It's time to get back on the horse—uh, dolly? Whatever metaphor works for you.
Sometimes, your dreams get dashed against the rocks in Hollywood, like a frigate without a lighthouse. As you're tossed around the white water, take a beat to breathe, lie on your back, and find the sky. Because eventually, you're going to wash up on the shore and get back into another boat. It's either that or finding a new calling besides sailing.
But wait—we aren't sailors. We're filmmakers. We're writers. We're directors. We're producers. And we're every other job above and below the line.
No matter what title we hold on set, we will fail more than we succeed. These failures will follow us our whole career. But the only way to build a career is if we stack our failures high and climb on top of them to keep working. We cannot become weighed down by them.
What failure looks like
Let's talk openly about Hollywood. Movies and TV are the confluence of art and business. They're selling people's souls for a living, which can get messy. And creatives are openly baring our souls for the open market. We're trying to tell stories. To use our talents and empathy to bring them to the big and small screen. But not every idea is going to make it. Not every choice we make is even going to be correct.
Still, even with the best collaboration, most of what you do will not go forward.
This is something you gave to accept early on. No matter how much success you have, even at the start, you will leave a much thicker trail of failures. Projects will fall apart. Specs won't be embraced. Other people will fire you. Others will swoop in and take the jobs you thought would be yours. Ideas will be too close to something someone else already sold. Funding will fall through. Talent will leave. Executives might note it to death. Or you might put your foot in your mouth and blow everything up yourself.
This will all happen. It happens all the time.
I was talking to one of my most successful friends. He's sold a dozen projects. None were ever made. It's enough to make an excellent living and to work consistently on other things. But he's constantly working on other people's dreams. And still, he continues to write and to sell in the hopes that someday, what he'll work on is his vision. That's how Hollywood works for most people. Maybe the select few work at the top and only when they want. But the vast majority fail day in and out. And the little victories are what keep them going.
To get to those victories, you have to keep working. Keep writing, directing, producing, shooting, and everything in between. You have to be okay taking those notes, getting those devastating phone calls, and spending those decades knocking on doors. It's going to take time and a lot of failures to find real success and a career.
But we're all in the same boat. So take comfort among friends, pick yourself up, and keep going.