How to work in the film industry as an introvert?
© image from the Dutch Invertuals performance
I've spent the first twenty years of my life wondering if there was something wrong with my face. I've always come across as the angry girl in the room. Entering the work world was challenging because I've often felt like I had to completely transform my mind to be acceptable.
After researching the subject, I realised that I was just an introvert! For a long time I though I was shy and snob until I finally understood that spending time alone was my only way to recharge my battery. It took me a while to put a word on it because I'm far from being a lonely loner and I love talking and spending time with my friends and family ! I just tend to be drained after long social encounters, loud places, big events and group meetings.
With practice (and lots of mistakes and bad experiences) I realised that accepting to be vulnerable and embracing my quietness was the best way to deal with it. As an introvert I'm not very comfortable with expressing feelings, being cheerful and entertaining my surrounding. I never smile unless there is a reason to and I have the terrible habit to roll my eyes when I disagree with someone (omg nobody is going to hire me again). I'm not exactly the kind of people-pleaser you might expect to meet in the film industry. I hate small talk and I'm very bad at faking it.
However I believe that I'm quite good at listening and intuitively understand the person in front of me. I do feel emphatic and connected to people, I just don't know how to express love and affection very well.
Sometimes I wonder if being an introvert could actually be a bad thing for someone who really wants to work on top of the film industry.
Reading articles about introversion and the Myers-Briggs personality types helped me to have a better understanding of my interactions with others. I'm also now reading the New York Times best-seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I would like to share some of the strengths introverts have and how we should use them in an industry that is all about networking events, selling ourselves and showing off a bit.
Introverts are insightful and analytical
The film industry is a fast-paced world and we need to be able to predict what will go wrong and how to solve problems when it's happening. The good news is that introverts are deeply insightful and analytical. Because we spend a lot of time observing things around us we are developing a high intuition that will help us fix a situation before the problem happens.
In a costume department, introverts will be great at doing costume break downs and characters continuity. They will be able to see the details in the script that are not making logical sense in term of chronology or weather transition.
Introverts are highly focused and not easily distracted
Want to get stuffs done without drama and noisy chatter ? Call an introvert ! We tend to deeply focus on our tasks and not get easily distracted by our environment (unless we work in an open space next to an extrovert who is super loud and noisy).
That's also why my favorite part of the work is the pre-production when I can work within a small team in our studio or at home, doing research, sourcing and organizing the costume production. It's not necessarily "quiet" because we never have enough time to do things peacefully but at least I'm able to work in my own environment on my own schedule with people I chose to work with.
Introverts are loyal and authentic
Introverts are not the types of people who will hug everybody at 6am on set or organise wrap parties (although I do love wrap parties). When I arrive on set I just don't want to waste time (otherwise I could have slept more) by engaging in superficial social conventions (like I just saw you 8 hours ago, I know you didn't do anything special last night).
Although I do love working within a team because I enjoy feeling that I belong to a group. We may not be people-pleaser but we take relationships seriously and we are just so bad at faking it that at least it's easy to know if we like you or not.
Introverts are as creative as extroverts
Extroverts' creativity comes from being with other people and doing things out in the world whereas introvert's creativity emerges from solitude, introspection and self-focus.
As an introvert I find inspiration from secluded times (walks and naps mainly). I don't really know how it works for extroverts but I enjoy their energy and enthusiasm when it comes to generate ideas. I just can't think properly if I'm overwhelmed with chatter.
Introverts are curious and never get bored
Introverts don't need external simulations to feel alive or entertained. They are curious and they enjoy observing and learning things. As assistants they might be more independent and eager to learn without asking for approbation.
I had to iron dozens and dozens of shirts for a tv show in the past and although it was quite an annoying task to complete, I've always found a way to make it entertaining for myself. I was usually listening to podcasts while trying to challenge myself to complete the task faster than the previous day (well I'm a bit obsessive too).
Introverts have stamina
We might not be good at hugging, expressing feelings and waving our arms around but our relatively relaxed pace allow us to not burn out easily.
On a set we'll be the ones who would remain alive after the tempest and offer a calming solution to make things work out.
As introverts, it's easy to feel that we don't fit in because our western societies are mainly based on extroverted behaviors. However I believe we have inner strengths that are as valuable as being a social and enthusiastic person, we just need to embrace them and figure out how to make the most of them.
At the end of the day, the best teams are the ones which are as inclusive as possible. I think it's important for each of us to be surrounded by like-minded but also very different personalities who will challenge our world view while opening our eyes to infinite other possibilities.