It always seemed unlikely to me given the competitiveness of the entertainment industry. It wasn’t until I got a little wiser that I realized that most of that competition is with yourself not your writing buddies.
I don’t mean that philosophically. I mean that I rarely find myself vying for the same goal as another writer. There’s always enough difference in either genre or platform or just where you are in your career that you’re rarely after the same job as someone else. The challenge is always just getting your own writing as sharp as it can be.
So writers look out for each other. Share info on potential gigs. Help introduce each other around. There’s only one rule.
You can’t be a jerk.
I’ve got a writing buddy who’s husband decided to go back to school to become a photographer. A professional photographer.
Let’s pause for a moment and appreciate that. Someone – in the 21st century, when cameras are more ubiquitous than hand soap – decided they wanted to make photography their profession. I suppose newspaper publisher and woolly mammoth herder were too easy a pursuit?
Needless to say, my buddy and husband were fairly strapped for cash pursuant to this decision. Her husband was taking odd jobs where he could find them.
Knowing this, my wife offered him her job during her holiday break a couple years back. He’d already filled in for her once so he knew the drill. Naturally he readily accepted. My writing buddy thanked me. They needed this.
No problem; writers look out for each other.
Trouble is… Apparently adult students studying dying professions don’t appreciate that kind of mutual respect.
My buddy’s husband called three days before Wife’s holiday to say he was bailing. He’d gotten an offer in his prospective field that would overlap his commitment to my wife. He was out. Sorry ’bout that. You understand, right?
After many words cussed to herself in anger, Wife managed to find another replacement. She had to rush to train the new recruit and her holiday was spent fielding calls from a novice, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
The sour taste left in both our mouths however, didn’t quickly fade.
In fact, it flared up with surprising acridity when Wife recently received a call from my buddy’s husband. Seems he was responding to job posting: Her company was on the lookout for a professional event photographer.
I’ll be damned, so that really is still a profession? Fascinating…
He was calling hoping that Wife’d put in a good word for him.
No mention of leaving her in the lurch a couple years back. No apology. Nothing.
Yeah, I think they filled that position. Sorry, she told him.
That’s not sour grapes. Let’s be clear. Because that was my initial reaction. They’re still living hand to mouth– I mean, a writer and a photographer, c’mon. So I felt bad for my buddy. Still wanted to help them out by doing anything I could to help her foolish jerk of a husband.
But here’s why Wife was right to shut it down: It wasn’t for fear of being screwed over again, it was to protect her reputation within her company. This guy’s already proved to be selfish and unreliable. She didn’t need any better reason than that to say no.
The phone rang yesterday. It was for me. A production company responsible for dozens of films. This place just churns out material. The producer on the line was calling because they were in need of action writers. From their track record, a writer could easily find steady work with these guys.
And they were calling me.
I’d been referred to them by another writer. Another buddy altogether who – no slouch himself in the action genre – just didn’t have room for any new work.
Now, I’ve never been a superior human. I’m not terribly thoughtful. Nor well spoken. I’m not great in many, many ways. But I work hard, am reliable and respect my friends.
I’m not a jerk.
Sometimes that’s all it takes.