What’s holding you back?
What habits do you have, what beliefs and prejudices do you hold, that you may not even be aware of, that are preventing you from making progress in your career?
I mentioned in Pt 2 that when you are starting out in your career, and for the first couple of years, you will be working on small or non-existent budget productions. It is not uncommon for people to resent this time and to feel that somehow it is time wasted when they could, should, be working in a “real job”.
The classic sign of arrogance in an early-career person who is indignant about having to start at the bottom, is the belief:
“I didn’t go to school for this!!”
Er, pardon me for being blunt, but YES, YOU DID!! School or college or training of any kind, be it a twelve week intensive program or a three year Film and Media Degree course, does not thrust you out into the working world fully formed and worthy of the highest professional respect and the associated salary. It merely gives you a basic grounding in materials and techniques, and the quality of that education will vary enormously from school to school. In short, a formal education gives you enough information not to make a nuisance of yourself on a set or in a lab, and prepares you only for more learning. The real, on the job, practical kind of learning…..
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.” (This quote has been attributed to at least three different people. Suffice to say it is a truism we should all remember!).
As I said earlier, no-one is going to hire you right out of training to work on a big job. Or even a medium sized job. Matter of fact, almost nobody will pay you to work on anything right out of training. You simply have neither the necessary level of skills, nor the ability to put them into practice on a real working high-pressured film job. So you will, you must, start with what you can get, which will be low-budget and no-budget work to begin with.
These people are just like you. They are early career film makers and crew, doing their best to learn as much as they can and survive in a brutal and unforgiving industry.
- DON’T look down your nose at them because they are not the kind of people you wish you were working with. Everyone starts at the bottom, and everyone has to EARN the respect they crave. One day these people too will have worked their way up the tree and be more professional, with all the associated benefits that brings.
- DON’T think that just because its a small budget that it isn’t important to get the quality as high as you possibly can manage. If YOU had put your own hard earned cash into a project, wouldn’t you want to think that you had gotten the best result you possibly could for your efforts?
- DO REMEMBER that every project you do, (even where you are barely getting enough to cover materials) should be treated with the same dedication and attention to detail the same as every project you do on your own for practice or for fun. Regardless of whether you think it is ‘important’ or whether it is as exotic or adventurous a challenge as you might like, it is giving you REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE.
- DO KEEP YOUR EYES AND YOUR MIND OPEN. You can learn a tremendous amount from these projects if you are open to the possibility- more than any school can teach you!! You will have to deal with schedule changes, inclement weather, difficult relationships, tiredness and boredom, industry politics, mistakes, miscommunication, accidents and mishaps, and things not working when you really don’t know what has gone wrong or why, and having to figure out a way to fix it on the fly….. It may be a steep learning curve, but the difficult projects will be the ones you look back on with satisfaction afterwards, for having achieved things you didn’t know you could do….
“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” Richard Bach
Every project you do takes you one step closer to your end goal, and the Makeup FX Artist you will one day be, is formed in the crucible of your trials and temptations.
Every problem that you solve, every trauma that you triumph over, brings you one step closer to being the kind of person who is a valued and respected crew member, in demand and well rewarded.
So whatever you might think of them now, the people with whom you work in your early days are your most important asset in your search for future work. One day in six months time, one of them, (who meantime, has gone from assistant director on a no-budget short to being a production assistant on a medium sized TV drama), will happen to talk to someone else and mention you when they are desperate for a Daily to come in and help at short notice. Then six months down the track, that person might call you and ask about a three week job they have coming up in a few months time, which will lead you to your next step up the ladder, and then that will lead to the next, and so on.
Personal referrals and recommendations from people you have worked with will get you more work than anything in your portfolio!
But it takes TIME…..