CRA-ZEE

I was once interviewed to work on a movie that is very, very famous by a very, very famous producer who was so crazed on cocaine that this person not only screamed at two assistants in the office during our interview but barely sat down behind his/her (I am not revealing gender) desk or in his/her chair during the entire interview.

Right around this time an Oscar nominated writer friend of mine was in a meeting with a top studio executive who, each time he/she tried to punctuate a point, heaved a basketball he/she was playing with behind his/her desk at my writer friend  — who was female, by the way, not that it really matters cause she could probably catch a basketball better than me.  Which she did from said producer.  In fact, I asked her – what did you do when you caught it?  Her Answer:  I threw it back, of course.

I didn’t get the job on said movie (thank goodness, the producer and director were apparently a nightmare) and my friend’s meeting never brought her a deal to write the movie she was pitching.  This is not surprising.  Contrary to popular belief – really CRAZY people seldom provide prospective employment or breaks to those of us seeking them.  And in the rare times they do – you often wish that they hadn’t.

I bring this up right now because every year some of my students find themselves working in offices with especially “crazy” people.  I don’t mean difficult and demanding.  I mean CRA-ZEE.  How do you define cra-zee?  See above two paragraphs.

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Difficult and demanding are okay.  A little crazy is okay too.  What is not okay is CRA-ZEE.  Ever.

Here’s what CRA-ZEE people, particularly in the entertainment business, like to do.  They like to tell young people that if they can’t deal with the impossibly impossible toxic environments said CRA-ZEE person creates, that they don’t belong in the entertainment business.  They like to tell young people that their dreams are impossible to achieve if they can’t suck it up and take constant or even sporadic abuse or harassment or “just joking that you’re taking the wrong way.”  They like to promise nice and wonderful things in a moment of weakness and then pull the rug out from under a young (or even older) person for a myriad of personal reasons that have nothing to do with the person whose balance they have just messed with.  They might not do this on purpose (or they might, depending on the level of cra-zee).  But that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that they can do this at any given moment at what appears to be the least provocation.

Advising everyone to STAY AWAY from these people at any costs might seem obvious given what we know about contemporary mental health.  Or even ill-advised given what we fear about the current job market and chances for advancement in the business we call show.  But after spending all my life in the biz, this much I can tell you – No good will ever come from associating yourself with the CRA-ZEE.  To you or your psyche.

Now let’s be clear – this is not the same thing as paying your dues with difficult people or doing a series of jobs you might feel unworthy of your vast “talents.”  I bring this up because of a NY Times article this week on a lawsuit filed by two former college interns against Fox Searchlight.  Essentially one of these interns, a student from Wesleyan who interned in the production office on “Black Swan” (wow – I’d like to have done that) was complaining about not getting any dollar salary this time.  Of course, part of the internship agreement is that the “pay” is college credit for your labors (as you would receive if you were in a classroom doing intellectual labor) and all of the experience you can garner by having an inside seat into the production process of a film that, as it turned out, was one of the biggest financial and critical success of the year, if not the decade.

But on closer inspection, I couldn’t help but feel that “pay” was only part of the complaint (that’s the cra-zee part, as opposed to the crazy).  Said student seemed particularly angry that during the internship his duties consisted of “getting coffee, setting coffeemaker, cleaning and preparing the production office” etc. etc. Well, as an advisor to hundreds of students in internships over the years to that I say – did you get to observe other aspects of the production?  Was EVERYTHING done behind closed doors?  Did you have no opportunity to talk to or observe anyone having to do with the film at all?  Did you not get to read and review any documents associated with the production?  Did you never get to speak to ANYONE at all on the film?  And mostly – were you in a position that was difficult and demanding (not so much for what your job was but for what your job wasn’t on the surface) OR were you put into an environment that was CRA-ZEE that was run by CRA-ZEE people who treated you CRA-ZEE-LY?

If it wasn’t any of the above CRA-ZEE and just merely crazy, I say to said Wesleyan student– welcome to the dues paying biz, bud.  It sucks but we’ve all been there and live in the real world.  And consider the fact that – if you don’t cotton to the idea of putting in time learning to do what you want to do without getting paid – then this business might just not be for you.  Because any writer, producer or director will tell you that they create and do lots of work on their own for which they might never get paid for.  It sucks.  It’s not fair – but as Roxie Hart says in Chicago – “That’s showbiz, kids.”

Get to work, interns!

