“The good news is you came a long way. The bad news is you went the wrong way” – J. Cole in Love Yourz
A lot of the dissatisfaction I’ve had with my pursuit of a career in film directing is what makes the lyrics in rapper J. Cole’s song “Love Yourz” (from his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive) oh so relatable. Every quest has its challenges but I cannot say whether I would’ve still chosen this path if I had to do it all over again.
Just when I think I’m making headway, something brings me back into the reality that I’m not only nowhere near where I thought I’d be, there is also no telling whether I’ll ever get there.
Sometimes it feels like I need to just put in more work to master the craft, as the saying goes. Other times it feels like I need to network with the right people or chuck directing altogether, in favor of another area within the entertainment field, such as screenwriting or casting or storyboarding or something. This is one of the reasons why I started considering television as a serious alternative. Producing community TV programs might provide more bang for my buck in terms of better results, faster turnaround and the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
More often than not, however, I’ve wondered if I wasted years, relationships, resources and money going after the wrong dream – one that I probably had no business pursuing in the first place, given that I did more writing and drawing in my youth than anything else. Perhaps I would have been better staying on the path of fine arts, for if I kept at it, I imagine I’d be a lot better at it today than my present sketchbook shows.
Even if I did switch careers, there is a steep price for doing so, according to author Steve Pavlina who points out that “most art forms are too crowded and too competitive to make a living from unless one commits to becoming outstanding. Dabbling in fields every few years or so will prevent you from reaping the rewards of building a financially sustainable practice that comes from long-term mastery.”
This is an understandable factor to consider, given that leaving film for something else would likely involve me starting from the bottom – once again. On the flipside, he also suggests that we get out of any project, relationship or career, etc. as soon as possible if we would not have embarked on it knowing what we know now. So what the hell is Steve Pavlina smoking?! I mean, it sounds like his advice rests on two sides of the fence. One minute he’s suggesting you spend a decade or so honing your skills and then the next minute he’s warning readers that there is no “honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you.”
In almost every step of my tv/film projects, I find myself bouncing back and forth between delight and frustration, asking myself if I should continue riding this rollercoaster of uncertainty any longer. This question is a no-brainer for Grant Peele, a husband and father who did the complete opposite, leaving a thriving career in Real Estate to achieve his life-long dream of becoming a filmmaker. The early days of his journey, along with those of other men and women who switched career paths, are chronicled in the documentary I’m Fine, Thanks, a film about complacency and whether the paths we ultimately choose to follow are connected to who we are or someone else’s American Dream.
One woman in the film describes what it's like to climb a corporate ladder and then reach the top, only to realize she had it leaned up against the wrong wall. Having not yet reached the middle of this current journey I’m on, I think I’d rather just take her word for it as opposed to finding that same thing out for myself when it’s too late.
I used to fantasize about how exciting it would be to win an Oscar and attend Cannes or get hired to work on some huge Hollywood production starring heavyweights like Denzel Washington, Jonny Depp or Meryl Streep -- accomplishments of which would be equivalent to the top of a ladder. Today, I rarely think about milestones like these and find myself feeling indifferent to them, when they do cross my mind. That’s an uneasy sign that something isn’t quite right. Although I have yet to figure out what that something is, I’ll be trucking along on this yellow brick road of motion pictures until I do.
When YOU were a child, what kind of career did YOU want to have?
How do YOU know when to hold onto the cards YOU’RE playing, and when to fold them?