Why "It's who you know" is nonsense.

I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Jacksonville, FL getting ready to jump on a plane to head home to Burbank after a long 17 days on the road. We just started filming our new season of #GinormousFood, and though I had a blast and love doing it, these long road trips always tend to get a little exhausting for everyone. 

The best way I can explain filming a show like ours is that it's just like a vacation or summer camp: You look forward to it all year, and love every minute of it, and at the end you're ready to go home. The minute you get home, you immediately miss all of your friends and the fun things you got to do. Real life settles back in, and you start to plan your next trip, summer camp experience, or in this case, our next shoot that begins in two weeks.

When actors and entertainers win awards, you'll often hear them exclaim about how great their team is, or how great everyone that worked on the project is, and if you're like me you'll often roll your eyes. You know all workplaces have drama, conflict, and things that just plain suck, and you'll be damned if you let the Hollywood elite tell you otherwise. Now that we've put 11 episodes behind us in the filming process, I feel like I get the sentiment. 

Working on TV or film is a different beast. It's not the glamour of late night TV interviews and red carpets that many think - this thing is like construction, project management, a travel agency, and theatre all in one. Our crew is 8 people at any given time - 3 technical (2 cameras, and 1 sound), 3 creative (director, myself, and culinary producer), an Associate Producer (the person that literally plans and executes EVERYTHING associated with filming), and a Production Assistant (person that literally helps with all of the above and everything else). This doesn't even include all of the creative people back at the office that build our stories, edit our episodes, color correct, etc. The list goes on forever. 

I think back to a little over a year ago, when I got a random email from a production company that wanted to speak to me about hosting a show. I didn't know what to think at first. My first instinct was that someone was trolling me, and there was no show and no production company. 18 months later, with a lot of people that believe in me, and a TON of hard work from those people, we're in our 2nd run of a blast of a TV show with amazing people. 

When you're on the road, and you're all doing a job that you know can end at any minute, there's a bond that forms that's hard to explain. It's like you're all on a rollercoaster that you know might be your last, and the mortality around that experiences pushes you closer to your companions. You care more about their families than anyone else you've worked with. You hug them tighter, you listen to them more intently. When they have a bad day, you have a bad day, and when they are happy, you are happy. It's the inevitable trauma that we all know will come some day that builds that love. It really helps put things in perspective. In the colosseum of TV, even the greatest of shows and champions will die at some point, like real death; it's imminent and unavoidable. 

It's not all doom and gloom though, so I want to be clear. There's a freedom with that understanding that allows us to create, and be free, and behave like fools and children, and play pranks, and try to do something different every day. I'm incredibly grateful for this experience, and I couldn't be working with better people.

(If you're still reading this, thanks! I know this is a long one, but it's been a while, so strap in)

This opportunity for me didn't come out of "making the right friends" or "rubbing elbows" with the right people. I honestly detest that shit. I try to live as genuinely as possible, and with the best of intentions. I wasn't born into a connected family. When I moved to LA as a comedian, no one "took me under their wing." I just decided at one point that I was going to do this, and I did. And I got very, very lucky.

We live in an amazing time. You can make your own movies with some light stands, an iPhone, and some innovative friends. The days of "who you know" is dead. Does it still help? Probably, but everyone I know that got on that way, has fallen off because they don't have real respect or appreciation for the luck that it still takes, and they don't make the most of those chances. I spent a lot of time putting in the work on things that people didn't think mattered: I worked social media every day vs. doing 5 minute open mic sets because I thought it was a way to reach more people. I wrote scripts that nobody would read for years, because I wanted to know that I could do it, and I wanted to have something for someone to read if they ever asked. I spent the last 4 years preparing for luck to come, and when it did, I was ready.

That's all you can do. I said it for years as a leader in the corporate world, but it really is true: 

Focus on what YOU can control. Everything else is just noise.

Make your own content. Find your own fans. Rinse, repeat. Don't spend time trying to pander to agents, or agencies, or managers. People ask me all of the time now to refer them to managers or agents now that I have them, but think of it this way: Would you ask me to refer customers to you before your deli is open for business? Before your business is strong enough to retain customers? Before you have your shit together? Once you get there, you won't need anyone's recommendation. That word of mouth will travel fast, and people that want sandwiches will find you.

Don't worry about who's giving you recognition amongst your peer community. I spent way too much time craving respect from people I look up to, only to find out that they're as much or more lost than I am when it comes to the next steps.

Do it (whatever "it" is for you) because it makes you happy, and prepare to commit your life to it. If that's not enough to do it, then maybe you're not ready to be your own boss and put yourself out there. That's OK too. 

If you have a talent, or a product, or a service that people like, admire, or want, YOU WILL SUCCEED. It's as inevitable as death or cancellation. Enjoy it all while it's here.

 

Posted on March 15, 2017 .