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.


  1. That's a shame. But it is the reality and I think this is a good thing, now you Can concentrate on your writing! I worked on film sets for 12 months solid last year as a Script Supervisor - I learnt everything about film making (the good, bad and ugly)but during those 12 months I made no films of my own.

    It's starting to look like a good thing now that I left. I want to direct- and climbing up a slow ladder has no guarantees so I am going to start making my own short films and music videos - I can practice directing this way.

    And write a feature film script. I'm thinking of booking out an apartment somewhere away just for me- for two weeks and get it finished.

    Keep your eye on the prize! Now you know what your dealing with you can attack it so to speak. You can still make a living with freelance writing - articles, reviews, critic etc

    This is just the start.

  2. I agree with Hiccup3000 that this is not a bad development. A large part of the process when coming to Hollywood is learning about the industry and yourself -- and half of that is figuring out what you don't want to do. Experience is the best teacher, and these first PA gigs have already taught you something valuable. If on-set work isn't for you, better to find out now at the very beginning.

    Where I part from Hiccup is in the assumption that "you can still make a living with freelance writing -- articles, reviews, critic, etc." Uh, no, that's not really possible here in LA, where there are thousands of talented writers already crowded around the banks of the tiny professional free-lance writing watering hole. An office PA gig would be a better choice, keeping you in the production loop without the brutal hours demanded on set.

    But remember this: entering the work force at any level, in any career -- even as a latte jockey at Starbucks -- will mean being somebody's bitch for a while. That's just reality. The "bitch" phase will pass in time, but it's all part of the process.

  3. It is not stupid. You are in the process of finding your path. I always wrote; I got away from it in college, because I was good at the production end. I LOVED working on Broadway, and did it for years -- while writing and having plays produced internationally. But the money was in television, so I started day playing on TV while working on B'way while writing.

    Exhausted, much?

    I don't like the days on set. I don't like the hierarchy. I worked with some great people and learned a lot, a LOT of which has helped me as writer.

    I preferred theatre.

    But even there, my world felt like it was getting smaller.

    So, a few years ago, I chucked it all, moved where I wanted to live, and am writing full time. I do a variety of projects, and now, oddly enough, I find more and more of my work is coming out of LA.

    But I have a life, I'm doing work I want to do, and I'm keeping my own hours.

    The money's never steady, it ebbs and flows, but when it's the way you pay the bills, you do a Mamet and make sure it's good enough to pay.

    Follow your gut.