The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

If you’re really into movies you might not want to work in the film industry

with 32 comments

I have a question for you.

Do you know what you want to work with for the rest of your life?

I wish I did. At the age of 44 I’m still fumbling in the darkness. Deep down I realize that doors probably are closing every day, but I cling to the idea that they’re all still open. The opportunities are endless if I only could make up my mind.

If only!

My ideal job would be one that I was moderately passionate about. For sure you should enjoy what you’re doing. But the things that you enjoy most of all are the things that you rather should keep as a hobby, so you can keep enjoy doing them.

I know there are a lot of people in the film blogosphere who secretly (or sometimes not so secretly) hope to one day get into the business side of film. To get PAID to do what you love so much that you spend all your free time doing it anyway. Could it be better?

It can. If you don’t believe me, a comment that I stumbled over at A Life in Equinox perhaps can serve as an eye-opener. The comment was made to a post where Univarn talks about how blogging about movies has sucked the fun out of movie watching and why he needs a break. It’s as heartbreaking as it’s honest and I recommend you to read it.

And here’s what ”Ilsa” wrote in her reply:

” Many people feel this ennui in the entertainment industry. For me, I wanted to work in entertainment my whole life; I watched hours and hours of TV/movies growing up. I loved disappearing in the worlds on the screen. To make this comment short, since then, I’ve been living in LA for over 10 years. I’ve worked on big films and with big stars and for 3 major studios.

Despite these great life experiences, I can no longer watch movies. At all. I can’t even go to the theater. I can only watch TV if I multi-task on the computer.

It’s like the magic is gone. When I was younger, I could disappear for hours into movies, but now that I know how movies are made and how the business is really run (surprise! it’s not just insanely creative people running around having loads of fun!), it just ruins the magic.

So, recently, I took time away from the industry to pursue creative interests of my own. This hiatus definitely helped get my creative juices flowing although, not so much that I can go back to the theater.

I hope that your own hiatus re-invigorates your joy in movie watching!”

My experiences
This resonates so much with me. The way she describes how she can’t work with movies anymore, how she can’t even go to a theatre after working in the industry, reminds me of when I had a paid position a non-profit organization.

My employer had a very good reputation among people, so when I told them about my job, they often gave me that special look consisting of equal amounts of envy and admiration.

I’m not sure what they thought I was doing all day long. In reality I had an ordinary office job, consisting of an awful lot of planning and reporting. But in their eyes I was living the dream! I was working for a Good Cause and made a living on it! And I got to see all those awesome people who were committed to do the same thing all day long, I must be the happiest person in the world!

It was just that I wasn’t. In the end a job is a job is a job. If anything this particular job was WORSE than any other I had had, since all the idealistic people assembling around the organization expected us to perform miracles out of no budget at all. No matter how hard we worked, we were bound to let the believers down. But there was no way I could explain this to anyone.

Eventually I left the organization, on the verge of a burn-out, which I’m still recovering from. And even at this point, years after, I don’t buy anything wearing the label of my former employer, regardless if it would be for a good cause. It still gives me bad vibes. Been there, done that, thank you very much. I’ve developed resistance against this particular brand of magic sparkles.

The privilege of the amateur
I assume that not all people who work in the film industry hit the wall. While many of them fake it, I believe that some of them sparkle for real. They love what they’re doing, even if it’s probably pretty far from what people assume that they’re doing in the film industry.

But still: I think there are more Ilsas out there than we realize: people who lost their heart to movies so badly that they started to work with them professionally, with the consequence that they’ve lost their appetite for it altogether.

Rather than sulking over that we won’t get a job in the film industry, perhaps we should rejoice over that we don’t have to walk that path.

Being an amateur doesn’t mean that you’re bad at what you’re doing. It means that you’re a “lover”, strictly translated from the Latin origin.

We love what we do. And we want to keep that love. We want to feel the magic, either we watch a movie, write about movies or even make our own movies at home.

So we find something else to work with for the rest of our lives, something that we like but don’t love. Something we can afford losing.

The question is what that is. I’ve got just about half of my life left to figure it out. Wish me luck.

Written by Jessica

April 19, 2012 at 12:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

32 Responses

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  1. You just need to find a way to monetize your blog!

    martinteller

    April 19, 2012 at 12:50 am

    • Hehe. No way. This premise is an ad free zone. And pressure free as well. That makes it to a nice place to hang around.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 7:33 am

  2. I think it depends on your personality. Some people very much compartmentalize their lives into sections and I think a lot of people want the work place to be something different from their leisure time.

