Perseverance is a trait that pays off in all areas of life, but seems more important in Hollywood, where competition is legendary and having the hide of an elephant is part of the trade.
The story behind Tim Schlattmann, writer and executive producer of Showtime’s hugely successful Dexter series, is one of perseverance; it’s a story of believing in your dreams and knowing that a wise man will make more opportunities than he finds (Francis Bacon).
Schlattmann has traveled a long way from his blue-collar upbringing in Nebraska to the bright lights of Hollywood.
Schlattmann’s father worked as a butcher while his mother stayed at home to raise Tim and his three siblings. They lived in a small house in the country. After working as a disc jockey and college professor, Schlattmann pursued his dream of writing for television and movies, and, without knowing a soul, moved to Los Angeles. He started as the lowest man on a very tall totem pole as a production assistant—a fancy way of saying he fetched coffee and scripts. He then became a writer’s assistant, making sure scripts came in and taking notes while in the room with writers.
Against all odds and through sheer determination, Schlattmann moved up through the ranks and found success as a storywriter and executive producer for Dexter. The show—which focuses on a blood- splatter analyst who moonlights as a serial killer—has received numerous nominations for Writers Guild of America and Golden Globe awards, has been nominated for 19 Primetime Emmy Awards, and was nominated in the category of Outstanding Drama Series from 2008 to 2010. In 2008 it received the prestigious Peabody award. (Schlattmann’s other television writing credits include Roseanne, Get Real, and Smallville.)
Schlattmann cites his Nebraskan work ethic of dogged determination as a big part of his success. I have often wondered what makes one person more successful than the other: Is it just perseverance, or do genes have anything to do with it?
This idea of perseverance versus genetics was explored in a 2009 New York Times article titled “Genius: The Modern View.” Author David Brooks stated that “even Mozart’s early abilities were not the product of some innate gift. What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had—the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills.”
Brooks also states that the “primary trait a successful person possesses is not some mysterious genius. It’s the ability to develop a deliberate, strenuous and boring practice routine. We construct ourselves through our behavior.”
During a talk at Western Washington University’s campus Thursday night, Schlattmann will describe his career path in Hollywood, as well as discuss industry standards and the writing process.
“The most important attribute in this business and life in general is perseverance,” Schlattmann says of his outlook toward success. “Instead of retreating when I hear the word ‘no,’ it makes me work harder. Writing in this business is a craft, and sometimes it takes years to master. I still have much to learn and more stories to tell.”
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