Directing is a trust fund baby’s game. Are you a trust fund baby? If so, good for you. Couldn’t happen to a better person. Seriously. Furthermore, go fuck yourself. While you yourself may be talented and friendly, your kind, with its consequence-free paradigm, dilutes the talent pool in the entertainment industry and has an undue influence on the American narrative — which is why, in the 1970’s, movies were about urban, interesting looking, colorful people, and today, they’re about suburban, dead-souled superheroes. And thanks to “unpaid internships,” your ilk will maintain its stranglehold on the industry for generations to come.
I am not so fortunate. I had three strikes against me as I embarked on this profession. Number one, I am publicly educated. Number two, I am Irish Catholic by heritage, meaning one look at me and every person thinks, “I’m going to colonize and oppress the living shamrock out of that people-pleasing leprechaun, just for the hell of it.” Number three, I am interested in the happiness of others. Numbers two and three are related, baked into my motherboard, and problems I’ll contend with for life.
Number one, on the other hand, could have gone another way.
My high school was extremely traditional. How traditional? It was founded in 1635. Six years of Latin. A strict adherence to 17th century educational principals of discipline, rigor and gratuitous suffering. If you raised your hand, you had better have the right answer or you get the hose again. In the hall? Where’s your lavatory pass (that’s right, lavatory)? Hard work was king. Colorful complexity, as a desirable trait, was, in the eyes of my instructors, a notch below rabies. Lunch break was 19 minutes long. Lollygag time did not exist.
And here’s the lesson one takes away from this. If you speak, spit out the right answer fast and get out of the line of fire. Go along. Do not be noticeable for fear of a misdemeanor mark. This is, obviously, fantastic training for the bottom of any number of executive food chains.
My wife, on the other hand, went to a private boarding high school only 25 miles, yet several centuries, north of my own. At her school, probing complexity was the name of the game. An interesting and deep answer was prized higher than a correct one. Students probably rode around in golf carts or were carried on sedan chairs by lower classmen. All enjoying the overwhelming message: I am a complex person and my complexity has value.
At dinner parties, when you find yourself bored to tears by a person’s long-winded answer to “how are you?” chances are they went to private school. That other guest, who got everyone else talking but left without divulging so much as their last name? Public. And it bears mentioning, the one who snuck off to go to the bathroom but really was doing all the dishes? Parochial. God bless those poor bastards.
To be a director, in this industry that is now overrun by Thad Claddingtons the Thirds, who only feel comfortable hiring their own, we must learn to pass. All the blonde, white-slacked, yacht-treading villains from 1980’s John Cusack sex comedies grew up to become agents and development executives and we, the John Cusacks of the world, only too excited to be granted the right to work, have been tossed outside the gates.
Luckily there is a way back in. A secret body language taught to and understood by only the privileged. And here I am to blow the whistle on it. I humbly present: Six Ways to Pass as Privately Educated, or… Six Secrets to High Status Body Language, or… Six Methods to Put Peasants in Their Heads…