Getting Back to Work

In many ways this collective pause and summer off from work has been really refreshing for me, and perhaps to many others as well. 

It’s allowed me to concentrate on my own personal creative projects, grow a garden, and get to know my neighbours better. I’ve been able to enjoy the beautiful warm and sunny weather, get out for walks, date distantly in parks, and think a little bit more deeply about my priorities for the kind of relationships that I’m looking for in my life. All of this has been fantastic! 

And, I’m finally ready to get back to work. 

Not just because I need to, and I really do need to get back to work soon! But also because I finally have the drive to get back to it, after this much needed period of mental, physical and emotional purging and recharging. 

Yes, I need to work so that I can earn enough to pay my taxes on the CERB I’ve collected during this tough time. And yes, I need to get myself back out of my credit card debt, before the end of this year. I need to get myself a new accountant, who isn’t dealing with severe health issues that prevent him from getting back to me, or doing a thorough enough job. I need to have the funds so that I can hire this person and catch up on my corporate taxes for this year, and get a better financial plan for myself and my business moving forward. 

And, I need to start feeling productive again, having a reason to get myself out of bed before noon each day, and achieve more than just my 500 words per day goal, that proudly I’ve been sticking to throughout this pandemic. A great goal indeed. And now, I need to have some bigger goals to work towards, a workback schedule to achieve them, and some accountability partners to help keep me on track with it over time. 

Some of these items will require money to put into place. Others will be helped by me having a place to go to report to work each day. Still others I can achieve now, with the support systems and relationships I have in place, but haven’t been utilizing to their fullest extent. 

So, as the film and television production industry begins to open back up, as the kids go back to school, and businesses start to reopen… I have been spending some of my down time and energy reaching out to get the word out there that I’m looking for work as an office production assistant or permittee assistant production coordinator on a union TV show. And also, I’ve been putting the word out there that I would really like to eventually start working as a professional writer. 

But, perhaps I have not been doing enough to work towards these goals. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot more about why that is, and perhaps it’s because I actually didn’t want the time off to end. I’ve been enjoying not having to be responsible, not having to work 12 hour days all summer long on some low budget movie, and not having to break my body to help make somebody else’s project that isn’t even worth it to me.

But what am I like when I really know that I want something with every fiber in my being? Who am I being when I’m totally committed to achieving a nearly impossible goal, with all my heart and soul? 

I’m unstoppable! 

I don’t take no for an answer, I push, and I push, and I push, until I get the response or the results that I need. I exhausted all possible options and scenarios to have it work. I do it with a smile on my face and a can-do attitude. I do it with such excitement and a sense of aliveness that people get intoxicated by it, and can’t help but jump on the bandwagon with me. 

For example, when I produced Mr. Viral, or whenever I worked as a line producer on commercial projects with the broadcast producers who requested to work with me at MacLaren McCann Advertising. 

On these projects, I just OWNED IT! Everyday I gave all of myself. I did what I needed to do to get the job done. I worked long hours and I learned how to delegate work that I couldn’t do myself, or wouldn’t be the most efficient at doing. Well… I sort of learned that, by not delegating and killing myself a bit at first! Lol! But eventually I learned! 

I was stern but fair, with people for whom I was taking a leadership role. I demanded and expected greatness from them, and they rose to the occasion feeling empowered by my belief in them. I employed a lot of junior people that I and others took great pains to train well. Those people worked their asses off too, and showed me that they could handle more, so I gave them more, giving me more time to concentrate on the things that only I can do. 

I was a force to be reckoned with in my negotiations with people. Often people said they thought I should be in sales. I hate the idea of working in sales. I have this strange moralistic attitude about it that doesn’t have much basis in reality. How would anyone know about things if we didn’t have advertising, marketing and sales? 

Ok, yes. But if I look at it really closely, I don’t have a problem with selling something that I truly believe in! Yes, I felt empty and gross working on advertising for cars and big banks at the ad agency. But, I never once felt gross or questioned the rightness of selling Mr. Viral to people, and selling it hard! 

I convinced people to work on it for free for months at a time with us. I convinced people to give us money to help us finish making it. I convinced people to give us huge discounts for their services. I convinced my fellow producers and crew, who were working for cheap or free, to come together and put in as much as they could to help us get through the last weeks of principal photography on our grueling production. 

And, I got Ryerson RTA students to work for free on the project. They continue to tell me, to this day, how much it meant to them to have that opportunity, which launched their career. We gained skilled and dedicated assistants and they learned so much from being a part of the process. It was an awesome trade. 

So why am I not doing what I know to do with my own career? Why am I not pushing myself like I know I need to? Why am I not rallying my troops and getting support for my own cause? Why don’t I believe in myself and behave the way I know I need to behave in order to get things done? 

