I’ve never been a guy who can work in a traditional corporate environment. I tried it once; it didn’t go well. I never understood the politics one had to get through before you could get to the work, or all of the corporate jargon that came along with having that kind of job. Terms like “let’s silo that for the next quarters paradigm shift” (I’m not kidding. I heard someone say that and I wanted to set their car on fire).
Working in big media is no different. Often, it’s conservative corporations with a ton of aversion to risk and an old-school version of hierarchy. There is often very little room for experimentation so I always found myself breaking the rules and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. I soon developed a bit of a reputation as, for lack of a better term, a ‘bad-boy” in the office. I think that probably happened to me in grade school as well.
I kept fighting my need to push the boundaries and the limits of the rules. I kept thinking I was doing something wrong. My self-esteem took a hit. Then I thought, “hey, roll with it”. So, I leaned into it and admitted that I didn’t belong in that kind of environment. From then on, I knew I had to create my own work and have my own voice and not have to ask many people for permission. Doesn’t mean I can’t work on a team, just means that team has to be super collaborative and willing to take a risk. Since then, I’ve found my center and a hell of a lot more satisfaction in the work I do every day.
So, if you’re a filmmaker or series creator who wants to do their own work have their own voice, the one thing I can say is develop a healthy distain for authority. Break some rules, steal some silverware, and make some effing noise. For me, when I started doing that my work got noticed more. People wanted to work with me. At first, I didn’t understand why, then it came to me that was occurring because I was picking a side, taking a stand, defending my position. Suddenly there was more demand for my work.
As you move forward in your filmmaking careers, I beg you do it your way while still maintaining a collaborative approach to the work. Every now and then, pick an intellectual fight. If you have an opinion and you stand by it, your work will get noticed a lot more often than people who are going along to get along. People who try to stay in the middle. People who play it safe. Filmmaking doesn’t reward safe. It rewards the risk takers, the shit-stirrers, and the ones who have something to say.
In the end, find your voice, be yourself, build a great team and by all means, take a towel next time you stay at a hotel.