Thursday, July 24, 2008

Foot in the Door

I worked at a production company yesterday. Owned by a director of many big, recognizable movies, and operated by the producer of most of those movies, I looked forward to “getting my foot in the door” of this well-reputed company. What I intended to do once my foot was in, I didn’t know exactly. Build contacts, maybe. They say contacts are good to have in this industry. Learn the ropes of the inside business, maybe. They say you have to have experience to get experience. Astonish the entertainment world with my good looks and quick wit, maybe. Yes, certainly.

I would be filling the seat of The Producer’s assistant while the staff was out at a ballgame. The office was supposed to be closed for the occasion but The Producer decided he needed to get some work done instead. Hence, they called a temp to cover for his assistant, Brian. Brian was in the office when I arrived. He just wanted to get me acquainted with basic procedures and protocol before he took off for the game. I’d be “rolling calls” and revising word documents. Sounded easy enough. He warned me about The Producer:

“He’s a large man, and short-tempered. He’ll get angry. He’ll shout. Don’t worry. He’s not mad, it’s just what he does. Usually he yells at me, but today he’ll be yelling at you.”

Okay, no problem, I thought. I’ve dealt with his type before. I don’t ruffle easily. I’ll be fine.

“You’ll be fine,” Brian said. Then he left.

I was the only person in the office, and the phones were not ringing. It was very quiet. I flipped through scripts and memos on Brian’s desk, trying to acquaint myself with the company’s work. I killed some time on the internet. I helped myself to a drink from the fridge. Then the phone rang. It was The Producer, wanting to “roll calls." I was to read from a list of received calls, and scheduled, outgoing calls. I was to get him on the phone with whomever he felt like talking to from that list. I put him on hold, I dialed the number for a woman named Corinne, I waited for her to get on the phone, and then I pushed the “conference” button. It didn’t work. The call kept getting disconnected. The Producer kept calling me back and asking me to do it again. Corinne laughed. I apologized, she assured me it was no problem, she'd wait, don’t worry about it. Meanwhile, on the other line, The Producer’s tone got louder and louder, angrier and angrier, yellier and yellier each time he called back. I was sweating. I was pushing buttons, I was rubbing my brow, I was apologizing profusely. Finally The Producer screamed, “I’ll call her myself!!” and hung up.

I sat down. My face caved in and a fire ignited in its place. Through the heat, I remembered Brian telling me to call him if I needed any help. I put my hands to my head, pawed through the flames for my face, and pulled it back into position. I reached for the phone and dialed Brian. I explained my crisis to him, and he told me what I needed to do: stay on the phone during the conference. Don’t hang up. The call disconnects if you hang up. Industry assistants always stay on calls, to take notes. The phones are rigged that way.

“Don’t worry, you didn’t know. I should have told you,” he said.

Some minutes later, The Producer called back. As if the past catastrophe had not transpired, as if he were calling me for the first time, he calmly directed, "Connect me with Corinne."

"I thought you were going to call her yourself."

That's the response I wanted to give. But instead, I said, "Absolutely." I connected them, and I stayed on the line, like a good assistant. Following that call, I placed him on another and another and another. I listened, I took notes, I felt certain that in my new mastery of industry phone protocol, I was impressing the socks off these power players.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Believing Eden

Some years ago, while visiting Los Angeles, I drove past a swatch of grass dotted with people lounging on blankets, on lawn chairs, on the bare ground. I imagined they must all be important – writers, producers, directors, actors. Only in LA would I have perceived park patrons as potential power players.

A few years later, my husband and I signed the lease for an apartment at the foot of Griffith Park. After settling in, we set off to explore the famed urban wilderness. At the entrance, I instantly recognized the Lawn of Somebodies I glimpsed a few years ago. We parked along the crowded road shoulder and walked to the top. As the grassy plateau of the Observatory grounds unfolded before us, the entire city stretche below like an open hand, and I felt as if I was looking upon an exalted land, where every inhabitant lives a life of grandeur.