Where is that sense of power and drive? Where is that self-motivation, passion and masterful steering of the giant unwieldy ship, that everyone said was impossible to dock, but I docked? And why haven’t I docked my own ship yet, when I know that I know how from my past experience?! 

Perhaps it’s a dis-empowering context that I have around my failures as a producer, writer and production coordinator.   

I’m living inside of a story that all that work I did to achieve the things that I accomplished with Mr. Viral, and in my career as a producer in advertising, are worthless, because they did not produce massive financial and commercial success. And/or, did not result in more gigs being handed to me, with more money, and more prestige. 

But, realistically, how many people have ever made an under $200K movie that looks like 1.5 mil? Not that many!! 

Did it achieve everything that I hoped it might, no. But, I learned a hell of a lot doing it, and perhaps the next one would be better. But I gave up, I burned myself out, and after that I played it safe, convincing myself that all that was just not worth it. 

It just put me into massive debt, broke up my relationship with the director, and sent me into an emotional downward spiral that’s taken me about 5 years to come out of since we finally got distribution for it (releasing it in 2015). After the previous 5 years of fighting to get it finished since we shot it in the fall of 2010. That’s ten years ago now that I quit my job in advertising to make my first film as a producer. 

In this business the idea is to take what you learn on your first film and apply it to the next one. But if there isn’t a next one that can’t happen. And instead I’ve revolved my entire self-worth, drive and motivation around my first project out of the gate not being a massive success. When most filmmakers don’t get recognized for their first work until long after their second or third project has gained them enough attention that people start to look back at their previous projects. 

Mr. Viral was never going to be a huge commercial success, I knew that going into it, but somehow by the end of it I had forgotten. I thought because it took 5 years to finish, that I had paid my dues. I’d done enough, and now people should just start handing me cash to do whatever the hell I want with. And that’s just crazy! That never happens! Like, to anyone… 

Most people have to bust their asses for years and years and years scrubbing floors, waiting tables, and PAing on other peoples movies, before they get their big break. Most big writers that I’ve come to love are old-as-fuck by the time they have any published works that I’ve ever heard of, and some have been dead for years, before I read their works or someone decides to make a TV series or movie out of it. 

So yes, I have to keep going if I want to achieve my goals. I have to be patient and not let the millions of times that I’m faced with rejection stand in the way. I’ve gotta find something that I can do that doesn’t break my spirit and affords me enough energy and time to work on the creative stuff that really matters to me. But, something that still puts food on the table, and gives me a sense of security. And, I need to keep motivated enough with that personal project stuff in my spare time, even when I’m exhausted from all the 12 hour days on paying-the-bills stuff. But, I have to do it in a way that doesn’t burn me out, so that it’s not another 5 years before I’ve got the energy to start working on my own stuff again. 

Does that all sound really complicated and exhausting to you? Cause it does to me! 

Maybe I need to just stop giving myself such a hard time about this… like maybe this stuff just naturally comes and goes. It ebbs and it flows. You do one crazy passion project for yourself, and then you suffer doing gigs paying down the debt, until your mojo comes back. Eventually you get a break to just rest, relax and recover, and then after you do all that, the next project comes along, and you’re ready to jump on it full throttle again. 

If it took me 5 years to birth that first movie baby, maybe it’s totally normal that it’s taken me another 5 to be ready to get pregnant again with another project. I am pretty serious about my mothering of the projects I really believe in. So, perhaps this is just the healthy life-cycle of things. 

And so too, at this period of my 2020 pandemic year cycle, I’ve come to the part where I’m ready to get back to work again.

Perhaps it’s the time of year, it’s going back to school, back to work, back to shorter days. It’s colder outside, so I’m not as upset by the idea of being inside, being productive, and missing out on the nice weather, which is gone. The garden is coming into autumn, it rains more often, and I don’t have to be out there watering it every day in order to keep things green, because nature is taking care of itself. 

Something is in the air this week! And, after a wonderful Labour Day long weekend of partying, drinking and fun with friends and family, I’m ready to get back to work this week. I’ve been getting up a little earlier every day, going to bed earlier, drinking a little less in the evenings, and checking things off my TO DO list each day. 

Bam bam bam. Done. 

It feels good! It feels empowering! It feels like fall, and I’m ready to get back to work. The summer fun is over, and now it’s time to get responsible for my life. And it doesn’t feel like I have to drag myself out of bed, so much as I want to, I’m happy to, committed to, and empowered to do a bunch of things each day. And I’m proud of myself every time I get to check something off my list. 

Is anyone else suddenly feeling more motivated and productive this week?