Picture this: you are a small boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes the wind fills your sails and you feel like you’re flying, going far and feeling good. Sometimes you’re becalmed. Sometimes you can see danger coming, like a gigantic cargo ship that could run you over. Or the danger could be unforeseen, perhaps a behemoth whale that will come from beneath and overturn you in a shocking instant. Most of the time you do your best, whatever comes your way, to sail on. That is my new mantra for directing: sail on.
I’m in a dangerous business, where the currents are always hidden and very few speak the truth. Failure is inherent because it’s a subjective business, so there are only opinions and no facts. My success is generally determined by someone else: a network head or the audience that doesn’t tune in. Someone could choose to see my work as a failure due to their own hidden agenda, over which I have no control. There are so many elements at play in directing, from the script to the personalities to the equipment, and each one is an opportunity for an obstacle, whale-size or not. And there are my own internal obstacles: a potential lack in my knowledge, my leadership skills, my creative vision. To claim being a director is to sign up for a challenging life.
And yet, I love it. I embrace it. Oh my god, I feel like the luckiest person on the planet to get to direct episodes of television. It’s so much fun! I am so grateful.
But it’s hard. And sometimes I get knocked down. I don’t get hired back on a show or don’t get hired in the first place. Once I even got fired from a big studio pilot. People tried to console me then by saying that everybody in this business gets fired at some time or another, and that I would learn a lot from the experience. All true, as I have come to find out, but it wasn’t much comfort then.
Now I can look back and see how each obstacle taught me something. Generally the lessons have been about holding on to my creative vision and staying strong. Even now, though I’ve developed a tough skin and feel firmly planted in my self-confidence, I encounter a bump. Someone doesn’t like me or doesn’t like my work. That’s okay, I say to myself, sail on. I won’t quit, I won’t stop doing what I love, I won’t look to anyone but myself for success. Sail on.