NOTHING WITHOUT MEANING
We frequently find ourselves wrapped up in company we don’t want to be in, or sucked into projects we don’t believe in. Why? Because as cutthroat as people in this industry can be, we are essentially nice people (more or less). A friend calls in a favour and we grant it. A job lines up with what looks like the possibility of “something more special” further down the line and we sign up, hoping our idealistic naiveté pays off. And yes, it actually does! Sometimes though, you find yourself 3 months in production on a project that is neither special, meaningful nor even pleasant, and things are only going to get tougher. At this juncture, you have a choice to make; quit, keep going, or… there is a third option.
OPTION 1: QUIT, THOUGH NOT THE WISEST CHOICE.
If your first choice is to quit, be advised it’s not the wisest course of action. In show business, what you do off stage/screen is more avidly watched than what you do on. Your actions tell the people around you everything they need to know about your work ethic; whether you can be relied on as a disciplined professional; how you cope under pressure. To put it simply; if you’re someone we want to work with or not. How well you play with others has a huge impact on how much work you get later on. In a corporate setting this would be the indicator for the guy paying everyone’s bills to know if he should give you a leg up the corporate ladder. In the entertainment sector, where most people work from project to project between multiple groups, it’s the deciding factor on how well you do in your career. That said, there are times when you have no choice but to let go. When that happens, make sure your version of why you left the previous project gets heard, in as classy a way as you can manage. Don’t resort to ranting on social media, but be open to everyone who asks. Also, be sure that you end on good terms with everyone involved. There aren’t enough good people in the industry to go around, so it’s very likely you would end up working with one or two members of the team again and it’s best if there isn’t any residual awkwardness floating around on set.
OPTION 2: STICK IT TO THE END.
Your second option is of course to stick it out to the end, however painful it may be. This is simply a matter of keeping pace, staying afloat, being where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’ve been asked to do at the times and dates you’ve been asked to do it. Yet, if it comes to it, please don’t simply go through the motions. It is still your face and body that people see, so take ownership of the work you do. Try to walk away with something you can look back on fondly. And thus we come to the third option: get on top of it.
OPTION 3: GET ON TOP OF IT!
Make your work count for something. If your acting has no personal thought or agency behind it you might as well be a cyborg. However terrible the project itself may be in terms of quality and content, if you can get the team to push it in aid of a cause you believe in or raise awareness about an issue you believe needs help, that in itself is something to take pride in. If things are in reverse, wherein the quality and content are both good and meaningful but the creative team is hideous, it gets a lot tougher to master the situation. The best you can do is trust that you’re all working towards the same goal, focus your entirety on the work in your hands, what you can do with it and the effect you may have on everyone who sees it, and block out all the bulls**t. At the end of the day, be able to point to whatever it is you do and say “that’s mine”, or better yet “that’s mine, and it means something”.