To leave or not to leave

Jose writes:

I want to be a director and didn’t go to film school. I’ve been working at a small commercial place for 2 years and my boss is a typical hollywood d-bag who does not want to see my advance my career and only wants to use me for his own purposes. The thing is I have steady decent pay but my time is kind of fucked. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and working on shooting music videos and trying to do spec commercials and shorts (they cost money unfortunately) in my free time when I’m not at work. Do you think I should cut my losses and try and strike out for something new even though I need the money (I have a decent amount of student debt and an unsupportive family) or should I stick it out and keep trying to hustle in my free time?

A common problem. Sorry Jose, you are not unique. All film people hit this debate. As I was writing this sentence I tried to come up with a few funny examples of people who just “leapt” into the industry, those sudden stars that came from nowhere and were destined for success. My search for examples was fruitless however, as every person I thought of, Tarantino, Rodriguez, Spielberg, Shane Black, Kevin Smith, all had done something before their first film, some “regular job” in which all they did was daydream about their way out. The only guy I can possibly imagine that didn’t have that moment was the dude who wrote “Gran Torino” but even he may have had dreams beyond what he was doing at the time, because it’s a known fact that only dreamers write screenplays.

So you’re not alone. We’ve all been/are/will be there  (the subject of career depression happens to be a universal bar conversation btw).

As usual the answer has to do with the money, mainly because if you don’t eat food you die, an unfortunate consequence. Student loan debt will be there always so that’s pretty much a non-factor in the decision. I believe it comes down to savings. If you have enough savings to lead you through a bit of time, then you may want to try freelancing or switching jobs. In general if you’re tight on capital it isn’t too smart to switch jobs without first having something lined up. If you can support yourself as you look around, then maybe you really can just drop what you’re doing now.

Sadly, this situation is one I cannot dali lama you through. How much do you hate your job? Do you hate it THAT much? How much is it helping your career connections? Is it worth the time in relation to your chosen profession? Is there another field you may be interested in working in like a camera rental house or a prop shop that may give you more personal satisfaction, something that is a JOB and not fantasy? Be aware that DIRECTING IS NOT A JOB. The “career” of film directing usually starts as an accident. It cannot be planned for.

Funding your projects is always going to be impossible, but that’s one thing that you should never quit doing. Change your writing or your style to something that can be shot cheap. Only cast friends and keep your crews minuscule. Make shorts to hone your skills. Write and produce a project for people who will front the cash, like a charity, a campaign, or a company, or apply for grants. Put together an investment portfolio for your “production company” and solicit donations from family and friends. Fundraise. Just don’t stop shooting.

I can’t think of any fulfilling jobs in the industry that will give you enough time to do what you want (which happens to be directing) on the side, so time is something that all jobs commandeer. Running to another film job is not going to help that.

I guess in summation, If it’s not working, I’m always a proponent of following your gut.  When it’s truly time to leave, you’ll know, oh you’ll know.


I know about the 30 year old rule so I am trying to formulate a plan so I can actually become a working director before then.

The 30 year old rule? What is this crap? SOME RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN! Do you believe everything some anonymous blogging jerk tells you?

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