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.
14 thoughts on “October 25, 2019: Fear of Success!”
“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.”
H. D. Thoreau
I agree completely about the particulates in a drink. That is enough to make me gag. Plus I’m not sure the sound of pistachio and coffee would be a good combo.
I kind of wonder if that fear of change in your environment is it deep down evolutionary survival tactic. I look at my parrot, Zoe, and she does not like any changes in her environment at all and it makes her quite nervous. (So the move this weekend should be something.) It makes sense though that changes your environment might mean increased risk to your safety. Anyway, that’s my theory!
I’m going through that now. I’m perilized with fear to put myself out there with my singing. Even a small amount of celebrity can change your life. Not that I’m expecting to be a success at it, I just really love to sing. I don’t know how I would handle negative responses.
When you make your next trip to LA would you have time to go to coffee (or mocha) with a new writer trying to break into the industry? I know your time is very valuable and I understand if you can’t or don’t want to put yourself in that position, but as you said…fortune favors the bold….so I thought I’d ask! Thank you!
Way back in the Y2K days when I was a wanna-be/would-be screenwriter, my agent kept pushing and pushing for me to move from Philadelphia to LA. And I just could not bring myself to do it because of the huge change it would mean for every part of my life. So I put it off and put it off until on one my LA trips I met this amazing woman transplanted from Canada who would not put up with an long-distance relationship, and finally made the jump. In the end, the screenwriting didn’t work out, but we’re still married 20 years later.
I have yet to get used to LA, though!
I have had a lot of changes most of my life, out of my comfort zone; and had to move around a lot, to different cities and countries. They have created a lot of wonderful opportunities and memories for me, made lots of friends and connections. I’ve been lucky.
That’s the advantage of writing novels. All you need is your imagination and this thing with a keyboard and a monitor. But if I did have to move some where….can it please be somewhere with palm trees, high temperatures and plenty of tropical drinks ?
I don’t like bits in my drink either.
For me, I was a stay at home mom for nearly a decade when an opportunity arose for us to move overseas. A new language and life… we ended up going for it and today I’m currently celebrating my 37th birthday in Spain.
It’s a little crazy to think about especially when kids are a factor. Still, I’m glad we jumped in and went for it.
I can’t risk moving to California because, while the companies that have contacted me would provide a middle class lifestyle, I don’t know what happens if we fall below that. We’d have to homeschool because my kids have a need for medical exemptions for certain vaccines but you can’t get those in California anymore. Not having the option of two incomes makes us too vulnerable economically.
And that California has crossed some lines already makes you wonder what fresh tyranny awaits since corporations can so easily control the politicians. It doesn’t seem like a safe place to strand my family. (Needing to leave for economic reasons can often mean you can’t afford to move either.)
When my family moved out of Kentucky, it was into a town where we already had some kin. Having that safety net and intel was invaluable. It is a big risk to move somewhere without that. Some people have the means to weather that risk. We certainly didn’t.
After I finished University in Cape Town, South Africa, I came over to the UK for two years to travel,,,,.25 years later and I have settled in London. Lately I’ve been thinking of moving again, but I don’t feel as brave as I was in my 20’s. If Dark Matter was the result of you taking a chance, maybe I need to push myself.
Sure! Lots of times. A particularly current and on-topic example: I’m learning to write for TV and recently gave a pilot script to a contact in the industry (and working on a spec script sample). Super scary. What if it’s rubbish? What if it’s not…?
I did a lot of conquering uncertainty and facing change (which is hard for me) this year. I retired and moved from a job, home and life I’d been in for over 34 years. No regrets and I’m enjoying a new chapter in my life and also starting to travel to place I’ve never seen before which is exciting!
All you need is your imagination and this thing with a keyboard and a monitor. But if I did have to move some where….can it please be somewhere with palm trees, high temperatures and plenty of tropical drinks ?