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Politics & entertainment: Interchangeable?

by Rebecca Stay

Recently I was asked to attend a meeting between Congressman Adam Schiff‘s aide and the CARE organization. Guess what I found out?

Politics is a lot like the entertainment industry. Below are five things I learned about the process:

1. It’s not all that dramatic.

I hate to say it, but it’s true. I loved my job as a TV Exec, but the day-to-day did get tedious. My friends that work on the production side say the same thing. Long hours dealing with head banging minutia. People outside of entertainment seem to have this idea that it’s glam 24/7. It’s not. When it comes to the political circles, I imagine people think (me included) it’s all House of Cards meets Veep. So, at the meeting I attended to discuss what the Congressman can further do for the organization, it was a tad, very anti-climatic. There was no Machiavellian behavior at play — not that I could see anyway. It was served very civil with a side of gratitude for what the Congressman is already doing to support CARE. Huh. In TV, the day is filled with pitch meetings from sunrise to sunset with calls and meals sprinkled throughout. Not very dramatic. Well, there were the occasional moments of doing the “celebratory dance” when we sold or picked up a project (depending on what side of the fence — buyer or seller — that you stood on). I’ll admit, that was fun. No one was dancing here.

2. TV Creative Execs hear pitch ideas. Hey, so do Political Aides.

It was very amusing to walk into the conference room and see that the Congressman’s aide had a pad of paper and pen to write down what CARE had to say in order to pass along to the Congressman. She even wore the same neutral face (AKA poker face) that we wore when people would come into our offices. In my former life as a TV Exec, we would hear countless ideas a day and have to make decisions on which ones we’d move forward with and purchase. The Congressman and his aide have a similar job. People from different organizations and walks of life go in to convince or sway him on an issue so that he could then, in turn, go back to Washington and fight the good fight on behalf of the cause. Both creative execs and politicians have to work within a budget and both need to remain neutral and try not to piss anyone off because the reality is, you don’t know when you’re going to need them… which is usually sooner than later.

3. It’s all about power and credit.

Everyone wants credit. It’s just the nature of the beast. Today wasn’t anything like that. Friendly people. No screaming, no name calling, no talking down to each other or passive-aggressive behavior, and no talking to camera (you’ll only get that last part if you watch House of Cards). I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t any drama. I waited with bated breath for the tension to bubble over… waiting for that popcorn moment. Oh, well. Even though there wasn’t a soap opera flash, the subtext was living in that meeting somewhere. Like in the business of TV, everyone invariably is looking to see how it benefits them and asking the question, “How can this be spun to make me look good?”

In this meeting, the aide nodded her head several times repeating, “You’re preaching to the choir.” The hard part is not convincing her or even the Congressman. It’s asking them to “reach across the aisle” where it gets tricky. You know, the “others” who have their own agendas, their own passion projects, and their own agendas. Oh, oops. I said that already.

4. It’s never easy or simple.

It’s amazing we get anything done. In life, in work, at play. We, as humans, over-complicate everything. In entertainment, once we fall in love with a project, the next step is getting business affairs involved, agents involved, where then, inevitably… greed gets involved. And power is silly. What’s the saying? “We make plans and God laughs.” Well, I think that can apply to power. You think you have it, but you never do. So, if we subscribe to the notion that no one has it, why don’t we just give into what we already know: We all count. It would be so much easier if we cooperated, played fair, and supported each other. I can’t even imagine how much we could get done. That’s not true. I can… imagine. It would be glorious.

5. It takes a village.

This saying is mostly applied to raising a child, but it sure does apply to making a TV show. It starts with the idea and the script. But that writer of said script had producers and a studio and a network helping him/her along the way. When they’re lucky enough to get a series order, it really does take a village to get it up and running. In politics, it’s the same. Mother Teresa once said it starts with one ripple, one voice. We all matter. How great if we took a breath (well, maybe many) and a moment to see the obvious, which is we’re all connected. Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us the universe literally lives within us. If true, this inter-connectedness warrants respect. If we respect one another, we should care… for ourselves and for our neighbors — both domestic and foreign. Right?RebeccaStay-CARE

Creatives and politicos are very similar — although all my years in TV, we never took pics together at the end of the pitch.

And my guess is politicos don’t do any sort of celebratory dance when they experience (big or small) victories within the system… but hey, maybe they should give it a try.

To read the story in its entirety, please visit it’s rebecca, not becky…or is it?

Rebecca Stay

About Rebecca Stay

Rebecca is a native of So. Cal. A former TV executive, she recently finished a feature spec and is working on her blog, “It’s Rebecca not Becky…Or Is It?” When not busy with her duties as room parent, she’s hanging with her wonderful hubby and nine year old son. You can check out her blog at It’s Rebecca, not Becky . . . Or Is It? and follow her on Twitter @stayrebecca

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