Next week, I turn 23 years old. I know, I know – I’m such a young’un. What wisdom could I possibly have to impart?
I can’t say I have all the answers, but since I graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles last summer, I have learned quite a lot. It’s been a sort of trial by fire, relocating 3,000 miles away from the only home I’ve ever known in order to dive head-first into producing my first feature. While I’ve had my fair share of uncertainty and anxiety these past several months (and continue to do so on a regular basis), I’m also enormously grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. And in honor of getting another year older, I’m collecting a bunch of them here. Some may seem quite obvious, but sometimes it takes a small amount of navel-gazing to see how far you’ve come and what you’ve discovered in the process. Indulge me, if you will.
1. The phrase “I recently graduated from college” generally triggers in others a response of well-intentioned (though annoying) cheek-pinching and cooing. For a while, you’ll be a baby in the eyes of most people you meet. Learn to live with it.
2. For every sizable purchase you make, sock away the same amount of cash in a savings account. You’ll have a good chunk of change in a matter of months.
3. Arrive 30 minutes early and look for free street parking.
4. If you can, live in a neighborhood where you can accomplish most weekend errands by walking. You’ll be spending enough time in the car during the week.
Caveat to 4. Try to live as close to where you work as possible. Commuting in LA traffic is one of the rings of hell. A 6-mile difference between home and work might not seem like a big deal until you’re stuck in rush hour traffic.
5. You’re not in competition with your friends. Support them like a friend should, and they’ll do the same for you. If they don’t, get new friends.
6. It’s going to feel weird (and possibly plunge you into an existential crisis) when the fall arrives and you’re not preparing to head back to campus. Keep yourself busy in September to avoid the post-grad sads.
7. It is a terrible, cruel lie that Disneyland is empty on Black Friday.
8. Push yourself out of your comfort zone as often as possible. If something terrifies you, do it. Unless it has to do with spiders. Then get your roommate to take care of it.
9. Start working on good habits. Eating well, sleeping well, exercising. After 21 days, you’ll find it hard to break the routine.
10. When networking with industry professionals, try being helpful and informative. Email a relevant article, help out on a shoot, read their script. They’ll be more likely to do you a favor in the future.
Caveat to 10. Be sure to make friends with the people you meet. Don’t fake a relationship just to get a few favors out of someone. People will see through it, and you may start to sprout devil horns.
11. Movie theater popcorn is not dinner, no matter how enormous the “medium” might be.
12. If you want to be a writer, write something. If you want to be a producer, produce something. Create your own opportunities to make a thing. It doesn’t have to be great – the goal is to actually make something, which puts you ahead of most others.
13. If you’re spending more time reading industry-related blogs and “gurus” online than actually producing material, you’re doing it wrong.
14. Be mindful of what you say on the Internet, particularly when you’re criticizing a movie/show/person/company. The entertainment industry is remarkably small, and what you say might come back to bite you in the ass.
15. Be mindful of what you say in general to other people working in the industry. Everybody knows everybody, and personal relationships are key in the business. Don’t start burning bridges, at least not until you reach the ripe old age of I-don’t-give-a-fuck.
16. That said, don’t be afraid to have an opinion. Sycophants truly are a dime a dozen, and if you show that you have a brain and can think critically about movies, you’ll be respected for it.
17. Call your parents whenever you get the chance. They may be the only ones to share your excitement over seeing Adam Scott at the Arclight the other day.
18. Accept that you don’t know everything. Eat your humble pie and demonstrate an eagerness and willingness to learn.
19. Be willing to do grunt work and pay your dues (within reason). You might feel that you’re above making coffee for the office, but don’t take the duty as a slight. Make the best damn pot of coffee you can. Be proud of it. You’ll graduate to more interesting tasks soon enough.
20. Always have some business cards on hand and an up-to-date resume. You never know when an opportunity will arise.
21. Measure yourself against the person you were yesterday, not against other people. Try to beat your personal best. Resist the urge to compare yourself with friends and acquaintances, as it only breeds self-loathing.
22. Keeping a journal is a cheap alternative to seeing a therapist. You can learn a lot about yourself by reviewing it regularly.
23. Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. You’re still learning. No one does life perfectly, anyway.