    Other people, like me, get a lot of enjoyment out of good, hard work, whatever form that takes and if it’s something we’re passionate about, it even motivates us to work at it more. I recognize not everyone is like that, but I am and I think being able to write about movies professionally will only help my love of films grow. I love writing about movies in an academic section, which some people complain “ruins” movies. The more I do it, the more I find I get out film.

    James Blake Ewing

    April 19, 2012 at 2:52 am

    • Good for you! I hope you can keep that enjoyment once you start making a living on it.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 7:34 am

  3. I think this is partly the thing for me. I’m not sure I want to make a career in making films (and probably not writing about films), but I do want to make films. But if I ever do get my short film made, it will be for getting it done and showing it off, not as a stepping stone. Hopefully that would allow me to avoid feeling too involved in it. I do know that I’m far less keen on political employment after having spent a couple years working directly in the field.

    Bondo

    April 19, 2012 at 2:57 am

    • Looking forward to see that short film done! I think it probably will benefit from being something you do out of pure love, not in order to use it as a stepping stone.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 7:38 am

  4. It’s too bad you got disillusioned by the non-profit org deal. I’m not disillusioned. Of course, I don’t get a salary, either. You can be much more idealistic when you ignore the fact of money. 🙂

    Steve Kimes

    April 19, 2012 at 5:39 am

    • You’re one of a kind Steve. I’m glad it works for you and your family. Sadly enough I’ve heard way too many stories about people working in non-profit organizations getting disillusiouned. But they’re the ones who are paid. NGOs don’t make good employers.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 7:40 am

  5. Long ago I wanted to get into the film industry. Now that I see it probably won’t happen, my only goal is to figure out how to make a living writing. If I can get paid to write all day, I’ll be satisfied. It’s one of the few things I love, I look forward to every day. That’s my goal right now.

    Dave Enkosky

    April 19, 2012 at 5:40 am

  6. There is, sadly, some real truth to this. I worked in the video/computer game industry for a dozen years. I hung up my gloves, so to speak, in 2003, and I haven’t touched a serious game since. I just don’t care about it anymore. The difference is that I really don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

    SJHoneywell

    April 19, 2012 at 7:05 am

    • Game industry, yeah, that’s another area which I think is heavily glorified compared to how it is in reality.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 7:41 am

  7. A very interesting post. For me, it became clear that I would not like working in the movie industry when I heard a lecture by Stina Ekblad. She talked about her last movie (might have been Pensionat Oskar) and the production of it. That was maybe the first time I had really considered the fact that for those involved, the movie is chopped up into a million little pieces that does not come together until tha finalised product. And I live the finalised product too much to have it shattered like that.

    An easy choice. Also, I consider myself lucky that I right now is working with something that I find interesting and fascinating. A work that in the end benefits a group of people who need help, but also a work that no one expects me to do for free. Still, it is not my hobby and I have no problem leaving it at night 😉

    The movie _blogging_ is a different thing and I read Univarns post with great interest. I will try to heed it most carefully.

    Sofia

    April 19, 2012 at 8:15 am

    • Thanks for sharing that story! It reminds me of when I practiced at the institution for astronomy at the university in my city for a week, when I still considered a future in that profession. Watching what they actually DID – endless mathematical calculations over stones in the astroid belt for instance – made me realize that I had the wrong idea of what it was all about.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 10:33 am

  8. Personally I don’t really have any dreams of working in the film industry and that feeling of closing doors is slowly creeping up the older you get. I guess if I would do something completely different it would be something creative, which of course could be applicable to any type of industry. I recently created a “filmposter” for a friends wedding as a surprise and enjoy playing around with Photoshop or editing videos (have done a couple of wedding things a few years back). But with these things it’s just a hobby. When you would be doing it as a job you would look at it very differently.

    Nostra

    April 19, 2012 at 8:53 am

    • Indeed. I don’t think running this blog would be as enjoyable as it is now if I was paid to do it.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 10:34 am

  9. It seems a bit off topic, but I assure you its not.

    My dad had a few sayings, two of which apply here. Sayings that I have taken to heart and told my own kids in turn.

    “Son, everyone has a knack for something. The trick is finding out what it is and getting someone to pay you to do it.”

    “When you find a hobby that you love, no matter how tempting, never turn it into your job. Once you are forced to do it all the time to put food on the table, you’ll learn to hate it.”

    In my case I found out early on that I have a knack for fixing things. I ended up parlaying that into a job in industrial maintenance (every thing from diesel engines to computer electronics, if it breaks they call me.)

    Funny thing, although taking a broken thing and making it whole again is a good feeling, it’s not really what I love to do. It just comes easily to me, so thats how I make my living.

