Sucking It Up

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At many points during your career you are going to have to suck it up! There are many difficult people in this world who unfortunately find themselves in senior or management positions. They will make your life difficult, but if you want to make money, build your resume, and make contacts, you will have to deal with their crapulence.

I am having to deal with someone at the moment that likes to change the rules to the game after it’s already started. Some people like to move the goal posts on you just because they can. I do a lot of smiling and nodding, and on a couple of occasions have taken it upon myself to apologize for our misunderstandings. Of course it must be ME right? Yes of course it must be, because I want to get paid.

Kissing other people’s backsides is never a pleasant task, but one that will unfortunately become necessary as you move up the ladder. I’m not saying you have to like it. Just come to grips with the fact it’s a reality of life and doing business.

It more or less boils down to your ability to put your ego in check. If you’re someone with a strong ego and a desire to always be right you are going to find things are very difficult. If on the other hand you choose not to take these things personally, and know in your mind that you did hear them right the first time, but opt not to get aggressive and back talk them, you will find it much easier to get along. There’s no sense getting into pissing matches with people who you will never win against. You can’t win, because they will never take responsibility for themselves…. and the industry is full of them.

Some human beings can not admit they are wrong. Why they are made this way is another column, and an interview with a psychologist, but let’s just go with the fact that you will cross paths with many people who operate in this fashion. It is their way or the highway. And if they are someone who tells you one thing, then turns around and tells you the opposite, you have no other choice but to feign stupidity, say “I understood it was the other way,” and wait for the knowing head nod that communicates to you your incompetency. Wait for it, because it’s coming.

Here comes your next choice. Do you choose to take that on board and take it personally, or do you choose to just know that this is how this human being operates with EVERYBODY, and you are just another one of their hapless victims. It’s not about you, never was about you, and never will be about you. End of story! If you need to hold it together, then go out in the hall and swear to yourself quietly. “Holding it together”, being the operative statement in that last sentence. In front of these people you have to keep control of your temper and put your need to be proven right aside. You know it, and that’s all that matters.

I think the dream in the industry is to reach a point where you are hand picking who you are working with, because you like them, and the way they operate. It takes a long time getting there, and I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t have to deal with someone who is unpleasant. Your colleagues might be great, but the broadcaster is scary, or your distributor has fictional conversations in their minds that you were apparently a party to. There are big named actors that like to play head games, and can’t take ownership of their issues. The editor you’ve been dying to work with may turn out to be your worst nightmare in a work scenario – you don’t know what you’re up against until you’ve already started down a road. And it takes a lot of guts, as well as financial stability, to decide you don’t want to be on that road because it’s a bit crazy making.

Yes there are lots of crazy making people in this world. Busloads of them arrive every day in production centers around the world, come to drive you insane. That is if you let them. Sure you can decide to quit a job, but don’t find yourself being forced out, and giving up what could be a golden opportunity for you. I was at one of these crossroads back in 1997… and it was horrifying. I found myself being pinned up against a wall with someone screaming in my face for some inexplicable reason. I stood frozen examining his dental work. Turns out his assistant forgot to buy him lunch. Nothing to do with me, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I sat in my office sniveling, I thought about the reality I was living with. I really couldn’t afford to quit, and I had waited a long while for this opportunity to come my way. Was I going to let somebody else chase me out? When it comes to verbal abuse that’s one thing I would say NOT TO suck up. I made my feelings known, and made it clear I would quit if it ever happened again. Then I went back to doing my job. Yes I, and the writing department who were witness to the event, thought I was nuts at this point, but I did what I felt was right and stuck with it. This job, as I suspected, played a pivotal role in me moving ahead and getting a dream job afterwards.

Sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes it not, but it’s up to you to decide what you can stomach and what you can’t. You will be faced with difficult decisions as to whether you stay or go, and nobody can give you the right answer. You have to decide that yourself, because nobody but you, has to live with the ramifications of that decision. You have to live with yourself afterwards. And if you have to live with yourself, you don’t ever want to feel like you let yourself down, or didn’t do what you needed to do to make things work.

So be prepared to suck it up sometimes. It’s inevitable it’s going to happen. Smiling and nodding is a definite art-form. It’s something you will be dealing with at all points in your career, so best to get used to the idea. If you don’t take it personally and let it wear you down, then no harm no foul. You have a choice what to put up with, and if you choose to stay on the road you’re on, know that nobody can take away your self-esteem unless you let them. It boils down to what you know, and what you believe to be true about yourself. Other people can try and paint it whatever way they want, but it doesn’t make it fact. Walk away with your held high, knowing you’re just doing what everybody, who has gone before you have done. They lived to tell the tale and so will you.

Katherine Di Marino

About Katherine Di Marino

Beginning her career in 1994 as the Producer’s Assistant on the TV series Highlander, Katherine was eventually awarded an Associate Producer mentorship by the CMPA on the Showtime series Dead Man’s Gun. She went on to gain a broad knowledge base throughout her work at Peace Arch Entertainment and Omnifilm Entertainment in the areas of development, production and business affairs. During her career she has been involved on many projects including Francis Ford Coppola’s sci-fi series First Wave, David Steinberg’s comedy series Big Sound, the ½ hour dramedy Robson Arms, five Lifetime Network movies, the animated series Pirate TV, along with nine documentaries. She also did two stints at Creative BC as an Analyst. She has done work for over 20 broadcasters and won numerous international awards. Katherine just produced the movie “Rio Heat” – a Canadian/Brazilian co-production featuring Harvey Keitel.