Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Finding My Way

I'm not sure that I associate with too many people that aren't involved in some sort of self-searching, some of us more successfully than others.  I know a number of people that are extremely self-actualized.  As I know quite a few that are putting much more effort into getting more lost.  I spent a number of years seeking obliteration myself.  I suppose the toughest things to sort out are those periods when our ambitions are in conflict with our conditioning.  That is to say when we really want to find our way, but find ourselves unable to effectively navigate the pathways we're seeking.  Sometimes in spite of our fervent efforts we undermine ourselves both consciously and otherwise.  I find that the two key things to making progress are courageous perseverance and seeking guidance from others.  The Greeks had a name for thinking you can go it alone - hubris.  A trait I'm all too familiar with.
There was a time that Finding Fellini meant finding greatness and recognition equal to Federico's.  I was also interested in learning about Fellini in order to become a better filmmaker.  In time, I became less prideful and self-interested and more open to Fellini's humanism.  Eventually I gained the humility necessary to recognize pursuing a career in film was no longer in my best interest.  I recently read that careers in the arts and, or glamor professions, are subject less to job markets but more to a high-stakes tournament.  Few people win, most lose, some take jobs in ancillary roles, some enter tournaments with lower stakes, with and without hope for reentering the grand sweepstakes, and many others withdraw.  My withdrawal from the Tournament of Aspiring Directors caused me to experience some crises of identity and a sense of failure.
I tried to refocus my energy on a career in Public Health, but ultimately decided that a complete career transformation, including five plus years of schooling was not in my best interest either no matter how passionate I felt about it.  In the interest of capitalizing on the skills and contacts I already possessed from my years working in film, I began producing photo shoots - an ancillary role in a parallel industry.  It has been sometimes fun and fruitful, but I don't see the likelihood of it capturing my attention in the long term for various reasons.  I have not shut the door on photo production opportunities and will continue to leave it ajar for the foreseeable future.
I've been researching and contemplating my next career for most of the past year.  I've looked into many things.  Some of them involved entering more tournaments albeit on a less grandiose scale.  I explored a career in fashion for several months.  I hesitated to tell too many people about it for fear of setting myself up to appear fickle should I decide, like my public health aspiration, that it wasn't to be.  I took a few sewing classes and did some drawing.  I paid a lot of attention to inspirations and possibilities of success.  It intrigued me, but there were many things that didn't feel right.
On the advice of a trusted friend, I decided to stop looking for an ideal career and to take a good look at what skills seem to be common in my long and varied work experience.  I bristled at that initially.  "What?  Do you mean something like, What Color Is My Parachute?" I asked cynically.  Ever earnest, my friend said, "Exactly that."
So I got that damn book and every time I started reading it I got a headache and felt tired and hungry and wanted desperately to go back to bed.  Part of me feels as if I am aiming at some sort of consolation prize of a career that capitalizes on my organization or leadership skills.  As such, the questions regarding what I really want out of life are like salt in my wounds.  At best.
I spent most of my twenties trying to lose myself.  I wanted nothing to do with convention.  My heroes were denizens of the underbelly.  I never wanted to buy a house or own much of anything, but I wasn't keen on being entirely destitute so I worked mainly in nightclubs and restaurants among other short-lived dalliances in various fields. In spite of my apathy and disdain for convention, I demonstrated a vigorous and dedicated work ethic and the ability to anticipate what kind of experiences and environments would attract the affluent, hip and beautiful by the hundreds.  I was a leader and an organizer, responsible for large staffs, budgets, logistics, musicians' careers and investors' money.  These skills seemed like common sense to me.  In my mind, any idiot could run a business.  I took it for granted that I was able to step into these businesses without any formal training or guidance and not only assume operational control, but increase revenues as well as raise their prominence.
I never really wanted to be there.  I thought of myself as a writer or a furniture designer.  Anything but a businessman.  Nightclubs are all about make believe.  Nothing seemed very real.  Besides I never went looking for any of these jobs.  They always came to me and when I was desperate for some income, I often took what was offered even if  I would have preferred a less demanding job as a bartender.  Because of these factors, it's been difficult for me to see that the skill set I used as a club manager and promoter has value.  That the things that came easy to me are transferable and marketable competencies.
I regarded my film producing skills in a similar manner.  I worked with producers along the way that often seemed to need my guidance or simply just get in the way.  I never thought I wanted to be producing in the first place, but when I was subject to someone incapable of meeting my expectations I saw it that I had to put that hat on as well.  Now I see that while that make sense, it has often been inconsiderate and insensitive.  Being a good team player means helping one another out, not shaming those that are less capable.  The takeaway, though, is that while I was doing okay at the creative aspects of filmmaking, my logistical talents were in abundant evidence.  I was often distracted from my storytelling ambitions by my attraction to making sure things were happening efficiently.  Clearly my mind is compelled by such challenges.
When I started producing photography, I thought that with my storytelling ambitions behind me, that I would be able to focus strictly on coordinating production.  However, I found that while I didn't need to be the main creative force on shoots, I couldn't fathom not offering input into casting, locations, wardrobe, art direction, prop styling and, in some cases, composition.  I don't feel as if it's an ego-driven desire.  More of a DNA thing, really.  I never stepped on any toes with my input and I'm told that for the most part it was not only welcome but appreciated.  One of the photographers I worked with asked me to help him communicate with the models.  He had heard me talking to the background talent and admired my director's voice.  I appreciated his taking notice.  There was no resentment on my part that I was better at an aspect of his job than he.  Though I see that I have skills that benefit the creative process.  And I really need some sort of creative stake - not primary authorship - but some sense of involvement beyond coming in under budget and making sure there's lunch for everyone.  Again, those are skills to be sure and I need to make sure I account for them.  While ensuring that I don't sell myself short.
I've been trying to explore what lies between the two extremes of my career pendulum.  There must be jobs that are both creative and administrative; right?  It's taken some digging and I haven't quite sorted it all out, but I'm definitely making progress toward discovering them.  The jobs worth having are going to take more work to get than some of the jobs I've had in the past, but probably less work than it was taking to become a working film director.  I've just go to keep striving to balance not making it either too easy or too hard on myself.  I'm starting to feel some hope of finding a career that is neither booby prize nor beneath me, but that will not only make good use of my aptitudes and skills but encourage me to discover ever greater talents.

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