Saturday, February 22, 2014

Til then, til then.

I guess I'm kind of at that weird point where I can calm down a bit. Delusions was basically born out of anxiety and as an outlet for it. Now it's kind of subsided. I'm settled into a great apartment now with good friends. The whole job thing... was eventually solved. It's crazy how much that consumed me for months and months, but I'm out of it now and in a better place.

A lot has changed in such a short period of time and it's pushed me away from my writing. I got a full time job where I can't write scripts or daydream about characters whenever I want, but now that it's become normalized over time, I'm going to get focused and try to get back to it. Reading scripts is such a big part of it that I fell away from for quite a while, so regaining that is one of my bigger priorities.

For now I'm going to leave Delusions as is and let it sit. It wouldn't feel right any other way, since it was made for a specific phase of my life that has transitioned into something else. I need to just go off and live for a bit, get the writing down, and see where I get. I'm just trying to soak everything up and get used to a new routine while still maintaining the motivation to write scripts. Less writing about doing things and more actually doing them...

I need to crank another feature out this year if I want to see anything happen at all or even feel right. If not then what's the fucking point? Time to get back on the horse. There's always room for more blogging in the future, most likely a fresh stab at something new and different. So thanks for stopping by and listening to me, until next time :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

I won't be home for Christmas

Have you ever had one of those "How did I get here?" moments? Like if you in the future were to come back and tell yourself it was going to happen and you totally wouldn't believe it? I had one of those a few days ago when I was sitting in a room with the other new-hires at a company I had never heard of.

It took me exactly six months to the day to find a permanent job after graduating college... I think it took me that long to practice the stupid routine over and over. To be said no to or ignored completely. To get my hopes up and learn to recover from it in an instant. To save up enough luck? To realize freelance production isn't for me. To dig deeper and figure out what to do with the hot mess that is myself.

Anyways, to recap, my immediate goal was to find regular work so that I could practice writing scripts on the side because my long-term goal is to write movies. Pretty straightforward. I know goals change, but that's where I'm at now and I believe working towards anything is better than nothing.

So after two interviews, one of which involved me trying to win over a room of about 10 Chinese engineers and entrepreneurs that were impossible to read, I was confirmed as a new hire. I later found out that they chose 10 of us out of around 300 applicants and guess what? I had one of the best interviews.

Some people do actually leave film school and land right in the thick of it, set doing exactly what they planned. I took a slightly different route.

Now I work for a company that makes remote control drones (helicopters, quadcopters, hexacoptors, and octacopters) for aerial videography and filmmaking. This is one of them:

I could have never afforded to get into the RC hobby or even go near one of these things, but I got my foot in the door with 3 years of IT Support in college. It's a normal 9-5 Mon-Fri tech support position and I couldn't be happier because it's still relevant to my industry, super interesting, and will allow me to do what I set out to do without worrying about money. The drone industry is blowing up right now and though it really wasn't on my radar, it feels like a great fit now.

I've received messages from a few readers who are in the same position I was half a year ago, poised to break into the film industry, scared of the real world after school, and really not sure what to do. All I know is what I did, which was move to LA as soon as I graduated and live off of my parent's money until I found a job. I worked on a few projects, met a lot of people, and just got lucky one day when someone on Craigslist liked my resume. Other people might get work from a friend or family member in the industry, and even more people just give up and have to go back home. I was about a month or two shy of doing that if I hadn't found anything because I couldn't have afforded to stay here. My advice is don't beat yourself up about it, keep your goals general and achievable, and be open to them changing. 

My life has totally changed now, it's still surreal. When were all standing on the roof of the office and they flew one of the bigger drones in front of us, we had to confirm with each other that this was real. We had all just landed a dream job.

This year has been insane and it's starting to show in my face and my voice. Even my parents are rubbing in how I'm getting older. It's the first time I'll be away from them and the rest of my family for the holidays. None of us were very broken up about it though considering I finally got what I was working for. Everyone's kind of moving on and doing new things, it's a bit contagious.

Cheers to a new year :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to zero fucks given

I'm still here... A lot has changed over the past few months.

