I Want to Quit…But I Don’t Want To – Thoughts on Quitting
Has this sentence gone off in your head? For most of us it has at least once in our life (sometimes once a day). There are many reasons to quit what you’re aspiring to do and there are many reasons to continue. Here are a few ideas about quitting from some of our Film Courage guests.
Film Courage: Have you ever talked anybody (metaphorically) down from the ledge, you know where they were thinking of giving up? And you’ve just given them the same piece of information that you’ve given us?
Steve Tom: I don’t know? I certainly didn’t know it at the time. Um…there was one woman that a long time after it happened who thanked me privately for spending some time and talking with her (kind of talking her down). I mean she had just had it! I remember the long conversation we had on the telephone about why this business s*cked. There was no opportunity for advancement for her and nothing was working and she just felt like she was on a hamster wheel….(Watch the video here on Youtube).
Adam Leipzig: In terms of creative burn out, what I see people do is reinvent themselves. I think that we always have to be in a state of reinvention of seeing the world with fresh eyes and turning ourselves inside out to do that. We have to be willing to un-learn and try new things. Look, most people in today’s world are not going to have one career…(Watch the video here on Youtube).
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Mike Hedge: I think…it’s just something I’ve grown up with. I went through the Boy Scouts and got my Eagle Scout award and it’s just something that is instilled in you. One of the scout laws or principles is being trustworthy. So here I am being trusted to finish this thing and I shook hands. I gave my word. So every time I looked at quitting, looked at like moving on or doing something else or just sending an email and being like “It’s just not going to happen,” I didn’t. And I was just like I gave my word, I’ve got to push through. I’ve got to finish whatever it is. I’ve got to get through whatever unbelievable drama gets put in front of me. There has to be a solution somewhere…(Watch the video here on Youtube).
Gina Wendkos: There was one particular time that I was just…in fact I quit writing (I did for a year) and I thought I’m going to do something totally different and I applied to law school and I was going to live in Washington, DC of all places. And I mean I liken it to a nervous breakdown. My nervous breakdown was applying to law school. It’s like the worst thing in the world I could have ever done and I did it. I got in…I was going to go and then like a miracle happened and not that anybody knew that they were saving me but Jerry Bruckheimer saved me by hiring me for COYOTE UGLY. I had worked in bars my whole life, so it made sense and I got the “bug” again. And that’s my big, big time of wanting to quit and then there is a moment in every day where I go “This is insane!” but then I get over that…(Watch the video here on Youtube).
Judy Chaikin: That’s never worked for me. I don’t know why. I know other people say “In 3 years, I want to be here…” And when I say that, it’s like “Oh my God, I put too much pressure on myself that I can’t possibly deal with!” [Laughs] It’s almost like I have to live it organically, day-to-day and say “Where am I today on this? What do I want to be doing? Do I still want to do this? Is this what I want to be doing?” (Watch the video here on Youtube).
John A. Nicholson: Before I started acting I had a very successful executive position. I had a 6-figure salary. I lived a very comfortable lifestyle, traveled everywhere first class. I’d been all around the world. I had the great job. But then I got bit by this acting bug and I go to my mom and I tell her and I say “Listen, I’m thinking about quitting my job!” [Laughs]…..(Watch the video here on Youtube)
Stephanie Bodkin: The most condescending and mean…it was a professor at the time, but she was a casting director at the day and moment and particular event. She said “…It’s not up to me to say it.” (I’m quoting her exactly) “But…the reason why you will never play the leading lady is because of….” (Watch the video here on Youtube)
Film Courage: Every movie is going to test someone once, twice…? So on [your movie] THE FRAME what were one or two of those moments where your backs were against the wall and you were definitely going through with [the film] but it was a moment where things didn’t look good?
Jamin Winans: Hmmm. Most moments during THE FRAME I think were like that [laughs]. It’s funny because every time you get into the shooting, you know you prepare, you prepare and you prepare and then once you’re actually in the shooting process (once that starts) you’re at a point where you can’t go back, you know? And I remember there was a time where we were about a third to half-way through the film and…I just remember saying that, thinking “Oh? We’re already in this. We can’t turn around!” And we were so exhausted and I think….(Watch the video here on Youtube).
Film Courage: What was the internal dialogue you had when you determined that screenwriting for you…sitting down…writing a script…maybe wasn’t what you wanted to do but you wanted to coach people, you wanted to bring out there best?
