• James Stranahan

Passion: Your Best Friend If You Work in the Film Industry

There’s a lot to be said for having the skills needed to do any job in the movies. If you don’t know how to use a camera and can’t communicate your ideas, you’re not going to get very far as a director, and if you haven’t developed a system for memorizing your lines, you can forget about being an actor. Any job in a film production - from the producer, to the actors, to the crew - will come with a long list of duties that the person must be able to perform. Sometimes, though, I see people who can check off each one and are qualified for their jobs, yet they’re ultimately not very good and actually drag the production down. What happened? How can someone who can do an authentic Bronx accent and kickbox with the best of them make me wish that the other guy, who was less qualified, had been hired?

They lack passion. It’s really that simple.

Passion is one of those qualities that has been talked about so much that it’s become a bit of a cliche. Even so, I think it’s worth mentioning because when you’re working 16-hour days and desperately need to get some sleep but can’t because the director wants yet another take, you’re going to need your passion for your job to see you through it.

Let me give you an example from my early childhood. I was in a small play when I was attending middle school in Aspen, Colorado, and while I was finding the rehearsals to be fun, I was still only about twelve years old. In other words, this world of after-school rehearsals that went until 7:00 p.m. several nights each week for a month seemed incredibly taxing. (Little did I know what I would face as a movie producer these days, but I’ll cut my younger self some slack).

There was more than one evening when I wasn’t thrilled to be eating the PB&J sandwich and chips that my mom had packed for me instead of a spaghetti and meatballs dinner, and I thought about how badly I wanted to be home in front of the TV, relaxing. I also had a lot of lines to learn, and there were times when I just thought it was so difficult. What kept me going and got me to the thrill of opening night was, you guessed it, the passion I had for what I was doing.

It is really not any different today. When you have passion for what you do, you can get through any workday no matter how long it is.

Here’s another example for you. On the set of Better Than Yourself, we pulled some long nights. Many of us didn’t get home until the early hours of the morning, and we had to turn right around and come back in not so long later. The cast and crew were really phenomenal, very professional, and they always had great attitudes about this. There was one guy, one of the Personal Assistants, who I came to deeply respect in particular. This man came to work with a smile on his face no matter what time it was and gave his job everything that he had. He loved what he was doing and had passion for it. It got him through the long hours and helped him to turn out quality work. That’s the kind of person I want on my filmsets: individuals who believe so deeply in what they do that they give 100% of themselves all the time.

So, the takeaway is this: if you lose your passion for your job, it probably won’t matter much that you are the greatest at what you do and have all the right skills. When doors slam in your face, you get rejection after rejection, and the workdays are insane, you’ve got to love what you do.

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