Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Advice to a Procrastinating Choreographer

A young client said he'd like to be a fight choreographer but that he tends to be lazy and a procrastinator. Here's the essence of what I said to him:

In a field as competitive as choreography, unless you're amazingly talented, you are going to have to cure your procrastination and become absolutely driven to be the best because there are many, many people willing to do whatever it takes to land that rare choreography work that pays enough fto support yourself even modestly.

That means, for example, even before starting choreography school, reading the best books and articles about fight choreography, watching dozens of choreographed fights (writing in a journal what you loved and didn't love about each), asking world-class fight choreographers questions and begging to meet them and/or to have them review the many choreographed fights you will have developed, then going to the choreography school, working harder than any student in the program, building relationships with the best fight choreographers in Hollywood so you can land a job as an assistant to one of them. Then, on the job, you must be hard working, a great guy, and ask counsel of your boss. You must also network relentlessly with the people with the power to hire you to be a choreographer.

I am not exaggerating: that is what it will likely take to give you even a reasonable chance of making a living as a fight choreographer. So, still want to do it?

Dear reader, are you attempting a long-shot career with a half-baked effort?


Jeff Shore said...

Marty - As a public speaker I can't tell you how often people come to me and say something like, "I want your job - how can I do what you do?" (I resist the temptation to start with the response: "Step one: go get 25 years of experience.") Invariably I give these people a simple assignment: write down in two paragraphs the message you want to bring to the world and send it to me. In almost every case I never hear from these people again. I have seen first hand that is action, not desire, that proves your commitment. Jeff

Anonymous said...

Great post and example, Marty. Also Jeff's comment rings very true.

Stephen said...

There is a point at which this particular career question gets answered. I think Marty has it right, the question gets answered sooner, not later. There's an inventory of important steps he would need to take just in order to get his name on the page. Then once there, the decision ultimately comes from the outside.

It's also only in the doing, especially of the least desirable steps, that one can learn the real truth about whether or not a dream job is a realistic goal. Once he throws himself into it, he might realize that it isn't meant to be. And this could end up being a blessing. He could then discover a different or related opportunity he would never have even thought of otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious. How did he respond?

Marty Nemko said...

He agreed and, in the next session, we'll map out the step-by-step specific plan. What will be interesting is to see the extent to which he follows through and then, whether I'm successful in getting him to follow through better.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that even if your client follows your advice to the letter, chances are he'll never come close to making a decent living doing what he loves. Have you prepared him for this probability? Does he have a Plan B?

I say this as one whose career dreams were put to death after being found guilty of violating the law of supply and demand. I'm now serving life at--well, perhaps not hard, but unrewarding labor. I hope to be paroled (retired) in 20 years or so.

Marty Nemko said...

At his stage in life--21 and single--it's okay for him to take a year or two trying to achieve his dream. (It really is his dream job.) Even if it doesn't work, he will have gotten into the habit of working hard and also will likely have made some connections into some other line of work, connections that will likely be more helpful than those he has now. He also will have felt that he didn't abandon his dream without giving it a good shot. He'll thus feel better about himself and the way he's living his life.

Grace said...

Living the dream, without the financial compensation, should be its own reward. I know two songwriters. One wants to BE successful. The other one IS successful. The unsuccessful one says, "What's he got that I haven't got?" I say, "He writes songs, not because he wants to be successful, but because he can't help but write songs. It is his passion. He'd do it for free." If being a fight choreographer is this guy's goals, he should go for it, but if it doesn't work out, there are other ways to stay connected to such an interesting industry. As has been written in Marty's career articles, it's ok if these passions are fulfilled as hobbies.


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