Nobody made this point precisely clear when I got to L.A. in 1997.
Nobody said, "Scott, if you try to play it safe and avoid what's really driving you, you can completely and utterly fail at it, and you will have to start over again anyways. Except you will be 45."
The good news is that if someone HAD said that to me, I probably would have been too dumb to listen or understand and proceeded on the same course anyway.
The fact is: I moved to L.A. in 1997 to be an actor. But only a couple of people knew that. I didn't dare tell most people because then I would actually have to DO IT, and I was terrified of acting, of putting myself out there, naked, to be judged. But, man, did I admire people who did it. That really takes balls. It's an odd admixture of qualities to be a male who's sensitive, daring, artistic, manly, feminine, crying a little on the inside, and yet...every time a casting director says, "NEXT!" or "WOW, that was REALLLLLY BAD...NEXT!" They dust themselves off, look in the mirror each morning and say, "You can do this man! There is no evidence of this right now, but you can do it."
That, my friend, is a no joke level of difficulty.
The thing is you have to suck a little bit before you become great. And sometimes you have to suck a lot. And in the case of acting this can be public. It can be humiliating. This is the part that some people -- myself included -- find distasteful. As an old friend said to me yesterday, "Everybody wants to be the hero, but nobody wants to slay the dragon."
In my case, I spent many years in broadcast television machine rooms at three in the morning and edit bays getting as far away from any kind of stage as I possibly could. I didn't know WHY I was doing that at the time, but I do now. And after many years of this, and excellent mentors, I became a colorist (the guy who fixes all the colors and makes things look more beautiful) in Hollywood. I finally had a cool job that paid well. And I had respect. I thought that was all I ever wanted because I had forgotten about the other thing.
But something strange happened over the years when I honed this craft of coloring TV shows.
I realized that no matter how hard I tried or studied, everyone that did my job was always at least twice as good as me. At first it didn't bother me. I just applied myself harder. I worked 80 or 90 hour weeks routinely. But still, many of the technical concepts of the job...I just couldn't quite comprehend or retain.
You see, there are two aspects to being a colorist for reality television shows. One aspect is having a good eye for color and what they call the "matching" of scenes. Two person scenes often have 4 main camera angles. The super wide shot which establishes where they are. The individual close-ups of the faces. And the faces talking to each other in the same shot -- sometimes called a "2-shot." And if these master shots don't all match in terms of hue and brightness it won't matter how well the individual shots are colored because the matching is the most important aspect of being a colorist -- at least -- as far as reality television is concerned.
The other aspect of being a colorist is extremely technical. Example: "Hey Scott! We'd like these 1080i HDCam Master Air Tapes to be 720p copied stat! They have to air in 5 hours!" And...my mind would go blank. How do I do that again?
Cut to me calling my colleague Alex (or my assistant). Now, I'm a pretty smart guy. But every guy that did my job was near-genius level or an ACTUAL genius. That's not me. I can make people laugh and smile. I'm entertaining. I'm a good conversationalist about a wide variety of topics. I can make anyone, in any situation, INSTANTLY feel more comfortable than they did the moment before -- on camera or off. I can get people to say things they wouldn't tell anyone -- not even their best friend. I can bounce a soccer ball on my knee continuously for about 5 minutes. But it does appear that I'm not a genius. So I'd call Alex (or my assistant) in the next room. ACTUAL geniuses.
"Hey, Alex, how do I do the 720p master tape thing again? Do I have to press the thingy and then send house reference signal to the other thingy, and then push the do-hicky?"
Alex: "Hold on. I'm coming over."
And this is how it went.
Every single year.
For 7 years.
But nobody really cared or noticed that much because I was good at the other thing -- coloring. It sucks to be miserably bad at half of your job. For your entire career. For some reason, I had a block with the technical side of the business. I just didn't get it. And what's more: I started to not give a shit about it because it was so frustrating to me.
And then a third thing happened:
I started to really dislike it. The job, that is. I started to dislike being disengaged from people -- the isolation of it. The reason for this is because my whole career started out as a safety measure to protect me from the most terrifying thing I could possibly imagine. Much more terrifying than death.
My dream of being a performer.
When I moved out to L.A. in 1997 I thought that meant being an actor which I have tried a few times. I starred in a play once. A full-length play. I nearly threw up on opening night from the pressure. And in fits and starts this would happen every now and again...the performance thing and then I would quit.
Now, as it turns out, acting was not the thing for me...PRESENTING things is more my style, but I would have arrived at that conclusion a hell of lot sooner if I'd just done the thing I was terrified of.
I wrote this because of the eclipse today.
The eclipse made me do it.
What I'm trying to say is:
You could fail, very badly, at what you don't want. (and I definitely didn't fail badly -- but I did fail).
You might as well do what terrifies you, or what you love, or what sends those little lightning bolts down your spine...or whatever you want to call it.
Do it now. Before it's too late.
Love and Luck,
Scott in Washington, D.C.