Lee Jessup: For me it was really about the development process when I realized what a foolish child I was thinking that you can write a script and then fast forward 6 or 9 or 12 months and seeing it brought to the screen and being on set and watching your vision come to life. I understand that I came to it from a very naive point of view, from a fantasy based point of view that wasn’t the reality of how movies get made and what the writer’s experience is. And I ultimately realized that this wasn’t the experience I wanted to have or that would make me happy or fulfilled in my day-to-day life. And I was lucky enough to have discovered that at a fairly young age (at the age of 23) to say “Whoah! That…no. Nothing about this is exciting or motivating for me.” That said, I always loved story and I always loved writers and from there I went to development and realized that my heart was with the writer. The writers were my people. More so than the directors (that I never really got) or the actors (that I dated but never really got). My heart was with the writers and so I wanted to foster talent. I wanted to support writers. And it’s funny because today if I watch a tennis game and the person wins (somebody wins) and goes out and jumps up and down and they’re excited, the person I identify with is not the tennis player. The person I identify with is the coach that you get one second of who is just so proud and feels so rewarded for what their player had done. For me that is the most fulfilling experience. Being able to help others and being in the position where somebody comes to me and says “I need help.” I think that is a highly privileged position to be asked to provide help and in an area in which I can help.
Film Courage: Have you seen people who have the notion (whether it’s to be a great pianist or to be a great writer) but in terms of the day-to-day actions that they are going to undergo, it’s actually not what they are suited for?
Lee Jessup: Absolutely!
Film Courage: And what is that temperament and what is that temperament…[such as] it’s being alone, it’s being driven, it’s being task-oriented.
Lee Jessup: It’s not just that. I know a lot of “writers” (and these I’ll put that in quotation marks) who talk about writing all the time. Who talk about what they want to write, how much they want to be a writer and how much they want to be in a room and how much….but…never make time for the writing itself. So those are the writers who will usually bring me to the conversation of “Do you really want to write? Because you are talking about it all the time, but you’re not actually doing it.” And if you’re a writer who is not writing, then what are you in terms of this career? You have to have the discipline. You have to have the desire. You have to have the drive. And you have to be willing to make the sacrifice that most writers do that it takes in order to become a writer. And that means waking up in the morning early if you have a day job. Or writing on the weekends or writing after hours rather than running around partying with your friends. For most writers, there’s a lot of who are not independently wealthy, right? They are not going to be able to sit around all day and take 4 hours a day to write and go party and go run around and travel the world.
I had a writer that I worked with for a number of years who we would meet every 3 or 4 months and every 3 or 4 months she would sit down and tell me the list of excuses for why she didn’t write the previous 3 or 4 months. So…the job was too hard and she had to work out because she wasn’t healthy and she wasn’t sleeping well and she had to move apartments…she was fostering dogs and there was always something. And I truly believe that she wanted to be a writer. But at the end of the day if you’re not engaging in that thing, whether it’s writing or playing piano (or any other thing) you cannot claim the thing as your own. You have to engage in it in some consistency. And similarly I meet writers who wrote a screenplay ten years ago and haven’t touched writing since. They’re a writer. But you have to actively engage in the thing if you want to be taken seriously as an owner of the thing.
So most writers are going to find themselves in a situation where they are going to have a day job. Potentially they have a family, they have a partner, they have friends, they have relationships they want to maintain and so writing is going to demand some level of sacrifice (Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
Corey Mandell: Because here is the truth and this is really sad. Intuitive writers…I’ll give you a true story. I’m am mentor for Film Independent and they have a lab. And they bring in these writers and then you’re mentored by writers and directors of some of the best independent films. And I came in at the end to sort of clean up where the writer had all these notes and before they went to do the rewrite and to sort of make sure their plan was in good shape. So I came in at the end of the process. I worked with this writer, a wonderful woman. And she’d gone to one of the major film schools and she had a MFA. And ever since she was a little girl, all she wanted to be was a writer. And she was so excited to get into this program and she’d written a script. And some of the writers and directors of some of her favorite movies read her script and give her feedback.
And so my job is to see what a rewrite plan is and see and see if I can bring any value to it. So I go “Hey, how’s it going?” and she said “It’s going good” but she said it in a really ‘it’s not going good way.’ And I go “So what’s going on?” and she says “I quit!” and I go “You’re not going to write?” and she says (Watch the video interview on Youtube here).