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He said: Nine years

by Eddie Gamarra

Like many of you, I came to L.A. with dreams of making a movie. A decade of academia taught me next to nothing about the film industry, despite being a film student, so I spent the following nine years learning the industry from the inside out instead. But for all that time and learning, I am still far from fulfilling my dreams.

Sure, I produced a few shorts here and there when I was younger. I dabbled with some writers groups. I even worked on a Christmas special for ABC and Sesame Street, which was a wonderful experience. I have given Hollywood my thirties. While it has given me a great deal in return . . . wonderful friends, colleagues and clients . . . it has still denied me my big movie.

As a rep I can empathize with my clients because we share similar if not identical dreams. I can relate, but it’s my job to do more than just that. I have to help them make their dreams a reality knowing full well that the system is built to say “no” much more often than “yes.” So I encourage my clients to write the project they want to write, but write knowing the market. I tell them to get out there and shoot footage. I remind them that at any given moment, any one of us could walk into any random coffee shop and probably cast and crew an entire movie. So why not go it yourself.

Don’t rely on the studios, networks, or publishers to allow you to do what it is you came here to do.

Go write that novel and self-publish it. Make that short and upload it. Hone your craft. Keep making. Do it on your terms. Don’t play the tables, build the casino. Create it and own it. Get it done. I offer up these platitudes, but struggle to follow my own advice.

I confess that I still dream of that big studio movie. I still want a first look deal and a reserved parking spot with my name on it. I still want top billing and a gross deal. I still want a golden statue on my mantle. I remain seduced and yet I know in my heart and in my brain that I should know better.

Over the last nine years, we’ve seen these creative industries grow increasingly reliant on established brands and famous franchises, big names and pre-sold properties. There are fewer spots for the original story, the new voice. We’ve witnessed tighter budgets, neglected quotes, smaller crews, shorter schedules, more and more of “more for less.” We try to negotiate for better, but get little improvement. We even strike when we can, but feel the damned repercussions long after the last picket sign is recycled. After nine years of seduction but little to no fulfillment, I often doubt my own advice. But I have to stop and ask, is there a better way?

We all know we work in collaborative fields. When will we come together as a community to innovate broadly, instead of grumbling over lunches at Ammo (like I did today)? When will we tear up the weekly trades rife with page after page of vapid materialism? (The money spent on one of those advertisements would pay a single assistant’s salary for months!)

How can we build a better system? I am no anarchist or true radical, but I do know change begins one person at a time. Change begins when each of us asks ourselves, “What’s happened to us as a creative community that thousands of smart and talented people allow themselves to abide by a process that refuses to grant us permission to do what we are here to do?”

As a little boy I learned a prayer, just a few sentences long, in which I ask my God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Rather than let the sadness and frustration of a movie-less nine years drown me, I aim for serenity. I remind myself that while I can’t change the studio system, what I can do is work hard to create new and different opportunities for my clients, my colleagues and myself. What I can do is ask questions and encourage others to reflect on their own goals, if only for just a moment. What I can do is change my own path so I can focus less on the aspects of our industry that I can’t control in order to create a path of my own making, one with a loving wife whose own nine-year journey reminds me of really what matters most.

Eddie Gamarra

About Eddie Gamarra

Eddie Gamarra could have been a shrink, but ended up in literary representation. He is married to Katrina Knudson, the “non-pro” to his “pro.”

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