It’s Thanksgiving week. Time to forget about all your grand wants and ambitions and just be grateful for all those blessings we don’t count nearly as often as we should. Things like your eyes. Your health. First Responders. Electricity. Laughter. The roof over your head. The fully stocked grocery store down the street. Smart phones. High-speed internet. And even items of far lesser significance such as like milkshakes, Uber/Lyft, fantasy football, and the fact that there are now more varieties of bourbon than a well-adjusted person could ever hope to try in their lifetime.
Turn on the news tonight and you’ll see stories about people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. People whose loved ones walked out the door yesterday morning and never came back. People who have evacuated their homes and returned to splinters and ashes. Tragedies are awful for those directly involved, and for those of us who assist, console, or sympathize, they serve as stark reminders of how fragile life can be.
What’s that? You’ve heard this one already?
Well okay then, let’s dig a little deeper and zero in on a related dilemma not uncommon to many filmmakers: Why do so many of us find it difficult to appreciate success? We seem to take wins—large and small—for granted, and instead focus far too much energy on either what we have yet to achieve or, worse yet, the achievements of others. It’s a pointless yet prevalent mindset that leads to frustration, anxiety, and feelings of profound dissatisfaction. It’s not just that the grass is greener, it’s that the other person’s yard is OG Kush while the lawn you’re standing on is a patchy, weed-riddled, dog doo emporium.
Bowfinger: A stunningly accurate depiction of filmmaking absurdities.
It’s hard to say why so many of us get wrapped in this way of thinking. Maybe it’s because Hollywood is, in many ways, an exaggerated popularity contest—high school with money. People love you one minute and the next you could very well be yesterday’s news. It’s also a world that seems to outwardly celebrate one another’s successes (just look at all the awards shows!), while being fueled by schadenfreude behind the scenes. And, of course, if you’re fortunate enough to score a big victory then you’ll be tasked with trying to top it, dealing with the paradoxical reward of having your latest work compared to your previous efforts.
The end result of all this? We tend to lose sight of our own meaningful accomplishments. Small wins are neglected, if not overlooked completely. Good days are reclassified as ‘not bad.’ And we forget that course correcting adage, “it’s only a movie.”
In a business where comparisons are commonplace (“This script is like Die Hard meets Purple Rain but with a samurai!”) and the question of the day is almost always “What have you done for me lately?,” it’s hard not to fall into a trap of thinking the world is conspiring against us, and that everyone else is doing far better than we are.
But in most cases, it’s not. And they’re not. And regardless, it doesn’t matter.
The grass is always gonna be greener somewhere. Just remember that it in Los Angeles, half the time it’s fake, and the other half… Well, you probably wouldn’t want to be stuck with their landscaping bill.
Try to remember that everyone — no matter how they might appear on the outside — has their own bucket of sh*t to deal with. Worrying about your own — and not everyone else’s — will put you in far better position to take care of what you need to. And by the way, you can’t do everything either. So don’t fall into the even more ridiculous trap of comparing yourself to people who aren’t even doing the same thing you are. It’s literally impossible to do it all. If you try to, nothing you’re working on will get your best effort.
The next time you catch yourself looking across the room at somebody and thinking they’re more successful (and therefore happier) than you are, consider that it’s entirely possible that person is doing the same thing: Looking across the room at someone else and thinking how great they’ve got it. Draw that out far enough and it stands to reason there might actually be someone out there who’s looking at you and thinking you’re the one who’s got it made.
Warren Buffet says every American is, to a degree, the winner of the Ovarian Lottery. So, as Bill Murray put it, you’ve got that going for you, which is nice. Keep grinding, doing your best work, and treating people right. Success will come, outwardly perhaps, inwardly for certain.
Maybe it’s already here and you just didn’t realize it.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from everyone here at Team Lunacy.
Lunacy Productions’ head honcho Stu Pollard‘s latest film RUST CREEK hits theaters and VOD on January 4th. Other recent films he’s helped produce include Alexandra Shiva’s documentary This Is Home (Audience Award, 2018 Sundance Film Festival), the powerful high school drama And Then I Go (2017), and the rom-com Plus One. He teaches at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Film Independent.