Childhood dreams

I loved the film industry and a part of me always will. A part of me will always watch movies with a sparkle in my eye because I see the detail of every shot and the long hours spent in the editing room instead of just a catchy soundtrack and intriguing story line.

For half of my life I wanted to be a movie director but after spending some time in the industry, I realized that family was more important. Actually I always knew that but never believed that it would be that easy for me to walk away from a project simply because my family needed me. There are some people out there who have managed to craft a ‘best of both worlds’ life and figured out how to put the project first without letting their family life suffer too much but I’m not sure I could be one of them.

I know we all have to make a choice between work and friends or family or even our own needs most days, especially when you are in charge. It just seems like a problem to me when practically nothing can happen without your say so and a strict deadline on creativity forces you to spend long hours on a project that you absolutely love…. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, see as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I face the same things in my line of work now but somehow knowing that I have a great team behind me gives me the freedom to enjoy my days of without thinking about sixty million little things I still have to get done before the end of the week.

I’m starting to wonder if it’s more a question of combining your hobbies with work instead of a question about industries. I’m obviously very passionate about my work and can spend hours talking about silly little details most people outside my industry will find excruciatingly boring but it’s not something I dreamed about when I was a little kid. It’s like I still get to discover all the wonderful hidden secrets no one ever tells you about, instead of discovering things I couldn’t see through rose coloured glasses.

I don’t regret my choice to leave the film industry when I did. If I had stayed I would have ended up like many of my smart friends taking part in projects purely as a money factor where creativity is shelved for the benefit of a bottom line. Or if I were lucky, I’d be doing what some of my other friends are doing: artistic projects; these projects that take up 4 months out of their lives where they live and breathe only that while neglecting everything and everyone else in their lives, because if they don’t, quite frankly, they would be disgusted with the end product for the rest of their lives. A few of them have found good people to share their lives with; understanding people but I see the looks on their faces every time they wonder when or even if my friends will even come home that evening… The artistic element can be very addictive and when you’re on a role, time doesn’t play a factor so after a 16 hour shooting day, you’ll end up in the editing room which like a sinkhole will just keep luring you in to do one more scene and before you even realize, the grip is knocking on the door to see if you’re ready for the days shooting to commence. Riveting stuff and as I reminisce I cannot help but grin profusely and I’m sure that if I checked a mirror I’d be able to see a twinkle in my eyes but then I look up at the man of my dreams and I’m glad that I have a slightly more normal schedule.

The hotel industry is not that far removed from the movie business. You still have 24 hours in a day and a whole lot of details to take care of during those short hours. You have 300 strong crew of back of house staff making sure that things run flawlessly behind the scenes. You have actors with basic party lines who get to deliver the same story 20 times a day but you also have a hell of a lot of ad-lib. Your viewers are live and reactive instead of sitting on the other side of a screen but at the end of the day, you have a message you want to convey and still need to be sure that you have all the right actors who can portray your ideals on and off the set. My favourite part of directing, even when we were still in high school and I occasionally got a bit hung up on all the minute details, was still to spot talent and develop them into stars. Sure, now I do it with long conversations over coffee at 3am in a hotel ballroom instead of with a mega phone in one hand a camera in the other but the rush is still there. Seeing someone be the best they can be and knowing that somehow you helped them get there is amazing even if the rest of the world never get to know about it. The rush of sudden changes due to weather or people calling in sick when you really can’t afford to waste time with substitutions; pushing every single member of your team further than they thought they could go; knowing about every single movement on your huge set and dealing with an ever changing market is just a few of the similarities that gives me confidence in my career change.

I think in the end it just comes down to knowing why you love something. I use to think I loved the film industry because I could already see myself thanking the academy until someone [ a film magnet at the time] called me on it during a lecture and at first I wanted to let it slide without saying a word but all of a sudden I found myself standing up and saying how fame, power and money was never part of my game plan and how it all came down to sharing thoughts and ideas and the looks on my crew members faces at the end of a long day as we all acknowledge that somehow we managed to do the exact things everyone including the studio told us we would never be able to achieved. I stood up to this guy with years of experience and knowhow and basically told him that I’m so confident in my abilities that I don’t care if anyone ever watches any of my films, as long as I get to help others make their dreams reality…

I haven’t thought about it in years, maybe because I was afraid that I would end up doubting my decisions but yesterday one of my friends asked me about it because she doubted hers. She wants to be an actress or at least a part of her wants to be an actor. It’s this exact thing that originally made us enemies/ friends way back when. I always believed she’d be great at it, mostly because I got to see how her face lights up when she first discovers a character and starts forming mannerisms in her head. The biggest problem with that industry in South Africa is the money situation, it is a lot better now than it was merely 3 years ago because our government decided to give an influx of money to up and coming stars but it’s still not to be compared to Hollywood. I’m sure if I told you that South Africa has one of the oldest film industries in the world, you’d have trouble believing me, truthfully when I look at our international exposure I’d agree with you. It’s only when I look around and see the incredible talent and watch movies we made 30 years ago that I can’t help but stand back and admire how much talent our little country has. I would love to tell my friend that she should finally stop caring what everyone else is expecting of her and start living her life but it’s never that simple.

She has just finished her honours in a degree that will allow her ample possibilities so she feels obligated to get a high paying job and give her parents a return on investment so to speak. The fact that she was the head-girl of our high school and valedictorian (which usually never happens) and played first team hockey and did long distance running and her parents were active members in school activities means that a lot of people who never bothered to get to know her expects certain things from her. If I could, I would kick all of their asses and tell her that it’s not worth living your life by someone else’s rules. But this is not my place and because I’ve been there, I know how scary it is when you are taking a leap of faith; I definitely don’t want to be the one to shove her of the ledge while she’s still getting ready to jump…

But then again: I am her friend. Sitting by and watching her wonder for the next 20 years is not something I can live with either, so I’ve decided to call up a few of my old colleagues and introduce them to her, nothing big that will force her to make a commitment to the arts but enough for her to figure out if she likes the prospect of being an actress for the right reasons or simply because she use to.

Letting go of our childhood dreams is never easy but being able to replace them with something better and more fulfilling is what allows me to smile when I consider my ‘failures’…

Sharing my view,

AM

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