Today’s writing prompt from Word Press is: If you were involved in a movie, would you rather be the director, the producer, or the lead performer? (Note: you can’t be the writer!).
When I first saw that, my own experience came to mind. I thought about all the different businesses I’ve worked in, including show business, and my response to the prompt was immediately obvious — I’d rather be the producer. I’ll have to say, it’s a coincidence that a few days ago, I became curious as to what a producer was. You see someone credited as the producer for every movie and TV show, some are famous. But I wondered, what do they do? I headed over to that most trusted of sources, the Internet, and learned that the traditional role of a producer is, more or less, running the business end of the movie or TV production. In other words, the producer handles financial and scheduling matters. I suddenly realized, been there, done that.
You need a little back story, so please bear with me.
Until I graduated from high school, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be a pilot; I had my private pilot’s license, I was beginning to build hours toward earning my Commercial pilot certificate, and also getting my first time in multi-engine aircraft, as much as economics would allow. However, upon graduation, it became clear that, since I hadn’t gotten into a university, sooner or later I would either have to enlist in one of the armed forces or be drafted into the Army. I joined the Air Force, went to Viet Nam with the Army and had to learn to swim. You know what they say about the best laid plans.
When I finished my tour, I figured it would be a little crazy to try to start flying again when I could go to college using the GI Bill. So, I went home to El Paso and started attending UTEP, majoring in history. As I got into it however, I soon saw the liklihood of getting a job with a history degree was less than zero; with so many people in college solely to avoid the draft and Viet Nam, liberal arts degrees were very a very popular choice, thousands of history majors were being churned out every year. My solution was to transfer to UT Austin and get a Pharmacy degree. A year of chemistry soon killed that idea and, by the end of the spring semester, I began to think about majoring in something else.
Just then, my father-in-law, who was a long time show business promoter, suggested my wife and I take a little time off that summer. He was producing a western US tour of The Royal Lippizan Stallions of Austria and had begun to set up tour in western Canada. He was tired of travelling and wanted us to travel with the show as the business managers. We would count ticket sales proceeds after each show, settle up with Canadian tax authorities who were ever present, making sure things went according to schedule between performances, and otherwise representing my father-in-laws interests. We were, in effect, the producers of the show and involved in everything. Towards the end, I even became the announcer for the show each night and had to scout talent for the small band that accompanied us. Now I know why producers are so well respected.
At the end of the summer we returned to El Paso and UTEP, I planned to major in Engineering and began taking math and other engineering prerequisite courses, but by the end of my sophomore year I knew that with the changes in majors, I risked not graduating before my GI Bill ran out. A feeling of desperation set in and I grabbed the UTEP catalog, wondering what I could get a degree in, in the shortest possible time. It was an Oh, #%@t moment. The best choice was accounting, the last thing in the world I wanted to do. It was true, coincidence, that one of the UT Austin requirements for a Pharmacy degree was at least 2 semesters of Accounting, which I suffered through but managed to finish while there, so I had a bit of a head start. There was nothing for it, I got in the car and drove down to the registrar’s office right then and changed my major to Accounting.
When I told my wife’s parents, the first thing my father in law said was something like, “Good choice, my boy, an accountant can get a job doing anything; every business needs an accountant.”
He was right. I had already worked doing accounting in Canada and could boast I’d worked in show business. Who knew what possibilities were out there? I pictured myself working for a movie production company or for an NFL team, even they need accountants, or I could go back to Detroit and work in the auto industry (glad I didn’t do that!). I could even start right away. Before I finished college, my father-in-law and I promoted (produced) performances by two or three traveling Broadway plays, including 1776 which was big at the time, and a famous Spanish guitarist, whose name escapes me now, and possibly one show of the Romero’s, also famous guitarists. We didn’t make a fortune on any of those shows, but my share was enough to help my wife and I financially while I finished college.
Since then, I’ve owned part of a local El Paso newspaper, and worked in the construction, real estate development and defense industries; I’ve had quite a varied career and having an accounting degree made that possible. You see, an accountant can do anything.
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