In no way, shape or form take this to mean that I don’t want every one of my students to get paid for the internship work they do.  But I also want world peace, single-payer health care and the head full of hair I had when I was 21.  None likely will happen even though technology has made it possible for me to get that head of hair if I want to look like Nicholas Travolta Elton John Cage, which I don’t.

Bottom line is – we live in a capitalist society in recession and you take the work experience where you can get it.  College is one of the times in life where your number one goal needs to solely be gaining knowledge – not making money. (Hopefully, all of life is about this – and to some extent it should always be number one – but I’m making allowance for those who think differently).

Yes, if you were my student and you were ONLY in a room making coffee and doing the dishes, I’d tell you to leave, because that would qualify as CRA-ZEE.  But don’t mistake the CRA-ZEE for the insanely difficult and demanding.  Because part of what you’re learning by being put in these kinds of situations is how to navigate the shark-infested difficult and demanding waters and not wind up being CRA-ZEE or inflicting the CRA-ZEE on yourself (or others).  That might seem CRA-ZEE, but actually – it’s merely life.  Which is crazy enough on its own.

Will It Get Better?

This week I had intended to talk about something else but sometimes life gets in the way.

This week an American soldier got booed and scorned publicly at a political debate for asking a question.

This week yet another young person – in this case a 14 year old boy in Buffalo, New York – killed himself because he could no longer take the relentless bullying he endured at both his school and from his online community.

This week I publicly acknowledge – both of these events are connected because both of these young men (certainly compared to me they’re young) are (in the case of the 14 year old it’s “were”) gay.

Stephen & Jamey

This week I thought about a famous quote:  “People get the governments they deserve.” (FYI, it’s been attributed to everyone from French philosopher Alexis deTocqueville to 60s Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and is usually intended to those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy).

This week I decided that what is important is not who said it (or any variation of it) and in what context, but rather

  1.  Is it true?  – and –
  2. Can it be applied to other areas in life?

This week I decided – the answer is – “yes.”  To both 1. and 2.

This week there are two clips I must ask you to watch and listen to.

The first is from Anderson Cooper and centers on the 14 year-old Buffalo boy, Jamey Rodemeyer.  It features footage of Jamey doing an “It Gets Better” you tube video just four months ago to encourage other gay youth to stick it out and not feel bad about themselves.  It also features footage from a right wing evangelical Christian leader proclaiming that a. bullying is merely part of growing up, and b. the opinion of a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives noting the “gay problem” and the legitimizing of this group in mainstream society is a more serious problem in this country than terrorism.  [On the latter point, I couldn’t help but think of this as the “Jewish problem” many Germans talked about pre-World War II and wondered if this Congressperson (her name is Sally Kern) was pondering some similar “Final Solution” to take care of what she sees as our current problem.  She needn’t worry in the case of Jamey – he found said solution without her.]

Watch the entire video here

The second is a short clip from the Wednesday night Republican candidates debate when Stephen Hill, a young soldier who, thanks to the recent overturn of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” respectfully by Skype (or maybe it was on a pre-tape) came out as gay and instantly gets booed.  He soldiers on (as our men and women in uniform do) and asked the candidates across the board whether they would reinstate said policy.  Needless to say, Sgt. (or Soldier?) Hill did not receive the public support or even answer he had hoped for.

And the second video here.

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This week I was reminded of something I’ve known for a long time but sometimes choose to forget because I have a pretty good life free of this insanity – the booing of this soldier, who is far more brave than I will ever be, and the fact that not one candidate on that stage spoke up to chastise the audience for booing a man of uniform in a time of war, is undeniably connected to the toxic atmosphere that pushed young Jamey to his death and will push other young Jameys to the same fate in the coming months and years.

Can we do better?

This week I acknowledge that it’s a lot more fun and entertaining to talk about film and television and why they’re great or why they suck and what this says about us as a society and how artists can make a difference in the world.

And how you can be a great artist.

And how you can fight all the self-doubt.

And how we all have a lot more in common on that score than we are all willing to admit.

And how, as a wise person who at one point I didn’t particularly like but then actually grew to like very much told a group of people I was in from all economic backgrounds and from all over the country that — “you’re more alike than you’re different.”

This week I’m particularly thinking about this last quote and wondering whether it is really true.  Because unless I’m mistaken, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sally Kern and her kind don’t feel this way at all and, in fact, are looking at their own “solution” to some of what (or whom) they consider society’s problems.

