Now forgive me in advance, I have to constantly talk around things and not speak directly about them. The internet, I’ve learned, is a very public place. Who knew? So with that being said, there’s a lot I want to get out and I think anyone that’s an artist pushing their dream forward or anyone with a mission, a goal – they would want to read this (should they accidentally stumble across my blog while looking for naked guys named Gavin).
Next week I’m meeting with someone. Someone amazing. Someone I’ve talked and dreamed about meeting with for a film project for a long time. Over three years to be exact. Here’s the thing. It was SUPPOSED to happen back then. This exact person. It didn’t for many reasons. A project gets stalled for lots of things. Financing, casting, distributors changing minds, the climate of what Hollywood is looking for, locations falling through… seriously – it can be anything big or small that stops a movie moving forward. Even my film Still Here was written in 2004… supposed to be filmed in 2004… and then bam… shit hits the fan, I had a nice little divorce, company change about with partnership dissolving… other projects coming first… moving… and it was four years later when cameras rolled… and even then only because a few other projects fell apart in the meantime. The real trick is to always be building the foundation on a few projects at the same time. I don’t like all my eggs in one basket anymore. It’s burned me hard in the past. I’ll never rely on one person, one script, one deal to carry myself or my company forward. Too painful to bet it all on black and it come up red. I’m a risk-taker but why not risk huge on a red and a black… or at least two blacks… then your odds of something moving forward are greater… at least in theory. No?
Anyhow, turns out I’ll be meeting this person next week. Three years later. Have I tried to get to this person between then and now? Yup. No agent, no family connections, knowing no one in his office or around him, that’s next to impossible in this town. I’ve had a LOT of luck cold emailing people or facebooking them. Hell I pride myself on my ability to get in front of people. I won’t settle for wondering the what-if’s. The what-if I’d called, or tried to meet, or imagining if someone had picked up my project if only they’d known about it. I sleep better at night (when I sleep) if I know I’ve exhausted the options and at least they rejected it flat out.
These six and a half weeks in the Los Angeles / Ventura areas have been beyond belief. I came out here with a small mission of getting some writing done and maybe take a few meetings. Well… that turned into endless meetings with some of the best and brightest in the industry to talk about my project. So much direction, advice, and praise. This alone will keep my next few films moving forward though it looks pretty clear where I’m standing that more is about to open up.
Getting this meeting coming up, with this lad I was supposed to meet some three years, three months ago… it’s been a great lesson in never giving up. I’ve wanted to quit this project and the business as a whole a few times between then and now. If I had- I’d never get me shot at the meeting. If you ran for president and didn’t get elected… you CAN try again in 4 years. The Olympics, same thing. Crushing defeat doesn’t but you out of the race if you don’t let it. I don’t know many people that would stick around to have their teeth kicked in over and over while having no dental coverage… and not even knowing a good doctor or a free clinic. That’s what it’s felt like.
A better analogy if you will.
I climbed the mountain. I reached the summit. This was everest. Let’s not pretend I climbed some sodding beginners hill. Fuck that. I went straight for the tallest peak and I made it. I struggled and climbed, was frostbitten, doubted myself many times… but I made it.
Problem was that as soon as I got to the top a gust of wind… yes… let’s call it wind… knocked me over. This wind was completely unpredictable, came out of nowhere, full force, and didn’t let up. It not only knocked me over but knocked me off the summit and kept blowing fiercely until I’d tumbled right back down to the ground. All the way at the bottom. Big fall right? Not enough for this wind. It blew a shovel into my hand and whispered in my ear (loudly I might add) to start digging. So I dug. Eventually, I hit the center of the earth and the wind said I should get ready. Then I was buried alive. Suffocating, miles from where I was just on top of the world.
Nasty winds rip tornados through our lives. Sometimes they can bury you alive.
Tired of the silly scenarios? Want it in real terms. Ok? Let’s break down the last three years.
It meant moving from the house I was comfy in. Not driving for an extended period. Eating peanut butter for a ton of meals except when graced by friends and family. Way less nights out. Very few luxuries. A small loan thank word.
Get a job right? Ya, that’s the easy fix. The problem with that was I wasn’t going to rest. I was going to take another go at the mountain. I had to. After the initial failure and pain wore off, someone dug me out from the center of the earth and at least let me see daylight again, get some new oxygen in my lungs and look back up at the mountain… it’s peak way above the clouds again.
It’s hard to maintain a job when you have thousands of hours, hundreds of meetings- many of them out of town and on a whim sometimes. Not to mention, most of the ad agencies, production jobs, etc I would have applied for would have had me moving out of Windsor and I’m still on another mission with building a film community there and my next few projects are crucial to setting the stage on a larger level for that. As they say… that’s a WHOLE OTHER MOUNTAIN. Another time we’ll discuss.
So I could have delayed the mission.. waited ten years instead of three and maintained a full time job. I happen to know a few things. If you wait… someone else beats you to it. I’ve actually seen a few people climb that mountain, not face the same wind, and do it. That’s cool, because they don’t have the victory dance I have planned in my head and heart when I get back up there. The other thing I know is… I like comfy. Full time job, steady pay- I’d start doing the “normal” thing. Taking vacations, buying a nicer car, maybe even a house… and then… for me… I’d let go of my dreams or just as bad – convince myself that they weren’t worth pursuing any longer.
So a core group of friends and family have done what they could to see me through it and keep up my spirits in even the darkest of times. I think I made it pretty clear that convincing me to do something else with my life was going to always be wasted breath. This mountain is mine. Nothing else will do.
Instead it was the PB and toast cuisine daily while chipping away one piece at a time to training myself again… getting better climbing gear, researching that damned wind and how to avoid such a massive blow-over should I encounter it again. Experience is everything. If you’ve done it once, you should be able to do it again and do it little better this time.
