Tales From the Bottom of the Film Business

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Wading Into 2006

"Look! I'm slowing down the waves!"

This was my nephew, playing with the extra-large piece of coral which he had claimed a few moments before was a sewing machine, on the tropical island where I spent the past week with my family. We took the annual vacation at a very new, very expensive resort with a friendly but overworked and confused staff (waiters could often be seen wandering the beach searching for who had ordered the
plate of calamari and the pink drink, and most of our questions – Can we take the bike tour? Where, in fact, is the "Indian cave"? – were answered with "What?", "I tried to call about that but there was noone was there," or "That's not built yet"). But there was very little reason for quibbling since most of our time was spent lying under palapas watching sparkling blue waves roll in - and watching my nephew brandish his special tool at each one and shout, "I slowed them down!" And then he would do it again. And again. He's four, what can you do? He did take a break, at one point, to explain that he could not slow down all waves, a tsunami, for instance, would present a problem. Which, of course, led to a discussion about how there would be no tsunamis here this week, or hurricanes, or anything else scary or bad. Although, you never know, I mean, who'd have thought 2004 and 2005 would be so jam-packed with disaster? The world seems to be getting scarier all the time. But when you're talking with a four-year-old, you keep these things to yourself. My other nephew was not quite ready to discuss such larger issues either, seeing as he likes to spend his time trying to acquire all the toilet paper in the women's bathroom, chasing birds and shouting "BUBBYE!" and dropping his pacifier on the ground and then trying to get it back into his mouth before anyone catches him. This - aside from the "folkloric dance performance" in the main dining room on Christmas Eve - provided the entertainment for most of the vacation.

But there was also some quiet beach time with which to reflect. And that, you know, is why the New Year sucks – aside from the fact that you feel like you're never doing something quite fabulous enough on the evil Eve (or maybe it’s that I'm never doing anything fabulous at all, I'm sure some people are doing things that are plenty fabulous). In general, I tend to spend more time than even your average Jewish neurotic female wondering what the heck I'm doing with my life, why I work in a business that is so full of insanity, hoping for what must be one of the top ten – possibly top five – hopeless dreams of success while I get older and the people the business desires get younger, listening to my biological clock tick and chasing other people's children around airports. Although there is something to be said for that last part, because you get to enjoy the kids, then give them back when they cry and need a diaper change; so far I’ve only changed one and it wasn't poopy. Not so the film business. You don’t get to give it back and just leave when you feel like it because you have to earn a living. It doesn’t hug you, it doesn’t give you smushed flowers and say, “I picked this for you!”, or ask you to tell it a story – even though you want to – and it is guaranteed to give you a lot of crap. But you want to give everything to it all the same. Why is that? The reason, I always remember when I’m actually doing it, is that the work itself gives back. I adore movies, and there’s nothing more completely consuming – in a good way – than the beginning-to-end love/torture-fest of making your own. Just like with having kids, or so I hear.

Essentially it comes back to the old work and family conundrum that has plagued women since, well, we had the real possibility of having both work and family, which hasn’t been too long in the big scheme of things. How do you balance ambition with babies? How do you get to satisfy the creativity that your kids don’t? Don’t even think about wasting my time by arguing the point when I say it really isn’t fair. By and large it takes women longer to break into the industry – if they can break in – and then, it’s pretty damn hard to drop out or slow down to have a critter and then come back up to full speed. Of course, many of us decide that half speed is fine, I myself would be perfectly happy doing 40 (in my family, we question authority, including the speed limit). But even getting back to that is tough. Still, it happens. Women have done it, either with a really great partner who helps them do it or good childcare or a combination of the two. And of course, a lot of luck, hard work, and chutzpah.

So what, in the end, can you do? Because you know the truth that you can’t tell your nephew, that you can’t hold back the waves, or even slow them down, since nobody can do that. You just keep trying, even if time is against you and you know you can’t have it all, and making stuff, because that’s what you want to do with your life, and hoping, because that's what keeps you going, and then when you – or I, okay, fine, we’re talking about me in case you haven’t figured that out – have to make choices about what's important when, I’ll make them. So I think, for me, 2006 will be about choosing which direction to swim, or drive, or whatever, instead of letting it choose me.

Hopefully I’ll do a better job of it than I did last year.


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