If, on the day before your birthday, you find yourself driving around in your cousins' Jeep at 9:00 a.m. on a weekday downing two cups of coffee, 1/2 a tuna sandwich, 1/2 a bagel with cream cheese and an apple fritter--in less than 30 minutes--and, at one point, literally driving around in circles in the Shop-Rite mall's gigantic parking lot (where said fritter consumption occurred before circling back home), you are in deep shit.
(That's me and my sister--the Peanut--in front of the childhood manse in a much more innocent, bucolic time. Maybe I should get bangs again.)
I've been an independent producer/writer (freelancer, whatever you want to call it) for years, decades, even. I know the drill. Long periods of drought, nothing much going on, and then a nice chunk of work comes through for several weeks, maybe even a few months, if you're lucky. You work on something cool with really cool people. You learn a lot. And then when that fallow period hits, it's all right because you've got some loot in the bank, the weather's great and there are eight film festivals to attend in the next three weeks and your swag inventory is low. Or you just decide to strap on a backpack and go explore something.
I'm finding myself in a hell of my own making (apparently) and thought this would be a good time to reflect on finding myself where I do, close on two years after moving back to New York to kick ass and have a cocktail or two with the mayor. But New York is a solid town; it's been around a while as a world leader and hot spot for artists and it basically doesn't give a fuck if you show up. Get in line.
I'm not young, I'm not rich (or have parents who are), I didn't go to Tisch or Columbia or The New School; I'm an arriviste, but a bit too late to the dance. There is no earthly reason why I should work my ass off for so long, making about $20K over the course of two years, tops, and not have anything to show for it.
Yes, I've made bad financial and lifestyle decisions (moving to an overpriced loft in Bushwick, ahem), and invested way too much in "business development" (loosely translated as going through most of your personal funds to be where the action is--or where the action you think you want to be a part of is--or something like that). My mother told me over the phone a couple of weeks ago that she and my father were very concerned about what was going to happen to me when they were no longer around. This is just horrible, really.
But I've traveled and worked in Dubai, London, Oxford, Tehran, Helsinki, Italy, Greece, and Damascus in less than a year. Hey, I even lived in Fort Greene for a while, not too shabby. And I've met loads of people I was thrilled to meet and relished the pleasure of them knowing my face and name, in return. I hang out with Janet Maslin, for goodness' sakes, at the beautiful Jacob Burns Film Center several times a month where she interviews the super stars of the independent film world and where the audience, appropriately, gushes at the opportunity to sit in the same room with people who shine. I've spent a lot of time doing that, too. I've honed a distinctive voice that resides in the ether of the Internet and is there to be read for the lucky sods who stumble upon it, and thank you from the bottom of my cold, black heart to all those who've let me know that I have fans. That's really nice to hear.
As a birthday present to myself, I went ahead and filled out and submitted an application to a very prestigious place for a residency, feeling (on a good day) that I might have a shot at a spot there along with all those other incredibly talented people that go and do their creative thing. Mailed off this morning.
But I'm also fucking lonely and want more than anything to work with people again. I adore my own company, but enough is enough. And, I want to be paid for my talents and my efforts. Not a lot, but, my god, something. I'm not a charity case. Oh, but wait a minute, apparently I now am. And, honestly, I want the hell out of suburbia. New York City needs me. And think of all the Stranger Than Fiction screenings I'm missing; it's a crime.
Being whipsawed between Pollyanna optimism that my golden goose is going to come waddling around the corner any minute and dire despair that I'm a middle-aged wash-up that will be working at 7-11 when I'm 86 (not that there's anything wrong with that--go, granny) is probably something that most people go through. Most thinking people, anyway. Why am I spending my life chasing after quixotic dreams at my age? Why am I still slogging through all alone? Why am I broke--again?
To paraphrase Peter Wintonick when he said, "Don't ask what your local film festival can do for you; ask what you can do for your local film festival": Don't ask what a film blogger can do for you; ask what you can do for a film blogger.
Meanwhile, I'll keep wearing my T-shirt that says, "Will review, praise and/or draw attention to your work of genius for the sheer love of it." Matching undies sold separately. Happy birthday to me.