We at The Escape Pod recently had the great pleasure to work with MJZ director Phil Joanou. Phil directed one of my all time favorite movies, State of Grace starring Sean Penn and Gary Oldman and Ed Harris. It was set in New York City’s Irish gangland. Coincidentally I was working in exactly that neighborhood – Hells Kitchen – when Phil was shooting that movie. I was a newly-immigrated Irish guy driving a horse and carriage, Phil was a major Hollywood director. Funny we never met!
I remember they “tented” the local Irish bar for days shooting the awesome bar scenes. I didn’t know what tenting was back then.
This was the actual bar where the Irish-American gangsters drank. I drank there too. These guys were psychos. Addled by coke and booze and with very Irish tempers and hair-trigger fingers. The back of the bar area was riddled with bullet holes because Mickey Featherstone, leader of the Westies gang, once wanted the bartender to “turn off that Irish crap and put on some Bruuuce!!!”. He made his point by shooting up the boombox behind the bar. It was another planet.
Anyway, while we were casting for the spot, Phil Joanou said something that stayed with me. He said “I just wanna be a pro. I want people to be happy. I want to be a pro.” By this he meant he wanted to be known a reliably good professional. And he is. he cares a A LOT.
Being RELIABLY GOOD is a vastly underrated talent. Being reliably good is being a pro. Being a pro is caring EVERY time. Being a pro is understanding that YOU are responsible. You might not have ownership of the company you work for but you DO have ownership of you own thoughts and ideas. Pros understand this. Pros never compromise their effort. Other things are subject to compromise but NOT the commitment of a true pro. That’s what makes a pro a pro.
If you haven’t read Steve Martin’s amazing autobiography do so now. BORN STANDING UP recounts his rise to the top. In it, he recounts how he struggled to be reliably funny every night. To everyone. Any idiot can kill a crowd every once in a while, Steve thought. He didn’t want to be brilliant EVERY night. He just wanted to be good every time. Not brilliant. Good. He was smart enough to realize that brilliant was too much to ask. And it worked.
Just be good every time. Be a pro. Big shortage of pros in this world. Phil is a pro.