Rebirth of a Filmmaker
A few years ago, I quit being a filmmaker. Almost.
I felt depressed and burnt out. I did some crazy things, which I'm not going to go into details only because I don't want my mom calling me in a panic and involuntarily putting me in a psych ward.
After realizing that I may be on a bad road, I decided it was in my best interest to try something different and started working at a talent agency.
I hate even writing about this because most comics are gonna think I'm a sellout but it's what I was going through in that time of my life. I thought being on the other side of the business, maybe I could help deserving artists.
It was hard work. I'm thankful for the experience but in retrospect, I can see that it was a lame attempt to erase the past, and I was hoping to zone out the next thirty years and call it a life.
Also, going from a touring comedian, being a free spirit, hooking up with girls, staying out till 2am, to passing out mail was an "experience" to say the least. I'm thankful and can see it was part of my unique journey but at times seemed soul crushing.
One day, while sorting mail, my supervisor called me into his office.
"Tarun, you obviously hate it here. Do you want to drive around a client? You don't have to come to work for three weeks. Just do whatever he says."
He could have told me to help a client rob a bank or kidnap a foreign minister. I would have done anything to escape that building for twenty minutes.
That client's name was Swedish-born director, Daniel Espinosa. Daniel had directed the hit feature movie "Safehouse" with Ryan Reynolds and was pretty hot at the time. My job was to pick him up in the morning, get him coffee and drive him to all his studio meetings and his daily meeting with Ridley Scott in preparation for his next feature.
For the next three weeks, I had a firsthand view of what it was like being an A-list director. Prime parking spots at major studios, everything was comped, he would walk out of meetings, give me the latest studio scripts and asked me what I thought about them. (They sucked.)
He cracked me up. He would often tell me how awesome his agent was and then in the next breath tell me how he was "a fucking retard." But for the most part, we got along great. I seriously love that dude and get excited whenever I read about him in the trades.
I got pretty comfortable around him and casually slipped in during one of our conversations about my comedy career/past filmmaking life.
He asked me all sorts of questions about comedy, and I asked him stuff about making films. I told him about the feature film I made, and he asked me why I stopped making movies and why on Earth I was wearing a suit, working at a talent agency. I think I said "I need to find something stable."
I remember feeling ashamed for admitting that. I was confessing to being a failed artist, I was officially one of the cattle who came to L.A. to follow a dream, but years later, realized that working at Trader Joe's is their real passion!
Daniel paused for a second and was very careful with his next words. He said, "I never saw your film. It could be great or it could be a piece of shit. I don't know. I do know that you must keep shooting and make adjustments each time. That's the only way you get better."
I took his advice to heart considering I never met a "working director" aside from film school teachers or people who make YouTube videos about their cat and write "Director" on their business cards.
I had never quit at anything. I was still doing stand-up at nights at the Comedy Store after work, but I chucked the whole filmmaking thing out the window.
I think that one thought blossomed into an overwhelming calling that I couldn't ignore anymore. A year later I quit my job with a plan. I hadn't directed anything since college, but I decided I was going to try again.
I just wanted to see if I could do it. I began small, writing directing a few shorts and sketches and then followed that with three web series. (Special thanks to Lak Rana for helping me out). I didn't care about the number of views but just wanted the work to get better.
So here I am several years later. This past month I wrote/directed a couple of comedy commercials and next week I'm going to release my fifth web series called "P.I.p.i."
My work could be awful or maybe it's good. I don't know. I do know I learned more about writing/directing these past several projects and scraping everything together than I did during my entire time at NYU film school.
I also learned that I make up a lot of stories in my head, and I'm my own worst enemy. Something I try to counterbalance by setting and achieving goals.
I have so much more to learn, but I'm really happy that I can at least now look in the mirror and honestly say that I'm giving it my best.
And no matter what happens, I'll get better - one film at a time.