The halls have been decked with the proverbial holly. Lists have been checked, twice. Red suits pressed. Reindeers shoed.
Huge-never-to-be-repeated-all-stock-must-go-(no-really)-sales are in full festive swing.
Resistance is futile. The silly season is upon us once more.
Some people rue this time of year because they’re single or their family’s nuts – or both. For me, this time, especially New Year’s Eve cranks up the volume on my self-doubting voice…
So, this is Christmas – and what have you written, produced, sold?
Another year over and… now what? I’m still writing. Still knocking on doors (okay not that many owing to nappy, sleeping and routine patrol in my house – but that’s another story). But my screenplay idles in its first draft stage – the characters are now giving me the silent treatment until I lavish them with the attention they deserve.
What have you written, produced, sold?
You’d be pissed off too if someone gave you a sparkling life and then put your journey on hold to go and change a nappy – and never came back.
So where was I? Oh yes. Another festive season, another reason to lament and let that inner critic celebrate another year of unsuccess.
Yep. It sucks. Which is precisely what I heard from a very dear friend as she considered throwing it all in – and ending her movie-making dreams once and for all. Goodbye, cruel world.
While I may sound glib, my reaction to her decision was anything but.
This vivacious, tenacious woman* is probably the most driven filmmaker I know. We met a little over two years ago and in this time I’ve watched her write shorts, direct ‘em, edit them, enter them into festivals, sweat over cast (and crew) egos – and still not get the big, shining break we all dream about. I’ve watched her fly with confidence and consoled her when her dreams slipped out of her reach, yet again. It’s been a rollercoaster ride that I’ve enjoyed and suffered vicariously through her. So much so that sometimes I wished she’d give it up to be happy again.
But the other day when she announced,
‘My life sucks. Everything I’ve done has been a waste of time.’
I was desperate to shout her down, hug her and try to talk over her deafening insecurites – surely you know the suckers I speak of.
But she was determined to beat herself up. And as I listened to her destroy the last shreds of confidence, I remembered six little words actress Gillian Anderson uttered in London a few years ago.
My life sucks. Everything I’ve done
has been a waste of time.
I had a free ticket to a ‘masterclass’ Anderson was giving on acting, so I went along – together with a few hundred, breathless X-File spotters.
A few seconds into the masterclass, I was thankful for my freebie. Anderson shuffled onto the stage, head bowed. She fumbled with her bag. Cleared her throat. Perched herself awkwardly on a stool. Apologised for being there. And then proceeded to give a largely unremarkable talk about her career. A wet fish had more presence.
But then it happened…
Someone asked her how she’s been able to stay positive in an industry famed for its knockbacks and her reply redeemed her in milliseconds.
‘Don’t give up before the miracle.’ She said with a quiet strength.
I looked up immediately. Yes! Oh God, it’s a scary concept, not giving up, staying true to your convictions, ignoring the naysayers – but it makes sense. The eleventh hour is a key player in any creative endeavour. Don’t give up before the miracle. Yes.
And so to all of you out there desperate to give up, because it’s too hard, you’ve had enough, you’re a talentless hack anyway (your thoughts, not mine!) allow me to fling a few home truths at you.
Don’t give up
before the miracle.
You just haven’t met the kindred spirits, made the right connections, created the ‘right’ thing. It will happen for you. Whatever ‘it’ is. And that’s the point – showbusiness may not be the world where you will truly make your mark. But nothing is a waste of time. Everything you have ever written, produced, filmed, edited to this day is all part of a fantastic path that’s so perfect for you, it’s impossible to imagine it right now in the middle of your ‘blahs’.
Okay, I’ve come over all evangelical – but it befits the season, don’tcha think? Besides, I believe in this stuff – I’ve seen it play out in my life over and over again.
So this festive season, do a little carol singing. Decorate a tree. Sit on Santa’s knee.
Whatever you do, don’t give up before the miracle. Your dreams are still out there. And all they want for Christmas is, you.
* My friend is still tenacious about her movie-making and back to being her fabulously annoying driven self. Love your work, P.
Writer, producer, presenter Phyllis Foundis has written and bellydanced her way to the tender age of 39-ish. She’s been writing stories, ads, one-woman shows and to-do lists forever. Not so much a budding screenwriter than a scribe that’s bloomin’ ready to see her stories up on the silver screen. Phyllis loves her boys and big, feelgood movies – that appeal to people not funding bodies.