Persistence is Sticking Around
Every superhero knows the power of persistence is paramount! This week we will feature a series of articles by Amy Armstrong of Operamouth that examines persistence in art!
“Persistence is believing in yourself hard enough to go to the Universe every day and say,’I need to do this and I am going to pester you every day until I do!‘” – Rodney Vaccaro
In my opinion, a screenplay is the backbone of a film and a good screenplay delivers the soul of the story. Rodney Vaccaro, my second contributor to my persistence series wrote the screenplay to a movie that I wrote about at length here. The story behind the film was timely for what I was going through with my own career choices. His resume is persistence personified.
I can make the following statement without qualification: The single most important element for anyone considering a career in the arts is persistence.
Well, okay…one qualification…there are two important elements…one is persistence and the other is luck, but persistence is the only one you can control.
I was born, the least remarkable in a remarkable family and I directly attribute any success I may have to that. When you are born a dull, dreamy, dopey, middle child in an intellectually aggressive Sicilian family you must become persistent in order to survive Sunday dinner. It didn’t make me the family favorite. Anyone who has children knows there is a very fine line between being persistent and being just annoying. What I learned was it is better to err on the side of being annoying and apologize later.
For the vast majority of my life I have made my living as an artist of some sort, purely because I insisted on it. After working as an actor, director and novelist for years, I came to Hollywood to be a screenwriter at the age of 40, which is the age most screenwriters begin retirement. I had no fall back plan.
If you want to succeed in the Arts, rule one is, HAVE NO FALL BACK PLAN. If you have one, it will become your life. It doesn’t matter what it is…nature takes the course of least resistance and even if you decide your fall back plan is to conquer Asia in a land battle it’s going to be easier than earning a living in the Arts.
The other rule one I have learned over a 40 year career is that THERE IS NOTHING CHEAPER THAN TALENT. If I tell anyone in the grocery store that I am a screenwriter, they are going to counter with, “You know, I have a great idea for a movie…” And you know what? It almost always is a great idea. I could right now, go out on the street and find you six singers as good or better than many of the professionals I know.
So, what is the difference? Persistence. Well, again, persistence and luck. Okay, let’s get luck out of the way.
I know it’s an unpopular theory among the very successful but luck is a major part of anyone’s success. I don’t care who you are, you are born with a certain number of traits and the fact that those traits will combine with your background and the society you are born into to make a successful life is just a matter of luck. Born 10 years earlier, Steve Jobs would have been the kid in the audio visual club who ended up selling water beds in Encino.
Now, persistence… the arts are a business, just like any other business and they are contingent on business principles in order to survive. I had a friend tell me the other day that she was once talking to William Goldman and he said, “The person who succeeds in this business is the person who STAYS in this business.” That is about the best advice I’ve ever heard.
You are FIRST a salesman and your product is yourself. I know a lot of people who come out here and are lucky enough to get an agent and then sit by the phone every day waiting for their agent to call. They don’t want to call him/her because they are afraid of being annoying. Well, you know what, your agent works for you. His/her salary depends on you working. Who do you think they want to work for, the person who sits at home waiting for them to call, or the person who calls every single day saying, “I want to work. What is going on?”
Now, it isn’t as simple as being annoying. Listen, if you want to be an actor and you find out that Robert DeNiro gets up every day at 5am, which he probably does, then you need to get up at 4:30. At this level, talent is a given. Work is a given. Persistence will make the difference.
Persistence is believing in yourself hard enough to go to the Universe every day and say, “I need to do this and I am going to pester you every day until I do!”
All you need is that… and a little luck.
Emmy award-winning Screenwriter/Producer Rodney Vaccaro has worked as a Screenwriter, Actor, Playwright and Stage Director throughout the United States, France and Monaco. He was trained in the Actors Studio and the Chekhov Studio in New York, and worked in the south of France under the tutelage of Michael Stewart (Hello Dolly, Bye Bye Birdie, Mack and Mabel, 42nd Street, Barnum).
Vaccaro has published five plays, American Still Life, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One, Brown Red Yellow, Home Of The Brave and Screenplay By, He has also published three novels.
As a screenwriter, Mr. Vaccaro’s produced screenplays include HBO’s Night Of The Running Man, Warner Brothers Three To Tango, starring Matthew Perry, Dylan McDermott, Oliver Platt and Neve Campbell, Showtime’s Run The Wild Fields, starring Joanne Whalley, Sean Patrick Flanery, Alexa Vega and Cotter Smith, MGM’s Bigger Than The Sky, starring John Corbett, Sean Astin, Amy Smart and Marcus Thomas, for CBS, Snow Wonder, starring Mary Tyler Moore, Jennifer Esposito, Jason Priestly, Poppy Montgomery and Camryn Manheim and TNT’s The Engagement Ring, starring Patricia Heaton, Vincent Spano, Lainie Kazan, Tony LoBianco and Chuck Shumata. Run the Wild Fields was nominated for Emmy’s in three categories, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture, winning Best Director and Best Picture. Mr. Vaccaro holds degrees in Music and Philosophy.
In January, Amy will be playing the role of Ethel in Footloose at the Eagle Theatre, her first role in an Equity theater. Past roles have included Sarah in Guys and Dolls, Margaret in The Light in the Piazza, and Julie in Carousel. Film credits include background on USA’s Political Animals, a featured role as the Therapist in a Five Day Film Festival short film entry, The Sidewinder as well as several local television commercials and print ads. She regularly sings with the Voices of the Pops, the featured vocal ensemble for Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, with performances at the Kimmel Center, and the Philadelphia Singers, the featured choral ensemble for the Philadelphia Orchestra, with performances at the Kimmel Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Saratoga Music Festival. Past engagements included the soprano fairy soloist, Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the Philadelphia Kantorei in their performance with the Pennsylvannia Ballet, the title role in Suor Angelica with the Denver Opera Company, and several performances, too many to name, with Opera Colorado, and the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia. She has been a contributing writer for Operagasm, and is a regular columnist for Stage Magazine.