What MAKES Sammy Run? – THE THING YOU LEAST EXPECT TO HELP YOU COULD BE YOUR BREAK
(Caption: Award-Winning Filmmaker Sam Borowski is flanked by legendary producer Sam Sherman (L) and his wife Linda Sherman (R). )
In past BLOGS, we’ve spoken about burning bridges and networking for success. And doing the “bare minimum,” to ensure success. Now, let’s take it a step further: the thing that you least expect to be your break, could be just that.
I know about a famous screenwriter – who shall remain nameless – who used to stick his scripts in pizza boxes. You see, he was a pizza delivery man working inSouthern California, and he delivered to the studios and studio executives. Needless to say, he is famous screenwriter earning a living in the business to this day.
Or director Victor Salva, who in 1986 made a low-budget horror short, “SOMETHING IN THE BASEMENT,” which won several major awards on the festival circuit, and somehow attracted the attention of Oscar-Winner Francis Ford Coppola, who in turn helped Salva finance his first feature-length film, “CLOWNHOUSE,” three years later. He also helped him finance many subsequent films, including the JEEPERS CREEPERS movies. Coppola, the Oscar-Winning Godfather himself, has remained close friends with Salva and helped him through some turbulent times in his life. He has been a huge influence on Salva, both personally and professionally. And, this all bloomed from a short horror film – SOMETHING IN THE BASEMENT. And, yes, it took Salva three years to get his first feature financed by Coppola. But, he kept that relationship, and he kept honing his craft. He essentially put in the time to “make” his own break, and to build a relationship with an Oscar-Winner.
The actor Chris Klein? He was discovered while be-bopping down the hallways of his high school by director Alexander Payne, who was scouting locations for his upcoming feature ELECTION (1999). Klein was actually auditioning without realizing it. Just from the way he looked, his personality and goofing around in the hallway – without realizing Payne was watching him, Klein received his big break. He got the major supporting role of Paul Metzler in the movie ELECTION. You can look it up.
Rosario Dawson? She was actually on the television show SESAME STREET as a child, however, she wasn’t “discovered,” until years later, sitting on a stoop in New York City, when a then photographer and aspiring screenwriter - Harmony Korine – thought the then inexperienced 16-year-old was ideal for the controversial cult film KIDS in 1995. After that,Dawsonkept working, and by the late 1990s she had nabbed several indie films. Her imdb bio states that, “Since then, she has moved into mainstream hits (and misses) and has surprised viewers with her earthy, provocative, uninhibited approach to her roles.” She is certainly a very accomplished actress, however, had Korine not thought she had the right look, it’s interesting to wonder what might have happened … or not happened.
Some actors – and filmmakers – got discovered by happenstance, while others worked hard to make it happen. But, what NONE of them did (and I am not getting into their personal lives here, just their professional lives) was tick off people who were willing to help them, act childish or immature, de-friend directors and producers on Facebook, because they told them what they didn’t want to hear – basically none of them took themselves out of the game, before it started.
If you put yourself in that situation, what is the point of headshots? If you can’t respect authority, learn the rules of how the game is played or basically do the bare minimum – as I wrote in the last BLOG – why even exert a minimalist effort?
Now the opposite end of that spectrum is the old adage that talks of when preparation meets opportunity. That’s truly important, because as I am touting here, you never know when that opportunity will come. It may be the time, event or project, you least expect to help you. You may be sitting in a coffee shop in NYC or LA and unbeknownst to you, sitting behind you is a 2-time Academy Award Winning Producer, and I happen to know one. He may be hearing your conversation, getting intrigued and the next thing you know, you’ve made a connection.
However, what if your conversation goes like this: “So, Sam Borowski got mad at me because I blew off his class. He said, “I only ask one day a month of you guys … blah, blah blah. The heck with him, I had something more important to do. Yeah, I deleted him from my Facebook. Tee hee.”
OK, well maybe without the “tee hee,” but you get the drift. So, now, said 2-time Oscar-Winning Producer overheard how said actor/actress smugly blew off my class. You’ve just blown a chance to get aquainted on a positive level with a 2-time Academy Award Winning Producer, and have already put yourself at odds with me.
Throw in the fact that you have no agent, and experience, well, not so much. But, hey, you’re attractive, and you got your headshots! That puts you on equal footing with thousands of girls, most of whom are more talented, more experienced and yes, have less enemies in the business than you. And some of whom have agents, so how do you really expect to compete with them?
Do you see my point?
You have to be ready for your break at any moment – and you do that by putting yourself in position for that break.
When you do receive it, accept it with an Attitude of Gratitude. Don’t fight against it. You have no idea how many artists do this. Don’t fight the thing you have been wanting your whole life (if indeed, this career is something you want). The streets are littered with unknown actors I have worked with once. Some of them have no further credits in this business over the course of the past five years. What does that tell you?
Not to sound like Yoda from the STAR WARS Trilogy, but if a Director or Producer takes an active interest in you and your work, be not only appreciative, be ready for the opportunity. THAT could be your BIG break. I have said many times, that I have gotten where I am today, because of the help of others. From my mentor Samuel M. Sherman, who has produced no fewer than 40 feature-length films, to many other Hollywood Heavy Hitters. From the great advice of my cousin, Academy-Award Nominated actor Danny Aiello to Sam S’ sage advice to the time I met Martin Scorsese and learned more in 10 minutes with him than in years with other people.
From my mother Joan Borowski, who always supported my dreams like no other in this world, to my father, who may not be “the creative type” and may not even understand or like this business, but without realizing it pushed me towards it by letting me see films in the theater and on TV that I was likely NOT old enough to see yet. LOL Growing up blocks from the house where they shot THE GODFATHER is something I will never forget, nor viewing that movie for the first time. How scared and yet elated I felt when I heard that Oscar-Winning score from John Williams foreshadowing every time “Bruce” the shark would come.
By the way, I met Sam Sherman, through a wonderful couple – Don and Susan Sanders – when their documentary about Drive-Ins was being screened at the Beck’s Drive In inPennsylvania. I knew about Sam’s films – even the schlockiest of the schlocky horror films (this is not a put-down as Sam was the subject of a documentary called “Making Schlock). He also made some different and more innovative films for his time.
That night I met his wife Linda and daughter Stephanie. We talked before and after the movie, and he invited me to his hotel (we were both staying overnight in Pennsyvlania) for an early brunch the next day. We hit it off, and he even drew a map – lol – with directions back toStaten Islandfrom his hotel, which was about 15-20 minutes from my hotel. We are close friends to this day, and he has mentored me through many projects and many difficult times.
But, had I NOT accepted Sam S’s invitation to an early brunch the next day, had I not visited his home in the subsequent months, had I not formed a close and lasting friendship with him, who knows if I would be as successful as I am today? Sam taught me a lot, and he has always been a friend to me. We have a wonderful relationship aside from our working relationship, and I still go to his beautiful home Christmas Week to do a Pancake Brunch, and often celebrate the 4th of July at a pool party at his house.
Actor Daniel Roebuck has appeared in all of my films, but one. I have often stayed at his beautiful home during business trips toLos Angeles. I love the entire Roebuck Family. We have had fun times together personally, and it has only strengthened our business relationship.
All of the above were “breaks” for me. And, again, it can come at any moment.
But remember, where you sit, where you eat, where you hang out could all determine this. Doing a student short that goes on to win an Oscar and gets a HUGE audience for it. Taking a class with the right person, winning the right contest – any of these things can help you get your break. Be ready for it, so that when preparation and opportunity finally meet you are in the best position.
Because the thing that you least expect to be your break, could be just that.
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Film / Theater / TV, Writing
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