February 11, 2006

You can't always get what you want

Life as a twentysomething can be somewhat of a rollercoaster, with small things adding up very quickly to collectively push you in a positive or negative direction. If I had to describe my life in 2006 so far with one word, offhand I'd go with "unhinged." Why, exactly, I would find myself in a situation where I could only use one word to describe my recent life, I don't know. Maybe at a job interview, where they ask you, "if your colleagues could describe you with only one word, what would that be?"

This brings me to the job front. I haven't said anything about any job at all on this site, for fear of jinxing it, or possibly complicating an opportunity before it was set in stone (also, why would I want to advertise which film companies were hiring?). Readers who actually follow this site are likely wondering what I'm doing with film these days (and, despite the number of daily hits I get, I still firmly believe there are approximately 0 of you that I don't already know personally)--in terms of projects, or the job front. In terms of projects, I'll post something soon. In terms of jobs, we have to go back to November, when, just as I was finishing cutting my shooting/editing/animation reel, and just as I was printing out my updated resume, Joshua Newman from the blogrolled Self-aggrandizement.com (and, more relevantly, Cyan Pictures/Long Tail Releasing) sent me an email soliciting a meeting in New York over coffee. Despite my claim on the still-temporary "about" page of this site that the odds of me getting a job from someone who saw my website was equal to "however bookmakers express the number zero," Cyan/LT was getting its hiring plans together for 2006. As I was headed to NYC anyway, I moved the trip up and met with Josh in late November.

Cyan Pictures is an indie film company in New York (more info here), and from our meeting it seemed as if I was a perfect fit. There seemed to be very little affectation at the company, which is characteristic of my own attitude towards film--I may think something incredibly pretentious, but I won't say it, at least--and a certain pragmatic attitude towards movies prevailed, in that it doesn't matter how terrific a film is if no one sees it, and it doesn't matter how revolutionary a film is if no one understands it. Knowing both sides of the film world all too well myself--the snobbish film theorists who I suspect no longer actually enjoy any movie, as well as the glamour-seeking, knowledge-free celebrity-worshippers--it was a refreshing change to find a company that seemed to share my buying-into-none-of-that-crap attitude. As Josh wrote recently on his blog, "I love movies but hate the movie industry." Everything seemed to be a great match--when I later told my friends that Cyan/LT was looking for "opinionated assholes," there was universal agreement that the job was right up my alley.

Cyan also recently started a distribution arm, Long Tail Releasing, which takes its name from the concept behind Chris Anderson's soon-to-be-released book (and his blog, which I've been linking to from this site since day one--long before I knew anything about the Cyan/LT gig). Long Tail is based on the premise that not all films can or should be designed for a 3,000-screen theatrical release and a multimillion dollar advertising campaign. The rise of digital distribution and the tearing-down of geographical hegemony (accompanied by the proliferation of me stringing together words that are unnecessarily polysyllabic) has resulted in the possibility that smaller and more dispersed audiences can make a film a success, through new distribution models. These include: online stores with downloadable content, such as iTunes, Google Video, Movielink, and a host of others, as well as unlimited rental services like Netflix and Blockbuster Online. Even the rise of online superwarehouses like Amazon.com contribute to a significantly reduced cost-of-shelf-space--Amazon can stock everything with very little overhead, whereas a brick-and-mortar store can only stock the thousand or so most-popular titles. There are also video-on-demand channels on cable (as well as indie channels like Sundance and IFC, the latter of which has been running Long Tail's first release, This is Not a Film, seemingly 5 times a day). Finally we have the upcoming shift to digital projection in theaters, which will result in a long-overdue elimination of the high cost of printing and shipping film reels across the country for a theatrical release (which nullifies all of the penny-penching that an indie filmmaker went through to shoot their piece de resistance for $40k in the first place). In short, film distribution is changing very rapidly these days. The much-talked about simultaneous release of Steven Soderbergh's Bubble on TV, DVD, and yes, that old place--the theater--just happened two weeks ago. It's a very exciting time for filmmaking--especially independent filmmaking--and Cyan/LT seemed like an absolutely ideal company to get in bed with.

Speaking of getting in bed, let's move onto the topic of girls, after which we'll revisit the job front. And then I'll tie the two together.

