and that year is one reason that my wife and I are separated and done) I ran into an acquaintance – let’s call her Hillary – she’s a freelance editor. She was thrilled with the news, and told me she had been searching for a full time job as well. She also said how so many of her friends told her to continue freelancing, that she was giving up the life, and the freedom and all the wonderful things of freelancing. What Morons.

Look, when you freelance, that’s fine when you are a kid, and don’t have responsibilities, and someone else is helping with your medical insurance, or with the rent. Freelancing means searching for your next 5 jobs, while you are working on your current job. It means choosing which conflicting gig to take, and hoping you don’t take the one that cancels on you after you turn the other down. It means wondering if you are going to get paid in cash, or with a check in two weeks, a month, ever? That’s great for a while, and if you make it, some do, if you get big time, connect with someone who is always working and working good jobs, G-d bless, that never happened for me, and I’ve detailed a plenty my near misses in these blog pages. So people don’t understand, when it comes to keeping a roof over your head, freelancing looses it’s romantic appeal, its a job, its several jobs.

Friday I get a call from another friend, I’ve shot a few projects for him, but he calls because he needs money. He’s putting together his directing resume, and wanted some pointers. So I told him if he needed money, fast, to put away his directing resume and go work as a Production Assistant. I’ve given this advice out many times over the years, and the people who have followed it have done very well. I wish that I had followed that advice years ago. Yeah sure I could do it now, but I’ve got a full time job, and that makes me happy. Look, it is hard to get a job as a director, and ain’t no one hiring you to direct their movie, or commercial based on your resume.  Go print your resume, and then hit every production company and rental house you can find, tell them you are looking for PA work. If they say your resume says you are a director, just tell them, those are small personal projects and all it means is that you know what a PA is supposed to do, and when to keep their mouth shut, and when to say something. You’ll meet people, you’ll make money, who knows what develops. Meanwhile you make some cash, are a productive member of society, and that’s not so bad.

I love shooting movies, and music videos, and making films, but over the years, chasing success, chasing jobs, working crappy jobs, with crappy hours, just to keep working, it wears you down. That isn’t to say that you can’t do this, and have fun, and work. I just went Skydiving for the first time on Saturday, paid extra for the video package, and it was well worth it. The Video shooter, Laszlo, man he loved it. Loved going up in the air and jumping out of planes, and shooting, and having fun. I’ll tell you, I was happy to have someone who still loved his work, rather than some surly upset guy who was just doing a job.

I have a full time job now, and I’m happy with it, gives me structure, and money, and I can actually plan, without worrying that I may have to change my plans on a moments notice to go do a gig to pay the bills. It’s funny, but for me, now that I don’t have all the time in the world to do the things I want to do, I actually find the time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. Which is nice, because I’m done chasing it. I’ll work on what I want, the way I want, and it’ll be a blast, and fun with no pressure. If it finds a lot of attention, that’s cool, but no more investing in someone else’s project, only to have it disappear, or be screwed up. No more working with assholes, chasing everything, hoping it will get me my next job, or my next break. Like I said to Adam, we don’t have to chase it anymore, we do our projects, because we want to, we make them the way we want to. If they hit big, great, and if they don’t, they don’t.

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4 Responses to Love what you do and – Oh Shut Up – it just ain't that romantic

  1. michelle May 23, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    only thing is…nowadays a full-time job can be just as impermanent as a freelance gig. no loyalty. i worked 16 hour days x 7 days a week for 2 years straight; then they laid me (and hundreds of others) off.

    ick.

    i do like your idea of working as a PA. can one afford rent in LA as a PA? serious question.

    Michelle

    • sgladstone May 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      I learned this when I was making my way as a freelancer. A good PA can work everyday of the year. In LA, who knows what the rent is. But I would go there about a month before pilot season to meet everyone I could.

      Best

  2. Sidney Peck June 4, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Great advice. You’ve hit on a few things that I agree with.

    Yes, being a PA can be a great inroad. My only addition to what you say about that is make sure you’re a PA on films with people that have interesting projects that will most likely be picked up for distribution.

    I totally agree that having what I call a “straight” job is really the key to keeping things in balance. It’s why right now, I am actively looking for one myself.

    I also strongly agree that having a regular gig and the security that brings is an asset to fulfilling one’s own creative work. Again, it’s why I am focused on getting a regular paycheck so I can spend my nights, weekends, whatever writing and filming.

    Love your site. I hope we’ll keep in touch.

  3. sgladstone June 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Great to have you reading Sidney, and a good point about films that get distribution, but that is just such a crap-shoot for indie films. Besides, there are also commercials, and industrials and corporate shoots out there. For steady reliable work, and inroads, don’t shun those. Remember feminine hygiene products have often been the backbone of the film business.

    Best

    Steven

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