This week I’m considering whether I bear at least part of the responsibility for not speaking up (and doing) more when something like this happens.

As some of you have been nice enough to say – I do talk a good game.   But this week I have decided to take whatever brains, talent and cleverness I have (limited though it might sometimes be) to work on a new project that will try to change things in a more active way.  (More on that at some future date).

This week I’m hoping that – in whatever small, big or in-between way you can see fit – that you can take some small or larger action and try to do the same.  Because in no way, shape or form do I think or believe this week represents who we are.  Or – what we deserve.

Hashtag City

Jump the shark:  a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

Origin of this phrase comes from a “Happy Days” episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on water skis. This was labeled the lowest point of the show.

 – Urban Dictionary

Nice jacket.

Little did University of Michigan college roommates Jon Hein and Sean J. Connolly know that when they came up with the term jump the shark in the late seventies as code for when their favorite TV shows began to decline, they would really be coming up with a phrase to describe the decade of the 2010’s — as in 2010, 2011, and any other year in our foreseeable future.  And I’m not talking solely entertainment here, but politics, money, possessions, friends, family and pretty much anything else in the public (or even private) discourse.

  •  You can’t just be someone’s friend – you need to be their bff.
  •  It’s not enough to be against an opposing political party’s president – you need to see him “fail.”
  •  You can’t just have vampires do the killing (and have passionate sex) on “True Blood” – it now needs to be demons from beyond; ghosts jumping into human throats and inhabiting our bodies; werewolves; shape shifters; faeries (including the storybook kind) and any and all combinations of the above.

(Note:  The latter is one of my fave TV shows that I fear as gone the route of the water ski).

Feel free to fill in your own examples in the world of — (need some help?):

Love – the MOST ELIGIBLE BACHELOR(ETTE) in the world with whom each year I can fall in love within the shortened season of a reality show.

Possessions – THE ULTIMATE EXTREME HOME MAKEOVER both on TV and off

Lifestyles – The BEST food I ever ate recommendation to your friend and on the Food Channel.

Family– Here is the SISTER/BROTHER/FATHER/MOTHER you never knew who society tells you you can easily access from numerous sites on the web.

Where will it stop?  Well, the cool thing about shark jumping is there is no limit to how over-the-top, awful or even just relentlessly annoying it can be.  So if you appreciate creating excess or just indulging it, you’re set for life.  But the bad part of it is – once you make that jump, the overall quality of that piece of “entertainment” (or subject, for that matter) takes a grand nosedive downward in quality, never be regained again.

Am I talking about the U.S. in 2011?  Or has this blog simply jumped the shark? On both counts — God, I hope not.

Oh, speaking of God – He or She might have been wondering aloud if our rhetoric jumped the shark a few nights ago when HE/SHE was (undoubtedly) watching the Tea Party sponsored Republican candidates debate.  Now, I’m admittedly a liberal and a bit of a cynic (a somewhat lethal psychological combination, I confess) but even my conservative friends (all two of them – oh, come on – I’m kidding!) were taken aback to hear the audience cheering, whooping and hollerin’ when Texas Governor Rick Perry gleefully proclaimed his state executed 234 death row inmates.  Yes – cheers.

But that was nothing compared to the moment when CNN moderator Wolf Blizter challenged uber Libertarian Ron Paul when Paul proclaimed, “the whole idea we have to take care of everybody” is hogwash.  When Blitzer followed up with what to do with a person who was in a near fatal accident who was in the hospital and uninsured, and asked, “Are we to let them die?” even the deity HER/HIMSELF might have been taken aback when more than a few in the audience again cheered, screamed “yes” and gleefully began to shake their heads in agreement.

Click to watch the full video

Has political rhetoric jumped the shark?  (Colbert excluded). Well, if it hasn’t already then what exactly do we have to look forward to in the coming decades?

All this was followed yesterday with a news story that US student SAT scores were the lowest in the country since they’ve been measured over three generations. I don’t blame any of the young people.  (Disclaimer:  I didn’t have great SAT scores either so I’m not sure it’s the ULTIMATE measure of anything).   It is easy to not aspire to math, intellectual reasoning or even reading when you look around and most of what you see goes against intellect and thoughtfulness and instead favors emotional outburst and callousness.

(Further disclaimer:  Certainly liberals are not guiltless in how they categorize certain Tea Party rhetoric and demonstrators either.  I won’t repeat the epithets here, you know what they are).

