I am happy where I am.
Just now I’m in Nashville, directing the eponymous show, and in my free time talking with area college students. I am invariably asked if I wish that I directed movies. The subtext I take from that is, “It’s all well and good that you’re directing TV, but don’t you wish you directed a MOVIE? It’s the height of the profession, you could be an auteur instead of a hack, don’t you want to see your name on the big screen?” They seem disappointed when I say no, I’m happy where I am.
Firstly, I get to do what I love all the time. I get to direct. A feature director may be lucky to direct every three years or so, after spending grueling months grubbing for cash and cast. I am privileged (and grateful for it) to join multiple film families, get to play in their sandbox, and emerge with a well-told story in a finished product. Eleven of them this year. How great is that???
Secondly, I AM making movies. I’m directing a script with a beginning, middle and end, using the exact same process as any feature director. The budget is $3-5 million. I’m supported by a complex structure including a distributor (the network), a production entity (studio) and a company consisting of individuals who all contribute their best efforts to help me tell a story. We call it TV but that is the box (or laptop or phone) on which you watch it. When we watch a visual story in a shared experience such as a movie theatre, our culture respects it more. But have you really paid attention to narrative episodes of TV lately? Amazing stuff. They are movies, shot in eight or nine days, with great stories, phenomenal production value, and heartfelt performances.
Lastly, it’s my choice to be happy. Back when I was an Associate Producer, responsible for post-production, I wondered whether I should just stay where I was rather than strive for a higher goal. I was a good AP, I reasoned, and perhaps that was the peak of my abilities. Americans are conditioned to continually reach up, push beyond the status quo, and maybe that’s all it was for me, rather than an organic move to stretch creatively. But I chose to reach up and have been blessed to continue as a television director. After a few years of that, the conditioning made me ask, “Okay, I’ve kind of mastered this directing thing. Shouldn’t I want more? Shouldn’t I want to direct movies?” I thought about it a lot. And I realized that, in addition to the factors above that were an influence, I could choose to be happy where I was or I could yearn for something that I didn’t have, which would make me feel incomplete and unhappy. It seemed clear. In every day, in every minute, in every situation, I had a choice.
So I choose to be happy. Right where I am.