Moved into a new apartment with some friends from school a few weeks ago. Never thought it'd take so long to get my living situation squared away down here, but I finally have a new home and it feels good.

Now combine that with:
unsuccessful job interviews
creative frustrations with my own writing
whatever other stupid existential mental cow pie minefields
aaaand I just didn't feel like e-complaining about it over the past few months

Thing is, the excitement of moving to LA and figuring out my career has totally worn off. Y'know, the whole backbone of this blog...

PROBLEM: I'm 22 years old, so I'm at that point in my life where my actual self and my ideal self are completely disparate and it's been driving me crazy. "But Ben, it can take a lifetime to achieve your ideal self and many people never do!" Shut up, I know, but it's extra shitty now. At this point I feel like I should at least have a vague idea of what my ideal self would be, but I don't. I was kind of wrong about mostly everything in some way or another. My expectations were pretty unrealistic. Going to college in paradise put me out of touch with reality in a big way and only now am I getting over it.

SOLUTION: Accept it and don't give a shit about anything. Yup.

Here's what's up. I'm ashamed to say it, but it took me a longer than I would've liked for me to realize I don't know anything about anything and I have zero skills worth paying me for. Insert liberal arts degree joke here.

I wish somebody would have given me that advice sooner, or maybe they did and I just didn't listen. Gotta accept that I won't be good at anything for years and years and years. Gotta stop getting hung up on the big life questions all at once. A good friend of mine told me yesterday that there's absolutely no point in being too hard on yourself, ever. He's right. I've been beating myself up for no reason and it doesn't help anything. Sure, it's great to have an idea of what I'd like to do further down the line, but right now, in this moment, it's best to start simple and get my head straight. Oh yeah, and just make some money, gawddamnit.

An interesting thing happens when I stop giving a shit about how to beef up my resume, develop my nonexistent career, beat out the other guy... I'm just happier. Really though, I'm just not worrying about it and not making a deal out of it anymore. I can still be driven and discover new things, but ever since I've moved here I've just been waaaaay too hard on myself and it ain't healthy.

It's hard to know that going in. In any big life event, not just moving to Hollywood to try and make it in entertainment. This frustration carries over to everything, but it's especially stressful in this kind of environment where literally everyone is concentrated in the same location competing for the same kind of success. Other people rub off on you down here and falling into the trap of comparing experiences and achievements is just asking for trouble (and when it comes to writers, long nights alone with a bottle.) Nopenopenope!

Bottom line, I've learned to not hold myself accountable for being young and new at everything. I've learned that it's impossible to not get my hopes up about an exciting opportunity and often I will. Doesn't matter, give it up and don't dwell.

Surrender. Accept being a young, insignificant ant. Think big for the future, but simple for the present. It's something to get used to, but some day that whole self actualization thing will come together. Don't care as much, just ride the wave.

Man, enough feels already.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why I've been so quiet

Growing up in front of the TV as a kid, I was a sucker for hot new toy commercials. New Power Rangers Megazord? I need it! Dumb fighting robot rumble arena? Doesn't matter, this commercial rules and I have to have it! There was always rad music that got you pumped and lame special effects that were only passable to a 9 year old. Every once in awhile, when I was lucky enough to bring one of these toys home, I'd discover that it wasn't really as great as the commercial made it out to be. That kid actor was paid lots of money to look like he was having the time of his life playing with it -- and his hair was always soooo cool! Now that I owned the thing, I was jazzed for the moment, but sometimes left a little underwhelmed since the commercial hyped it up and raised my expectations. It wasn't actually what I wanted.

Okay, not the best example in the world... Point is, I'm currently running into the same problem where I started getting what I thought I wanted, and now I'm not really convinced that I want it anymore.

I came here to immerse myself in Hollywood, work on some movies, and eventually write my own. I reasoned that to mean I should get into production and be PA and work my way up to something better when the opportunity presented itself. At first, I couldn't find any paying work, so I PA'd for free on a few projects and those eventually led to my first paid PA gig. Short narrative, music video, commercial work -- I tried a little of each. Finally a little progress and a start, be it a small one. Problem: I just don't feel like it anymore.

