Confessions of a Fledgling Filmmaker: Faking It
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The point is, while people can and do get themselves into the industry via the “faking it” method, donning whatever masks are necessary to work their way through chains of people until they get their in, it doesn’t mean you have to.
Last week I talked about how you can’t rely on luck to get into the industry. This week I want to talk about how you also shouldn’t rely solely on other people to get in. It helps to build a network, of course, but you don’t need to schmooze every person you meet in the hopes that they’ll be the ones to walk you through the door.
I mentioned before that while I’m great talking with people online, I do not "people" well face-to-face. I mean, once someone engages me in conversation that I find to be interesting, I can talk your ear off, but I will pretty much never make the first move. I’m not just a wallflower at parties; I’m the person who is in the corner kind of just wishing I can trigger some sort of chameleon-esque super powers so I will go invisible. One of my worst fears as a kid was having the teacher call on me in class - I was a good student on paper, but have me answer a question out loud and I became the village idiot. Reading and writing came naturally to me, and I spent most of my time curled up on the couch reading classics like Moby Dick and The Picture of Dorian Gray while most other kids were barely graduating past Curious George books; yet when I had to give my senior project in front of an auditorium full of my peers and teachers, I found that suddenly I could not make any sense of the words that were written on my note cards. Thank God I had made that documentary film on my zoo internship! It gave me something to point at and ramble about, and the audience focused on it instead of me so no one realized that I was improvising my speech on the spot and failing at it horribly. Anyway, you get it. I’m shy. Horribly so to the point of suffering anxiety attacks if I’m in a spotlight situation that I am not prepared for.
Trying to worm my way into the entertainment business via meeting people was obviously not an option, but that wasn’t the only thing that kept me from using contacts.
If you’ve ever heard anything about the people of Los Angeles, it’s probably that they're fake. And they are. I’ve been here going on four years at this point and I’ve learned that lesson a thousand times over. Everyone wants to be friendly to everyone here not because LA is a city full of happy, friendly people, but because if you’re not friendly to the wrong person, they could wind up being someone important who can block your path into the industry. That and you might make buddy-buddy with “this person” who can hook you up with “that person” who can introduce you to “that guy” who might be able to get you on set as production assistant’s assistant, if you’re lucky. Everybody is everybody else’s best friend here. Until they’re not, which happens when they find someone better to target or they realize you really aren’t going to be their big break. Or when they’ve used you to get in so now they don’t need you anymore. They won’t end their relationship with you in a mean fashion, though, because there’s a chance that you might find your own way somewhere down the line and then they can come strutting back to you with bright smiles on their faces and saying, “It’s been too long, we should do lunch!” No, they’ll just stop talking to you as if you never existed in the first place, and then when you ask them why later, they can make up some excuse about losing your phone number or something to that end.
If I sound bitter about this, I’m actually really not. I had trust issues built into my psyche way before moving to LA, so for me it’s just an expectation that people will act this way. For the overly-trusting filmmakers, however, please keep this lesson in mind. You’ll make friends and you’ll lose them. Probably quickly. Don’t get attached and don’t get butthurt about it. Everyone is just trying to play their angles to get in, and if you find yourself adapting to play along with them, don’t be surprised. This is what everyone means when they say that living in LA (or getting into the industry, in general) “changes people,” and when they say it, it isn’t generally meant as a compliment.
I, for one, refuse to be one of those people. Call it a stubborn need to hold onto my morality and not be that person spreading my trust issues to anybody else. Some people might think I'm naively stupid to not want to utilize as many connections as I can in whatever way possible, but I just can’t don that fake mask. I can’t use people. On top of that, I also wanted to know that I was capable of doing this on my own without having to rely on anyone.
Let me make a little confession here. I said in my intro that I didn’t have anybody to hold my hand through the industry door. That didn’t actually have to be true, but I allowed it to be. During my stint as a journalist where I traveled around to various hot film cities, I actually made “friends” with quite a few people who could’ve probably helped me out. I was lunching with show producers and creators and shooting the shit with actors before I moved here to LA, but I refused to call on a single one of them when I actually made the permanent decision to come down here. It wasn’t because I thought they wouldn’t help me, because some of them probably would have. I just didn’t want to be that guy who didn’t earn my way in, because if I had been, I would’ve always been left wondering if I had “made it” because I actually had any talent, or if it was only because I knew the right people. Maybe there a lot of folks out there who don’t care either way as long as they meet their end goals, but that wasn’t for me.
The point is, while people can and do get themselves into the industry via the “faking it” method, donning whatever masks are necessary to work their way through chains of people until they get their in, it doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re shy like I am, or just want to take a DIY attitude like I did, you can still find your way. It’ll take a little more work, sure, but you can breathe easy knowing that “You have to know someone” isn’t a solid truth when it comes to working in entertainment. And you can keep your friends along the way.