Since this all started with the world of entertainment I began to think of why the shark is jumped in the first place.  I guess it’s because there are only so many ideas you can come up with for a single subject or set of people.  For instance, in retrospect I don’t blame the producers of  90s TV show “Mad About You” for giving proverbial career couple Paul Resier and Helen Hunt a kid any more than I blame the producers of the 70s sitcom “Rhoda” for marrying perennial single unlucky-at- love girl off to her prince charming construction foreman (though they did divorce sometime later, at which time the show jumped the shark for the second time, if that’s possible).

But if I give them that mulligan, they can’t blame us for pointing out that just because you create wonderful entertainment, or have great ideas, it doesn’t mean everything you do has to be met with superlatives.  That would be personal shark jumping and we each have the responsibility to avoid it.

So take the example of a director I admire, David Lynch.  He is a director known for being ahead of his time in his choice of material and blazed the way for innovation only to see generations (yes, now it’s plural) come after him in homage, imitation and shark jumping of his bizarre, inimitable style.  In true Lynchian fashion in the nineties, when his sensibilities were at the apex of popularity, Lynch drew back and did a film called “A Straight Story,”  a pretty much plain story about a kind of weird guy (hey, it’s Lynch) going cross country on a lawnmower to visit his dying brother one last time.  No little people, no cryptic dialogue, not really any sex or violence at all.  When Lynch was asked what happened he widely replied the most subversive thing he could do at that point in his career was to make a film that was totally traditional.  This, of course, didn’t stop him from returning to great bizareness with the much lauded “Mulholland Drive” but also didn’t prevent even him from jumping the shark in memorably grand style with the deadly, derivative and indecipherable “Inland Empire” just a few years ago.

But there is a difference between entertainment and real life, from what I can tell.  But only, however, if we can tell what that difference is.  That brings us to reality.  Television.

Anyone who watches “Project Runway,” among the big 5 megahits the genre has ever spawned, can report that when it crowned last year’s winner it came close to its own shark jumping, while this year’s truly awful and unimaginative designers have finally sealed the deal with unrelenting bitchiness that not even us gay guys can cozy up to (Uh, I took a survey).

Not even he can make it work.

Will “Dancing with the Stars” jump the shark this season with transgender contestant Chaz Bono or will it be like (as someone at the Emmy nominated writing panel I went to pointed out last week) Shelly Long leaving “Cheers” and, instead of jumping the shark, the show created Kirstie Alley’s character and bought another 7 years of original programming (this was before she jumped the shark as a personality post Jenny Craig commercials).

Certainly it really doesn’t matter –except for the fact that reality TV is a hybrid between entertainment and, don’t laugh, real life.  It covers social issues and actual human beings (most/SOME celebrities are human).  You know it’s true because this season’s DWTS will bombard you with transgender rights the same way you were forced to deal with nudity when an “American Idol” contestant was disqualified for her naked pictures or Vanessa Williams was stripped of her Miss America crown in the 80s when her naked photos were exposed (I can bring it up the latter because we know who got the last laugh).

We have an obligation to look forward to innovation, as many politicians proclaim, rather than shark jumping with the same old reality and TV show cast.   We also have an obligation to look forward rather than jump the shark backwards as network TV so desperately wants you to do this season.

As evidence to the latter I offer this — “Mad Men” reinvented our view of the sixties and hasn’t jumped the shark yet – but you will soon be treated to some godawful shark jumping to the thematic subject of the 60s and 70s in the new TV lineup with the likes of “The Playboy Club,” and “Pan Am” and “Charlie’s Angeles” (I prescreened them for you, don’t bother).  Don’t they know the reason “Mad Men,” which I will AGAIN tell you was turned down by EVERY MAJOR NETWORK numerous times, was a hit was not because of the period setting (we writers call it the “gift wrapping”) but the originality and uniqueness in its storytelling??  Right, I guess not.

I haven’t left out movies of 2011. But as an avid  moviegoer I just prefer not to dwell on them.  Let me just mention some 2011 titles as “The Green Lantern,” “Arthur” and “Pirates of the Caribbean 23” and say I’m always a little happier when the fall movies open.  Still, we all fear, if we’re honest, the shark that calls itself the movie business began its approach jump three decades ago and has yet to recover.