Dating is something I've wholly avoided talking about on this site thus far. It's entirely too easy to get yourself in trouble when dealing with the specifics of romantic intrigue, especially since there is generally a delay between actual events and when you write about them (look no further than the fact that I met with Josh in November and am just posting about it now). Timelines (and girls) could seem to overlap, and the last thing anyone needs in a relationship is more ambiguity and/or confusion. And whether or not I tell a female friend about this site, the uniqueness of my name lends itself to effortless Google-stalking. But the best blogs are the most honest ones, and dating is too large a part of twentysomething life to avoid the topic entirely. Plus, in this case recent dating events dovetail nicely with recent job events, and together they contribute to a larger theme. I think.

After the interview and while I was waiting to hear back from New York, I went back to my hometown of Durham, North Carolina. Despite the fact that none of my college friends were living anywhere near the south, and despite the utter lack of social or creative infrastructure I had in the area, I was tied to NC for one reason: physical therapy. I won't go into a long history of my right-shoulder maladies--this post is already approaching novella length--so here is a quick summary: I started having shoulder problems sophomore year in college, and over the last five years I've seen seven shoulder doctors, done thousands of hours of physical therapy, had countless MRIs and X-rays, and undergone two surgeries. This is another post in and of itself, but suffice it to say, I've had to really scrap to get the shoulder to the point it is now (some doctors--and even friends--told me to give up and just live with it). Right now, on a good day, the beleaguered joint is probably at 80% of "normal." So what happened to it in the first place? Nothing, or too much--take your pick. I"ll explain it some other time, if anyone cares. Regardless, I finally found a terrific physical therapist in Cary, NC, and over the past four months, the shoulder has made a lot of progress. I've been able to play basketball again (except for that other setback), and I even picked up the camera a couple of times.

What does all of this have to do with dating? Well firstly, I was establishing why I was in NC. Secondly, I started dating one of the assistants at physical therapy. She was the pursuer in this case, which was nice, but that was partially because I was still with someone else when I started PT there (and yes, ladies, one was over before the other began). A few dates later, things seemed to be going very well. She had gone after me, and had succeeded in getting me to like her. But then one day she calls me up and says she's "freaking out" and that she "needs some space" (which, as we all know, is a death knell--but I stayed optimistic in this particular case, due to a number of factors, such as her being the pursuer). Despite all the little doubts in my mind, I allowed myself to think it was still going to work out. The moment you let hope die... You might as well just give up, in life.

And then--nothing.

This is what I hate about dating. Girls don't just like a guy, they like a guy's situation. And as I've told my friends repeatedly, I don't have the infrastructure to support that kind of thing. Put it this way: this wasn't the first time I'd gone out with girl from the University of North Carolina--student or graduate--who had lots of friends in the area. And each time, I was going in as the lone gunman. It's not easy. As the lone gunman, you won't necessarily be thwarted in your efforts by your actual target--let's say the President--but rather by those close to the target--the Secret Service. President=girl. Secret Service=her friends. And all it takes is the efforts of one agent to undo all your preparation: the prosthetic nose, the plastic gun, the bullets in the rabbit's foot keychain. If her roommate doesn't like you, oftentimes that's enough right there. Dunzo.

The point is this: a guy will never tell a girl, and a girl will never tell a guy, why they don't like the other person. They'll tell their friends in a heartbeat, no problem: too boring, too fratty, big ass, too nerdy, no ass, no ambition, small boobs, small package, too hairy, not hairy enough, bad kisser, too much baggage, lame friends, annoying laugh, whatever. And while these are all concrete reasons, the real reason is usually something less explainable, and more arbitrary--in other words, something that could've been helped, if only you'd known. But you never will.

So the rejecter never tells the rejectee why. I've been on both sides of this, having offered up numerous ambiguous severance packages, and also having been infuriated by the sheer obviousness of a girl's made-up justifications (the severance package analogy went nowhere). Despite the fact that I've never seen the show, and never will, I can tell you definitively what the real answer is to the question behind Emily's Reasons Why Not: "I don't know." And yes, I've been the bearer of bad news plenty of times, but that doesn't make the following statement any more believable, coming from a girl that pursued me intently for a month: "I just don't think I want to be with anyone right now." Then why were you on my jock?! At least get creative. Tell me you didn't like the dryness of my kneecaps that one night, or the way I enunciate "defenestrate," or the shape of the mole on the left side of my head. At least give me something.

And that brings us back to the front lines of the job... front. The terraforming of the film-distribution landscape. The firebombing of the capital city of... whatever. You get the point. A few emails and an interview later, things were going well with the job at Cyan (I should note that despite me posting about both these issues at once, one is obviously of significant importance, whereas the other is just a flash in the pan). Against any expectations I had of the job market in New York, Josh had gone after me, and had succeeded in getting me to like his company. Stop me when this sounds familiar: Despite all the little doubts in my mind, I allowed myself to think it was still going to work out. The moment you let hope die...

