What to Do on the Bad Days

James Duval

We all have bad days that seem to wipe out our momentum. I wish I could say they can be avoided. They can’t. Well, at least, that is my own personal experience. I do think, though, that the aftermath of a bad day can be avoided. That is where you spend days telling yourself, “if only I could stay positive, then I would be further along than I am” and all the kicking yourself that goes along with that.

On my journey I have had bad days, bad weeks and even a few bad years. At one point in the middle of a spat of a few bad months is when Continuum Motion Pictures received the call that gave it the opportunity to have offices on the Paramount Studio lot. On another occasion during a period of over-all badness is when we suddenly went into production on one of our best films.

I personally don’t think you should worry about whether you are having a bad day or not. I have seen many actors give bad auditions because they are having a bad day. I have seen whole teams of people give up on films and their dreams because they were going through a bad time. I have seen composers let their lives get in the way of opportunity. And I am certain that you have seen all of this and more in your own life and the lives of your friends who have left the journey of their dreams.

Jason Durdon and Danny Torres at Paramount 2012 when Continuum had offices there.

Jason Durdon and Danny Torres at Paramount 2012 when Continuum had offices there.

Now the promise of the premise, “What to do on a bad day”? My answer will not make sense to some; to others it will be obvious. Enjoy it. That does not mean relish in it and pass it on. There is never an excuse for passing it on to other people. They do not deserve it. Enjoy it means notice it, watch it unfurl, but give it no power. Be professional and give the task you are doing the positive energy that it needs. Don’t worry about the day, but worry about the task at hand. The day will handle itself. If you are having a bad month, year or even life, and trust me – I have been there on the “life” part – it is not important. Focus on the the journey. If you are an actor, act; if you are a writer, write; and if you are a director or producer, simply barrel down on your project.

If someone else is having a bad day, it is okay to give them fifteen minutes or more if you have the time. But when you walk away, turn your thoughts to your projects. Don’t let the energy slip into you.
Chaos has to to find a home, if you don’t give it one with yourself.

I realize this all simplistic. But imagine if you are a farmer in the 1800s and you wake up – and heaven forbid – your wife has passed away in her sleep. (Horrible example, I know.) You still have to milk the cows, feed the chickens, and most likely the fourteen children you have. Then you get to grieve and handle the issue of the tragedy. We live in an age where we are supposed to pay attention to our feelings and the feelings of others. That is a good thing. But we give so much energy to how we feel, that it often stops us from doing what we need to do. People seem to need to feel if something is the right direction or not. Success is based on decisions. Now, these decisions can factor in intuition but feelings are not necessarily intuition. Intuition is a thought in the back of your head, or a “gut feeling”.

The other side of things is how we want people to feel about ourselves. I sometimes get caught up in this, especially due to the fact that people in film are not always the most mature and it feels like perpetual high school at times. The reality is this: we are very seldom made successful by how people feel about us. We are made successful by delivering. Can you ultimately deliver even if you are having a bad day or week?

People can hate you, but if you deliver the role and are not too difficult too work with, it really does not matter how people feel. Now note again: if you give people a reason to feel badly towards you, well, you might be passing on your bad days, and that has consequences.

James Duval in Alaska with family age 9

James Duval in Alaska with family age 9

Now, a disclaimer: Sometimes a bad day is an on-going battle with a real mental illness called depression. We all have an obligation to be aware of each other as human beings and to acknowledge medical conditions visible or not visible. That is the other side of the “bad day” coin. I am not certain how others need to actually deal with it, but I try to at least be aware of it and not let it affect how I see or feel about a person. Depression runs in my own family and even I suffer from it at times. I have worked with people who suffer from depression and PTSD. I take a deep breath and try not to personalize the conversation, and focus on the shared goal. If you keep the goal in the forefront of your mind, you can even move through your own depression when you have too.

Bad days are not necessarily the fault of anyone. There are many factors involved for ourselves and others. I feel I can best sum it up this way: give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You may just be brilliant and you may even accomplish your goal. To do this, you just have to keep moving in the direction that you set your sight upon. It does not matter if today you move an inch or if you move a mile – you just have to move.