    Writing on the other hand is something I enjoy, I do it for fun, as a hobby as it were. Iv’e been blogging and short story writing for years, and the only time I ever found myself not wanting to write was when my WoW blog had a rather large readership. I felt like I had to put posts out lest I dissapoint them.

    It became a job, and I started to get far less enjoyment out of it.

    Dechion

    April 19, 2012 at 10:52 am

    • A wise dad you had. Thank you for sharing this story!

      I’ve sometimes wished that I had a knack for doing something with my hands. Fixing things. When your job is writing and your job is writing it feels as if you spend too much of your day by a computer….

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

    • That’s very similar to how I feel about my job (software development) and my main hobby (photography). I’m pretty good and writing software and generally getting a computer (well, browser in my case) to do what I want. I even enjoy it a lot of the time, especially when I can make something to be proud of. I am kind of lucky though in that I work for a great company that treats its developers well, rather than being in some horrid cubicle sweatshop type of place.

      Then there’s my hobby. I’ve loved photography ever since I got my first camera for my 18th birthday (I’m 31 now). At first I imagined I’d make a career out of it, but I realised eventually that doing so would kill my love for it, for two reasons. First off, I want to take photos of things of my choosing, not shoot what other people demand I shoot. Second, I came to understand that when you do photography as a job, 90% of the time is spent on the business side of things, and I couldn’t imagine anything more tedious. Like your dad said, I’d no doubt eventually learn to hate it, so I keep it as my own thing, my hobby.

      Andy

      April 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

      • It sounds like you’ve found a great balance there! And not having to spend all that time and effort on business, you might even spend MORE time doing your photo thing than you would if you actually worked with it…

        Jessica

        April 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

        • Well, maybe when the weather improves 😉

          *looks out the window at the endless rain*

          Andy

          April 19, 2012 at 11:57 am

  10. Jessica, I am nearly 40 and I still am unsure what i want to do when I grow up. I wish I had gotten a trade at school. But here I am scrabbling around not really knowing what I am doing.

    My ideal job would be to own a guitar shop… I would love that

  11. The sentiment rings very true with me, in a different context. For a few years I was a member of a forum of a Swedish game company Paradox Interactive, and had a blast in that community. And then I volunteered to become a moderator. And slowly that role sucked the fun out of it for me, and in a sense out of all forums.

    But as to life in general …

    At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, my chief aim in life right now is to be a good husband and a good father (expecting my first child around the start of June). Four years ago, I seriously doubted I would ever be either, and now … well, now life is full of experiences I never thought I would get a chance to feel.

    Beyond that … I wish to shed the label of being a monolingual English speaker. I sort of am already doing this, learning Danish. I can read it ok … but the listening is much harder. The “amusing” side-effect of this is that written Swedish and Norwegian are both slowly becoming a little intelligible as well, which is quite wonderful.

    And then writing. I do love the written word. It is, in fact, on the chief reasons I read your blog, even though I a am not a great cinephile, as you have a way with words that I truly admire. To write, I think, would be my ideal. It would be work, no doubt about it – all writing is. But I think there is such a thing as a labour of love. But the process of creation – of labour (if you allow the metaphor, it is alot on my mind) is also a process of hard work and no little pain – but the end result is a surely a miracle. Be it a living human baby, or novel, or a poem, or some other created thing.

    I do wish you good fortune on your journey to figuring it out. Though in a sense I wonder if this isn’t one of those things that we only “get” at the very end.

    Lewis Maskell

    April 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    • You are not overly sentimental! I think you’ve hit your priorities absolutely right. What wonderful news! Best of luck with your new journey towards parenthood. From my 19 years of experience of it I can only say that it won’t be anything of what you expect. 😉

      Writing is wonderful and fun. Sadly enough I’ve lost a bit of the juice in it in my work. My language has grown less personal and more bureucratic over the years. It’s hard not to take influence by the organization you work for. There was also a time when I had no engergy or interest whatsoever to write once I got home from my job. Sitting my the computer was the last thing I wanted to do.

      My blogging has been my way to get back to writing “for fun”. Maybe it has helped that I’m doing it in a foreign language. Swedish is my professional language, English is my writing-for-fun language. Funny thing. I had never predicted that would happen.

      And about your last statement: yes: I’ve come to that conclusion too. I assume that I’ll remain at loss about what to do with the rest of my life until the day it’s over.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm

  12. This was the EXACT post I needed to read this morning. You have an uncanny knack for doing that.

    I wrestle with these thoughts all the time. Film & Writing are my two true passions and yet I’ve taken such an unorthodox route in life I’ve never really been in a position to make a living at either of them. Even when I worked briefly in advertising it wasn’t on the creative side. But I think that’s good – for me. Like James said above, it depends on your personality.

