Monday, January 20, 2014

Movie diet

Today is the first day of my Movie Diet.

Not long ago I looked in the mirror and saw a guy with a few too many movies around the waistline.

The person that looked back at me from the mirror was not overweight -- that's not what I'm getting here. (Okay, I am a little overweight, but that's still not what I'm getting at.) Rather, the person who looked back at me was under-employed. Under-motivated. Under-focused.

And if I keep up this way, I'm never going to have any career to speak of.

Let's back up a bit here.

You know that I quit my job to come to Australia last August. I'd say this was a necessity, but some of my co-workers actually wanted to know why I didn't just see if I could continue to do my job remotely, despite a nearly insurmountable time difference. I thought they were joking, but these days, I guess they weren't. So maybe I could have kept my job ... but I didn't want to. I wanted to start something new, forge a new path in my career to see what was next for me.

So far, what's next for me is ... nothing.

I've only been eligible to work here since the end of November, and that led straight into the holidays, and that led straight into a new baby joining our family. It's not been the ideal circumstances for a job search.

That job search has turned up little in the way of positive leads. I've had one interview, but I really don't know if I'm likely to get that job, and even if I do, I won't know for a couple more weeks. Meanwhile, the need for me to start making money is becoming more and more dire.

But it's not just money I need -- it's a definitive step toward what I'll be doing for the rest of my life. There are many things I could do -- writing, IT, marketing, administration, prostitution -- but little certainty about which I will do.

So I've decided I need to carve out some time to figure this out. And the obvious thing to help me make room is to cut out movies.

Not all movies, but some movies. I need to reduce my movie consumption significantly if I want to make strides toward figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

So here are the rules of the Movie Diet:

1) No more than two movies per week. This includes new movies as well as movies I'm rewatching.

2) A viewing week runs from Monday to Sunday. Each Monday morning, my allotment of two movies will reset.

3) I can exceed two movies if and only if I have reached my maximum for the week, and my wife wants to watch something. Any movie watching instigated by my wife will count as an exception to the diet. If, however, she instigates two movie-watching experiences at the start of the week, before I've instigated one myself, those will be my two for the week.

4) This diet will run until Sunday, April 27th, 2014.

These may seem like pretty harsh rules, but these are pretty harsh times. I need to figure out what's next for me, and I don't need any distractions.

Of course, I could land a job within the next week, and then the diet could end ... right?


See, another part of the point of this diet is to engage in activities that I might be neglecting while watching movies. Such as reading. Such as keeping up a correspondence with friends who are suddenly halfway around the world. Such as learning about things that I'll need in order to remain current in my field. Such as starting on a long-form writing project.

It scares me a little bit, this diet. But any diet should be a little bit scary. A diet -- usually a food diet -- is designed to force you out of your comfort zone. It shouldn't feel easy, but it should feel good, if you do it right.

I realize that I have been using movies as a bit of a crutch since moving to Australia. Movies have been my way to procrastinate about meeting the next phase of my life head on. It's easy to see a 90-minute block of free time and figure out which movie to watch during that time. What's hard is seeing a 90-minute block of free time and figuring out how I'll use it to advance my life.

And it's not going to last forever. I've timed the end to coincide more or less with the start of the summer movie season, which is also about when movies from the current year start being available on video. I know that there will come a time on the calendar this year when I'll want to watch five to ten movies a week.

But I need to feel like I've earned the ability to cheat on my diet, or rather, to end my diet with peace of mind. I need to feel like I've made good use of the next three months and one week. I need to reach April 27th knowing something more definitive about my life than I do today. Or, I need to reach April 27th, not know anything more definitive, and realize that I am a candidate for a more aggressive kind of intervention before I spiral off into nowhere.

I'm speaking a bit dramatically here, but I do think I need to get serious with my life and my career, or else I'll look up when I'm 50 and not know what happened. I don't want to be that guy who procrastinated his life away.

You may wonder what effect not watching as many movies will have on a guy who writes a movie blog. Where will I find things to write about?

Well, here's another thing I want to do, that will also help with figuring out my career goals:

I want to use this blog to write actual movie reviews.

So that's the other thing I'm committing to on this diet: I'm going to write a review of every movie I see during the diet period. Whether I've seen it before or I've never seen it, whether it's been around for 80 years or eight days, I'm going to review it like it was brand new in the theater.

Because the other thing I want to figure out is if I can still be a film critic, if I can still somehow find work writing movie reviews. I haven't been writing reviews professionally since the end of 2011, and I need to know if I've still got it. I've been steadfastly not writing reviews on this site, but now I wonder, what was the purpose of that? I have answers, but none of them are good ones. All that's done is made me rusty. And I don't want to get any rustier than I already am.

This is an experiment, and it may not work out like I think it will. In fact, I may realize along the way that I can do these things without making movies my sacrificial lamb. But as with any well-intentioned diet, I owe it to myself to dive in and see. I have to believe that I can stick to this diet, and that the rewards will make it all worthwhile.

And if I don't figure out all the answers, well ... it's only my life, right? :-)


Don Handsome said...

I am scared by this diet as I am scared by things I don't understand. Still I support you here, primarily because I am thrilled that we'll be getting more reviews on this blog. Good luck, friend.

Nick Prigge said...

I feel elements of this post, man. I really do. The getting serious with your career part primarily. The notion of a career has never much interested me, which you eventually realize is perhaps not the best trait to possess. Such is life. I wish you luck on your quest.

Anyway...I second Don. I'm excited to read Vance reviews.

Vancetastic said...


Thanks for the well wishes. Yeah, it's a little bit scary, but ten days in it's going okay. I actually only watched one movie during the first week, if you can believe it, but I've already watched my first of the second week and still have Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to go.

I've also enjoyed writing my first two reviews, so I guess that's a positive as well.

Nick, I think you're a few years younger than me (you aren't yet 40, anyway), and I can tell you that it's been a bit of a wakeup call to be looking for a new job and realizing that I have not perhaps invested myself in my career the way I should have. I'm sure the best way to go with it is to find a balance between what you do and what you love, and not just do what you do so that you can do what you love. I hope not to be living proof of the failure to take my career seriously for too long. That's not to scare you, just to suggest that it's something you should probably think about sooner rather than later. Of course, the REAL coup would just be to figure out how to get paid to write reviews ... if you have any insight on THAT one, I'm all ears. :-)