Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why You Can't Tell People What You Do

Getting back to the reason for this blog I thought I'd offer a bit of advice to those who might be reading herein. I may have written about this already, but to be honest, I don't remember. I guess I could look back over the blog but since I'm already writing this to avoid writing the script I'm supposed to be working on I shouldn't make it worse.

Back when I made my first film, Learning to Surf, I was still busting my ass on a regular basis as a camera assistant. I was still clawing my way up rocky hills with Panavision cases on my back and picking ticks from my crotch and wondering if I'd come down with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. (I was working on a commercial in Wyoming and we were standing in weeds for a good part of the day. I didn't actually notice the little fucker until I was back at the hotel showering.) Anyway, I was a poor, factory-floor, Union-dues-paying hump working from job to job and NOT telling anyone I had just directed a film. Why, you ask, would I not tell anyone? Well, for one, I still needed to work. I needed the paycheck and what happens in film land is that when you tell people you're doing something else, they stop hiring you to do what you're doing. The rational, if there really is one, is that if you've begun to move up there's no way you can be serious about your current job and why would I want to hire you. It sucks because everyone goes through it.

Here's a great story. Way back when I decided I wanted to learn camera as a profession, I befriended a camera man (whose name I will change to protect myself to) Joe. Now Joe was a good guy, creative, friendly and willing to give me a break. I soon wound up as a regular on his crew and stuffed many a mag for him. We became friends and I consider him one today. But I didn't tell him I had directed a film. Now, right about the time of my directorial debut I started to 1st (as opposed to 2nd) A.C. and my friend Joe had begun hiring me to pull focus for him. I wasn't his first call, but he was giving me the chance to fill in when his main dudes were not available on a fairly regular basis. So one day, I'm working on a commercial with him and he asks me why I didn't tell him about the film I'd made. Knowing I'm fucked, I explain to him that I'd made it a rule not to tell ANYONE because I still needed to work. He could not have agreed more and commiserated with me about how the business sucked that way. He even told me a heart-felt story about moving up himself and how someone he worked for wouldn't hire him after that. It was all love and tears between us - a pinnacle of understanding and emotional bonding.

He never called me again.

I'm speaking about this, of course, from a crew perspective, but it happens everywhere. Directors are often pigeon-holed as horror directors, or drama or comedy or whatever happened to be the genre of the first film they hit with. I grapple with this all the time now as I try to write and meet with agents (who constantly ask me what kind of director I see myself as,) knowing that what I say now may define my career the rest of my life (assuming I have a career, that is.) it's frustrating, but it's the way it is.

Sin City

I totally forgot to include Sin City in my last post, though I haven't finished watching it yet. I think I'm about 3/4 of the way through and so far I LOVE it (events around the house have prevented me from watching it in it's entirety.) There's a ballsyness to it, the way it's shot, the subject matter. It's not that it's edgy, it just kind of goes where you want it to go. It's a film that seems to respect it's primal urges. Does that make sense? Maybe I should wait until after I finish watching it before I start getting philosophical.