    America is such a career-oriented country that I feel odd – and sometimes ashamed, truth be told – to try and explain how my “hobby” is what’s most important to me but, hey, it’s true. It is. I’ve done some things on the very fringe of film and that was a lot of fun because that inevitable cynicism hadn’t worked its way in but there was also nothing real that was going to come of any of it. I do fear that if I ever somehow were able to make an actual living writing about film that I would get jaded. And yet I can’t help but dream about it anyway. Risk vs. Reward.

    Again, great post. Thanks for writing it.

    Nick

    April 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    • Oh, thank you. I’m so glad this post meant something for you. That’s the ultimate reward you can get as a blogger. That someone listens to your rants and gets something out of it. Something that will spark something. Ships meeting in the night you know, gathering a bit of warmth and light together.

      I’m absolutely with you about the obsession with our jobs. Currently my hobby – this and my iaido practicing – is what makes me most happy and proud. But that’s not something I can talk very much about when I meet people. It’s always: “and how’s work going?”.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  13. Wow, yes. This is such a wonderful post.

    I have to do work, on myself, to make sure I hold on to what I love. I mean, my blog is called ‘Kid In The Front Row’, which makes people feel like, yeah, I’m like a little kid when it comes to movies. But really, it’s about trying to hold on to that.

    Did filmmaking kill it for me? I’m not sure — for me, as much as that, it’s Facebook and Twitter and Youtube! I mean, those cats running into walls are so interesting! And those girls Facebooking about how hard work is — I hate it, but I get hooked!

    And there are times when I watch NO movies.

    But you know what? As long as you don’t hate on yourself about it, it’s fine. Filmmakers have a hard time saying ‘I have not watched a movie for three weeks!’. But now I embrace it as much as I can.

    Luckily, right now, I am LOVING movies. Can’t get enough of them.

    Actually, that’s not true. I can’t get enough of GOOD movies.

    No no — actually; GREAT movies.

    I’m not the guy who watches every minute of every film. I give a film about 9 seconds! If I’m not interest, I’d rather surf the internet and look at pictures of Monica Bellucci.

    So maybe we’re just changing, as audience members.

    But I can totally sympathise with Univarn. Not only is he a blogger, but he’s a great one, who I have a lot of affection for. And I think that, because of people like me and you and the many others who read his site — somewhere in him, he’ll feel that pressure, to produce content. To be interesting.

    But sometimes you just wanna watch a movie and say nothing about it.

    And other times you just wanna hang out with your friends and cousins and parents and partners and forget this whole film malarkey.

    Kid In The Front Row

    April 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    • Nine seconds! That’s harsh! When we arranged family evenings watching movies and we used to take turns selecting, since everyone had a different opinon and we never could agree, we always had a 30 minute rule. Everyone had to stay for 30 minutes to watch whatever movie another family member had picked. But after 30 minutes you were free to bail out. It barely ever happened that anyone did.

      If there’s anyone in the world that I thought would be able to keep up the starry eyes and the childish enthusiasm even in a professional situation, it’s you. You transfer so much of that bouncing energy through your blog.

      But maybe one of the explanations why you can keep that energy is in the fact that you don’t write about every movie you see. And in periods you don’t watch movies at all. We need those breaks to keep fresh and I think more of us could do well following your or Univarn’s example in this.

      I too have a lot of affection for Univarn. I hope he’ll come to terms with himself and his blogging. I think he will, considering how insightful his post is.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! Much appreciated.

      Jessica

      April 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm

  14. I can relate completely. I always thought one day I would just wake up and know what I wanted to do.

    There have been a couple of times where I thought I had the answer, but they always turn out not to be the right one. I’ve also found out it’s not necessarily a good idea to turn your hobbies into a job. I’ve had stints as a motorcycle mechanic, video game tester, and film lab technician, all things I love to play around with, but each time, after working at them for awhile, I soon wanted nothing to do with those things when I got home at the end of the day. I will definitely think twice before accepting a job in the movies.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    April 20, 2012 at 12:20 am

    • Oh, then it’s not just me! I always imagined when I was younger that an insight would hit me from the sky. But it hasn’t happened so far. And I might add that this also is connected to quite a bit of vanity and wishful thinking. It’s as if I believe that I have some hidden talent that would start to flourish if I only could find the thing I was MEANT to do. It’s a plesant thought, but it’s getting harder and harder to trick me into it. There are a few things that I’ve managed to write off at least. I don’t think I’ll become a professional ballet dancer since they’re all more or less retired at the age where I am now.

      Too many options remain though.

      Jessica

      April 20, 2012 at 12:25 am


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