My answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” changes by the hour. I want to answer the same way people in the Midwest field questions about the weather by saying, “If you don’t like it, stick around 15 minutes and it’ll change.”
A typical (and fulfilling day) can start with a morning where I am a definitely a “writer,” quietly hunkered down to my computer screen, tediously bringing characters to life. Whether I’m an “author” or a “screenwriter” or some other variation of “writer” that morning, I’m somehow wearing that role. In the late morning and early afternoon, I become a “producer,” thinking about the latest projects I’m bringing to life. At this point, I’m no longer concerned about the words and the worlds— I’m wearing a different hat. I’m sending emails, making phone calls, securing locations, taking meetings, writing up call sheets, doing research, and working on any other logistical need that the project may have. By late afternoon or early evening, I’m an “actor.” I’ve got an audition or a meeting where I need to be “camera ready” and bring my A-game to help bring someone else’s vision to life. In the evening, I’m a “comedian.” I’m performing jokes at wherever will have me and networking with like-minded comedy folk. And by bedtime, I can fall asleep happily knowing I was completely creatively satisfied that day. Days like these don’t even include all the other miscellaneous creative activities like the times when I am the “director” or “script supervisor” or “editor” or “production assistant” or “craft services” or whatever else a project may need
So what am I? I’m a multi-hyphenate. And no matter how much it may bother people with the archaic beliefs that wholeheartedly focusing on only one element of creativity will make you more successful, I’m going to continue to be a multi-hyphenate. I strongly believe we live in a world where you should only become an “expert” in your own voice and your own interests, and not let the outside expectations of what you “should” be doing affect your personal passion pursuits in any way.
Here are 3 defenses for all who embrace their multi-hyphenate self against those who may just not get it.
It makes you better at your main passions
Truth be told, I have no desire to ever be an editor. I am not at all cut out for the long hours and tediousness of the task. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need to understand, learn, and sometimes pursue basic editing. By knowing how to edit, I can better know how a major element of my filmmaking passion. I can know what to look for in editors I may collaborate with and, when I’m wearing the hat of director or writer, be able to communicate my vision more clearly from start to finish.
It’s wonderful to be passionate about one part of the filmmaking process and to wholly pursue it. But knowing other parts of the process are only going to help you become better at how you fit into the larger whole. As you begin to dabble in learning the languages of other filmmaking (or any sort of creative) roles outside of your expertise, the more you can start to craft your own work around how it best fits a certain language. You begin to have a better overall knowledge of which medium may best serve a story and can communicate that more clearly to people who can help you bring that story to life. By clearly communicating that, you can rest assured you’ve attracted the best people at their craft, so you can go back to focusing on whatever element you’re most passionate about.
It keeps your career well-rounded and open
By being at least willing to try out roles, you’re opening yourself up to possible new passions. I have a friend who’s an excellent host. She has a knack for meeting people, remembering faces, making conversation with anyone, and putting people naturally at ease. Because she has such an open approach to her career, she’s begun interning at a casting director office a few days every week. And, to her surprise, she’s finding out that she absolutely loves it (not to mention she’s got a personality that’s fantastic for that world).
Does that mean she’ll end up being a casting director when she’s been so wholly focused on hosting for so many years? Probably not. But it could be a new career diversion that will help her (at least temporarily) do something she finds exhilarating while her other main passion gets on its feet. And I’ll suspect that someday as she really grows into her hosting self, her knowledge of and contacts made in the casting director world will do nothing but help her immensely.
It challenges you
Let’s face it. Creative-types hate boredom. We need diversity and new challenges to feel alive. We need refreshing experiences that allow us to rethink our perspective and refill our creative well from which we draw upon. If you’re willing to take on any different role for a project, you’ll find yourself delightfully challenged. And the thrill and adrenaline that comes from that challenge will be worth whatever amount of anxiety that might be provoked from the thought of it. Even if you learn that you hate something, you now know more about yourself as to why that certain role wasn’t right for you. Plus, you’ll have a deeper respect for the people who are willing to take it on.
While I agree that becoming a “Jack of All Trades” may create an “Expert of None” (something I’ve heard my whole life), I think there’s a balance to be struck. By always being open to new experiences while keeping your eyes on the prize, you’ll only become a better, happier creative (and a better, happier human as a byproduct).