http://www.culturekicks.co.uk/2013/05/03/your-american-dream/ — thanks to Pete Hoskins and Simon Mason as always.
‘Breaking America.’ You hear that phrase a lot in the entertainment world of the UK and Europe. It’s something that’s coveted, often attempted, but rarely achieved. Sure, Kate Winslet’s done it. So have Gordon Ramsey, Ewan MacGregor, Julian Fellowes, Ridley Scott, The Beatles and Adele, to name just some. But it’s becoming harder these days to find a formula that works in the US.
When I became a literary manager I spent a lot of time in the UK, representing a British director who was shooting a film in London. I got to know the UK film world and found I had an affinity for British and European talent above that I have for Americans. I got the humor, the intelligence and, of course, there was a niche. I became known as a young manager who specialised in bringing primarily British performers, writers and directors to the US to see what they could do.
It’s not big news that the US is obsessed with the Brits. Maybe it’s the accent, but film and television execs are into bringing new voices to America and they love the idea that perhaps they found a rose from across the pond.
One director I represented was Saul Metzstein, a protégé of Danny Boyle’s from Glasgow. He won a few Scottish Baftas for a film called Late Night Shopping (2001) and it was clear he had a voice that could translate to America. This, of course, is key. Some people aren’t interested in commercialising or Americanising their work. That’s completely fine – but unless those people are doing a period drama à la Merchant and Ivory, they’re better off staying in the UK and finding success there.
Saul did a film I set up for him that starred some Brits and some Americans, then he went back to the UK and directed some television before doing second unit work on Dredd (2012) and now on The Three Musketeers. He has one foot in both worlds, and it will pay off for him whichever way he chooses to take it. Stay in the UK and make small movies and direct a lot of high profile television, or continue to direct second unit until a US studio sees that he can blow stuff up really well and gives him a movie to direct himself. He’s in a great position but what it’s taken is talent, time and, for Saul, an ability to adapt, bend and compromise.
Of course, some UK filmmakers don’t want to leave their exalted positions in their home country. Shane Meadows is a great example of this. He’s successful in the UK and has little to no desire to do anything US-related. His work is also so bound up with the UK that it might be difficult to break in, no matter how talented he is.
Writers are a different proposition from filmmakers. I always have at least two or three British writers on my roster, but it’s very hard to find ones whose writing can adapt seamlessly to the US. It has to be so easily malleable to American storytelling that there is no question where the writer comes from. British writers must adapt to the proper language and formatting for screenwriting and, unless they are making a film in the UK to sell to the US (like Guy Ritchie in his early days), they must make a universal story or one whose actors have visibility in the US.
Sometimes what it takes from a performer or personality is simply a desire to leave their homeland and try their hand under the lights of Hollywood. One example of this is handsome television chef Stuart O’Keeffe, raised in a small town in Ireland, who came to LA and is now making his way up the ladder as a television chef. He has a skill, he is camera handsome and he met an agent while waiting tables in Los Angeles.
Often it requires that kind of luck to make it happen, but you must have the skill, a special something, whether it be a talent for writing or filmmaking, or a way around the kitchen and a pretty face. Look at that list of names at the top of this post again. Not just anyone can make it in America.
I used to have a signal for myself when things were getting out of control in my life – I started getting parking tickets. It was a combination of not paying attention to the rules of the world because I was distracted by something else and in some way thinking those rules didn’t apply to me. “I won’t get a ticket”, I’m me.”. Most of the time I’d get a ticket.
This has been a horrifically difficult time of late, I’ve hardly been posting on Twitter, I’ve rarely blogged, because well, everything I have to say is moany and negative. I’m in that place. But it’s time to talk about that place for a minute. It hit me as I was standing in line at the Coffee Bean with my son after picking him up from school.
I’ve been attending a conference all week, getting up very early, dropping my son off early at school and picking him up late. Attendance is mandatory this week and it has been exhausting and at times excruciatingly boring. This morning (Friday) my son had a nightmare at about 4:45am and neither of us got back to sleep. I was so tired and so discouraged by the week that I just decided to call in and tell them my son was sick and I couldn’t make it. The last day, the last time I needed to be there, I wanted sleep, and some time alone, time to get some other things done. Understandable, but I had showed up on time every day before and just needed this one last day to complete this conference. But I didn’t. I just couldn’t. And if I didn’t, I’d have blown the week – those were the rules and I knew it. But did I?
So, did I think I could get away with that because I am ME? That they would let me skate by on the last day even though every day attendance is required? Yes, honestly, part of me felt they would. Why? I have no idea. I am no one special to them, I am one amongst perhaps 40 in this group. Will they let me slide? I don’t know, they never got back to me and when I called in the secretary told me she gave the message to the moderator but I never heard back from him. Her suggestion.? Show up on Monday as planned. Just like I should have done on Friday and not created this mess. So why create the mess? One more day was all I needed to endure.
I was doing so well, following the rules of life, living life on life’s terms, whether I liked them or not. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today – really taking things as they came, showing up honestly….so why did I put myself in this situation? I was tired, yes. I was cranky, yes. I was over it, yes. But i signed up and committed to it and I only had one more day. One more day and I have potentially thrown everything out the window.
Concurrently, when I picked up my son from Kindergarten I saw he got a yellow card in class meaning something went wrong (green is best). He told me he had punched a girl who had punched him. Now, there are all kinds of things wrong with this of course and I told him everything he needed to know, for the twelfth time. If someone bothers you, go to a teacher, never hit, follow the rules. Rather hypocritical if you ask me. I really had to hold off on any kind of major scolding because I had acted as much as he, as a five year old did, in his own mind. Me as a reaction to my body’s tiredness, his to being hit and reacting in kind, we both broke the rules because we didn’t think they applied to us even though we’ve been told they do, only I have about one million more times than he has.
Gratefully I don’t do this kind of thing very often anymore. I used to live like this and I used to condemn those who I knew who did it. Again, rather hypocritical. But clearly when I do it, I go for it 100%. I don’t know what the consequence of my lazy action will be but I have no choice but to accept the consequences and continue to be exhausted from them (and myself).
I’ve started to realize that waiting is an art, that waiting achieves things. Waiting can be very, very powerful. Time is a valuable thing. If you can wait two years, you can sometimes achieve something that you could not achieve today, however hard you worked, however much money you threw up in the air, however many times you banged your head against the wall. . .
–The Courage to Change by Dennis Wholey
The people who are most successful at living and loving are those who can learn to wait successfully. Not many people enjoy waiting or learning patience. Yet, waiting can be a powerful tool that will help us accomplish much good.
We cannot always have what we want when we want it. For different reasons, what we want to do, have, be, or accomplish is not available to us now. But there are things we could not do or have today, no matter what, that we can have in the future. Today, we would make ourselves crazy trying to accomplish what will come naturally and with ease later.
We don’t have to put our life on hold while we wait. We can direct our attention elsewhere; we can practice acceptance and gratitude in the interim; we can trust that we do have a life to live while we are waiting – then we go about living it.
Deal with your frustration and impatience, but learn how to wait. The old saying, “You can’t always get what you want” isn’t entirely true. Often, in life, we can get what we want – especially the desires of our heart – if we can learn to wait.
Today, I am willing to learn the art of patience. If I am feeling powerless because I am waiting for something to happen and I am not in control of timing, I will focus on the power available to me by learning to wait.
2012 Movies with the Wrong Director
Jesse Benjamin is a talented and clever guy. Please take a look at this brief animated sketch and RT as much as you desire. It’s good for him and for what’s next for him, whatever that may be.
Please leave feedback if you enjoy. Hopefully this appeals to all – not just movie buffs.