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Maybe the word “gratitude” or words “entertainment industry” caught your eye. Or maybe the phrase “gratitude in the entertainment industry” was shocking and too much to pass up while you chuckled suspiciously at the title and the notion. But we often forget how the power of gratitude can open doors.
I might not solve, or even sway, any notions or mysteries about being grateful; I’d just like to get some thoughts out there on the concept. I’m writing here specifically about the film industry. I’m sure this happens in all industries, especially the various sectors that make up the entertainment industry, and I’m sure these thoughts transcend not only industries but time.
I’m a film commissioner in Ohio, and I’ve been in this position for about five years. As a state, we’re growing in the film world; we surprise many producers and directors when they visit as to how much we have to offer. Many assume we’re a fly-over state, which I can say we’re not. I usually work with producers, directors and location scouts on smaller independent films as well as with local filmmakers on low-budget and even no-budget films. Once or twice a year, I’ll work with a larger film for streamers such as Netflix. As you can probably imagine, I sometimes have to deal with the occasional inflated ego — at all budget levels.
I work closely with a friend who is the president and CEO of a local independent cinema to screen some of those local films I mentioned. Recently, we were talking and he told me that working with local filmmakers can sometimes be more taxing than working with Disney. That’s when we started this conversation about gratitude.
To me, there’s a difference between saying “thank you” and being grateful. Saying “thank you” and genuinely being grateful is a spirit of being — it’s heartfelt. Just saying “thank you” without the heart behind it is the simple act of stringing two words together. It’s fairly easy. I’m talking about real gratitude and being, not just acting, genuinely grateful.
What people need to understand is that this industry can be small. For the most part, it seems everyone, from the greenest scriptwriter to the A-list celebrity, is no more than three degrees away. Using common sense, and realizing the small-world atmosphere of our industry, why are creatives sometimes so openly ungrateful, knowing how fast word travels in the industry?
This is where I get to the bigger picture and the lesson I’m trying to convey: Being grateful can open doors. Truly being grateful and aware of how someone has assisted you and acknowledging that assistance can go a long way. A colleague or executive decision-maker looking for films to purchase and distribute may ask me about how it was to work with a particular filmmaker. On more than one occasion, I’ve steered those executives away from certain producers, directors or films. I wish I didn’t have to, but I have to be honest.
Now, not to be completely cynical, the opposite is also true. There have been many occasions when a filmmaker or producer we’ve worked with couldn’t thank us enough. I will sing their praises to everyone I know and I won’t hesitate to work with them again. It’s not hard to recognize a genuine “thank you.” Their actions may just lead to a small toe in the door for one of their future projects, and a small toe in this industry is more than most people will ever get.
I believe, with cautious optimism, that everyone innately knows how to be grateful. But you can hone your gratefulness skills. Take the time to not only say thank you to the person who has helped you, but recognize the work they have done. Then follow up with a text message, phone call, email or, better yet, an actual letter in the days following, stating that you recognized what they did for you. I guarantee, they will tell a colleague about the letter you sent. All of a sudden, people are singing your praises when you’re not around.
People in all stages of their careers, whether they’re just starting out or are the head of an international movie studio, have others who help them in some way. Acknowledge that help, spend a minute at the end of the day or the next morning going through in your mind what they probably had to do to offer that assistance. It’s probably more than you initially thought.
It’s not that hard to be grateful. If you’re trying to break into the world of filmmaking, try it. I can say confidently that being grateful can open doors in probably just about every industry. True gratitude makes for a better world and more specifically for a better industry that is plagued with the perception that it’s filled with jerks. Let’s try and clean up our image a little bit and be grateful. It might just help your own career.