the brand new, amazing blog, ms. in the biz, asked me to write a blog post about directing, starring and writing a movie.
you can go to their page to check it out or read it below.
The Downside to Doing What You Love (Followed by the Upside)
At the optometrist today, the woman behind the counter asked if she knew me from Heroes. I smile and nod and normally, that experience is far from painful. But today, she asked me that right after I explained to her that I lost my Plan 1 SAG insurance and no longer have my eye care covered. Because I didn’t make enough money last year. So not only did I have to explain that somewhat humiliating information, she also knows exactly who I am.
And that is the state I am living in these days. About a year and a half ago, I decided to direct a feature film that I co-wrote and co-starred in. Let me emphasize that it was a great experience and I completely understand what a privilege it is to get to make a movie, much less direct one. I also understand that it is a privilege for me to take time off from my acting career to do something like that. Five years ago, when I was waiting tables, I wouldn’t have had the time, money or energy to be able to do that. And although I feel as though I’m having to dust off my acting career and remind everyone that I still exist because I am finally showing my face some place besides an editing bay, I feel lucky to have a career to dust off in the first place.
So when Helenna asked me to write this post, which I was stoked on doing, I started with a Do’s and Don’ts for First Time Directors, then scratched it for just a blog post about getting distribution for indie films. Then I scratched that and decided to look the metaphorical optometrist woman directly in the eye by facing my (and probably your) fears by writing about doing what I love.
So here is a list of the downsides to doing what you love — a list to read before you start to prepare to write your own screenplay, start a web series, pursue acting full-time or any project you are driven to do.
1) At the end of the day, you have to care the most.
And that’s all you can expect. Yes, your producers should jump up and down when you get into a festival. And yes, your sound person should take pride in getting the very best audio for the project. But for some people, it’ll just be a job and that’s okay. Your make up artist may not want to work three hours into her overtime without pay. It’s not her passion project. That can’t hurt your feelings. Or even if you are just pursuing an artistic career. At some point, your roommates don’t really want to see your audition again or hear that song you’ve been working on. No one does. But you have to keep working on it.
When it comes to the overall big end product, you have to be the one who sits with it. You have to be the one who wakes up every night for a year thinking you forgot something (or waking up with a moment of genius). You have to give up your weeknights and weekends to do crap that no one else wants to do. And on days when you want to just sleep in or take a break or give up, you can’t. Because you are the person who has to give shit when no one else does.
2) Get ready to give some things up.
Obviously not everyone has to give up their health insurance but you may want to think ahead of time what it is you might have to give up. When I started my movie, my boyfriend at the time said I’d have to give up my acting career to work on it. I scoffed and while I didn’t formally quit acting, I wasn’t able to do as well as I did at one time. Think trying to make auditions during pilot season while driving back and forth from my editing bay or turning down movies, particularly in the last few months, because I just didn’t have the time. (Now that I think of it, I kind of ended up giving up that boyfriend too.)
So from personal relationships to money to other career aspirations to “me” time, all of it will suffer.
3) Failure is always an option.
Yep. It’s the one thing people don’t talk about very much. Your movie may not sell. Your web series may be seen by no one. Your Kickstarter project may not meet its goal. And you totally talked about it publicly and now everyone knows you’re a failure. Or if you’re like me, you don’t live up to your giant huge dreams of becoming the next Lena Dunham. I was hoping we’d sell my movie at Slamdance Film Festival for tons of money but we didn’t. We signed a distribution contract, but for me that just meant more work, more self-promotion, more of this fucking movie that I’ve seen four billion times. So, get ready, you take a risk and you can fail. You may not meet your lofty goals. You may not even come close.
Okay. Enough negativity because, for better or for worse, I am a reluctant optimist. Doing what you love means you got to do what you love. You did whatever it is that drives you and not that many people on the planet can say that. You did it. So that’s step one.
Let me give you some encouraging words now that I’ve almost convinced you not to pursue your dreams. You may notice a similarity in these lists.
1) At the end of the day, you probably do care the most.
That is your baby. And you can finish it and say to yourself, “That’s my baby” and actually feel really good about it. Or if you didn’t finish it, you can say, “At least I tried” because that’s more than most people do. Most people just dream. You did far far more. We just had a cast and crew screening of Best Friends Forever and the nice thing about being a director is that everyone there knows that you work on the movie every day (still…even today). And at the screening, people come up and say nice things to you. Honestly, I don’t care if they liked it or are lying about liking it. It just meant a lot that so many people came out to support the movie. It meant the most that people who were a part of the movie came out to support it because it means it wasn’t a totally terrible experience for them. They don’t completely hate me for not doing what they asked, for leaving their name off the billing block, or for yelling at them on set.
I keep replaying that night in my head when I have to answer the 40th email about something I don’t care about or as I try to come up with new and creative ways to publicize the movie. Because other people’s encouragement means the world. So all that hard work definitely paid off even in ways I didn’t expect it to.
2) Get ready to give things up.
When you have a big change, you sort of get to reevaluate your life. Maybe that guy wasn’t really the right guy for you because he didn’t support your massive undertaking when you made your own web series. Maybe that day job was shitty and didn’t give you the time you needed to get stuff done. Change is hard but it’s a good thing. You’re starting something new because you like change. You’re pursuing your dreams and doing what you love because it’s worth more than anything else. It has to be. Otherwise, you’d still be doing whatever it was you were doing in high school.
3) Failure is always an option.
But the good news is you wouldn’t be thinking of doing something like doing what you love if you were scared of failure. You, like me, are the kind of person who likes a risk, who will claw her way to the top, and will stop at nothing to get things done. You don’t wait around for people to hand you a career. You are motivated and talented and fuck the world for telling you that you’re anything but those things. And you will fail. But the only reason you fail is so you can see how close you were, get back, dust yourself off, and try again.
(See what I did there??)