Permanent Pages

Wednesday 2 May 2012

What Do The Failures Add Up To?

I'm having one of those nights.

It was years ago and I had this idea, a concept that a producer loved. He said "let's make it!" So I signed some dumb contract, for no money, and he immediately got in another producer and they tried to completely rework my idea.

And they'd come back to me with ideas and suggestions. They'd send me away to write new drafts and treatments and all sorts of nonsense.

Looking back, it was all a pile of amateur nonsense. But that was a year of my life.

Then I was a producer on a movie. Not really, though, that was just the name they gave it, unofficially. It was never in writing. I cringe even writing that. Why are we dumb enough to do things that aren't in writing?

My 'producer' role entailed casting most of the actors, organizing schedules, and basically being the dude who people moaned at before, during and after the shoot. So I got all the bullshit, but I had no power! We'd fall behind schedule or someone would need some money so they'd come to me. But I was just the powerless guy. A glorified production assistant with a phantom 'producer' title, running the show yet not really running the show at all. The director was the one calling the shots. He was the real producer, too. But he'd use me for the paperwork and phone calls and bringing people together. But when I'd say "we need to move on!", it'd hold no weight.

Nothing happened with the film for years. And I got more and more phased out. I think they finished it and I'm pretty sure I don't even have a credit. That was two years of my life.

I tried putting a feature film together for me to direct. We got close, real close. But there were so many roadblocks. After numerous renewals of the option agreement - despite casting it, crewing it and rehearsing it, the producers had been unable to raise the money. I didn't renew the option, and walked. That was two years of my life.

The film industry is tough because so often, people are certain you're doing nothing. But you know better, so you dedicate yourself to something you believe in. But when it falls to pieces, you end up with no product. And you have no money in your pocket.

I blame no-one. Sometimes it was bad luck, sometimes I was foolish and naive. And you know what I hate? When actors say "you have it so easy, cause you can create your own work, but actors have to suffer". I've heard that so many times, and it's so hugely ignorant.

We're all failing one project at a time, and the truth is; the longer you spend on something, the harder it is to pick yourself up after it crashes. True accomplishment comes from delayed gratification, the longer projects. When you write a tweet, or a blog, the good feeling comes instantly, your work is done! When you plan a movie and work at it for two years -- and fail, the blow is so huge because the delayed gratification gets delayed indefinitely.

And with no positive outcome, you're left alone with it. And deep down you fear that anyone who ever thought you were talentless or over-reaching is absolutely right.

So you rush to produce something new. You plan to write a masterpiece immediately. You force yourself to do it right. But hold on: Rush? Immediate? Force? These things are unnatural, and you kill your creativity.

You have to remain fresh. You have to feel the joy. That's the only way you create anything that resonates. It's like when actors carry the resentful residue of a hundred rejections into their next audition, they turn people off. It's just like a guy desperate for sex after years without it, he emits something that repels. That's how it is with nearly every aspect of creativity. You have to get past the rejections and depressions and failures that have become internalized. Every new project has to be NEW! The let downs of the past are just the past, and you've learned so much from them!

Don't over-identify with your failures. We're all going through them, and they're not as personal as they seem. It's just what happens, and you're better equipped the next time.

So you take a deep breath. You open final draft. You begin writing a new screenplay.


  1. This is powerful stuff. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Yeah, must be real frustrating to see something you've worked so long on fall apart without a result. There are relationships that are shorter. Like you say though rejections and disappointments are part of life, whether it's work or personal life and you just have to find the energy to move past it and start fresh.

    1. "There are relationships that are shorter" - Ha! Too true!

  3. "You have to remain fresh. You have to feel the joy. That's the only way you create anything that resonates." This rings so true and is exactly what I needed to hear this morning.

  4. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. Hope you have better luck with your next script. You're certainly a very talented writer.

  5. Love the stuff you're writing. Great life insights. Keeping my eye on your blog more often.

  6. Yep, this definitely resonates with me. I'm not sure I know any actors who whine about not being given the opportunities. Perhaps that's because my closest peers in this profession are at a similar stage to me: do or die. It's emotionally counter-productive to surround myself with apathetic actors.

    Your 'over-reaching' comment resounded. Since commencing work on my new project (a webseries.. based, incidentally, on that character that's off to Detroit soon!) I'm battling with pressures that needn't be there: 'This is the formula for success. Do or die, indeed!"

    I'm looking to Sorkin, currently, to perhaps remedy a dialogue concern I have for a particular episode I'm writing. I shall whip out some West Wing, dust off my Few Good Men and pop to Fop for some Social Networking. I'll return shortly with my thoughts!