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Happy Halloween 2: Crushing Passion vs. Bloody Commerce (aka Fiends Unite!)

Happy HalloweenIs it really the second Halloween edition of this column? Looks like it is, and I’m still waiting on that office, Mike. Anyway, it’s my personal favourite time of year and it’s beating rain outside all weekend. That’s the ideal time to reflect and genuflect at the altars of the things we dig most. In this case, writing, filming, and hey, getting paid for it, when and how we can. I think it’s safe to say most of us in this racket (that being any creative pursuit, really) got our start from the heart, putting in long hours in front of the computer screen and probably longer hours on set, week after week, month after month, and in many instances, year after year. That’s right, kids, it doesn’t happen overnight, and if we pull back the curtain on even the biggest splashiest successes, we’ll find those hours and that dedication, the rock that sits waiting for the first man or woman brave enough to approach and start pushing it up the hill. The terrain varies for everyone, but the outcome’s the same. Whether yours is a mountain or an anthill, stay at it and you will reach the top. When the day comes that you do, and that rock rolls down (always ridiculously faster than the time it took to get it up there – hey, you might be outta this world, but the laws of gravity still apply), it’s the greatest feeling in the world. You did it. You made it. But look a few yards further and you’ll see that when you’re done celebrating, the next hill’s even higher, with far nastier terrain. The winds are probably picking up, too. Can you do it? Will you even try? We know the answer to that before you do, artist. You’ve no choice. See you at the top. There’s a pint or ten waiting for you at the next, and you’ll have earned it, lemme tell you. And just wait ‘til you get a load of the next obstacle.

Diamond David Lee RothSo, it goes how it goes. I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything, especially those lean days. Those mean days. Shit can get nasty, sure, but I think it was Diamond David Lee Roth who said the days he missed the most were the ones spent eating noodles on his floor mattress in front of the ratty 13” black and white TV screen. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist, and it’s the kind of wisdom that can only come from someone who’s made it beyond their wildest dreams, when those noodles and that TV are so far behind them that they’re out of sight, and can thus be romanticised. But let’s move away from the one-man-quote machine (though I do so with Panama now firmly stuck in my head) and get down to brass tacks, shall we? Whichever level of the game you’re on, you gotta love it, and I know you do. But what’s more important, the creation or the reward? If you’re cashing cheques from your writing or your filming or your music, is it enough, or are you bemoaning more? If those cheques were taken away, or made more elusive and random, would you remain in said field, or would you flee to the nearest accounting school or teachers programme and put your feet to sleep for more stability? Not to knock my accountant and teacher friends at all, of which I have both, but they’re also rocking some wild, wild action on the side and I know if they were given half a chance to run with it…

Let’s take writing, for example. In lieu of a major publisher or international rag taking us on, how does one bring home the bacon and make a living (hell, even a low-to-ground living) at it? Easy answer, spread yourself thin. Refrigerator’s still empty? Spread yourself thinner, and keep spreading ‘til the fruits & vegetables (and a nice bottle of wine) are chilling. If you’ve found one source of payment for putting prose to page, you can find another, and if you find another, you can find more. Stalk. Hunt. Kill. Repeat. Articles, columns, coverage, reporting live from the scene, if only as a one-off, are all fodder for a decimal point or three. Go outside the box and pitch your services to interested parties or persons-in-need in the private sector. Hear someone say their life could make a helluva movie? Write it! Hook ‘em and reel ‘em in. It’s what you do. If they think they sound like a million bucks, make ‘em sound like two million. Then make sure they spell your name right on the cheque. It’s what you do. It really is that simple, but you’ve gotta believe, scribe. Goddammit all to hell, you’ve gotta believe. If you don’t know your value, nobody else will either. Be cool. Do your thing. Know that it’s worth something. And remember, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy.

art and commerceNow, take filmmaking. Let’s say you want to direct, but directing isn’t letting you leave that burger-flipping gig you’ve had for five years – or worse yet, you’re in film festival limbo, where the only buck you’ll turn is what you can panhandle outside your premiere doors. What to do? Step away. Let it breathe. If you love the process, take another job on set. Join the gaff or grip or assistant crew, infiltrate the art department, script supervise, hell, audition for a role. Who knows, you might like it. (I’m now accepting on-camera roles, btw, so if anyone’s currently casting for snarly bearded bastards, hi!) Point is, if you love that world, it’s all fun and worthy. I’ll tell you a story from last summer. I was set to do some day playing for an upcoming film. Sounded fun and I was available. When I got the call sheet, I was inexplicably on the PA crew. What did I do? Throw a fit? Take my ball and go home? Nah. I got a headset and PA’d the shit out of it, ended up working with Maggie Gyllenhaal all summer. A fun time and another feather in the cap. You’re doing your thing, right? And perhaps more importantly, making that paycheque. So you agree, but the bills are still piling up? Get into post-production, they go 24/7 (I did post for six years). Eviction notice on the door? Catering’s always hiring. When it comes to what you love, a foot in the door’s as good as a fist through the window…not sure what that means, I just made it up. Sounds good, eh? Go make some noise. And some money. Trick or treat.


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