Monday, May 4, 2009
The Trouble with Ambition
I'll never forget a quote I heard from a famous actor who said, "Acting is the only career where if you make only $60,000 a year, you are considered a failure." I think this applies to anyone in the entertainment industry. Instead of acknowledging the success of one simply working in one's chosen field, they are measured against what they have not yet achieved: an oscar, a $20 million film, house-hold name status, etc.
Most animation artists are not trying to be J-Lo. We chose to work in a very difficult industry where to simply be able to pay your bills for the year might be a sign of success.
I've been thinking about this topic after going to see the new documentary ANVIL! The Story of Anvil, which is all about a sad-sack pioneering heavy metal band from Toronto that never achieved the success it was after. The film is very entertaining and the band, in particular its leader named Lips, come across very sympathetic. Yes, the whole real-life story takes on a very This Is Spinal Tap-feel (and the filmmaker plays up that angle often), but at the heart of this story are a pair of 50-something rockers that have not yet given up on their dream.
Other members of the movie audience howled with laughter at the band's many misfortunes on the road and in their career. It was as if this band existed just to be laughed at. A band-members' sister seemed to echo this with her point that its sad for the band to still be trying for success. She thought it was clearly over and she painted them as losers. I sat there wondering what she had achieved in her life. What ambitions had she pursued over a thirty year period? What was her passion? When a butcher works cutting meat for thirty years, does this make him a loser? What is wrong with a working rock band that is still pursuing their dream thirty years later?
ANVIL! The Story of Anvil was a funny film, but it was also full of hope. The message was that dreams are ageless and have the power to outlast naysayers of all stripes (including family members, industry executives, and members of the movie's audience that were laughing a bit too loud and a bit too often.)