Friday, October 30, 2015

Professionalism Begets Professionalism

Yes, this is 100% true. If you want people to be professional with you, you'd best be acting that way yourself. Otherwise, you have zero right to complain about anyone else's behavior. That is the essence of "professionalism begets professionalism."

While I love modeling & being in shows and have generally found a great community in the world of fashion there is a staggering mass of people on both sides of the table who do not have that simple concept mastered. Nor have they mastered the concept of strategic thinking & not harming your own self-interest.

First off, most people doing fashion shows and the like are working for free. Even if you are dealing with major shows, this is not something to make a living off of. I heard a model who'd been in this industry for decades outright tell this to aspiring models I'd met at random one day & my attorney suggested I go network with during Fashion Week. I did. These people were extremely nice to me. The models themselves were awesome & far braver than I with some of the outfits they were having to wear in the middle of our NYC with many passerby gawking and making comments.

I'm from the indie film world. The custom in that world is if you're doing a web series or a film or some other project where you aren't paying the actors, you make sure to compensate them & appreciate them for their time in other ways. You get good craft services, good meals for breaks, an extremely pleasant and congenial working environment, travel costs, things that make people want to work with you & not feel like they wasted their time or "I blew my Saturday for THIS?!?!?!" You give your team plenty of notice for scheduling & you do not keep actors on set longer than absolutely necessary nor expect people to drop everything for your project. Some producers also give key actors a share of the project if they are playing major roles, helping connect the project to financing or getting into some great film festival that will yield exposure, possible distribution, that kind of thing.

That sort of thing is rare in the fashion world. Often, you don't get food & getting paid is atypical. You might get a piece from the designer or sometimes you'll get fed or have a chance to get food but some people just don't get that tradition or concept of not pissing folks off or making them say "Why the hell am I here?!?!?" Respect of people's time is at times utterly laughable & definitely don't expect a show to start on time. That almost never happens.

Granted, there are film productions that start late or run for an endless amount of time (that is less likely in fashion shows) but anyone who's been to shows will tell you that unless there's someone who's really on top of things, hard core clock watching or there's some other event after the show that starts at X time on the dot & you must be done by then, the show will be running late.

I feel like most designers & people handling shows are aware of this reality and appreciate the models/hair stylists/makeup artists/so on & so forth who participate. The good ones are super appreciative, either b/c they came from the same tradition I did, they see themselves as professionals in this arena or have professional day jobs that ingrain those values into your skull. The ones who don't & have the audacity to expect people to drop everything are seriously delusional in my mind.

One person I worked with said models had to "be on call like doctors." Well, when you're paying that model a doctor's salary to be "on call" I'm sure (s)he will be more than happy to oblige. If you expect them to do that for free, you are living in a fantasy world & are not going to attract the cream of the crop. Take it from a partner in an indie film company who knows a number of producers & has seen how things work when you don't have the money to pay someone. Passion & interest in the project only get you so far in terms of someone's motivation & where you fall on the priority list. You could have the next great project but if you aren't paying people for it or even offering deferred pay (or worse, you are not covering supplies, travel, etc. & making the person PAY to work for you), you aren't going to be #1. You may not even be #5 if that person's got a spouse, kids, their own career outside entertainment, etc. Also, no one likes feeling like a chump & everyone's got a limit to their altruism.

I know one argument is "that's how the industry is & has always been." Well, internships have been a thing in entertainment a long time as well but we have legal precedent now cracking down on abusive practices like making people work full time hours for no pay. The whole internship concept is changing b/c of the rulings in these cases. Plus, as any long time reader knows, tradition for tradition's sake is not an argument that impresses me. I consider it lazy & devoid of simple reason or common sense. It's the excuse offered for hazing in the Greek system, slavery, segregation and other bad things society shouldn't be encouraging or offering silent acceptance for.

Second, most models don't have professional jobs. In particular, most aren't attorneys in their day jobs. Even fewer are entertainment attorneys like I am. It seems some people view this as a license to treat models like crap.