Here's what I discovered about myself while working on the past few projects;

1. I can't really handle 13-14 hour workdays, especially when sitting down is a no-no. I don't think I have the physical stamina needed for constantly lugging around heavy equipment while always being sleep deprived. Sue me.

2. I don't like being everybody's bitch, nor do I have thick enough skin that I'm okay with being consistently blamed for things that aren't my fault. I know this comes with the territory, as it does in plenty of other types of work, but I'm still not okay with being in a "Yes, master. It won't happen again." position.

3. I diligently observed and hung out with people from each department to try and decide which one I would like to transition into. Thing is, I don't want in on any of them. No grip, lighting, art dept, camera, script supervising, no nothing. I'm just not drawn to any of them enough for me to dedicate myself to one. Some are appealing, but at the end of the day I'd rather just write something and leave the production to the other guys.

4. Although the experiences had while making this stuff are often a once in a lifetime deal, the money doesn't change anything. If I still feel like shit at the end of the day and keep having to ask myself why I'm doing it, the whole thing just doesn't work out in my head. Being a freelance PA is great for gaining on set experience and getting exposure to other professionals in their element, but if I can't imagine myself having a future in production, the low rates aren't really enough for me to stick around.

5. Working a more consistent job while writing on the side just sounds so much more appealing than anything else. Coming home each night during an extended shoot means immediately collapsing into bed for an attempt to rest before the next call, leaving me no time to even think about the story I'm working on. Deal breaker.

What's really annoying is that I've only been down here for a few months. That's nothing. I'm so young, but every gig feels like a make or break experience that will define the rest of my future. Yes, I'm aware of how stupid that sounds. I'm at a point where it's impossible for me to imagine where I'll be in just a year. I'm also at the point where if another PA gig comes up, I might need the money so badly that I'll have to do it whether I want to or not...

So much of the struggle in taking this route is separating what I think I want from what I need. If anything, I've learned what I don't want to do, which is somewhat useful, right? Don't get me wrong, this isn't a post saying I'm done and packing up. I just have this idea floating around somewhere inside me that says production might not be my thing and that's okay, try something new. So I will.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is the story fresh or rancid?

Getting the ball rolling on my next script has been close to impossible since my big move. I had it my head that I'd cruise down here, eventually find some work, and continue writing diligently in my spare time. No such luck.

So far I've been able to land some PA gigs working for free, which is good experience and nice for meeting people, but, well, lets save the job rant for another time... *screams internally*

It's funny how motivating a screenwriting professor is when they threaten to fail you if you don't crank out a stack of pages each week. Now that those days have come and gone I'm watching my self-discipline melt away. Yeah, part of the blame goes to video games, movies, and procrastination. I'll admit that. A huge part of it is also getting frustrated that most of my ideas have gone nowhere.

Around the same time Pacific Rim was in post-production I was developing my own treatment for a giant mech extravaganza. It'll be fine, I thought. Just a coincidence and mine doesn't have aliens or any of the other junk they packed in. I should just keep going with it because it's what I want to write. Then a few months fly by and as I'm sifting through production listings I see Robotech is in fucking preproduction with Toby Maguire and possibly DiCaprio... I wasn't necessarily writing Robotech, but the whole franchise and the 80s anime milieu just made me feel like whatever spin I would have put on my similar mech story at this point would be shadowed in some way by those films. It just felt less and less original as more of the same was stirred into the pot. I could say who cares, if it's good it's good and will be recognized as such, but it just feels really lame to be writing something a lot like whatever trend is popping up at the time. I had to give it some breathing room.

I also keep stumbling into this weird thing where I start writing a movie that already exists without realizing it. My next stab at an idea turned out to be a Metropolis rehash and then the following week it was that weird Spielberg android Pinocchio A.I. thing. I haven't even seen A.I., but I started writing that exact kind of story. You might say movies are never wholly original and can always be described by a mixture of two movies that have come before them. I'm not disagreeing with that, but I just can't get excited about something if it feels like it's already been done. So if it doesn't get me excited, well then I'm just not going to write it. And that's basically what's happened with all of my story ideas so far. I was just hesitant to write anything because for one reason or another I wasn't excited about them and kept shutting myself down with excuses.