The question is – when is going too far considered shark jumping and not innovation and when is imitation considered shark jumping and not homage?  You can’t answer that one as easy as you can an SAT question.  It takes study, intellect,  thought and analysis mixed in with all those feelings – the combination of which is not too valued in our shark jumping culture.  At least for now. #hereshoping #maybejustforme #bewarethejump

The Nutty Professor

Once upon a time in the eighties I was over a friend’s pool lounging in the sun and listening to an Eddie Murphy comedy album.  Why?  Well, this friend of mine had just worked on an Eddie Murphy movie and they had enough of a love-hate relationship that he had an advance copy and we figured, why not?  Then I heard it – the joke.

I don’t know whether to repeat the joke because that gives it more credence.  So I’ll paraphrase.  Mr. Murphy was on a comic roll and mentioned AIDS and how scary it was at the time.  Then he made this off-handed remark about not dropping your wallet in a gay neighborhood for fear that you’d have to bend over, pick it up, risk getting AIDS and basically dying.

I didn’t find the joke funny at all then and find it even less so now.  Especially since the friend whose pool I was lounging around at the time is now dead of AIDS and has been for, oh, about 15 years.   And Mr. Murphy, who I don’t know but somehow still resent, seems to be flourishing.

Eddie Murphy was announced as the host of this year’s Oscars and for the first time in, oh, 40 years, I doubt I’ll be watching.

Have you lost your damn mind?

Is this a hissy fit, or just typical Scorpio behavior (my astrological sign being the one that you supposedly never want to cross for fear of retribution), or an honest reaction.  Or all three?  I’m not sure.  I mean, life isn’t fair.   People get sick and die.  And the nature of comedy is that you have to put yourself on the edge and joke about things that a segment of people will in no way, shape or form feel is funny.

Nevertheless, I can tell you that I hadn’t seen an Eddie Murphy movie in more than 20 years (ask all of my friends) until “Dreamgirls,” which was directed by an openly gay writer-director and, as a film adaptation of an iconic musical, seemed gay enough in my mind to make an exception.  Not only that, but I actually leave the room whenever he or one of his films is on television.  And I avert my eyes whenever the coming attractions for his movies appear at my local theatre.

Meaning, I can’t stand the sight or sound of Mr. Murphy doing comedy.   Perhaps I’m the only one.  At the very least, I must be in the minority.

But I know a long line of women who do this with Woody Allen movies ever since he married his longtime girlfriend Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter.  I understand their anger but don’t have the same reaction.  Is that cause I’m insensitive to anyone’s plight but my own or a typical double standard-bearing man?  Or is it because we all have our own issues?  Probably the latter.  But again, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that the Motion Picture Academy could do better for a night of movie celebration.  But ask producer/director Brett Ratner to co-executive produce and you wind up with the star of one of his upcoming holiday films (whose name I won’t plug) hosting the show.  It reminds me of the time I was in a charity committee meeting years ago when a very high level gay Hollywood lawyer wanted to get his then client, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to be keynote speaker at a huge L.A. gay fundraiser event.  This was not long after Mr. Murphy’s AIDS joke and right after Ah-nold (then years away from Governator) had publicly endorsed any number of top politicians of the day who were outwardly unsupportive and downright anti all of this group’s issues.   But he personally likes gay people, the attorney argued.

Really?

Well, this guy and I did get into a bit of a row when I called his client a snide (but not dirty) name and this lawyer scolded me for being “very unfair” to his client.  For the record, I stated I was actually being quite fair because the last thing this lawyer really wanted to do at the time was put said client in a room full of lesbians and gay men who, most everyone else in that room agreed, would feel no compunction at biting his head off or booing him off the podium for his public support of the very politicians (and in turn laws) their organization were fighting to circumvent.

Was this a missed opportunity?  Perhaps.  But nearly two decades and many fighting-for-civil-rights years later, I don’t think so.   Still, Pres. Obama preaches bi-partisanship and reaching out to the other side.  Building bridges.  And since that’s obviously working for him, well then, I guess perhaps I could have been wrong.

Yes, that’s a bit petty and cynical but that’s why he’s the president and I’m a mere blogger and not Martin Luther  Queen  King.

But back to Eddie Murphy and the Oscars.  Do we have to?  Oh yes, I think so.

Where are we going with this?

