Register Sunday | August 18 | 2019

Out of Focus?

“It sounds like you need to focus.”

Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.

Last week, I decided that the key to pulling off the feature film was to focus on it exclusively. Live as cheaply as possible and do as much as I can to make the film happen, without getting distracted by the off-the-mark opportunities that may come my way. Meet with more potential investors, re-write the script, find a producer, etc. and DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE. I had even met with a potential manager who advised me: “It sounds like you need to focus.” I had told him I couldn’t agree more. In fact, “focus” was my theme-word for the year.

And I’ve been pretty focused, for the most part. But I’ve also been broke, and the anxiety of managing to pay my rent and bills each month has been a distraction in and of itself. (What a weird expression that is: “in and of itself.”) So when my friend called me last week with a possible job producing short segments for yet another basketball show, my gut said “No, I’m too focused” but my wallet and my brain said, “Maybe I can fit that in.” The money wasn’t that great, but it would be enough to keep me afloat while I continue to find financing for the movie. And as many of you probably already know, making movies, especially independently funded ones, takes a damn long time. You may feel ready to shoot next week, but the people writing the checks (or considering writing the checks) do not feel quite the same sense of urgency.

I mulled it over for a few days. Crunched the numbers to see if I’d even make any money doing these basketball segments. And came to the conclusion that, for practical purposes, it may not be such a bad thing to have a side job that takes 20% of my time and leaves me enough time to do my rewriting and meetings and phone calls that need to happen for the movie to move forward.

I should mention that another factor in my decision was that I had taken a job last week for one night, helping out at an editing place. They were “swamped” with footage and needed another assistant editor to come in at night and help out, logging the footage and digitizing it into the computers for the editor. It was a night job from 6pm to 4am and paid about $14 an hour. Curious, I agreed to do it and signed on for just that night. If I liked it, I would do more freelance work over the next few weeks. It was tedious, brainless work and I’m glad I did it because it reminded me that being an assistant editor SUCKS. I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed it for any reason other than the job is at night and frees you up to do your own thing during the day. But the next morning I found myself exhausted and grouchy and generally unpleasant, not to mention wondering why I would spend my nights digitizing footage of interviews that I could have produced and shot myself. In other words, my ego kicked in and I decided the job was unworthy of my abilities. But the important thing here is that there is nothing like doing a really shitty job to remind you how good you have it when you have a moderately so-so job that you do on your own time and pays just as much. Or just as little.

So here I am, emailing and planning the details for this next job, running around the west coast covering stories on various basketball players. I can’t deny it; I’m lucky to have the opportunity. The challenge is to pull that off without losing focus on the feature film. Keep my eye “on the ball” while keeping my eye on the basketball.

There’s no reason you can’t focus on two things, right?