Standing at a fence near the edge of a cliff, I analyzed the skyline. Hollywood sat just below the notorious mountainside letters. Miracle Mile stretched east to west on the right. Culver City and Santa Monica rose near each other at the far right. Downtown ascended in a cluster to the left. From this bird’s eye view, I could pick out the collections of highrises that belong to each neighborhood, but through the haze, I could discern no other distinguishable landmarks. The streets, houses, lawns, cars, and highways all blended together in one mosaic of grey. Within its crevices, my imagination placed the details of my pre-conceived notion of the City of Angels: brightly painted bodegas, fabric outlets, taquerias, people of all backgrounds and classes forming a tapestry of tight communities, a pulse of life, ceaseless activity and opportunity. This is a place where things happen: creativity, entertainment, partnerships, careers, happiness.

The breeze at the top of Hollywood calmed, caressed, like any breeze I’d felt anywhere: always concerned, always caring, always promising to lead its patrons right where they want to go. I followed it along a path up the mountain. Bits of trash hid in the pine needles that crunched under my feet. A hawk circled overhead, unimpressed by the beating wings of two roving helicopters, one in each valley, certainly searching for or following something or someone significant.

The sight of the hawk soaring above the dusty, sepia tone hills on the same wind that shook the sage brought to mind the Wild West of Old Hollywood. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, Gene Autry, posses in pursuit darting past the same rock over and over again, giving the impression of great distance gained.

An educated audience would be aware of the reality of the city just below the uninhabited territory conquested on screen. But a truly intelligent viewer would choose to believe the fantasy that Hollywood, filled with heros, angels, and legends, is a land that can be transformed into an Eden suiting any story one wishes to tell.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Monday

First thing I did this morning, after responsibly calling the temp agencies, waiting for a return call while searching for jobs online, and finally realizing the window for receiving said calls had passed, was to cover half of my inspiration board with images I find inspiring. Mostly, color. And a dull little farm house that reminds me of my summers in Montana. I also wrote a short list of to-do 's and posted it up on the other half of the board. I then proceeded to do nothing on the list. Isn't that what a to-do list is for, to remind you of all the things you'd rather be doing? Actually, my to-do list is made up of purely performance art related tasks, like proposals, applications and artists statements, and those are things I enjoy doing. Why then do I avoid them? Because they require mental effort. I'd rather crochet. That's an activity that fills my brain with a nice, soothing hum, kind of like the drone of television but without all the noise. See the fruits of my leisure:
Now, don't start thinking that this is how I spend all my time, whittling away the hours with whimsical crafts while questioning my decision to do so. No, actually, I do other things, too. Like pay my bills, submit for acting work, and eat lunches. Yes, lunches, plural. See, now that's time well spent.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Of Late

Finding inspiration in simple things.

Inspiration Board. Here it is, blank. It'll take form and color over the next several days. I'll post the process.

Doilies. This will be my first attempt at them. Here's the pattern I'm following. I bought the floss and the steel crochet hook, which is the tiniest hook I've ever seen. It's almost microscopic.

The Downtown Art Walk. We played a show there last night. I love the hubbub of the Art Walk. Thousands of people descend on the older part of downtown, wandering the same few streets, bumping elbows, dancing to the music of street musicians, gawking at the eccentric s, and taking in the art. I'm always tempted to say it reminds me of New York, but truthfully, it's more of a party. Good vibes everywhere, distinctly LA. Even the cockroaches are welcome, and they do attend, in droves, crawling up through the manholes and sewage drains. Early in the evening you'll hear a few yelps from unsuspecting persons, but by the end of the evening everyone, roach and human alike, gets along just fine. We played at The Regent Theater, once an opulent cinema house, then a seedy adult film house, and now a raw, dilapidated open space. This seems to be the shared history of much of Downtown LA, and I'm fascinated by it.