Register Monday | December 9 | 2019

It's Who You Know

Writing and Filmmaking

I haven't been feeling like blogging much lately, mainly because the act of sitting at my desk typing away about my life falls into the ever-growing category of "Things I Do That Take Time Yet Make Me No Money."

The past month has been especially tough as I have felt as though I am living in some strange Twilight Zone, where emails and phone calls are never returned, where projects are stalled indefinitely for no good reason, and where my expenses now vastly outnumber my sources of income. It's stressing me out, as evidenced by the multiple gray hairs that popped up on my head recently.

After paying this past month's bills (I hate February- its so short that everything is due sooner...), I realized that I have a serious cash flow problem. Meaning: cash flows out, but none flows in. So I put the word out, to producers and friends, that I was looking for work, especially writing work, but none of those efforts proved fruitful and probably only made me look more desperate than I would like to appear to be.

The next step was to look for a part-time job of some kind, something that was flexible and paid more than fifteen dollars an hour. I went on Craigslist and sent out my resume and a cover letter to dozens of companies, each of which was looking for someone who I was absolutely certain would be me. Taking my experience into account and multiplying it by my ego, there was simply no way these people would not be emailing or calling me immediately to schedule an interview before someone else snatched me up. These were jobs writing promotional copy, reading scripts, developing web content, etc. All well within my range of abilities. Or so I thought, until NOBODY contacted me. I was sending out these emails into an employment black hole, where my resume would land in some pile of others somewhere and be forgotten.

My feelings of shock soon turned to desperation and I decided I needed to broaden my efforts. I applied for a variety of jobs. Helping some guy do online dating (he was willing to pay $20 an hour!). Tutoring SAT prep. Editing porno movies into trailers for the Internet. And so on. Results so far... NOTHING.

I should tell you that I do know a thing or two about applying for jobs, in case you were thinking: "Maybe this guy has no clue and is sending out a resume scrawled on a paper towel with a crayon that details the skills he learned in prison." But I assure you I can write a pretty good cover letter, and my resume is fairly solid. I can only surmise that these companies see that I am a "filmmaker" and don't know what to make of me. Why the hell does this guy want to tutor SAT students?! I comfort myself with the idea that because I have an unconventional career, I do not fit into any set category and these people do not know what to make of me.

That's the problem with working as a writer or filmmaker. The further you go, the deeper you get into it, the more out of touch you become with the demands of the conventional workplace. When you are young, you can do pretty much anything. Sales? No problem. Marketing? Sure, why not? But later, as your work becomes more focused, those skills and that spirit falls away, leaving you with a more narrow set of abilities. I can't do Excel anymore or "mail-merge" (whatever that is), but I know how to edit on Final Cut Pro or give script notes.

The other lesson to be gleaned from all this is that as more people look for work and jobs become more specialized, the old saying "It's not what you know but who you know" becomes even more important. Sending emails to strangers across the Web is a crap shoot, a lottery, compared to the results when you "know somebody who knows somebody." Looking back at my own work, it is now clear that everything I have done in the past ten years has been because someone gave someone else my name. That's it. No sending resumes, no handcrafting kiss-ass cover letters, no surfing the web. Just a phone call.

So I am now trying to be more zen about this whole predicament. It must be the universe telling me that the only thing I should do is make movies, because that is now all that I am suited for. Since no other industry wants me, I should stick with what I'm good at. Eat Saltines for dinner while I focus on my feature film, rather than getting distracted by the financial temptations of those nine-to-five distractions. Work (and money) will come to me when I really need it. It has always shown up before, so why should now be any different?

It better not be any different.