2002 was a very good year for me. I had just won two awards, and received a fellowship to attend a media festival. There I would be pitching a children’s series I created in front of several hundred people including broadcasters. It got a development commitment with the CBC. 2002 also sticks out because I was given one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’d ever receive in the industry.
I returned back to my day job, and was taken aside by the President of the organization I worked for, who spoke in a hushed conspiratorial tone. He said, “Okay now…..things have really started to move for you. You’ve got momentum happening so whatever you do don’t lose it. Keep building on it. Momentum is everything.” He winked at me and walked off leaving me to ponder what he had just said. Momentum…. hmmm. I’d never thought about it before but perhaps he had something.
A few years later I would see it in action when two colleagues of mine crashed and burned. I wished at the time they’d had the same conversation I’d had, because things might have been different. They were a couple of up and coming producers with their first big project. I sat through the rough cut with other colleagues and gave them notes on how to improve it. And of course they ran with them and delivered a stellar piece of work. Problem was they hadn’t been looking down the road and asked themselves what was to come next. They had nothing else in development. This one project was it. It ended and they ended. They couldn’t recreate the momentum they had going for them. Once they’d come to a dead stop, trying to get something moving again was like pushing a boulder up a mountain. They failed because there was no Plan B.
No thought had been put into how they’d grow their company or what was next on the agenda. They are now both working at careers outside of the industry, and I’m sure they are full of regrets. If only they had kept a few other balls in the air during the time they were in production, and maybe things could have turned out differently. All forward momentum was lost, and they never got it back again.
I know something about lost momentum due to an unfortunate set of circumstances that arrived on my doorstep, rang the bell, and killed all of the momentum I had spent 17 years creating. A move to another city became necessary, where I did not know or understand the industry and had no contacts. Yes it was my own personal nightmare.
Never take for granted the things you do have going for you, the contacts you have at this stage, the production companies who are willing to hire you over and over again, the crews you get to know and can call on if you need them, and the organizations that exist in your community that aid media artists on their quest. You may have to relocate, or step away from the industry in order to pay the bills, and then people aren’t sure what it is you want to do anymore. A lot can be lost in this fashion. Trying to get it back again can feel like a Herculean task.
Whatever craft it is that you’re pursuing always remember the power of momentum and use it to your advantage. If you’ve just won an award make sure it’s all over your resume and everybody knows about it. If you’ve just come off a gig make sure everyone knows you are ready and willing to work on the next thing – and if they have nothing maybe they know somebody else who does. If you are working on a project don’t work on just one. You should be juggling many balls in the air at one time because law of averages states they are not all going to go, but one of them will if you’ve got enough things happening.
I learned a valuable lesson at the first production company I worked at. The arm of the company that made documentaries kept about ten projects going at one time. Yes proposals were written and shipped out to the appropriate broadcasters looking for development and or production commitments. I was astonished every time the producer walked into my office, with yet something else he’d created and wanted to try and finance. I learned that was the way to do it. Never put all of your eggs in one basket because you will be grossly disappointed if you do.
There is definitely an art to juggling lots of things, as well as self-promotion, and making sure others know about your achievements. Knocking on lots of doors and tooting your own horn is not a skill I have found easy, and I know some of my colleagues struggle with it as well. It’s like anything and the more you do the easier it becomes.
The thing to remember is to try to keep moving. Even if you’re not working, be thinking about how you can land the next job and what you can be doing in order to make that happen. If you’ve got something off the ground that’s great, but the question looms “what’s going to come next?” Have you thought about it? If not, start doing that immediately.
It’s sometimes hard to get momentum going for yourself but once you do, don’t lose it. Keep pressing forward and going from one thing to the next. Keep juggling, keep looking, keep putting yourself out there, keep entering contests, keep applying for those jobs and you will keep moving forward. Once momentum is built and sustained the rest takes care of itself. Good things start to happen, and things just start to show up for you. You can, and will, get momentum happening for yourself. Just remember to keep putting one foot in front of the other every day and that’s good enough.