In my case, that's a fatal mistake. Attorney Monica & Film Exec Monica don't shut off or forget what happened to Model Monica or Actress Monica or Writer Monica or Singer Monica; I don't have split personalities that don't remember what happened to the other ones. I've got a damn good memory & if you were nasty to me in a fashion show or any other creative context, do you honestly think I'm going to bother helping YOU when you inevitably want my legal services or my referral to an entertainment attorney? Do you think you're getting anywhere in working with my company if you're being an ass to me? Do you think you're going to have more cred than an entertainment attorney doing all the stuff I do, where people know me from these worlds & respect what I have to say along with me the individual (put like or dislike aside)? A smart person knows you don't alienate the entertainment attorney, especially the one closest in proximity who's more likely to be accessible to you. Attorneys are a major marker of difference b/t someone being an amateur or hobbyist in entertainment & someone being a professional. Oh, and if you're going to work professionally in any aspect of entertainment, you WILL need an attorney sooner or later. Major companies aren't talking to you without you having some representation & many have specifically asked to speak to attorneys (potential clients & other creative contacts have told me this outright).

I personally am not a masochist or the type who likes having more stress in her life. If I don't like someone, no way am I lifting a finger for them. In fact, I'd not piss on you if you were on fire if I didn't like you but you have to do something extremely egregious to get on my bad side. Something that if I told the average person, (s)he would say "What the hell?!" I might be the most prominent Undercover Boss to work on the creative side since blending in is impossible for me.

Third, it seems that adage "you never know who knows who" hasn't gotten around to the world of fashion in a global sense. It's ingrained in your skull if you do acting. Yet I have seen some egregious behavior & gotten some attitude from certain jerks. I absolutely remember those pricks & no way in hell would I do for them.

They've established that they are not part of that community or MY allies so they aren't worthy of my extra effort. People who do respect that community, who I like or at least haven't had outright disrespect from are more likely to have me care about their success or at least listen to a respectful request. Film & TV people hold grudges and you can get permanently blacklisted there; I've heard countless stories & worked with people who did it since they have no time for that stress or hassle. I do it with everyone in all aspects of life but I'm outright shocked when I see someone being nasty to me.

For one thing, how would you treat my non-lawyer colleagues? For another, I'm a natural redhead. Do you not follow popular culture & stories on natural redheads? We're known for having tempers & not being the people to mess with. I'm also more quiet in life; aren't you aware about how they say "it's always the quiet ones" when some mass murder or other major violent event happens? Very surprised there's never been a story about a guy getting his penis chopped off at the hands of a naturally redhaired woman. I'm a redhead so I get to say this but society would suspect us of that stuff long before anyone else. Not to mention I seem to give off an air of authority or responsibility or something. Everyone tells me I'm smart within 15 minutes of a conversation if not sooner. It's kind of freaky.

Because you never know who's friends with who or who you're dealing with & everyone deserves basic human dignity unless they prove otherwise, I don't start with nastiness as my default. I can at least be civil, as we all can manage. Not nice, but not insulting people or treating them like garbage unwarranted or implying they have no right to be there. Professional, you can call it. If you can't manage that, then I have to wonder what you're doing in mainstream society.

I may not outright say "fuck you" but a professional doesn't have to. I merely wait for the inevitable moment the light bulb goes off in your head, knowing I will get the last laugh. Professionals also tell their colleagues so their colleagues aren't having to deal with the same shit. So that light bulb may be going off after you've shot yourself in the foot. Perhaps I've also gotten more mature in the face of the living hell I've had to endure the past 2-3 years.

So before you whine about other people not being professional or bailing on things, take a look at yourself: Are you paying these people? Are you expecting them to drop everything like they live exclusively to serve you & your whims? Are you showing up on time & prepared? Do you treat everyone with respect & stand by your people? Do you create a climate of fairness or do you tolerate or silently condone unprofessional behavior? Whose backs do you have? People who know the business can tell quickly who is or isn't professional, who is worth dealing with & who isn't. It's a TEAM effort so having unrealistic demands or being an asshole are things you do at your own peril. "It's your funeral," as they say.

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