It was brought to my attention the other day that if we get the luxury of playing out our seven season arc, we are halfway to completing that task. Like all midpoints of a journey, it's often a good time to restock, refuel and reflect. Sons of Anarchy has been an amazing trip for me, as an artist but even more so, as a man. I'm a highly flawed individual. Recovering drug addict and alcoholic, ex-400 pound fat kid, loner and just a generally angry fuck. I don't present that backstory as an excuse for bad behavior, just as insight into my daily struggle to be a decent human being. There's a lot of noise in my head and a lot weight in my bags. Most people I work with are genuinely afraid of me. Not because I'm abusive or harsh, but because I appear to be a guy who is desperately struggling not to be those things. When your psyche is in a constant state of effort, no matter what that effort is, one appears unapproachable. On this show, that is my waking persona.
I am guilty of embracing that effect. I don't particularly like people. And by people I don't mean individuals, I mean a collective body of human beings who might require me to make inane small talk. I don't do small talk. I do heartfelt connection or silence. I'm not a very good first date. I bring up these defects of character because they clearly are what's in my face as I reach the 50 yard line of my MC saga.
The greatest gift god has given me is the ability to learn. When I stop being teachable, I'm dead -- creatively and personally. Running a television show requires a level of authority and control unlike any other job in Hollywood. You are king of your little television realm. All decisions big and small pass your desk. From the words on the page, to the color of a porn set, to the montage music, I make or sign off on every decision. That vision and that authority is needed for a show to run smoothly and to be successful. A singular vision is key. Shows fail when that vision is lost. That's why so many big network shows tank, because executives refuse to empower their creatives. So how does one be a teachable king? How do you instill confidence in your cast and crew that you have a sure hand on the rudder while still being vulnerable enough to learn from your mistakes? There's the big fucking rub.
The bigger question is how does one grow as an artist? In my opinion, the same way any other human being does, by pushing past fear. I'm terrified of failure. I'm terrified of change. I'm terrified of being unloved. These are the things that usually kick in my default defenses -- isolation, arrogance, denial. Sometimes I'm neck-deep in them before I realize there's even a problem. On a show like Sons, strong leadership is crucial to initiate and maintain the intense work schedule. Seven day shoots, one week of prep, one week of post. It's not a lot of time to make a 42 minute independent movie. In that movie, every line, every action has a purpose. I'm able to cram an incredible amount of story into those episodes because I've learned how to craft these scripts in such a way to utilize every minute of screen time to advance the narrative. I have extensive tone meetings with my director to ensure that he or she is aware of my intentions in all these scenes. Then my writer-producer on set is expected to protect those intentions. What's recently been brought to my intention is that sometimes the specificity of my crafting is leaving key members of my team feeling like they don't contribute enough. The run and gun nature of our show isn't allowing talent to have their process of discovery. And yes, our schedule leaves little time for discovery, but that's probably all that's required -- a little time to make shit their own. Some space to allow other creatives to take what I've done and make it better. People just want to do a good job. They truly want to make me happy and proud. When I ask why didn't anyone tell me this was going on, I get the sheepish reply, "Because they were afraid to." It's in those moments I really wish I was a different a different individual. I also wish I still drank.
But I'm not and I won't. What I've learned is that leadership requires a strong hand and a good ear. My credo has always been -- never compromise vision, but be willing to change the execution of that vision. I can't control how people perceive me. I lead with my intensity and that's never going to change. What I can change are my actions. I am not what I say or write, I am what I do. And today, as much as it fucking irks me, I choose to do better.
See what happens when you stop for gas.