Is Persistence Always Key? The Biggest Mistake Made by Young Creative Professionals

Being too persistent is the biggest mistake young folks trying to break into the creative industries make. Every young creative dreams of the day they will work for their professional influence. For some, that influence is a major player unlikely to ever exchange words with them. For others, that player may be more accessible and thus the opportunity to be persistent for a chance is born. This is that kind of a story, and it serves as an important lesson on how to be persistent while not being too persistent, potentially ruining your chances with that person.

HE STOOD BEFORE AN AUDITORIUM of thousands of young kids about to graduate college, all eager to hear what such a successful member of the alumni community had to say. Sure his name may not carry much significance outside industry circles, but his professional title carries significance to all.

He is a Hollywood Producer.

I listened to his speech shortly after its publication online not because I had any connection to the school, but because I had long considered him to be a major professional influence in spite of being a lesser known player at large. He worked many years for a favorite production company of mine, whose films I grew up watching. After producing one of my favorite films, I discovered his inspiring rise to CEO at a young age which was profiled in an industry article. It was at that time during high school I began to closely follow his career.

Back to that auditorium, a paraphrased out-take from that day.

“I called him ten times, at least. I knew I wanted to work for his company. He must’ve thought, ‘who is this crazy kid that keeps calling me from the mountain west?’ He told me if I wanted the job that I had to come to NY. So I did, I bet he never expected me to actually show up — and so I got the job.”

The kids were amazed at his persistence. Not giving up after first being brushed off certainly paid off for him. Hundreds of those young impressionable graduates likely formed the same conclusion, “If I am persistent, if I continuously reach and out to try to prove my worth, I will get the job too!”

That’s the flawed assumption made by many young folks — even by the producer himself, admittedly: That if you repeatedly advertise your worth, you will get the reward. What is the reward? The chance to work for someone you admire or a company you really like.

So how do you avoid making mistakes of being too persistent? By understanding the other’s POV and being persistent within reason.

We’ll start with my POV, that of the young professional eager to work for their professional influence.

I have a somewhat interesting relationship with the producer in question which began a few years prior to his aforementioned speech. At first, I pissed him off by foolishly trying to message him right out of college. I kept messaging him from time to time in spite of no longer hearing a reply. I greatly embarrassed myself, and soon realized there was no way I’d have a shot with him.

A year later I began a Twitter account with a humorous slant, parodying his latest film. It gained a small but engaged following and that lead me to have contact with him through the pseudonym I created. He got to see my humor, shared appreciation for the same music and guitar, in addition to what on the surface appeared to be my very laid back, enjoyable personality. He got to see the real me. An online friendship began in spite of him figuring out my actual identity.

We put the past behind us, or so it seemed.

That second chance at a first impression only went so far when he refused to meet me for coffee while in NY for his premiere. “You’re funny for sure, but you might be insane,” he said. I was hurt. I felt that it was an unfair criticism in lieu of our online conversations and attempts to actually get to know a bit about one another. Yet, I respected his decision. In spite of knowing where the premiere would be held, and where the above-line folks were staying, I did not try to run in to him. For the fact that I am not insane, and respect boundaries in spite of my enthusiasm, I did not even message him during the premiere or the after party, nor did I attempt to meet him against his will.

His film unfortunately did not do well. In spite of that, we would continue to sporadically keep in touch over the next year and a half. During that time he continued to encourage me as a writer. He began to assume an informal mentorship role. I would eventually write him a screenplay, my first ever, and in spite of giving him an inferior product, he encouraged me to write him another. I even asked if I could work for him on his next project, to which he said yes, and to reach out to him online. Most importantly, he stressed that I keep writing.

After a while I tried to encourage messages with him, but he would usually not reply. This left me feeling unwanted, ignored and undervalued. It hurt to know that I just wanted to talk like regular folks, to show I merely wished to keep in touch and perhaps talk more frequently. However as I began to work more in and around the business, I understood that we were not just regular folks. I was an aspiring writer, he a Hollywood producer. And so I would usually wait for him to say things to me. Those were the boundaries, ones which I would occasionally ignore.

Eventually he began to say less and less.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease we are told. Keep showing them you exist, or so goes the mind of the persistent go-getter.

Somewhere during waiting for his reply about my second script, I began to grow impatient. I engaged in tweets that would seemingly target him, and he would occasionally do the same in response to me. Where we would once message, we were now communicating through passive remarks online.  So began a sort of game-playing.

It culminated with my persistence again wearing thin.

“What’s wrong with you calling people names,” he asked, clearly exasperated and taking offense. I struggled to back-peddle. I wasn’t calling him an names, rather I was at the time of his message typing a follow up to my previous tweet to better place it in context. The damage had already been done. In a way, he was the microcosm of all that I was complaining about regarding the industry at large: the no by way of silence that makes any persistent and determined kid pull their hair out with frustration. And so I don’t blame him for being offended, I was indeed out of line.

Over the next hour things would deescalate as I explained my thought-process, and he sought to explain to me that I needed to do more to actually struggle and earn a path to success. He said if I go out there and give it my all, I would be successful. He told me I couldn’t wait on him, that I needed to go my own way.

That part I didn’t hear.

