"If you must play, decide upon three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time."In the comments of one of my previous posts, D (of Dollygrippery) said of our industry, "It can be a little intimidating sometimes, especially starting out, but if you stay at it long enough to earn a good rep and work your way up the ladder it's just like any business." This is true. While there may be one or two guys out there who slip through the cracks of hard labor (whether it be from luck, nepotism, or both), it's no secret that one must "pay their dues" in this town. But even D admits that, "If you reach your 30's and still are slaving away with no retirement plan, living with two other guys, and no insurance, it's time to rethink either your choices or your plan of attack. Something is wrong somewhere." This is also true.
- Chinese Proverb
- Chinese Proverb
Very few below-the-liners want to live the union free life (though some do, but that's an entirely different topic all together). Generally speaking, if you're still toiling away on piece-of-shit indie productions by the time you're thirty, it's pretty safe to say that you're not a homeowner, your retirement fund is on the lean side, and/or if you have kids, you're struggling to put them through college. So if that isn't where you had hoped to be at this stage in your life, would you know when to call it quits?
I agree with D when he says that, "Your twenties, though, are a time for that stuff." If there was ever a time to live without a savings account or ample health insurance, it's when you're young and carefree. But as I slowly (but surely) creep towards the end of my twenties, I have to wonder: If it ever comes down to it, will I know when to walk away?
A large part of me will automatically answer back that I will never walk away. That it's a "Hollywood or Bust!" kind of scenario. I would hate to be one of those people who gave up on their dreams. But on the rational side of things, I'd also hate to be the person who has to move back in with her parents at the age of thirty because she never settled down and got a "real" job.
I know some of you will inevitably provide me with words of encouragement like, "Hang in there kiddo! You'll make it someday," but as kind and thoughtful as those words are, it's time to face the facts. Things have not been good for our finicky industry in the past couple of years. Various strikes, threats of strikes, new media and a bad economy has thrown this business for a loop. Jobs have been few and far between and I have yet to find one grip or juicer who hasn't been feeling the pinch. There's no telling how long it'll be before the next big opportunity comes my way; the one that makes the past few years of eating ramen and earning a barely livable wage worth it.
Sure, a lot can happen this year. Production can magically pick up again, putting everyone back to work. Paychecks and benefits for all! But if one thing's certain in this world, it's uncertainty. Nobody can predict the future.
So when does one say "enough is enough" and calls it quits? At what age do you dust your hands off and walk away? How long should you toil in the trenches before you say, "okay, I gave it my best shot. Now it's time to look for something else and move on?"
All too often, this town of ours is like being caught in an abusive relationship. After a good pummeling, whether it be from a rough few days at work or a dry spell that's gone on for too long, it knows just the right thing to say to lure you right back into its arms. It'll throw a good day or two your way; just enough to fool us into thinking that things will change. That life from here on out will be better. So you stay, but before you know it, the cycle starts all over again.
When shit like this happens, you can't help but ask yourself if you're "paying your dues" or if the Industry Gods are just fucking with you.
In the case of blog reader Desterdo, these kinds of things bothered him a little too much and he left the biz. Michael Taylor commended him for having the strength to do so, saying, "It sounds like you took a good look at the Industry, and made the right decision to leave before getting in too deep." On the other hand, D felt like the guy "lost his nerve a little too early." Two very different opinions from two guys that I respect (and who respect each other as well). As someone with an internal pessimist constantly battling my internal optimist, these kinds of conflicting views make my head go all swirly inside.
At any rate, this low-paying, cup-o-noodles eating, still-in-my-twenties college-esque lifestyle is fine for now (and at times, I gotta admit, it's kinda fun). But unless either my luck or the tide of this industry changes (or maybe a little of both), there will eventually come a point when I'll have to stop and decide if it's time for me to pack up my bags and leave this town. I guess the question that remains now is whether or not I'll realize it when it gets here, or if it'll be too late...