I’m Just Doing It Anyway

Netflix

Around a year ago I asked an established film critic at a festival on how to make it in the business. He said:

“Don’t.”

He later went on to elaborate that you need two of three things: someone who will support you, a lot of money, or a ridiculous amount of talent. Other than that, you probably won’t cut it. He cited a friend who was an award-winning documentarian who still couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage on his house. But then he said, and this was what stuck, was if I was really passionate about it, I should just do it anyway. The major key of course, was to build up other skills, writing or otherwise, so I could do basic adult things like being able to pay the rent and afford dinner in reasonably priced restaurants every now and then.

Writing, according to most people, isn’t particularly about the money, but something you do because you feel passionate about it. That is something that bears true regardless of whether its fiction, reporting or criticism. And there is nothing that has ever interested me more than films; watching them, analysing them, discussing them with my friends. Yet money helps. It means validation for what you do, that what you write isn’t just an online circle jerk, and also means that, in being able to dedicate every day to writing, you can get better and better without having to worry about scrounging off your friends to enjoy your Friday night. It gives your work a certain extra, glowing, meaning. Yet, if all I was focused on was money, I would’ve looked at a career in finance a long, long time ago. My aims for now remain pretty modest.

Like most career paths, it takes a lot of self-starting. Before I’d had this reality talk, I had already set up my own website bearing my own name, wrote for my University newspaper, and attended the Berlinale. Nothing stuck, no fame arrived and no money was made, until just after I graduated, when I got the chance to work for MoviePilot. I don’t know if what I had done so far was my 10,000 hours, but it was definitely over 100,000 words.

Anyway, I finally had an internship, and really I was lucky: they told me I had the job just two days after my graduation ceremony. It was for three months in Berlin. This was the city where I had previously spent my Erasmus year, and where in a biergarten surrounded by a bunch of new friends I finally came to realise what I actually wanted to do. Something about being abroad made me come to understand myself better: whether or not it was the cheaper beers, the more attractive girls, or the different way of looking at life; Berlin seemed to focus my dreams and desires into a coherent and viable reality. The city has that effect on some people.

Therefore, it was fitting to go back there for the internship, because other than a general, growing disdain for my home country I knew that this was a city where I could really make something of myself. It is also the place where doing the basic things are relatively easy, like finding a foreign girlfriend (check) and being able to afford rent (half the price of London where even with a great salary I would still have to live at home). It was an extremely enjoyable three months: the office had beers in the fridge, endless games of FIFA, and work didn’t really start until 10 a.m, an approach that made that transition from University life all that much easier. The speed and quality of my work improved immeasurably. Yet, due to forces I couldn’t control, the company didn’t have the means to keep me on after the three months were over.

Now I’m in Berlin, with half-decent German, and without a job. So far its only been one working day since it ended, but the absolute boredom of having so much copious free time has already kicked in. I slept in a couple of hours, watched two movies, reviewed one, and wrote this post, and I’m still climbing up the walls and endlessly refreshing my gmail. I also applied for a bunch of varying-in-quality jobs, because a man’s got to pay the bills. I can’t really predict where I’ll be in a month, or even a week.

For now, writing is something I’m just going to have to do anyway.