paying your dues

You’ve heard the expression. But do you always know what it means?

It’s usually pretty obvious. Don’t expect to start at the top. Everybody starts at the bottom. This is common wisdom my mom has repeated to me more times than I care to admit. She most frequently brings it up when we talk about me finding a really good job. And I guess, for a lot of jobs, this is true and fully to be expected. It’s unreasonable to hope to be hired on as the VP of… whatever. Oh, there are exceptions, of course. There are always exceptions.

And there are jobs that this sort of thinking doesn’t necessarily apply. Like mine, for example. I admit, there’s no real trick to becoming a published writer or produced screenwriter (actually, I think there are some secrets that help with the latter), and I’m not talking about achieving Rowling, Patterson, or King success. There doesn’t seem to be any particular process to follow. A writer writes, then endeavors to sell said writing, then (hopefully) sells it, and umm… gets paid. 🙂

It’s not an especially complicated, climb-the-corporate-ladder sort of career. To be a published writer. (The publishing industry is a little different, of course, and that’s for another time.) For a while now… weeks, months, (years?), I’ve been sort of marching in place in between steps. Writing? Done. Try to sell it? Umm… not… so… much… yet. But I know what to do next, and the only thing in my way right now is me.

But I also want to work in film. That’s my ultimate goal. And that’s much trickier. There are many ways in. Most, however, involve the concept of paying your dues. Hoping to be hired as a director for a multi-million dollar feature film your first time out is not something you should count on. Even hoping to be hired as a director for a no-budget indie is a stretch–though more realistic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it for yourself. Work for yourself, as my mom puts it. Produce your own film. Raise the money yourself–or with a partner or team or whatever. Maybe even direct it, if you’re the best choice. Many of my film school classmates have gone on to do just that. One in particular, Joshua Overbay, recently completed work on a film titled As It Is in Heaven (not to be confused with the 2004 Swedish film of the same name), and by all accounts it’s very impressive. How did he achieve this? Undoubtedly, a ridiculous amount of hard work and perseverance. Another classmate has just launched a web series called Movie Night, and while I haven’t yet seen it, I hope and expect it to be extremely entertaining. There are others, and it both encourages me and fills me with just a teensy bit of film-envy. And impatience. (Like why can’t I do that? Well, I probably could if I set my mind to it.)

It’s no small task to set out to do something like that. And even in a way, it does involve paying your dues. But not in the way I’m used to thinking of it. To me, paying your dues just means to prepare yourself for the long haul. This will not happen quickly, and it will not be easy. It may not even be all that “fun” sometimes. And maybe that’s what it means, ultimately, to pay your dues. Get ready to work hard.

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One thought on “paying your dues

  1. […] not wholly devoted to, in love with, or even particularly like. It was, as maybe I should’ve mentioned on my blog last week, all part of paying your dues in Hollywood. For some of us, it was eye-opening, for others it was a […]

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