A few months ago I had a very wonderful conversation with a very important producer in Hollywood who gave me some very good advice: “Taryn,” he said, “no matter how many screenplays you sell, no matter how great people tell you your writing is, and no matter how many movies you make… NEVER phone it in.” Then he added, “It takes years to build a career and one shitty script to end it.” This got me to thinking how many times in my life I had “phoned” something in and how more often than not it blew up in my face.
We all do it. I’ve seen actors phone in scenes, writers phone in articles and students phone in papers (yeah I definitely did the write it 8 hrs before it’s due and email it without the attachment “accidentally” just so I could buy myself another 2 hrs to finish it thing in college). It’s not just limited to artists and students though… servers, lawyers, teachers (“movie day”, come on!) – at one point or another someone somewhere is phoning something in. The sad truth is that we know we’re doing it and they know we’re doing it, but we do it anyway. Where does this lead us? Well turn on the TV and you’ll quickly discover that pretty much every showrunner is phoning it in right now (minus the team on Mad Men), every politician is phoning it in (Herman Cain couldn’t even comment on Libya and the Arab Spring – I mean, pick up a newspaper, or simply turn on CNN) and did you see “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” that entire production was phoned in. Why did I pay $13 for a montage about an anorexic, pregnant chick? You know why they phoned it in? Because they could. Because they made $140 million opening weekend on HALF of a shitty movie. But what about taking responsibility? What about having the opportunity to phone something in, but doing it well in spite of that?
The problem with phoning in conversations, or scenes, or papers is that all the little things add up and one day you come to realize that you are simply phoning in life or worse, love. Complacency in mediocrity leads to a rather boring and unfulfilling existence. What is scary about that is people phone in relationships as well - not caring what their partner is saying or thinking or feeling at all. They have become settled in what they have and accept it without pushing for more. I know what I want: I want to be able to engage in an existential conversation over wine and then dance till dawn high on tequila shots and bar games. If I feel myself phoning in a date or a boyfriend I’ll find the exit faster than you can say, “Where is the exit?” When we phone it in we lose sight of what we want, because for some reason, it no longer matters to us. That’s why the producer’s advice was so vital – we should never phone anything in because everything should matter. Our feelings matter. That paper matters. Congressional bills matter. Friday date night matters. Jobs matter. To me, this blog matters. My scripts should matter…even if they don’t get made. If everyone put effort and respect into everything they did then everything would matter and at the end of the day everyone could say: “I matter”. Except Kristen Stuart because she seriously can’t act.