Don’t Become a Wandering Generality. Be a Meaningful Specific.

The more specific I am with my work, the more successful I am. The more I let go of what I think the industry needs, the more I write things they can find a use for. Zig Ziglar once said, “Don’t become a wandering generality, be a meaningful specific” and I’ve shaped my career around following that idea.

This wisdom has bubbled away inside me for numerous years, but it’s only now that I’ve taken time to truly think it through. Doing so has enabled me to see that every meaningful advance I have made has been through working out my strengths and focusing directly on them, rather than trying to pander to what the industry needs.

My main source of income over the past few years has been creating showreels from scratch for actors. Unless you are in the industry – this is a niche you are unlikely to have heard of. Essentially I am creating video CVs for actors; I’m writing scenes and then directing them so that actors can show casting directors what they are capable of.

 

What I’ve found is that the most successful actors are the most specific. With so many actors in the industry today, casting directors don’t need an actor who can show incredible range. They need an actor who will fit the part. And as films and TV slowly shift towards being more diverse; people’s differences become why they’re castable.

In previous decades, an actor may have tried to downplay their mixed heritage or their big nose or their shortness/tallness; now these things are an asset.

Who you are is an asset.

Recently, for no particular reason, I got into a little panic about the work I do. Wondering if the showreels I’m creating are good enough. Some other companies have popped up doing what I do in recent years, and I felt in awe of their amazing cameras and snazzy editing.

But then I remembered, that’s never been what I’m about. My focus has always been on, a) the writing, b) the actor’s performances. My goal is not to have the best camera moves, my goal is to write subtle, nuanced scenes, and to then direct the actors in a way that draws out performances of a high level.

That’s my thing, and I’m successful at it. The key is to be confident with it.

 

CHAPLIN_DIRECTING

“Simplicity of approach is always best.”
-Charlie Chaplin

There are actors who want fireworks on their reels, and that’s great. I’m just not the guy who creates that. My temperament and my style is to go in the opposite way, and to focus on those almost intangible moments that happen between characters. To dig at the truth and to make it appear on screen.

The showreel service started out as a niche thing within my industry. As I’ve developed, I’ve gone further into my own niche — the niche within the niche as it were. The more I trust that instinct, the more interesting work I do and the more I enjoy it.

I’m sure this is relevant in many industries, but to speak with any authority I can only really refer to my own. The writers, actors and directors that I know, at least the ones who are doing interesting work, are doing it because they know who they are – and the people hiring them do so because they know what they’re getting. They’re hiring you because you’re a meaningful specific.

“You have something unique to offer, and this is going to be the start of your career.”
-Mark Duplass

 

We’re in a tough industry. And many people feel like a failure, right up until the point they ‘make it’. But what is making it? Do you need an Oscar? A stadium full of people? I don’t think so.

You just need your niche.

A room full of people who get you. Or a few subscribers to your videos who enjoy what you do.

So get good at being you. Sounds like some nonsense life coaching talk but I believe it to be true. I just watched a great talk that Richard Curtis gave at BAFTA a few years ago. He puts most of his success down to the fact he didn’t chase Hollywood success, he just wrote small movies that were precisely about people who were exactly like him. He wrote about himself, and by doing that, everyone could relate to it.

It only takes one person to hire you for a job. That person who hires you will hire you because you’re you. Because only you can do that thing that you do. Everyone else is someone else.

You’re an asset. You’re what the industry needs. You just have to trust it.

Email Me: dj@danieljohnsonfilms.co.uk

Follow Daniel Johnson On Twitter.

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