I had lunch with a college roommate (now “Dr.” Pete) on Saturday, somebody I don’t see enough of despite living a couple hours away. My senior year, Dr. Pete was nice enough to put me in touch with his sister, a TV producer in New York. I really wanted to make TV and movies, and like many almost-grads, had very little by way of a plan.
Maybe small market TV, maybe apply for a bunch of jobs and move some where exotic (“New York! Los Angeles! Washington… D.C.!”) but do something that would pay me to learn more and get better at making things. And I wanted to do EVERYTHING (except a lot of audio post, you people are nuts) because I really liked everything. Write, shoot, edit, direct, produce and all the trimmings in between. Because that seemed like the most interesting thing, the most fun, and the thing I liked the most.
Dr. Pete’s sister was very nice on the phone. She was a producer on a show you’ve heard of out of New York, and had practical matter-of-fact advice which boiled down to: you will only do one thing, pick it. You could only edit, or shoot, or write, or produce, or direct, or be in lighting, or be in VFX, or makeup, or accounting. “That’s how it works.”
There’re a few moments I can point to in my working life as defining moments, and that was one of them. That moment of “Yeah… I’d really like to do everything. I might not be good at everything, but I want to try a little bit of everything first.”
I went on to put together whatever the “this” is that I do day-to-day, month-to-month, over the last decade. At times I think I should be more of a specialist and focused on one thing, that comes and goes. I always think I’d get awfully bored and much less engaged. And there’re plenty of successful examples of generalists and specialists in the world, I tend to like to do a variety. I like the multiple skillset and our model of project managers who can plug in to different projects in different capacities and exercise a couple muscles. And I should spend some more time focusing (never “just” doing something, all aspects of production are and should be collaborative) on editing, or writing, or shooting, or bookkeeping , etc.
At lunch Saturday Dr. Pete said his sister had been laid off from that same job, seven months ago. She’s currently applying for producer jobs on a different coast, and is applying for high-profile shows that you’ll hear about in a few months. And she should get one of those shows, because she’s really good at the thing she does.