If you’re a regular peruser of this blog, then you know I love to share my career faux pas, in the hope that you won’t make the same mistakes. Or if you do, that you’ll be able to laugh about them, too. So first let me say that it’s been a great summer. Thunderstorms. Drinking wine in an orchard. Breaking a new script. Partnering with an exec to pitch a kids’ show. Asking two writers well above my pay grade to read my new script (and they did!). Wandering around Paris and Prague…like Carrie Bradshaw’s awkward stunt double. A few blogs ago, I told you that I would focus on creating unstoppable career momentum and I did it by stretching for BIG GOALS.
Which leads us to the 2018 ABC Talent Showcase and MY MOST SPECTACULAR MISTAKE so far.
Los Angeles is a magical place. Sometimes, it seems like an ethereal realm where anything is possible. You can get your dream job, see your favorite celebrity order coffee right in front of you (You guys! Carrie-Anne Moss opens doors just like us!), meet industry people who want to talk about your scripts, and get a last-minute invite to an event that leaves you standing on the curb outside the Samuel Goldwyn Theater when an SUV pulls up and Lena Waithe steps out, nods at you and goes inside. (Side note: I did not grab her ankles and beg to be her BFF…but it was really close.) It’s true many wonderful, extraordinary things are possible here, but the universe is egomaniacal at maintaining balance, so all that good stuff that’s possible? It’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad twins are all here, too. And every once in a while, you come face to face with one of them.
At the start of the summer, I heard about an opportunity to write scenes for aspiring actors to perform for ABC execs during its annual in-house showcase, and I was in! I am a huge fan of the network’s shows, especially the way they portray families and the challenges they face in a world that values followers over fam.
I set the goal: Write and submit 3 scenes to the ABC Showcase.
The calendar showed 12 days until the submission deadline on May 20. I got to work, sketching out, acting out, and ultimately trashing enough scene ideas to fill a food truck…which I was also visiting way too often!
It was challenging and scary, but by 3pm on May 20, I had 3 scenes that were worthy to be read by ABC execs. I spent the next couple of hours navigating the submission process, which involved writing a resume, getting recommendations, signing online releases, registering the scenes, setting each scene’s cover page to their requirements, and then assembling the whole shebang into their preferred email format. I was tired and hungry and incredibly nervous. But it felt so good to have accomplished this goal!
I hit SEND. That was Thursday.
The weekend passed in a blur of joy, reading, recharging my creative battery, and celebrating that no matter what the outcome, I had achieved something new and awesome…a new level of momentum.
On Sunday, the email bounced back.
That’s right. In my exhaustion, I had mistyped the email address and even though I still had 3 hours until the deadline, the message continued to attempt reaching its destination for the next 48 hours, until the showcase deadline was past. I was devastated. I was a child whose double-scoop chocolate ice cream cone has just landed on the ground. And the worst part, I was the one who had dropped it.
You’ve all been there, right? The moment in the aftermath when we cry and rage and vow that’s it. Never again! We are quitting this ridiculous nuttery! I wanted to do anything to go back in time and get a do-over. Instead, I focused on what I could do to regain that momentum. I wrote a mea culpa email (and I quadruple-checked the damn address) explaining my mistake and asking the ABC gods of benevolence to include me anyway. It’s an impossible request to make in an “everything’s possible” town.
But guess what? A month later, I got a confirmation…they were going to review my materials. This doesn’t end with me announcing that I was chosen. They haven’t made their decision yet, but that wasn’t the big goal, was it? The goal was to write and submit 3 scenes that would get read by ABC. And I did it! That’s momentum!
Now, you may be sitting there reliving your worst moment thus far in your fledgling career, so have a cookie, and listen while I tell you what you’re going to do. Ready?
You’re going to do the exact same thing you were going to do before IT happened. Whatever IT is, it no longer matters. Go back to your plan, task list, color-coded flow chart, or balled-up napkin drawing of stick figures holding Oscars, and do the next thing.
It may feel like your brain is encased in cement. It may look bleak from under your desk or bedcovers or latest issue of Cookie Monthly, but get up goddamnit and shuffle forward. Look up, not down. Look toward that shining goal ahead of you. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur) sees it as a lighthouse that never tumbles into the sea. Our goals are out there on the horizon and whether we believe it or not right now, every step (even if it is a stumble) gets us closer. Just focus on what you can do, THEN DO IT.
It’s impossible to avoid having another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but I can guarantee that the next one won’t be caused by a mistyped email address.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’m going to go say hello to veteran actor Robert Pine (C.H.I.P.S.) as he walks his tiny dog because this is Hollywood and anything can happen.
Question: What is your biggest mistake so far? What did you do to move forward?