The most fortunate in life are those who have such an obsession for something—singing, dancing, writing, painting, whatever they crave—that they will do it, no matter what. Shows like American Idol, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance, and their many clones exemplify this incredible drive.
When I came to Hollywood I had a lot of hope but little help. I befriended an assistant cameraman to Haskell Wexler, one of the finest cinematographers in movie history. He won an academy award for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
I had written my first screenplay, “Look Back Now,” about an advertising whiz and a Washington insider who run a candidate for president from Central Casting. Although I knew no one inside the Hollywood club, the aforementioned assistant cameraman gave my screenplay to Haskell, who phoned me and said, “Come visit me on the set. I like your script.”
With eyes agape, I was invited to the set of Coming Home, directed by Hal Ashby, who directed Harold and Maude and The Landlord and starring Jane Fonda.
Haskell was terse and to the point: “I don’t know if or when I can get your film made. But I want to option it.” I didn’t know what the term meant. I just said, “Sure!” He went back to work.
Jane Fonda, Hal Ashby, and Haskell Wexler were well respected but, at that time, Coming Home, an anti-war film about crippled vets coming back from Vietnam, was not on the top of the “picks to pop” in Hollywood. It was only produced because it was conceived by Jane Fonda, who was inspired by Ron Kovic, a paraplegic Vietnam War veteran, who wrote Born on the Fourth of July, which would later become an Oscar-winning motion picture directed by Oliver Stone, starring Tom Cruise. As far as she was concerned, making the film was do-or-die.
If you crave any kind of career in show business, you’ll soon realize that there are dozens of other occupations that pay more, that will reward you based upon performance, and that even have some benefits like health care. You need an incredible drive to write, act, perform, or make films; you need luck; and you need a willingness to sleep on someone’s couch, wear a clown suit to advertise used cars, and do anything you have to do to make it.
Thank God, Steve Jobs and the many geniuses behind the ever-increasing internet streaming sites. Thanks to Japanese technology, there are also ever-refined and relatively-inexpensive cameras and computer software that every kid over twelve is capable of using. Make videos; show your acting, singing, and comedic performance; and create ideas—these days, short films like these can be seen by at least your friends and family or can be uploaded to the Internet—which could, possibly, go viral and cause millions of viewers to see them.