And then--nothing.

The ballpark start-date Josh mentioned was February. He invited me out to Sundance with the company, and told me to check in every week. Given that he's a young, successful CEO of a startup film company who also has plenty of other duties, I didn't expect to hear back from him often. All I could do was do my part, check in, and hope the job didn't fall through. I forwarded an updated resume, and sent along some references from my previous job as a video producer in NC. But the last time I heard back from him was mid-December, and here we are on February 11th (which is, coincidentally, physical-therapy-girl's birthday--now useless knowledge). I can't (and would rather not) count the number of times I've emailed and called, and today, being in the city, I stopped by his office and scribbled a hasty note ("he's out for a couple of days," the receptionist said, but honestly, who needs to be in their physical office these days anyway, except for meetings?). The last thing you want to be as a job applicant is an annoying stalker, especially if you'd rather be known as an independent, clear-thinking, master of your own destiny. Now I've become the clingy, needy girlfriend--and as in relationships, it's because the balance of power is uneven. Then again, on the flipside, when pursuing a job, you want to show grit, to show how much you want the job, to show you are not deterred from anything easily. My choice of words there is no coincidence: Josh's blog recently linked to this Psychology Today article about "grit." I'm not even going to thinly-veil this self-endorsement: grit--or whatever you want to call it--is probably one of my defining characteristics (of course, I may be seeing myself through rose-colored glasses. It's a saying--in real life, your eyes adjust and eliminate the tint). But the interesting thing about grit (or the slightly-different "ambition," which Time published a less-interesting cover story on around the same time) is that it's a quality that takes time to discover. When I ended up writing every single line of my high school senior film project--after four friends struggled with the more-difficult-than-expected challenge of putting actual pen to actual paper--I didn't think anything of it. The movie had no redeeming qualities anyway. But then in college I ran into every problem imaginable on my junior thesis film, and I surprised myself with the lack of emotion or even hesitation that I reacted to unforeseen problems with. It took sheer pragmatism to fix the problem and move on without batting an eye. And it's not until you're out on your own that you realize how different you are from other people--and how rare that kind of drive is.

Okay. Now I'm just blatantly self-selling, and no one wants to read that. The point is, giving up is always the easy way out, and no one ever accomplished anything by taking that route... and now I'm preaching, and no one wants to read that, either. Here's the final, relevant point: in both of the above situations, when you're playing the waiting game, you can either assume the worst, or you can assume the best. And despite the fact that everything you've learned in life may be telling you that you're SOL, it still does you no good to assume the worst in either situation. If the girl just wants to be single, or the job no longer exists--or if she met someone else, or the company filled the position--then you're fucked no matter what you do. Thus you've gotta sack up and stick your neck out, and take a chance. In both cases you have to approach the object of desire as if it's still rightfully yours; if you admit you like her then you risk have your balls ripped off, and if you show how much you want the job, then you risk having your head cut off (the solution to a mixed metaphor--balls/neck--is to stick with it). But you'll never get either one by assuming the worst. Here I am, writing this in a Manhattan Starbucks, unaware of where the road ahead is going to take me (although I'm actually taking the Subway back--and that's a better analogy for my current situation anyway, since I'm not in any kind of driver's seat, in life, right now). My crotchetal region is a bit sore, and my head's on the chopping block, but the axe hasn't fallen--yet. And that's life: optimism in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

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2 Comments

wow, that's quite an update. You should put this to audio, add 15 seconds of jazz music after each "And then - nothing" and send it to This American Life. Good luck with LT. I suspect they are just super busy.

You'll find lots of women in New York who don't have a huge, ready made network of friends. That does make it easier, sort of.

February 11, 2006 at 9:49PM, Edited September 4, 10:12AM

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pat

Dude.... how long were you in that Starbucks? Too much coffee? Seriously though, you make valid points on both fronts. I've never gone after a job, and I have blond hair and blue eyes, so I've never had to go after Japanese chicks either. I wish I could say that I've felt your pain, but I haven't. All I can say is this: As an old school friend who watched you grow up (and in turn watched me grow up), one thing I know all too well about RBK is that you've had a lot of shit thrown your way, but like me, you've always had clear direction in all of your pusuits. Don't back down. When you say that you feel this company is perfect for you, I believe you whole-heartedly and know that come what may, you'll find what fits. Miss you, bro.

February 12, 2006 at 9:46AM, Edited September 4, 10:12AM

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J