A new book published on 1 December 2021, See You at the Premiere: Life at the Arse End of Showbiz, demystifies the perceived glamour of a career in the arts by revealing the day-to-day artistic, financial and emotional struggles faced by the vast majority of creative people.
The antithesis of society’s vacuous fixation with showbusiness, the book simultaneously celebrates and questions creative passion. Fearlessly candid, unflinching, funny – yes, they’re all checked off – the book is also self-critical, opinionated and cynical.
Memoir, writing handbook, insider’s guide, cultural history, self-help book and ‘Making Of’, See You at the Premiere: Life at the Arse End of Showbiz spans the last two decades of the 20th century and the first two of the 21st over 515 pages, unfolding in London, Los Angeles, Washington, Edinburgh and at 25 Cannes Film Festivals with a cast of characters including Richard Attenborough, Steven Spielberg, David Puttnam, Peter Cook and Christopher Lee.
“Steven Spielberg and I know where the career landmines are.
He navigated them. I stepped on every one.
If you’re in the arts, we’re both worth listening to.”
Unlike most books on working in the arts, See You at the Premiere: Life at the Arse End of Showbiz is written, not by an academic or ‘writer’ with few if any significant credits, but by a practising writer, Ross Smith.
Under the pen name Richard Matthews, Ross has written four feature films, ranging from Britain’s first ‘wannabe’ movie, Revenge of Billy the Kid, to mainstream family favourite Greyfriars Bobby.
He is also the author of several plays (as David Hastings), starting with 1995’s Edinburgh sci-fi spoof Invasion of the Cathode Rays in which he was also roped in to playing the robot Zargon, Leader of the Zargs from the Planet Zarg. His other theatre credits include: One Small Step, which was produced multiple times at Oxford Playhouse between 2008 and 2019 and, in 2010, was the world’s most-toured British play; The Wright Brothers, also at Oxford Playhouse (2010) and Edinburgh; and Sherlock Holmes and the Crimson Cobbles at Chipping Norton Theatre (2017).
Ross spent four years at BBC Radio 2 writing and researching almost 100 programmes and conducting over 300 interviews with film personalities including Dustin Hoffman, Matthew McConaughey, Keanu Reeves and Bruce Willis. His work has been translated into 19 languages.
Like most freelance creative people, Ross has been unable to earn anywhere near a respectable living from his craft. See You at the Premiere: Life at the Arse End of Showbiz reveals why by spending as much time focussing on the projects that went nowhere as the handful that were produced.
“Creative people are – or should be if they’re doing it properly – independent, irresponsible, morally questionable outsiders answerable to no one.”
“In the arts, if you haven’t created something of note before you’re 30, you’re probably never going to.”
“Every creative person should always have something out there under consideration. Why? Because the other guy has.”
“Humans are transient, art lives forever. Culture – films, television, play texts, painting, music, sculpture, books – is the nearest humanity has come to immortality.
“You don’t have to hear the word ‘No’ to realise the answer is ‘No’.”
“‘If’ is the biggest word in showbusiness. Every day, ‘if’ is the sound of a hundred dreams shattering.”
“Never underestimate optimism and enthusiasm in the arts. They’re infectious qualities.”
“You’re not taking your career seriously unless you’re dedicating the majority, if not all, of your working hours to your craft. Many disagree with that view, but they do so while thousands of full-time aspiring practitioners leave them behind as part-time amateurs.”
“To the public, Brad Pitt is a movie star, but Brad Pitt knows (as does every movie star) that, really, he’s just an actor who got lucky. Never forget, being talented ain’t no big deal. Being lucky is.”
“It’s never the story, it’s always the way it’s told.”
“Artists must ask what worked, what didn’t, on their last project. A creative career is a chess match and every move you make is crucial.”
“If your project doesn’t excite you, never fool yourself it’s gonna excite anyone else.”
“In no other profession is there such a discrepancy between the haves and have-nots as in the arts.”
“To stand a chance of succeeding at anything, you need commitment, organisation and discipline. If you’re failing, it’s usually because you’re not fully applying all three.”
“‘What’s your favourite project?’ creative people are often asked. There is only one correct answer: ‘My current one.’ If that isn’t your reply, the project isn’t worth your time.”
“The more people I meet the more I notice those with attitude, standing centre-stage in the spotlight, bravely announcing, ‘This is me, and this is what I can do’ and those cowering in the wings, hidden in the shadows, arms across their chests harrumphing at the efforts playing out on stage. You, dear reader, are in one of those two camps.”
“I wasn’t invited to the premiere of Greyfriars Bobby. The dog was.”
“We have to create. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. We must create. I wish I knew why because then I could stop.”
“It’s an unsaid truth that many people knowingly use creativity, what with its time-consuming, all-encompassing nature, as a convenient excuse to escape from whatever personal or professional issues they are unwilling to confront face-on.”
“If you have ambitions to be creative, overcome your fear. You’ll achieve nothing until you do.”
“And that was how I came to be photographed in a hotel room at 4am with a dwarf and Gary Glitter. Your Honour.”