Troy DeVolld: Toughing Out Those Dry Spells

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by Troy DeVolld

Woke up this morning feeling great.  I’ve got a game show in play and some EP possibilities on the horizon after a pretty tough stretch, which inspired me to write the following post to Facebook this morning.

Remember, the entertainment business is no cake walk.

The older I get, the more I realize that everything’s transitional. Wild periods of success and struggle come and go no matter what you do or how you plan for them.

Here’s my story — and there’s a moral to it and loads of good stuff and gratitude on the other side, so don’t get bogged down with the little bit of bum-outage in the middle part of this thing.

Two years ago, I was three years and five seasons into a hit show as its Co-EP when an executive shuffle at network led to a discussion of “refreshing” the series, which ultimately resulted in me getting the axe. Every major exec (SVP and above) at the production company I worked for had moved to other opportunities elsewhere over the three years I’d been there, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when the new topper didn’t go to bat for me over the network’s ask — we’d barely had the chance to work together. She replaced me and while I really stewed about what had happened for a long time, I tried hard to just take it on the chin and move forward.

As I’d been counting on returning to the show and hadn’t made much effort to network elsewhere for three years, Spring and Summer of 2013 were lean. I managed to get by with a series of smaller jobs including the first season of Hollywood Game Night (a wonderful experience), finally landing another Co-EP seat when an old friend called and asked me to come work for him on a new docu-series. As sometimes happens with bold, unusual concepts, the show struggled to find a tone acceptable to the network and the friend that had brought me on began to plan his exit from the company for another opportunity.

Christmas came, and I went home for our extended two-week unpaid holiday break. Just before our return, I was asked if I could wait another week to come back as the company considered its course of action with the troubled project. That extra week became another, then another, and I was finally let go more than a month after I’d last set foot in the office while someone else was brought in to replace me and given the latitude to execute the position effectively.

I was crushed. Twice in under one year, I’d been let go from a show. Prior to that, I’d never been fired in the 27 years since I’d first taken a job making pizzas at 16.

For whatever reason, I didn’t land anywhere for the entire first half of the year…. another first, as I usually roll from one job right into the next. I went six months without a paycheck (having declined January offers in the period while I waited for the series to tell me what my return date that never came would be), and finally wound up going to work for someone who once worked for me when he got a well-earned break on a new series. I had a great time with him and his post team, comprised of many of the people who had been with me on the hit show that cut me loose in 2013. The end result was terrific, even if I had fallen down the ladder a bit.

From there, I rejoined Dancing With the Stars, which just ended its 19th season around Thanksgiving. I hadn’t been there since season 3, so the whole experience felt like a high school reunion. Once again, my direct supervisor was someone who had once been on one of my story teams, and I had wonderful time.

As 2014 draws to a close, I still struggle with the financial and emotional ramifications of the six-figure and sometimes humiliating torpedoing I took in 2013/14, but I do think it’s made me more appreciative of the alignment of circumstances that led me to the successes I had enjoyed up until then and those I’ll enjoy in the future. My work ethic remains solid, and I know who I am and what I can do.

The lectures (most recently London, LA, Tel Aviv) and consults continue, and one of the main points of every one-on-one discussion I have with clients and students is that it’s important to understand what a crapshoot this business is. The important things are to work hard, be likable, and to develop a thick skin, like the one these past two years have granted me.

I am encouraged, and I feel stronger moving forward. The period where I felt as if a career has to progress logically and on some sort of fixed upswing is gone. The period where I expected loyalty has passed without me feeling as if I should give up my loyalties to others. I am absolutely beat to hell, but I’m still here and God save me, I still like what I do.

Adversity passes. Your responsibilities in life are to stay alive, to learn, and to be accountable to yourself.

Here’s to all of us in 2015.