Friday, November 05, 2004

Ritorno di Zanna Bianca

I am not big on advice, except what I've already given, which is to keep your mouth closed while changing the cat litter or refilling the water softener. But perhaps I have a bit more, for young aspiring writers out there:

Always bring your best game. Because if you don't, there are 100 people behind you who would like to have your job.

I woke up today thinking about my first job out of college, at a TV station in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where I knew nobody and had never in fact visited the state. The first night I was there way back in 1988 I stayed with a couple of guys from the station who were kind enough to put me up until I could find my own place. I found out after a fashion that the weekend news director had applied for my new job as field producer but had been passed over in favor of me, a guy from a far-off land called Indiana. And by 'after a fashion' I mean he got drunk and busted out the window above the couch I was sleeping on and wanted to fight me. So he got fired and I decided to take his job too.

So for a while in my youth I directed local news cut-ins on "Good Morning America" from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., then from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. shot commercials and spot news and whatever, then worked Saturday and Sunday nights for no extra money to learn how to direct news. So when the weekday director began suffering from a chronic illness I filled in for her, which meant I went home at 2 p.m., came back at 5 p.m., directed the 6 p.m. news, went home and came back at 9 p.m., directed the 10 p.m. news, got home by 11 p.m., got up around 4:30 a.m., and this went on for about a year. And yes, it was uphill in the snow (in the wintertime, on top of a bluff outside of town). And because I did this I had a chance to return to my hometown and work at my alma mater, and have had three jobs there since, and am still waiting for that warm flush of money and power, but am doing okay.

You can't sit around and wait for the door to ring, and expect Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese, and the ghosts of Hitchcock and Welles to be standing there waiting to take you on as a right-hand man. You have to feel some hunger, some spark, even if you don't know what it's for yet, how to articulate it, how to achieve what you want. Because if you don't, there are lots of people standing behind you that do, and will want/take what you have.

Don't get into the industry if you don't feel it down in your bones, because there are too many ups and downs, sometimes long stretches of bad and only brief sputters of good. And sometimes the other way around.

Did I mention not to open your mouth while changing cat litter?

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