Last week I found myself in Urban Outfitters for some unknown reason, and started looking through their mostly novelty book collection. Recipes for hemp, something about beards, veganized Betty Crocker, even the classic Tumblr Feminist Ryan Gosling is now a coffee table book. In the piles of hipster literature and cat pictures, I found a book called "Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)" by George Lois
. The book is, as you'd guess, a list of advice largely aimed at young professionals, arranged with one point per page with a succinct paragraph explaining it.
I glanced through a few pages and landed on one that basically said this: don't forget to honor your mentors when you're successful. Give credit to those that helped you in some way.
I thought, really? People need to be told to do this? Why wouldn't you share your success?
But then I remembered a time when I used to keep my gratefulness to myself. Introverts tend to think a lot of things, and a lot of us in post are introverts by nature. We appreciate what people do for us and would always give them credit for helping us along the way if someone asked, but do we ever tell them? Honestly, all this junk gets way too close to having feelings and emotions, and most of us just aren't down with that kind of stuff.
I've been lucky to have a few mentors along the way so far, but there was one person I saw recently, and I realized I had never told him the impact he had on me. We only worked together a couple of days a long time ago.
In 2006, I accidentally found out that there happened to be a small independent film community in Indianapolis. I say accidentally because I was eavesdropping on a conversation at work. A girl mentioned her dad was an actor, and it snowballed from there until I was walking up the driveway to a stranger's house while people I don't know assembled a dolly outside. The film was an independent feature drama about a pioneer woman who got lost in time, and they were shooting two scenes outside the house that day. I had volunteered to be a production assistant. I'd never been a PA before, so I had no idea what I was getting myself in to with it.
I spent the day doing everything you'd expect a brand new PA to do. Moving stuff, getting people drinks, moving stuff, moving stuff. Around evening, some people had to leave, and the assistant director asked me if I knew how to script supervise. Nope, but I can learn. So he showed me. A couple more people left, so I had to script supervise and do the slates. And it was night, so I had to shine a flashlight on the slate. And then grab my script notes. He worked with me, showing me how to number and letter the takes, what to say, where to hold things. He was incredibly kind and patient for a dude on a film set dealing with a mostly clueless 19 year old, heavy on the positive reinforcement. After we wrapped, I helped wrap cable and we spoke for a while about my career and schooling, and he wished me luck.
Having been on a lot of sets since then, I know that they're usually at least a little tense. I was lucky to have a first experience with an AD that wasn't screamy and stressed out. If my first experience on set had been negative, I'm not sure what would have happened next. But the AD's kindness showed me that there are a lot of good people in film, so I continued to volunteer and pursue more experiences with indies. Over the years, I've been able to work my way through crew jobs and meet dozens and dozens of great people. And of course, this eventually led to me editing a feature myself.
I figured I should probably tell him, right? So I did, via a quick note online. He was happy to hear, and he told me this: please do the same for someone you just met. Which is also great advice, and something I've always aspired to do.
This will undoubtedly get buried under the sea of NAB news about to flood the feeds, but if you're heading off to Vegas or getting your RSS feeds ready to see the latest gear and "game changers", remember the people
. Give credit where it's due. Honor your mentors (or those that were kind to you in some way) when you have any kind of success. Remember that nobody gets there alone. It works out great for everyone. Your mentor is encouraged to keep it up. You get some much needed humbling. And you might even get another dose of good advice from the experience. It's win-win-win, ya'll.
Now everyone hug.