Friday, January 22, 2010

Connecting the Dots

For the first time in a long time, Sunday has that strange hollow feel to it.

While the absence of football is certainly adding to the emptiness I'm feeling right now, it's a return to unemployment that's mostly at fault.

Almost two weeks ago, What Not to Wear offered me a job as Casting Producer that seemed too good to be true. I was worried that I would have to leave my job at Discovery without notice, burning bridges in order to take it. Luckily, I was able to give my 1 week notice to an understanding production staff. Unluckily, WNTW is still waiting for budget approval and has yet to establish a start date for me. I'm kind of worried that there may never be one.

I thought I had caught a break last Thursday when mtvU called me out of the blue with gig for this week. But before I could breathe a sigh of relief I was told there still wasn't a definite start date to that project either. Why? You guessed it, budget approval.

TV Production... it's an uncertain, competitive world full of "hurry up and wait."

So why would I leave my rewarding, long-term freelance position for another one that wasn't 100% during a recession a year after being laid off? Because being laid off isn’t like getting chicken pox. Getting downsized once doesn’t give you immunity to being downsized again down the road. It's important to always look out for #1 and grab opportunities that will help you network and grow professionally. For me, casting WNTW is one of those opportunities.

Vicki Salemi, one of the many talented people I met while networking in the 405 club, wrote a book that I'm mentioned in titled "Big Career in the Big City." I read the advanced copy and found it to be full of good advice for both newcomers to NYC and unemployed veterans alike. The book contained one quote in particular that eased my mind on this uncertain Sunday:

"You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference."

That little gem was a part of Steve Job's commencement speech to Stanford's class of '04.

I'm sure something equally awesome was said at my own graduation, but Bobbie Jo Solomon, the Blue Sapphire, was sitting next to me. Needless to say I was too excited to listen to what whoever was speaking was saying. I was focused on Bobbie Jo, hoping that she would pull three batons out of her gown, light them on fire and start doing toss cartwheels down the aisle.

Before that graduation day rolled around I had already prepared myself mentally for the real world by memorizing Conan O'Brien's commencement speech to the Harvard class of 2000. Conan's story helped me to stay positive during my own rocky start in the entertainment industry. His last words on the Tonight Show were equally inspiring and are helping me deal with the situation I've gotten myself into right now. "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

The calls I have been getting over the past few weeks have proved that statement to be true. I'm glad to know that there are people out there who know what a driven, dedicated team player I am. I still have a long career ahead of me though, and I can't wait to one day look back at all the connected dots and see the big picture.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Wild Thing

Those who watch sports know all about the madness that ensues right before the playoffs. There are many situations in which a team can either get into the post-season or blow all their hard work for the year.

Right now, I’m hoping I don’t ruin what I have worked so hard for all year (à la Eagles) by clinching a berth into 8 months of employment.

Yesterday, out of the blue, the BBC called, wanting to draft me onto What Not to Wear. The Exec in Charge of Production loved my go-getter style and recommended me for the casting producer position. The job would be a great opportunity for growth - I would get to travel around the country and learn how to edit the casting tapes I produce.

That noise you just heard was my mother screaming – she has been begging me to cast her on that show since my first TLC gig in ‘05. You can’t have your Boyd’s and get Stacy too mom… sorry.

Anyway, here is the problem: I’m already employed. I’ve been working on a new show for the Discovery Channel since my last gig at the BBC ended in October. How did I get it? The casting director/boss I have now was the casting director/boss I had on my last show. Since she brought me with her to the Discovery Channel, I feel a sense of loyalty towards her and don’t want to burn any bridges.

I would love to give my boss two weeks notice, but the BBC doesn't know when production will start. If they start Monday I would have to be in the office for What Not to Wear starting my digital outreach. The only way to know if I could leave this job and start the new one so quickly would be to ask, guaranteeing that next week would be my last week at Discovery. I wouldn't blame them - would you want to keep a free agent on board if they have showed they were making a move somewhere else?

So how will this all play out? I’ve come up with four possible scenarios:

Scenario 1 – My boss is understanding of my situation and let’s me take job immediately. I keep one job.
Scenario 2- I play it safe and don’t tell my boss I ever thought about leaving. I keep one job.
Scenario 3 – My boss makes me wait a week to leave. This defensive holding eliminates my ability to work on WNTW. I loose both jobs.
Scenario 4 – My boss lets me go, but wildcard TLC decides they don’t want the BBC to produce the show for them. I loose both jobs.

Giving in my resignation without knowing the start date on What Not to Wear would be like throwing a Hail Mary. If I hesitate too long or make the wrong decision, I'm going to be sacked. Right now I’m leaning towards taking a chance on scenario 1, but am intentionally grounding my resignation till this afternoon, hoping that the BBC gets back to me with a start date. I'm pretty sure there will be a penalty for that.

It’s funny that the boss who told me about Saturn Return had me looking to the stars for my answer, because this is what I found.

“The presence of Venus in Aquarius means that relationships with co-workers should improve. There is plenty of opportunity to negotiate at all levels. You may have been offered a new contract, or discovered that one ongoing effort had to be cancelled. Whatever the scenario, the changes taking place are encouraging you to move ahead with your career and not to stay stuck in a rut. The cosmos is pushing you to step out into the unknown and expand your horizons.”

Two minute warning coach.... the clock is ticking down and I need to make a decision. What's your call?

(situation 5- boss reads this...)

*This blog is dedicated to all my friends at Conan who took a risk, Rory who encouraged me to use my blog as something to fall back on, and my pop who get's out of heart surgery today. I know he'll have some great depression era advice for me.