Over the next year I maintained this blog with him as a loyal reader. I would never hear from him again in the form of a message. We continued passive communication sporadically until he stopped tweeting altogether. And in spite of that he would still find creative ways to show me he was keeping tabs, even after he un-followed me on Twitter over a year later.

The likely truth about him un-following me? I needed to learn to take his advice and go my own way, to stop waiting on him. He hasn’t worked since his last film and most of his projects have stalled in development as far as I can tell. He doesn’t have opportunities now to the best of my knowledge and what I’ve heard from others who know him that seems a reasonable assumption. His producing partner has gone onto other projects, and the miniseries he was presumably developing seems to have never come to fruition.

Like many in Hollywood who are not working on the next super hero film, he finds himself on the industry sidelines. That can all very well change, but it’s time consuming to turn things around or begin work on a new project from scratch. Even he said to me when asking to work for him over the phone, “I may work tomorrow, I may work in a year or many years. It’s not predictable.”

Yet it’s natural, what I did. Everyone wants to work for their professional influence, but rarely do we think about how our enthusiasm may come across. I’ve written countless articles as to why I think I’d make a great assistant or employee in some capacity for him. I know I still would, and with the experience and connections I have made to this point, I believe that even more so today. But I don’t need to keep saying that.

And I certainly didn’t need to embarrass myself by exclaiming I find him attractive either. I don’t have romantic feelings for him, and would certainly not attempt to act inappropriately along those lines if we did meet. He’s attractive, however that has little bearing on anything. Ultimately my proclamation of any and all admiration was meant to be purely professional, and only intended as such. But it certainly may not have come across that way.

I just wanted to remain on the radar. When it comes down to competing for a chance to be hired in Hollywood, to quote my production mentor, “you need to always be at the forefront of their mind so they think of you.” At most I saw him as someone I could have a friendship with in addition to a professional relationship. I kept persistent not because I was crazy, or obsessed. I just wanted to continue to be at the forefront of their mind.

However I never considered his POV in the process of doing so.

His POV?

I likely made myself look desperate. It likely may have even made him feel put-off by me, even though he also probably knew I was harmless. To keep talking about someone might be flattering, but its also in a way showing that you’re inflexible and stubborn — hell bent on one outcome. While I have had more than good luck meeting other people in the business, I want to work for him most. However constantly talking about him looks desperate, even if I may have other options brewing.

I wasn’t doing this often, these proclamations of persistence, but collectively, I likely may have contributed to this possible POV of his.

Perhaps after realizing we both shared the same thyroid ailment, I recently waived for his attention more than I should have in hoping to maybe speak to him again; feeling lost about my situation, knowing he would understand. I was hopeful he’d give me some advice since he was kind enough to give other advice in the past.

Of course there was no reason to speak. It again likely looked desperate, even though career-wise I was actually doing well.It was not my intention to look desperate, but it was likely his reaction.

Alternately, maybe he does understand that I am not nuts, rather just a bit too brazen, opinionated and quick to speak. I think back to last April when he was clearly trying to passively get my attention when I was writing about philosophy of Space and Time: the nature of interpersonal relationships online.

The nature of our relationship is quite an odd one at that. On the one hand, I have crossed the line at times. At other points, he seems to show me he is willing to follow up every now and then.

To some degree I am not sure what he thinks.

The problem with being too persistent is that it is ultimately hard to gauge. And so ultimately one has to be mindful of the way their actions may come across, whether they have come across one way or not.

Conclusion

I am not alone. This happens virtually all the time in the business, so much so Mystery Creative went on a humorous rant about it. It really opened my eyes to the way I might have unfortunately come across. Kids cannot contain their enthusiasm for their professional influences in this business. It’s almost hard not to burst out with excitement to think that your professional influence finds that you’re smart and have a gift with language.

I know that I would never harm him, or if given the opportunity to work for him, invade his privacy or act out of emotion. It’s very easy to be taken out of context online and I believe that is partly what I am a victim of. However, I am also guilty of being too persistent at times.

Thankfully I have impressed other people on his level, and have not only gotten reads but met with a rep here in NY about possible management. Yet I continued of late to show him the various ways I continue to care about him, not realizing that I continued to cross lines and perhaps even look desperate. He knows I care. He’s long known I care, and that I would be very loyal to him and do whatever to have his back.

And if he wants to hire me in the future, he knows where to find me.

I finally realized that I crossed the line many times while not even realizing it. I wrote this story to hope that other young professionals don’t make the same mistakes. Of course most people are harmless, as I am. But unless you want to risk looking like those who are actually insane, don’t be an idiot like I was — always consider how you might come across to others, even beyond your professional influence(s).

Perhaps he may take solace in the fact that I acknowledge and truly apologize for my behavior. Perhaps he may even forgive me and give me the chance that the record exec gave him many years before. I know if he did give me the chance to work for him, he wouldn’t regret it.

If he doesn’t forgive me, and he doesn’t give me a shot in any position with him, I will have at least come to understand why. Hopefully that won’t be the case. But I am prepared for it if it is. Don’t be too persistent. Because the only place it will get you is the label of professional desperation, or to use the Mystery Creative phrase “box full of badgers nuts.”

Don’t act like a box full of nutty badgers. Be sincere and kind. But also be mindful. Always.

Sincerely,

MK