On The Wagon

By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall April 24, 2008 at 4:05AM

Is it possible to work in the film industry and not drink alcohol? Let's find out.
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Is it possible to work in the film industry and not drink alcohol? Let's find out.

This past January, I attended a party at the Sundance Film Festival. It was my first night in Park City, and I scored an invite to a private affair, hosted by friends and by all accounts a lovely gathering. While I was enjoying getting caught up with familiar faces and colleagues I had never met, I was also a little disappointed in myself; I had arrived at the party committed to not having a drink of alcohol and within fifteen minutes (and having slurped down two club sodas) all I wanted was a cold beer. I knew what that meant; One beer meant a few beers meant a fitful sleep meant a hangover meant an exhausting start to the festival. I caved anyway. I drank a few drinks, stayed longer than I planned and I regretted it instantly. Let down by my utter lack of willpower, I woke up the next morning feeling like shit. Again.

Let's not even discuss my last three weeks in Sarasota, where drinking alcohol feels like a job requirement.

Having a few days to think about things while wrapping up down in Florida, I started getting a little bit worried; Can I actually decide not to drink and then follow through by not actually drinking? If I can't, do I have a problem? I decided it's time to put myself to the test.

I have been working in the film community since 1997 and with a decade of parties and festivals under my belt, from Sundance to Cannes to Toronto to The Hamptons to Sarasota to who can remember where else, I know that the abundance of free alcohol is one of the great factors in the social equation that is the "community" of the film business. I don't consider myself an alcoholic and I don't look down my nose at people who drink and enjoy themselves, but man, it struck me a few days ago that in this working environment (and given that it is also a highly social environment), it feels almost impossible for me to say no to alcohol.

It's not that I feel pressured by my peers or colleagues to drink; I've hung out with many people at festivals who choose not to drink at all. I think a lot of it has to do with social and professional anxiety; Striving to please people, feeling nervous and, after hours on end of incredible stress, enjoying the ways in which alcohol calms the nerves and eases my inhibitions. I've tried not to drink at work events; It might be time to make a change when you order a club soda and colleagues wonder aloud if everything is ok. Having a glass of water? An eyebrow might be raised or the assumption made that you're paying the price for a prior indulgence. "You sure you don't want a beer?," they ask. "A gin and tonic? Hair of the dog... I'm going to the bar..." And then, my inevitable collapse.

Alcohol is the norm. And it is always there, free, in abundance. Is there a single film event that doesn't either happen in a bar or have a liquor sponsor? Of course not. And why should there be? Enjoying a drink or two is part of the fun of being a grown up, right? My main problem is, of course, moderation. It would be great if I could slowly nurse a drink or two and call it a night, but I have never been one to do that in any part of my life; I just am not a moderate person. One of the things I want to work on with myself is developing a sense of moderation, of enjoying new experiences instead of constantly feeling like I have to keep up with everyone and drinkdrinkdrink. I assume it will be better for my health overall which is important (and which is, honestly, another important motive for me in all of this, but more about that soon). And so, my three-step plan is as follows;

1. Take a few months off from the drinking altogether
2. Try moderation in all areas of personal consumption
3. When I feel ready, enjoy a beer or some wine as part of a more moderate lifestyle.

I am eager to put this plan to the test at TriBeCa this week and look forward to some fun, sober nights on the town (and happy, hangover-free mornings in my apartment). I also think that by writing this I am making a sort of public commitment (well, at least to the ten people who read my blog) and therefore am more likely to honor it; Maybe this is another way to inspire myself to stick to the plan. Either way, I am committed to taking some time away from the sauce while re-connecting with the cinema, back home in Brooklyn after months away from my favorite movie theaters, my friends, my family. It's time for me to take a break in order to savor everything I've been missing while I've been away in Florida. I'm more than ready.

I know I'm probably stating the obvious, but I'm interested to know what others think about this... Feel free to comment and I'll publish in regular intervals.

This article is related to: Personal