Every once in a while, I’ll go out for coffee (usually some variation of mocha in my case) with writers, directors, and fellow producers – some seasoned, others somewhat less experienced looking for advice or insights into this oft-perplexing industry. I’m always happy to do it (I love fancy chocolate-themed coffee beverages!) and if what I have to say proves useful to them, then all the better. Especially if they eventually land that big Amazon deal and need a consulting producer to come by the writers’ room to test the fancy finger sandwiches.
This afternoon, while chatting over pistachio lattes (which, frankly, sound a lot better than they actually are. I’m not a fan of particulates in my drinks.), my conversation partner attributed their lack of creative progress to the possible fear of success. My initial thought was “There’s no such thing!” but, upon further consideration, I realized it IS a thing. And it’s something I’ve experienced.
I thought back to my first big break on Stargate: SG-1. My then writing partner and I had been given the opportunity to pitch and, ultimately, write a script for the series with the understanding that if we did a good job, we could end up on staff for the show’s fourth season. I remember thinking that if they didn’t love the script, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We would, at the very least, acquire a fantastic writing credit. If, on the other hand, they liked the script…well, that would prove a blessing and a curse. We would land a HUGE gig – that would require us to upend our lives and move to the other side of the country. It was a huge commitment that I wasn’t all that sure I wanted to make at the time.
I faced a similar dilemma after Dark Matter was picked up and I discovered that it would be shot in Toronto instead of Vancouver. After 17 years, Vancouver had become my home, and I wasn’t keen on uprooting myself and moving (back) to the other side of the country, working with a totally new crew, especially given the fact my last experience shooting in Toronto had proven somewhat…less than positive.
Ultimately, it’s not fear of success. It’s fear of the uncertainty that success may demand. Most of us are creatures of habit who take comfort in the familiar: family, friends, co-workers, home. Even those of us who may be up for a little adventure are happy to stray out of our comfort zones provided we can always make a quick return. That’s a lot harder to do when you’re in a new city, working on a new job with new people.
But, as they say, fortune favors the bold. In my case, I moved away from my hometown of Montreal, and everything and everyone I knew, to pursue an incredible opportunity with Stargate. It was difficult at first and sacrifices were made, but I can say in hindsight that it was the right choice. In much the same way that leaving Vancouver for Toronto to shoot Dark Matter was the right choice.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty damn comfortable in Toronto and would love nothing more than to showrun another series here. On the other hand, if a terrific opportunity presented itself in the familiar surroundings of Montreal or Vancouver, though not ideal, I would take it.
On the other other hand if a terrific opportunity presented itself in unfamiliar surroundings, I would certainly consider it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll grow to love L.A. or Louisiana. Or Ireland or Bulgaria.
Have any of you faced similar career dilemmas? Do tell.