My arguments are admittedly personal.  But FYI, others that younger people have voiced to me in person and online about Mr. Murphy’s Oscar hire are: “uh, what a great choice – for 1985.”  Or – “are there going be fart jokes?”  Or – “huh, what was the last good movie he was even in?” I prefer the latter argument because it would have me believe more than a few of you in the upcoming generation believe Oscar night should still be about film quality and that does give me (or us?) hope.  In fairness though, those same people have said things like, “Bring Back Whoopi,” and when I try to think of the last good film she was in, my mind goes blank.  Though I do remember her famous Oscar line when she hosted one year and, looking at the array of young women so impossibly perfect-looking who were modeling that year’s costume designs, quipped to us all at home – “Don’t they ever smile?”  So there is that.

But obviously Mr. Ratner and folks want some new blood and, after the debacle of trying to “hip it up” with James Franco and Anne Hathaway last year to somewhat disastrous results, they’re going with a film comedian whose movies, they tell you, have grossed  $7 billion worldwide (HOW is this possible??). In the end, I guess you have to bow to and accept and even love the overriding rule of show business and all industries (and in fact, the world) – survival of the fittest.  This is not necessarily the same as what you, the audience member, blogger or pundit see as those who are the most deserving.  Which is why boycotts, hissy fits and any combination thereof actually do matter.  It’s irrelevant if you’re Martin Luther Queen or well,  Ellen (who has also hosted the Oscars).  The only way to get your voice heard and have any effect at all (even for the next time and because you never know who is listening, or is listening and will tell someone who is listening) is to voice it.  And loudly.  Yes, I’m talking to you Motion Picture Academy — In honor of my then poolside friend Rafe who very much loved the Oscars, the movies and pretty much all of the business.

No, it’s not fair to play on your sympathies, but as they say on the battlefield, “by any means necessary.”   I suppose that’s one way those who will be judged the fittest among us, will survive.  By any stretch of the imagination, Mr. Murphy is a survivor, and a damned resilient one at it.  But he’s not the only one.  Is he?

Big Dreams

There’s a great scene in the first act of “A Star Is Born” where the established star, Norman Maine, advises the young talented unknown, Esther Blodgett, about her career.  She admits her big dream is catching a lucky break, getting discovered by a talent scout and having a number one record but also freely admits, “It won’t happen.”  The veteran, a great fan of her work (among other things), counters, “No it might happen very easily.  Only — the dream isn’t big enough.”

He then goes on to tell her, “A career can turn on somebody saying to you,  ‘You’re better than that.  You’re better than you know.’  Don’t settle for the little dream.  Go on to the big one.” (for more go here)

In Esther’s case, having the number one record was not necessarily the wrong dream (she does go on to get a number one record AND a lot more) – just not the right dream at the right time.  In other words, to quote a wise old adage, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Aside from the fact I’m a sucker for old Judy Garland movies, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately.  Do you get just one?  Is working hard and profusely wanting something enough to push you towards your goal?  What if it is the WRONG time?  Or, perish the thought, the WRONG dream?   But wouldn’t I know what the right and wrong dream was for me – I mean, it’s my dream!!  Well, not necessarily.  I mean, no one is right 100% of the time except, well, the 8 Ball– and even it has its occasional limitations.

Hold on, let me get my glasses.

Taking that into the realm of high-class problems, what if you’ve already achieved your dream and you’ve still got half or two-thirds of your life left, and don’t plan to die early.  Do you just coast and sit on or in your mountains of money (while you’re spending it and it keeps magically replenishing through endless tax cuts for you and your millionaire/billionaire friends)?  Do you continue to try and top yourself in your own field even though you feel like you’ve “done it” and it no longer holds its mystery because you’ve reached your version of the mountain top?  Or maybe you, perish the thought again, start from ground zero and try something else with the hopes you can reconnect with the passion you had for your original dream and expand that and more to even greater effect and affect.

Only we can provide the answer for ourselves.  Maybe for you it’s one or all of those.  Or maybe it’s none of the above.  Dreams are funny that way.  Ultimately, they’re extremely personal.

But for guidance – why not look to the best.

No one spoke of dreams more eloquently than Dr. Martin Luther King, and being this the 48th anniversary of his historic  “I Have A Dream” speech – a speech delivered at a time when the idea of a Black U.S. president seemed as likely as, well, an openly transgender, ultra-liberal, atheist one might one seem today, (and if anyone under 40 thinks I’m exaggerating, ask anyone OVER 40) – it’s important to be reminded of the ever-enduring necessity and universality of having not only commitment to a dream but a great and unlimited personal imagination.

