A friend contacted me about a gig: interpret a dozen of non-Chinese films for a Chinese movie critic who is a judge at an international film festival. I would help him to understand what those movies are about to write reviews and score them.
I definitely want the gig. Here are my rationales:
- I’m curious about what movies get selected and the process on the whole.
- I want to make connection with this Chinese movie critic.
- For someone doesn’t have an income right now as a full-time foreign student, I can always use some extra bucks.
But by taking this on, I’m contending with my own projects: My scripts. My novel. My podcast.
I feel stressed.
Actually I can’t remember the last time I was ever chill.
Earlier this year, I was more than just stressed. I was depressed. I felt I was not going places. My work didn’t amount to anything. I was not valued in the office even though I was hired by the big boss when I was still in film school.
In my defense, I was asked to read scripts. I read so fast. Soon I ran out of materials. I went after books on Amazon. Then office manager told me the (outsourced) finance manager need to see the producers’ green-light notes before I could order them online. [Translation: Stop doing what you are not told to do.]
So I stopped reimbursing and used my meager salary looking for new materials for the firm. I wrote treatments. I tried pitching to the producers. But their hands were full. Their desks are loaded with more important projects. [Translation: projects that would generate revenue; projects that have higher ROI; projects that they found themselves and appeal to their own tastes.]
As this route led me nowhere, I was dejected. I grew cynical. I thought about quitting. But I had nowhere else to go. My screenwriting mentors asked me to hang on because I was right next to the Hollywood mojo.
Watch and learn, kid!
And yet, I couldn’t see the value of this 9-to-6 job. I was utterly unfazed after the bedazzlement. I finally came to my senses: it was just like any other jobs I’d held over the years. Who said Hollywood was all dream and drama? For a few months, the closest drama I’d got was: I was dying of boredom. (Melodrama of course…) I wanted to create my own stuff. I knew I had ‘the Right Stuff.’ I didn’t want to disappoint. But to be frank, I was disappointed. After the recruit, my boss scarcely bestowed his wisdom like he did in the class.
I wanted to stand on the desk and scream at the top of my lungs in a place everyone was talking but nobody was listening—
Gimme somethin’, sire.
And I’ll make you proud!
The dream of working for the producer came true fast. But the reality hit me, faster and furious. Finally I realized that I was both the Boy and the Emperor. I had no clothes on. At least I was honest about being naked. This was nothing but day-trading. This was bullshit.
But after getting the H-1B work visa rejection letter from the immigration board, I had an epiphany. I, not anybody else, had to fight for my artist visa next year, to maximize my chance. Instead of half-assing my effort betting gold on others, I have to do the work and ship fast.
In those darkest days, I came up with a podcast idea called Rock Bottom with YZ. Hence the namesake of this blog. Then the machine started running again:
- I began my first novel. 47,000 words and counting. Half way through.
- I picked up screenwriting, after abandoning it for a year.
- I returned to the world, after being a scared and hurt hermit.
- I did a lecture on storytelling, mading an impression and some new contacts.
- I joined a Chinese TV Pilot writer team, not caring who takes credits.
- I’m about to collaborate with two artists on a short about immigration.
- I’m going to collaborate on a book project with my Chinese writer pal.
The list goes on.
I was stressed that I didn’t know what to do a year ago.
Now I’m stressed that I have only 24 hours a day minus 6-7 hours of sleep with all the things I want to create and collaborate.
I know I’m closer.
I know I’m getting there.
I can feel it in my gut.
I just need to take a deep breath and repeat my mantra: Drip by drip.
By denying me the snazzy title, the to-do list, the caring boss, the paycheck, the work visa, prospect of a romantic relationship… everything that I want, could very likely be the best things that can ever happen to me, all at once.
Bring it on.
It’s not 20/20 hindsight yet, but I have a hunch.