Monday, November 24, 2008

It Only Takes a Moment: Is Persistence the Only Answer? (Ruminations on Making It, Part 2)

I love Ken Davenport’s line, “He’s just not that into you.” I think of it daily when I’m at work.

In my job, I filter through applications, resumes, and phone calls to determine who to bring in for interviews. Fewer than ten percent of the people who contact me—typically at least two hundred in a month—are ever people I would consider bringing in (and fewer of those are ever offered work).

I get these annoying people who call me back every two months, most of whom don’t realize they are doing that. They just don’t keep jobs for long and start from scratch when they walk off their job or are fired. Some of them, though, are purposefully calling back again and again, perhaps thinking that by putting their name or voice in front of me, I’ll warm up to their job jumping, I’m-so-desperate-for-a-job-though-I’ve-had-three-in-the-past-year resume and finally bring them in. Because I’m always busy, I can’t help but think when I get these calls, “He’s just not that into you!”

With Thanksgiving coming up, last week was particularly busy for me because of people needing time off from work. This one woman called in again. I finally got annoyed enough to call her and say in a very respectful, professional tone, “I talked with you in July, and you’ve called me four times since. If I have anything, I will give you a call.” Of course, in another month, she’ll be paging through the phone book and call again anyway.

If it’s that bad for me, think about what it must be like for producers on Broadway and in Hollywood. No wonder they put up so many barriers to reading work! Everyone is working on a screenplay or a musical, and we can only guess how many of them aren’t very good.

So, the answer to “He’s just not that into you” is perhaps not to keep annoying people until they beat you over the head with a stick. Like me with my job, they don’t need to spend ten days with you to know if you’re going to suit their needs or not. With my job, within two or three questions, I can almost always tell if I’m going to bring someone in for an interview and whether we will hire them.

The answer, then, has to be to improve, to change somehow. Because when you call on them again a third or a fourth time, their cough medicine or the quality of lettuce with their lunch isn’t going to change their perspective. You have to face the fact that you are lacking something they are searching for. The only way that producer or director is going to change their perspective is if something about you changes.

If you’ve never read David Wienir and Jodie Langel’s Making It On Broadway, read it. There’s a great story in there from Cory English, who was part of the cast that changed my life with Hello, Dolly! in 1994 (and he was recently cast in Young Frankenstein). In Making It On Broadway, he talks about auditioning for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway nineteen times, wearing the same shirt to each audition. Talk about fortitude! But the reality is, there’s a long string of shows listed under his name in the book, and not one of them is Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. They just weren’t into him. But the hope for us all lies in his bio, which is that his persistence got him nowhere then, but somewhere along the line, he improved or found someone who saw the qualities they needed in him. After all, he does, indeed, have a long line of shows under his name, and he’s still adding to that list to this day.

the Broadway Mouth
November 24, 2008

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