Let me start with a disclaimer. Any advice I give is worth just what you pay for it. What do I know? I drive a 15-year old pickup and my last royalty check was twelve dollars.
But during a tumultuous advertising career I won more than 200 awards. I have enough chrome and lucite to make a couple of Buicks, some of which were even meaningful. Like the one for a literacy campaign. That award got me a presidential citation. (Maybe Carter or Lyndon or one of those.) I wasn't big on politics. Nor am I now, luckily. As my uncle Reno Pete always said, “F*** ‘em all but eight. Six to carry you. and two to pull the wagon.”
The replaced version of the Outstanding Achievement Emmy for Guinotte Wise.
Some say it was only a mid-west Emmy, and that's true. It was for a TV commercial to which I contributed little. But believe me, an Emmy is an Emmy, even if it got mangled by the window washers who knocked it around in my office. This particular Emmy looks like a for real Emmy, only the base is smaller. And when I complained to the management about its demise, they said they'd replace it.
It took about a year for that to happen, due to various provenance measures and serial number mistakes, but I finally got it replaced. They had to have the damaged one back. So it's a very real Emmy. The director entered the commercial into the competition and I'm glad he did. I feel a little less like a fraud when I look at it.
From the day I left a paving company, an adult job, and went into advertising, my dream job, I've felt a bit like an impostor. I dealt in alleged ideas. I climbed from a crowded artist bullpen into the Creative Director's office and perched there, perilously, for years.
No advice so far, but that of persistence. Persist, whatever the job. Get a bump up if possible. Think of it as your Oscar journey, no matter where you are. Burger King or maybe a chicken costume handing out leaflets.
I freelanced in L.A.
Talk about perilous.
I won't go into that crazy interim, but I eventually landed a creative group head spot at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample which became DFS Dorland, which became Saatchi & Saatchi. I made it through those sea changes writing Toyota print and broadcast ads. With some time on my hands, I also wrote other things.
I wrote a screenplay adaptation of a colleague’s novel that had for its agent the same guy who'd brought Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to the world. He liked the screenplay, suggested a different beginning, then he passed away, prematurely. The screenplay went nowhere, and the book didn’t make its advance.
I wrote treatments. Sent them to Cannes with a friend. One got us meetings in rooms with shiny conference tables.
It went away.
I was asked if I was interested in writing a book about the turnaround of a famous motorcycle company. I felt I'd have to quit my day job. They felt I wanted too much. It went away.
A screenplay went to a semi-famous actor who had expressed interest in it.
It went away.
Then I went away.
Original sculpture by Guinotte Wise.
I got homesick. I wanted a couple of horses, like I'd had for half my life. Maybe a doublewide. I had some savings, a pittance in L.A., but a little poke of gold dust in Kansas. I found a 100-year-old farmhouse. I also found a creative director job in KC. And I persisted.
But like you, I'm assuming, I never forgot that Hollywood sign. The Toyota shoots were as close as I got, but they were a great placeholder for my eventual screenwriting credits scrolling down as everyone but me leaves the theatre. And in KC I got some 'Best of Shows' for radio, radio my training had made visual.
A few more awards.
I moved on to another Creative Director position, got old, retired.
I wrote books.
I produced a lot of welded steel sculpture.
I outlived a dozen horses, some fine dogs.
I still write. I still sculpt. And, you know what? I still persist.
My books are visual. One I'm writing now will make a helluva feature film. It takes place in L.A. The logline might be: A young boxer defies his mob owners and refuses to lose an upcoming fight. He becomes a killer by default, a landscaper by capability, and a private eye by choice.
Stranger things have happened. On second thought, no they haven't. Present day L.A. is the locale.
So you see, I’m still dreaming. Once I get “L.A. Hardscape” published, then I’ll shop it around as a possible feature film. Like I push “Ruined Days” now and then. It’s on Amazon with some short story collections and poetry books I wrote.
Luck. Perseverance. Maybe some talent, but that’s subjective. But here’s the good news (for you). If you’re reading this because you’re affiliated with Stage 32, you’re probably a whole lot more connected to the industry than I was, or am. I cope with Adult Onset Optimism daily, and I know I’ll get at least a corner of my dream before I’m done. But whether you’re a film student at UCLA, a lighting tech in Minneapolis, or an actress in Austin, you’re oh, so close.
My uncle Reno Pete said, “Stay in the action. Even if you’re playing with scared money. Especially if you’re playing with scared money. It’s just chips.”
And my Emmy? It’s still an Emmy. Set your sights. Emmys and Oscars and those other glittering trophies will all have names on them. Might as well be yours. Stage 32 is where a lot of action takes place to help get you there.
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