Post-Grad, Inspiration, and Mount Doom
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
A filmmaker facing LA, the deep dark depths of unemployment, and the uncertainty of the future post-graduation.
Welcome to my first blog on my site! I've been really enjoying staying creative, and I thought this was a good way to occasionally let out my thoughts on things aside from my projects.
I had two different ideas I wanted to write about: my post-grad perspective and my inspiration. I couldn't figure out which to write about, so I figured — why not try to incorporate both?
So this blog will be a dichotomy of my outlook on a very uncertain future, and my various forms of inspiration. It has too many movie references.
Part I: POST-GRAD
I started writing this on my last day working for ASU. The day almost felt like the sequel to my graduation, because it’s my last tie to being in Tempe on a daily basis.
My Bachelor’s Degree is completed, and my tenure at my Student Job is over. That day I had this overwhelming feeling that the stage is set. The security blanket of College is ripped off. It's time to face the music. To face the “real world”. It's the first time in my life where I don’t have a concrete path, and it’s both freeing and terrifying.
Since I’ve been alive, there has been a clear endgame for me — go to school, go to college, graduate from college. It wasn’t even a question in my mind. I had to do that. But now, it’s completely up to me. My goal is to “make it” as a Professional Screenwriter/Filmmaker. But in the meantime: A bartender? Laborer? Move states? Cut to the chase and try to "make it" in LA? Stay at home with my parents? Hell I could shovel elephant shit if I wanted, there are no rules now. The idea that I have options at all is exciting. But as I said, it's also terrifying.
Bear with me here with my corny analogy…
Right now, I am at the base of Mount Doom, staring up at the climb ahead — Professional Filmmaking, Hollywood.
Since The Shire (the start of my college career), I’ve started grinding my teeth, growing a couple grey hairs, and my anxiety and dread skyrockets every time I pass a coffee shop or grocery store. Is that where I'll spend the next decades of my life?
I’ve been told horror stories from friends who’ve tried their hand at Hollywood.
I have a pretty extensive GoogleDoc of jobs I’ve applied to that continues to get more depressing with each rejection.
I think everyone has felt this way before, and the question becomes: how do I make it up there? Or maybe: How do I even start trekking my way up there?
I know what you're thinking ... "Jesus Brandon, thanks for the existential crisis today." I promise it gets better...
Part II: It Gets Better... but...
Inspiration has become a dime a dozen in the information age. Any given second, you'll find 1,000 "Inspirational" Facebook videos from your high school classmates, and Instagram posts so long you don't bother reading (though you'll definitely read this right?). Even inspiration rises to the top of the Internet cesspool known as Twitter. There are times I find something genuinely moving, but a lot of it -- to be frank -- is shit. Because even though it's good-natured, it's not real. It just simply activates your endorphin pump for the moment until you move on to the see what the outrage and puppy videos are for the day. The best type of inspiration is one that tells it to you straight.
Knowing quality inspiration is like the difference between The Matrix's red and blue pill -- the red, knowing the harsh truth that life can be brutal vs the blue pill, ignorance (or negligence) of what is accomplishing your dream. You can feel the difference when watching/reading it.
No matter which pill they choose, a lot of people talk about their “magical enlightening moment”, where a light bulb appears above their head, telling them what they want to do in life. A moment that I always found to be fantasy, or at least not in the cards for me. In my experience, I get waves of massive inspiration, and then waves of doubt and fear.
But one moment of inspiration that still trumps the doubt comes from a Commencement Address Jim Carrey gave in 2014. You may have seen this before, but if you haven’t ... PLEASE DO HERE.
The Highlight I first stumbled upon:
"So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please!"
Right from the get go, I was punched in the face by this. This is exactly what I'd been doing my whole adolescence, and in my then 2-year college career -- disguising fear as practicality.
“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear."
Throughout his speech, Jim Carrey talks about the Insurance-seeking, rationalizing, and anxiety-filled human condition that is "figuring out" what you're gonna do in life. On an macro-level, he gives us an existential nudge, saying that we are all part of a "larger self". He asserts in life, there's a fundamental choice: love or fear?
"My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive."
"I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."
This idea that if you settle for something that your parents, society, or your insecure self, want you to do you'll never fail is such an enormous fallacy. Sure your odds might be better one way or another but nevertheless, a fallacy. One that I, for some reason, had never even considered.
I switched majors many times in College — from Business, to Exploratory STEM, to Architecture (that experience, for another write-up). Film was something I always loved, but never wanted to pursue. At first I added Filmmaking as a Minor, for fun. At a truly unhappy time in my life, where I hated my STEM and Architecture courses and felt stuck, the few film electives gave me inspiration. Jim Carrey's speech was the knockout blow to me settling for something I didn't want, and I finally committed to FILM. But that wasn't the end of it.
For months after making the Degree change, I was ashamed and embarrassed to say I aspired to be a Professional Filmmaker. Because I knew it came with questions — some valid, some just annoying (as well as the inevitable and frankly bizarre “make porn” jokes from family members that apparently happens to all Student Filmmakers). Since then, I’ve made a lot of progress (ie this site and my work within it), and I continue to get better.
Whenever I'm wondering why I chose to pursue film, I always remember that line. You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. It's really that simple. If you are able to do this, do it. And be grateful. We're lucky to try.
In reality, there is no "safe job", not really. So full steam ahead.
H3H3 - Glad We Tried
Ethan Klein (AKA Foopis Maximus, General of the Fooper Trooper army, and all-knowing of memes) alongside Mama Hila Klein (CEO, Hila Kleiner, and General of the Mom Army) detail how though maybe not everything is possible for everybody -- you owe it to yourself to try your damndest. So no matter what happens, you know you tried. If you're not a subscriber, some of their inside jokes are gonna seem .... off-kilter. And most of this paragraph will make 0 sense.
For my fellow Filmmakers, watch this Mark Duplass Speech - The Cavalry isn’t Coming from SXSW 2015.
The Cavalry isn't Coming. Duplass describes that you must rely on yourself and your colleagues to rise up as an Independent Filmmaker, not "the Cavalry" that so many of us think is coming to save us.
Whenever I start to get overwhelmed, I look back on one of these videos (maybe now I'll look back on this very blog). None of these videos lie to me, like so many "you can do anything" mantras.
Instead, it presents a point of view that I believe (though sometimes forget). You owe it to yourself to take the leap. To maintain a relentless work flow, have a willingness to take risks, bounce back from failure, and remind yourself of your greater existence. You'd be shocked at what the universe presents to you.
I'll even take it further -- if you do that -- you will achieve some form of success. "Gee thanks, a 22-year old indebted college-grad is telling me about success" .... I can't argue with that. But hear me out.
So many people call B.S. on that point of view because success is so often defined as great wealth, power, fame, and influence. You have to be at the absolute pinnacle of your field.
But what if success wasn't defined that way? What if success was defined as any combination of: completing a project you're proud of, inspiring others, creating, bettering a community, being financially comfortable -- that all amalgamate into being happy? The odds of being successful would probably be a lot less scary. And Mount Doom wouldn't seem so steep.