Inspiration

Dr. King didn’t dwell on what was necessarily rational in the south in the summer of 1963 for Black (then called Negro) Americans, but “dreamed” of what he saw (and hoped) was “possible.”  Does it trivialize the civil rights struggle to use it as a metaphor for the individual dreams each of us may or may not have for ourselves in our creative lives?  Absolutely not.  Dreaming of something that seems impossible is always valid and necessary if you’re human and want to make any kind of impact or difference for whatever reason.  And if you’re going to steal (in Hollywood they call it homage), why not steal from the best?  And – at least I’m publicly giving him credit – unlike what Paramount, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have so far done for James Toback, by not informing him they were going to remake his seminal 1974 screenplay “The Gambler,” prompting him to feel he dreamt a bad dream because he first found out about it last week in Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood news item. (Read it all here).

But I digress.

I’ve written before about dream stomping or dream ignoring or dream ______ (fill in your phrase) being very big these days – particularly in the creative arts.  “You’ll never,” “do you know the odds of,” “You have to be practical,” or the dreaded comment – “you’re such a dreamer.”  As if that’s a bad thing.

I, and all of my happy and/or successful friends (uh, they’re not necessarily the same thing), will testify to you that there is no way to achieve anything for yourself without dreaming it up in some fashion for yourself in today’s world.  Especially in the creative arts.  Oh — Hint:  It’s all made up, anyway!

As for having only ONE dream or MANY dreams or not stopping until you find the RIGHT dream for you, the strategy depends on who you are and how busy you want to be.  I can make the case for employing any of those, or, alternately, all three.  Consider:

  1. A very successful SCREENWRITER friend of mine with more movies made than any of his contemporaries always dreamed of being a screenwriter (some of us think from in utero).
  2. A very successful SCREENWRITER I know was in a punk rock band before he ever thought of writing movies or wrote a word in screenplay form.
  3. A very famous ACTOR friend of mine always wanted to act and never considered anything else.
  4. A very famous ACTOR I once worked on a movie with didn’t start acting until mid-life and spent the first half of his life doing, well, a lot of illegal stuff unrelated to show biz (and often behind bars).
  5. A very famous and successful DIRECTOR friend of mine actually finds it torturous to direct and dreamed of doing lots of other things but became most successful at this.  Now, this person is sort of stuck.
  6. A very talented DIRECTOR friend of mine now writes and produces and doesn’t direct at all (except in the mind) and, I believe, finds it infinitely more satisfying.

Oh, and what’s most interesting to me now is that NONE of these six people today ONLY work on their dream of writing, acting and directing.  One of them always dreamt of being a great parent and spends a great chunk of time with his/her children; another works tirelessly reforming convicts; a third spends enormous amounts of time decorating and remodeling.  All of them are on their third, fifth, eight and twentieth dreams.

There are other individuals I know who never quite “made it” on their original dreams but now are dreaming even bigger and better.  To whit:

  1. A brilliant, aspiring AGENT I know left the business and has become a very successful (and happy) family LAWYER.
  2. A talented, lower level STUDIO EXEC I once knew now writes self-help books (imagine that?).
  3. A former AGENT friend of mine and PRODUCER friend of mine each sell and develop real estate (separately), are very good at it and LOVE it (granted, more when the market is a bit better – another subject.  And perhaps another dream).
  4. Three screen and TV WRITER friends are now full-time therapists, helping other dreamers navigate the tricky waters of ambition, reality and, well, dreams.  A fourth has moved on to producing new and exciting content for the web.  (The latter in some way probably being a new, ingenious and inevitable dream to consider and perhaps approach for more than a few younger (and older?) people reading this blog).

Finally, add to that – at a restaurant this week I ran into two different and EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY successful people in the entertainment business.  I mean, you couldn’t GET more successful and famous (you’d know their names).  One of them has nothing to do with film anymore and uses all the money, cachet and power accrued in said business towards charitable works (i.e. helping others fulfill dreams).  The other still pursues dreams in the business but in a very different way and in very different venues.  This person has gone from being unbelievably difficult and, well, not very nice back in the day (how do I know? I was there), to being a warm, open and generally endearing presence who has clearly found that not being in the red hot spotlight is ultimately a lot more dreamily satisfying than drowning in the poisonous kind of heat that public attention sometimes generate for certain types of individuals.

If this sounds tricky, confusing, confounding and littered with endless detours, U-turns and reinventions, rest assured it is.  But — that’s what really BIG dreams are made of.