So now I'm not only learning to bounce my ideas off people to make sure I haven't accidentally rewritten a movie, but also I'm figuring out how to filter the stories I absorb everyday and take aspects I like to make them my own without totally ripping them off. There's a fine balance between borrowing elements from stories and ignoring other work to just write what comes naturally.

Today I think I nailed down a new story idea that I'm genuinely exited about. Now the challenge is to prevent it from spoiling. How can I make it mine and keep it mine? The only answer I can think of is to just say fuck it and write no matter what. Nothing's perfect right away, so the most productive thing to do is develop something that feels fresh and hope it improves. Either way it's a learning experience. It's easy to throw bad ideas out, but to be able to differentiate the great ones from the rest is a skill I'm still getting the hang of.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mediating your inner noob

Studying film in college was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have no regrets. However, reality sets in after graduation and now that I'm looking for work in the film biz, nobody gives a shit what I studied. The real question is: can I do the job? Sure, having the background of working on student films, knowing the in-depth history of the industry, and doing critical analysis of hundreds of films down to the shot are all worthwhile in themselves, but frankly, it's all completely irrelevant to becoming a set P.A.

I'm used to small student crews where everybody does everything. Hey, can you move that light over here? Somebody help me with this makeup and then set out the lunch. Now I've entered the land of don't you fucking dare touch that c-stand and I ain't paid to do your job. Okay, not everybody's that much of a dick, but it still takes a little getting used to.

This past weekend I attended a crash course in being a production assistant at P.A. Bootcamp. If you've never heard of it, it's basically a two-day seminar that prepares you for your first day on the job so you know what and what not to do as a P.A. on a professional crew. If you have heard of it before, it might have something to do with the controversy surrounding whether it's worth the money and the time, as apposed to just learning everything on your first day of work. I certainly am not going to feed the fire. I can understand both sides of the argument and I am only presenting my own personal experience.

Now, taking into account that I studied film for four years, worked (one could say played) on my fair share of student film sets, and had a short runner gig for the Golf Channel, I still felt nervous about working on a pro crew as a noobie P.A. Why? Because, simply put, I didn't want to fuck up on my first day and be conspicuously absent from the next call sheet i.e. fired. If the AD finds out I don't know what I'm doing, they're going to hire somebody who does. The last thing an assistant director needs is to take time out of their own day to train me. I know you can already smell an argument here, especially something like if you're too stupid to learn how to P.A., you should probably stick to flippin' burgers.

Nobody's saying the set lingo or radio etiquette is rocket science, I'm just the type of person who wants to know what I'm in for given the chance. See, not only did I learn everything I needed to know about how to be a successful P.A. before day one, I gained confidence in myself to step into a job I'd never done and not stick out like a sore thumb. I won't go into it much more than that. All I'm saying is that my time and money were well spent and I met some wonderful people. Sometimes you just have to ignore what other people say and experience something first hand to understand it.

I certainly gained a better understanding of how the business end of production works, namely who to call to ask for work. Before I was calling front desks and didn't even really have a term for what I wanted to do besides "entry level position." Office minion? Sure. Slave on nobudget shoot? Sure. Now I've retrofitted my resume and my attitude. I'm calling every show in the LA area that's in production and looking to be a dayplayer set P.A.

Granted, the 2nd AD or whoever happens to be doing the hiring is already calling the P.A.s they've worked with for years and their friends of friends all before they get to my dinky resume at the bottom of the pile -- and oh yeah, a fat majority of features are now produced out-of-state for tax incentives, but hey, baby steps.

I've got my surveillance mic, my little utility pouch, some comfy shoes, and at least a few days of training... I really just need to dive in at this point. Question is: Now that my savings are running out, how long will I have the phone glued to my ear calling for work before something magically appears? Before Mommy and Daddy refuse to pay next months rent? No clue. Dayplaying seems totally impractical, and yet I know it can be done. What the fuck am I doing?

