April 6th, 2005


Fear and opportunity

Today was interesting. I basically got fired from my job. I wasn't told to pack up my things and go in so many words, but my boss indicated that after Cannes he's going to be looking for assistant who is, well, more assistanty. He wants someone to run his office and life and that someone will not be me. I would be the first to admit that I'm not a great assistant because I bore easily and I just don't care. I've never been organized or focused like that. I don't want to sound like a stuck up diva, because I'm not one, but I can't bring myself to expend much mental energy on things like creating emailing lists or researching names. Give me a project with some sort of brainpower required and I'll crank it out well, but this work I'm doing now? It's just not me.

So now I am at a crossroads. Do I look for a new job? One outside the film industry? Do I continue to write on my own time, workout to try to lose some weight (which matters in the interview process) and put my stock in me?

I'm not sure yet but I'm leaning towards the latter. Financially my family is not in a good place right now, not good at all, but I do have significant assets and I can afford not to work for at least awhile. You only get one life and if you don't chase the things you love you end up...well...running into them 11 months later and covering up the hurt with bad jokes about napalm.

I need to chase my dream. I have faith that I have talent, and I believe that somewhere out there there's a job for me where I can make money doing what I love to do. It will take dedication and hard work to hone my skills and to find it, but I have both when it comes to things that really matter. I just don't see how spending 5 years doing something I hate so that I can "climb the ladder" makes sense. Yes I know how it's things are done, but how much of that is true and how much is Calvinist bullshit? I'm having a hard time figuring out whether being responsible or being true to myself is the smarter move. If I don't know which is smarter then maybe I should go with the one that feels right.

Maybe I'll end up spending a lot of my money, not getting any writing work, and having to go back into the world poorer and in worse shape, but that's the chance you take when you go for the brass ring. You might just fall flat on your face, and that's okay. I know someone who did that. He wanted to be an actor. Spent his 20's and 30's pursuing that dream and getting deep in debt because of it. He never succeeded and now he's doing something different, but he doesn't regret what he tried. He knows what he wanted and he went for it. Now that he's back out of debt, at 43, he's considering re-entering that world. He's an inspiration. Gene Hackman didn't hit the big time until 40. Life is about chasing the things that matter to you. Nobody wants to wake up at 60 and realize that they didn't start their 'real' life yet. A day job can be a life sentence.

Today I did a few things that needed doing for my new life. I bought a printer, because I need to be able to print both resumes and work samples to send out, not to mention that it was time after years of doing without one, and I bought a chair, because a writer without a chair is a writer who spends way too much time standing. They cost me over $200 plus cab fare. I spend way too much and I have to cut down, though these were necessities. Maybe not having a job will be my undoing. Maybe I'll end up a penniless loser on the streets (instead of a pennied loser living with my mom.) I have to try it though, don't I?

Ahh life, there ain't no handbook and there ain't no refund.
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    George Thorogood

My TiVo is a cunning linguist

I awoke just now at what could justly be described as the tail end of the night and went to the bathroom. On my way back to bed I decided to check in on what TiVo was up to, seeing as it's had a long night of watching TV for me (I had it stay up late and catch Conan.) I clicked it on and went to "Now playing" to check what was up, only to find it recording a Spanish news magazine, ostensibly for me. There are several issues with this, the first of which being that I don't speak Spanish well enough to watch news, or anything beyond a Barney equivalent, in it, and the second being that, aside from the odd 60 minutes segment I generally hate TV news magazines. There it was, though, happily recording a 5:30 AM program entitled "Informe Semana!" (Every Spanish program has an exclamation point after its title. I'm serious. La Officina!) I have no understanding of why my TiVo thought I might like Informe Semana! It's possible that it was the only thing around to record given the various programs I preset it for (It's due to start recording HUD any second now) and I did give high ratings to several Almodovar films, which are in the same language. Still, it's a long leap from subtitled Almodovar films to Informe Semana and I was about to reprimand my TiVo for taking that leap. Then I scrolled down the list to see what ELSE it had recorded in my absence, and it was instantly forgiven.

Anything that spontaneously records episodes of "The Kids in the Hall" for you deserves to watch Informe Semana if it so desires. Am I wrong here?
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What do you want more than life?

A long day at work and I come home too drained to write coherently. That's one of the paradoxes of the "Climb the ladder" path to becoming an artist with a platform. You expend a ton of energy on just moving from rung to rung and the art suffers. The goal is to pick up the slack later, of course, but there's no guarantee that that's going to happen. How many hacks went in the system bursting with ideas and then let years of grunt work grind down their edges until they found themselves no longer wanting to be the next Stanley Kubrick but instead content to be a bargain rate Brett Ratner?

There are advantages too, of course, I'm not denying them. Experience and interaction are the pump that primes the artist's engine, and he has to get it somehow, but frankly I'd rather get my experience outside "the industry." I've often thought that if I ever hit it big (or medium) I'd take some time off to by a farmhand in Montana or some other weird place I'd never think to go just as a way to add novel input to my brain and avoid becoming someone like James L. Brooks, a once great writer/director who has not spent any time outside of the world of rich Californians in the last 20 years and so finds himself unable to write about anything else. Andy Kaufman really worked as a busboy, one of the many things to admire about him. What better way to stay in touch with the common human experience than to spend some of your time as a run of the mill human?

Today at work was all about Cannes, and of course it was discouraging. There are so many wannabes out there desperate for a shot at the small time, let alone big, and so much of whether you get that shot is based on how good you are at manipulating, lying, and how lucky you get. It's all so...arbitrary. I'm potentially supposed to make a short with the Israeli and I'm thinking of entitling it "Nobody Can Make a Film!" The idea is better than the title, though I don't know if we have time for a project as ambitious as the one I've sketched out.

I've been reading David Mamet's book "On Directing Film" and he's an interesting writer. Frustrating at times, like when he tells the room of film school students "Film school is useless" and some of the stuff he says is just total crap, but one thing I get out of his work and that jibes well with what I believe is that in order to pursue a life like this you need to have a vision and a need. You can't do it because you want fame or sex or adulation. I mean people get those through film, but it's not the only way and it's a crap shoot, a crap shoot with an empty prize. You need to want to do it because you live in a unique internal world and you are desperate to share it with others. You need to want it because the time you are most alive and happy is when someone else GETS something you've done and is able to appreciate it. That's true for me. I don't connect with people socially in the way that most others do. I have no use for useless praise-swapping or normal smalltalk. I don't even have a social smile. Yesterday some woman, around my age, who works on the same floor as I do came up to me while I was getting a glass of water and said "Good day, huh?" I looked at her like she was a space alien. I was off in another world and she brought me back to this one. I resented her for it. That's not normal.

The real question for someone like me is whether that's possible, and how is it possible. How do you get from someone who is desperate to be heard and believes he is worth hearing to someone who is heard and is considered worth hearing? It's a question without one answer, and it's not as important as it seems. The fact is that I cannot conceive of another kind of life. It's worse than nothing for me. I may have to work waiting tables or splitting fences or doing some other manual labor, that's fine, but if at night I can't come home and write something or shoot something or SAY something...then...well I just can't imagine it. It burns deep and hard and always has. That's the bottom line.

Today's the 11th anniversary of my father's suicide. For awhile I've been fasting on this day and using it as a day of contemplation and sadness. Not today. It's not that it doesn't matter to me, but it's no longer a central piece of my life. I am focused firmly on the future. The past is what it is and I'll always carry it with me, but the future's where my bread is buttered and I know that now. It's going to be a long hard slog, this life, but I feel better these days than I have in over ten years, and that's gotta count for something. Something big.
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