We live in a media and technology-saturated world now, so it’s impossible to get away from posts, blogs, and news proclaiming the latest “overnight success”. Sometimes it’s tied with something going viral, but more often than not it’s a musician, filmmaker, or actor suddenly receiving praise and accolades. For creatives in any field it can seem like an enticing career trajectory that’s available to them. You mean I put something out there and become an overnight sensation? Not quite. Even with the promise of going viral as a tasty carrot, the reality is very different.
Everyone’s trajectory is unique, based on their skills, experience, personality and goals. You can’t look at one artist and emulate their formula for success exactly, because you are you and not them. I can’t examine Beyoncé’s career trajectory in minute detail, try to copy it and hope that it sticks (also, I can’t sing, so there’s that).
What people don’t tell you about creatives that we see as “overnight successes” is that before that award or praise is the countless years (sometimes decades) that have gone into honing their craft. The rejection letters, the detours, the blood, sweat, tears and ambition that have carried them forth in their darkest hours. It’s something that many creatives with identify with right now. It’s the times you were ignored by your peers, made to feel ‘not good enough’, had to work multiple jobs on top of your creative endeavours just to stay afloat. So that success is well won and very, very hard earned.
Then there’s the naysayers and unhelpful comments from friends and family who don’t understand your goals. You probably know them (or a variation of them) well: “so, where’s your Academy Award?” “Have you made your film yet?” “You should get a real job…” What’s a creative to do?
It really is true that slow and steady wins the race. Any endeavour is a marathon, not a sprint. At times, it may seem pointless and you may even want to give in. Don’t.
I’m only seven years into my journey through the film industry, and it’s been tough. At one point, I was working a full-time administration job whilst also juggling Film Sprites PR clients, and I also worked as the Christchurch publicity assistant for NZIFF 2014 at the same time. I didn’t have a holiday or a weekend for the first three years. Recently, I relocated temporarily for a position and could afford to eat one meal a day. I’ve had people who have asked for my help and I have enthusiastically obliged, only for them to completely ghost me with no acknowledgement of my help whatsoever. I’m not where I see myself being in the future, but in order to get there I have to bridge the gap by doing exceptional work, being of excellent service to the film industry, and keeping the faith (and yes, I still require a ‘day job’ to get by, and that’s okay!).
My advice is to embrace the “long game”. Roll up your sleeves and be prepared to do the work. Be present and enthusiastic. When times get tough, remind yourself WHY you’re doing this. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a session at the Big Screen Symposium where one of my favourite directors, David Michôd (who most recently directed The King) was discussing the development of his feature film Animal Kingdom. The script development was a ten-year process, and the film was nominated for and won a slew of awards, including eight awards at the 2010 Australian Film Institute awards. Many of the world’s most beloved filmmakers have worked on shorts, music videos and/or television before progressing to features.
You know why wine, cheese and whisky are so good? They require ageing and maturing. In fact, here in New Zealand we had a great ad campaign for Mainland Cheese whose slogan was: “Good Things Take Time.”
So, as this is a blog attached to a publicity and social media marketing consultancy service, what can you do during the “long game” to assist your career? Here’s a few tips:
- Establish social media profiles for your creative career: If you’re a filmmaker, set up profiles that will assist you with all of your projects, as opposed to setting up pages solely for one short film or feature. The reason? If you set up a page solely for one project, you will most probably use this for the duration of your promoting of the project (e.g. screenings, Festival appearances, etc) but then you will move onto your next project and the page might sit dead with little to no posts being generated. If you have pages which encompass all of your projects it means that you can build up a large audience who will hopefully follow your work from one project to the next. It’s also great for helping to build support for any crowdfunding campaigns you might run in the future.
- Don’t pin your hopes on going viral: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go viral, but the efficacy of virality is on the decline. You can find out more about this, and better alternatives, on this post.
- Consider doing guest blogs about your areas of expertise: you don’t have to wait for your project to be released to start generating content that will help with publicity of your creative career! Find some handy blogging ideas here.
Lastly, check out this great keynoteat SXSW 2015 by Mark Duplass for some timely inspiration.