I just want to make movies...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A thick skin is a must. Go fuck yourself. You're hired!

I've been in LA for an entire week now! Everything is a bit overwhelming. Memorizing new street names, figuring out where to get food and do laundry. Took me a few days just to get some basics down, but I made it! I said I would come here and I did :)

I just wrapped up my internship at Spec Scout. Got a solid three months of doing script coverage, which I hope will benefit me in my search for a job.

Speaking of jobs... Looking for one is a full time job in itself. I mean, yeah, no more college translates into more downtime than I'm used to, but I basically live on the internet now when I'm not exploring the city. I've been using that downtime to scour job listings, fine-tune my resume, and RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH.

It kind of sucks that a lot of the assistant jobs I'm applying to want at least a year's worth of desk experience, but seriously, how hard can it be? Candidates must know how to work a phone and a computer and be able to schedule somebody else's life. Whoa. Must be detail-oriented, resourceful, and have excellent organizational skills. Gimme a break... This shouldn't be that difficult. 

I know a few of my readers are also film students, so I thought I might at least share some of the online resources I've been using so far.

The Anonymous Production Assistant (God bless 'em) posts the UTA Joblist every time it's released, about every week or so. It lists a variety of current jobs from  internships to executive positions.

Mandy is a huge database of jobs in the entertainment industry, as is the aptly named I've been frequenting them both pretty often.

LA 411 is a beast of a site that will become useful when I begin my cold walk-ins. It lists all kinds of production companies and also specific people who are available for work in whatever position you can think of. Later this week I'll be combing the site for agencies, offices, and production companies so I can go to them in person. I think showing my face might have a little more resonance than a mere email response to an online job post, but we'll see. LA 411 also has a jobs board beta, which is run by Media Match.

Now, I'm still up in the air when it comes to Media Match because it's one of those sites like Linkedin where you have to use their service whether you like it or not. Basically, instead of just uploading my resume in PDF format, I have to fill out a profile with all my information and they construct a pseudo-resume for me and send it with my application and the rest of my profile to whoever I'm applying to. Granted, I found at least 9 or 10 jobs there just today, and they keep emailing me more  whenever a new relavent job is posted, but I had to pay about $10 for a month of their service before I was even allowed to apply for any of the positions. Worth it? I'm skeptical to say the least. 

Oh yeah, and there's also Craigslist... Ol' faithful. Hey, don't knock it. It's served me well in the past and got me an internship, I'm just covering all my bases here.

Aside from scouring the internet and physically going to places, nothing beats networking with a friend or that one guy you used to know from freshman year. Not always the easiest route if you're like me and don't have a rad posse of LA filmies to get your back. So, I'll take this opportunity to give a shout out to anyone who has any leads. Hey you! Got a job for me? 

*chirp chirp, chirp chirp*

If I'm missing something, please let me know.

Adult talk aside, I hit up the Old Pasadena Film Festival last weekend and it was awesome! I caught Annie Hall and Chicago FO FREE, one projected on a huge building in a shopping center and the other on a weird inflatable screen in a park. Free movies all month long can't be beat, especially when they're good ones. I could get used to this...

Ben, how come you haven't complained about how shitty the traffic is and the ridiculous heat? Okay, yes, it's been hot. But this traffic thing is actually fun. I don't even get mad, it's like everyone wants to race and it's just entertaining for me to observe how insane people drive and then imagine what kind of despicable human is sitting in that car in front of me that just cut me off to get ten feet ahead for no reason. I start making up stories for their lives and then before I know it I'm where I need to be. Go figure.

One thing that is starting to worry me, is that my writing seems to have slowed down a little bit. I'm at the point where I'm just taking notes here and there when ideas pop up, but I should really be making more outlines and developing the notes into bigger works. Part of me thinks HEY this is crazy, you just moved to a new city and need to get settled, but the other smarter more productive part of me thinks HEY don't ever slow down, get started on that second script, bitch! Who do you think I should listen to?