I used to write a blog about being a writer in the entertainment industry. I have been, in one way or another, attached to the entertainment industry in whatever capacity I could. Whether as a writer, a producer, a designer, a developer, an animator, or whatever was the soup du jour. It was what I was pulled to. I LOVE the entertainment industry. It has neurotics, crazy people, driven people, some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, as well as some of the biggest jack asses. But all those experiences aside, it was a career path I wanted to pursue. But like the connections in your brain, if one way didn’t work, I’d simply find another.
Here’s the point. No matter what your passion, just because you can’t make it your full-time mission in life, doesn’t mean you can’t make it a part of your life. What I’m talking about here is the all or nothing mentality I sometimes come across. The “I worked in the film industry, but couldn’t cut it, so now I’m serving fries.” REALLY? You just gave up?
Now I’m not dumb. There are very real financial risks to pursuing your dreams. There are very heavy burdens that come from trying to pursue your dreams after getting married or having a family. But there are ALWAYS ways. Granted, some ways are not as fulfilling as others. But it depends on what your goals are.
I have set several goals in my lifetime, having reached all but one: getting a certain screenplay of mine turned into a major motion picture. That day is coming. I used the environment around me to kick in the side doors of an industry that may otherwise have been unavailable to me through the traditional paths that thousands take pilgrimages on every day. Be clearer? How exactly? (Yeah, I hate those guys that give you the life story of how they went from rags to riches, conveniently leaving out the details of exactly how they did it. So here’s what I’m talking about…)
My first goals: Work in the motion picture/TV industry. Specifically, I had in my head these three subsets of the goal. 1) Write a screenplay/teleplay and pitch it in L.A. or NYC. 2) Be able to fly to NYC on someone else’s dime because I’m being paid to be there on an entertainment-related gig. 3) Work with celebrities.
Yep. Got all three. And I was working in corporate communications at the time. Telecom even! AND, I live in the middle of the U.S.! So what did I do that was so different? How did I not have to go to L.A. or NYC to make these connections and break down the doors of an industry that usually caters to people who can hop in a cab and be in your office in half an hour or less? It was slow. I’ll admit. But it’s an incestuous industry. They work with people who’ve worked with people they know. And how did I work with the people they know? I sent an email.
Making the first connection
I LOVE the comedy business. Love stand up comedy, love the scene, love the guys behind it. So when one comedian in particular came along that I could relate to and really get behind, I decided to offer some of my design skills for free. That’s right. I said it. FREE. You see, I was willing to show them what I could do at ZERO risk to them in order to break down the door for things I wanted to do later. I didn’t rush into presenting my script ideas or asking for autographs. I simply said I’d do a website for him if you could get me and some friends into a club to watch him perform. It worked. One fortunate accident came out of that email to this comedian. 1) I accidentally emailed his booking agent. If there’s one thing you should learn first, it’s that bathing in a river isn’t nearly as satisfying as swimming in the ocean that it came from. Because you get access to all the other rivers! I have a favorite quote from “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton.” “Your odds go up when you fill out an application.”
So I filled out the app. And from that came gigs with other comedians. Like I said. Incestuous. I charged pennies at first. Then, as my reputation gained popularity in the circle, I branched out. Pretty soon, I was doing sites, flying to L.A. and NYC, and eventually parlayed all of that into other projects with the very celebrities I watched and admired on TV. Goals 2 and 3…check.
Check out my next entry when I talk about some of the challenges with bridging the gaps of your current skills sets to achieve some your goals in a different industry altogether.