So I’m ascending again. I have been. The last six feets put the summit in my sights. I’m less excited this time. More cautious. Slower, more steady with each step. A larger group of support climbers, a video and written journal to reflect on and see the progress. So close again. Even if I fall… There’s a safety next 65% of the way up the mountainside this time so I can’t fall too far. It might mean PB and toast again… but this time I’ll be able to spice it up with some jelly instead of holding off on jelly so I could be sure there was enough gas in my car to make the next meeting.
I’ve learned a lot.
1) Keep going. Terry Fox and his one-leg always keep in focus that I’ll never have to work that hard at anything. If he can do it… we can all live our dreams.
2) Excuses are for shit. They do nothing but make you stop believing in yourself. If you have people around you working to support your dream, they don’t want to hear them either. It’s a completely wasted effort. Instead speak in solutions. Admit the problem or weakness and move on.
3) Don’t listen to naysayers. They will be everywhere when you are going against the grain. Most people won’t share your visions because well.. it’s yours… and they don’t know all the details…. so the are judgement is passed quickly. Also they are generally the folks that will never get off their ass and push themselves to work at their dream. They are the people that are not following 1) and 2) and focusing on too much of 3) to make themselves feel better by belittling you. So fuck them. Fuck them hard. They don’t matter. Pay little to no attention. If you do feel it’s worth addressing, do it with great pride and honour. You’re a fucking warrior at this point and you deserve respect for your battle scars and brave heart.
and most importantly:
4) Everything I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars. Yoda was right. I’ve heard people tell me that it will be impossible. Over and over and over. These aren’t nay-sayers. They are a different breed. These are sometimes friends that wish me well… sometimes industry leaders. The fact is it isn’t impossible because I’m doing it and even with my adverse path for the last three years I’m DOING IT. I almost laughed in someone’s face the other day. I smirked and chuckled and had to downplay that it was about something else. WHOOPS. However, he’s wrong. I’m not insane. The mountain is mine.
Nothing is impossible. Yoda asks Luke to raise his X-Wing from the swamp on Dagobah in Empire Strikes Back. Luke tries but only gets it to move a few inches. He gives up frustrated and exhausted and says to Yoda: “You ask the impossible.” This after he’s already said said “Ok, I’ll try.” Yoda cuts him off and snaps at him. “Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.” (Fucking right!). Luke DOES NOT. “You ask the impossible.” Yoda’s response: “On impossible in your mind.” That is so right. If you tell yourself you can’t, you can’t. We went over this earlier. If you think instead of no, you’re wasting your time thinking.
Yoda sighs as Luke steps away and rests. He poises himself, summons the force, and with seemingly little effort raises Luke’s X-Wing space fighter out of the murky depths and over to dry land, landing it gently. Luke is astonished. “I don’t… I don’t believe it!” He exclaims. Would be hard to doubt yourself and see someone 1/6th your size do what you deemed impossible. A perfect lesson in never be someone doing 3). Just because you won’t do it doesn’t mean someone else won’t do it and hopefully stick it in your face.
Yoda simply replies: “That… is why you fail.”
There is no point starting anything you think you’ll fail at. That is half the battle. Mentally preparing yourself to go to war. You can doubt yourself here and there. You can be overwhelmed. You can hate the sacrifice. Kick and scream about it. I do. Breakdown to your girlfriend, your family, your BFF – but NEVER say it is impossible. Just look around you at all the people accomplishing things. You can be a number 2) and say it was all family connections, money, right place, right time that got them there but mostly to any of that I’d laugh at you and probably tell you to go fuck yourself.
5) Know your industry. It is YOUR industry even if you work in the mail room. I don’t mean know what Spielberg’s 3rd film was, what lens were used to shoot Taxi Driver. Trivia and personal favorites are awesome. Don’t stop that! Learn distribution. Who knows you. How it works. How to get doors open. WHAT film festivals are for… don’t just say “I’m gonna put my film in festivals”. Which festivals, what are you going to do when you’re there? How will you promote it. Are you hiring a sales agent and P.R. rep to sell your film there. It’s not a fucking field of dreams. Can’t just enter and them the magic carpet will come whisk you away. Stop talking in terms that are just stated by everyone. Take the time to learn what do DO with your film. How the industry has new standards all the time. If you start with “What I’ve heard is” or “How so and so does it” is wasted breath again. Until you meet with these people and they TELL you what to do or not to do in order to work with them or sell them a deal or pitch them a film… then you don’t know. LEARN. Don’t stop at film school. LEARN.
This week alone I’ve heard “Wow, you’re SO lucky! It’s fate!” from a number of people. Love you guys to death but fuck you! Luck doesn’t exist. Even the lottery is just odds… if you play the lottery, you can win the lottery. Simple. The more tickets you buy… well you know what I’m saying.
If luck kept me broke, struggling, stressed, heartbroken, angry, bitter… created How Many Days for me which lead to meeting my guardian angel out here in L.A., bought my plane ticket and made me come out here to burn through every contact I have to get the meetings I’ve had… then Luck, I’m sorry we’re not friends because you’re a cruel bitch (yes I’m assuming Luck’s a woman to be so cruel!)
So in conclusion. If you have a dream go for it. Find the people that will support you, join your army and charge forward. Never stop. Never back down. You really can learn everything you need from cheesy movie underdog stories. They are the real deal at the core of what it takes.
I gotta get going, the air is thinner up here and I should be making at least a few more steps before bedtime (aka a dinner meeting).
PS- Also: stop surrounding yourself with people that will drain you and not pursue their dreams… it’s harmful and leaves you feeling warm and comfy in mediocrity. Don’t un-friend them, just be careful with your time with them and falling into their way of thinking.