Hollywood is a small town and everyone works together eventually, but it took until 1995 for this to happen?
With each passing day here in LA, things I learned at that stupid filmmaking camp that I at the time wrote off as bullshit are suddenly ringing true more and more. It was like a knowledge savings bond: I invested a week with a bunch of dyed-in-the-wool doucheleopards and now, five years later, the investment has matured and I’ve reaped the reward of finding that like two of the things I learned there were actually true. Look, nobody said it was a good investment. We’re talking Bear Sterns, here.
One of the other speakers we saw – far less colorful and in-your-face red state than the other one – spoke at great length about what a small town Hollywood is. Los Angeles itself is oppressively huge, but the filmmaking community is on the smaller side, which is why it’s absolutely imperative that you watch what you say about other people or their movies, because it could easily get back to them. Everybody knows everybody because they all either work together or have worked together, they hang out together and get married to each other and have kids who go into the same line of work – it’s just as much of a drama pipeline as the Greek system or a college marching band, except that Will Smith is in the mix somewhere, so it’s infinitely better.
I discarded that piece of information too, because it sounded a lot like this woman was telling me I couldn’t talk shit about people and movies I didn’t like, which was basically the only thing I did in high school and is a major component of what I do today.
Her advice might have been slightly exaggerated – I could tell everybody I meet that Gary Busey is crazy and I doubt that word would get back to him, both because I don’t think that celebrities are quite that connected to the average person* and because thousands of other people have probably already said the same thing about Gary Busey and it’s considered old news. The idea is more that you shouldn’t shittalk other professionals or prominent union members in your field, because sooner or later you’ll be working for them or trying to work for them.
*But God help you if you talk shit about Kevin Bacon.
The upshot to this is that the relatively small and incestuous film community makes it far easier to get a job – because unlike an actual small town, there’s a lot of jobs and money to be had if you know the right people. (Also unlike a small town, Will Smith is here.)
Quitting one of my internships left me unoccupied Tuesdays and Thursdays, and when I’m already not making money on the days that I do spend working, having days in my schedule where I make no money and also do nothing is kind of disheartening.
Also disheartening was my last credit card bill, which was about twice as much as it usually is, even though in the past month I’ve done very little eating out or barhopping, which in college were my two biggest expenses by far. It’s kind of frustrating, really, because I feel like I’ve been curtailing the amount of money I spend on booze pretty well in spite of the fact that virtually every retail establishment in California seems to have a liquor aisle, right on down to Christian bookstores. The sad fact is, gas is expensive and I need to fill The Mystery Wagon every week whether I want to or not (I generally don’t).
Fortunately, I have my cousin Gene, who has lived in LA for nearly 23 years, dividing his time between working in the art department on various films and TV shows and drumming in rock bands – he was the drummer for Queens Of The Stone Age between 1999 and 2002 before being replaced by Dave Grohl, who seems like a pretty cool guy to have replace you in any capacity. Gene has been circulating my resume and advocating my abilities to virtually everybody he knows in the film industry since long before I got down here, essentially staking his reputation on my competence – risky move, that.
The night that I quit my internship, Gene called me with some good news: One of his friends and coworkers was the art director for an upcoming media event, and he had called Gene to offer him a few weeks’ work helping out on the project. Gene already had another job going, but he referred his friend to me, and less than 24 hours after quitting my internship I’d landed a paying job as an art department production assistant.
A lot of what this job entails is moving furniture around, painting walls, and driving to Home Depot to pick up large orders of mysterious home improvement type things the purpose for which I cannot imagine. No part of my job requires me to use tools – that’s construction, an entirely different department – and more importantly, no part of my job requires me to play tricks on people. Also, the money is pretty good and lunch is provided, so if it comes up that I do have to play tricks on people here, they just might have found my price.
I’m going to be working 7 days a week for the next couple of weeks until the media event which marks the end of this job – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as an unpaid intern, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday as a paid art department PA. The last time I worked 7 days a week was after my freshman year of college, when I made milkshakes at one restaurant and bussed tables at another all summer long. That was not a terribly enjoyable summer for me, because making lactose-based products and carrying around plates full of strangers’ half eaten food weren’t my idea of a good time.
Here’s the thing, though – for how lazy I’d always thought I was, coming to LA I’ve realized that it’s fully possible for me to be a workaholic if I like the work I’m doing. I’ve been bringing multiple scripts home with me from my internship to read and cover in my spare time, and the idea of working every day doesn’t really bother me because that’s seven days a week I’ll be working in the entertainment industry, which loyal readers may have noticed is an interest of mine.
So I quit a morally dubious unpaid position and within the same day wound up with a morally agreeable paid position. Did the good Lord provide for me? As an atheist, I’m inclined to say no – the real hero in this story is my cousin Gene and his sidekick Networking.
I think there’s some truth to what that fat little Texan was telling us, though: Even if the good Lord doesn’t provide for you because he’s too busy not existing, your friends and family (and their friends and family) just might. The key is to make good impressions on people and not talk a lot of shit behind everyone’s back so that they actually want to help you when you need it – which, to my understanding, is the sort of thing the good Lord would probably appreciate anyway.
Truman Capps has not ruled out the possibility that this entire job could be a massive Inception style hidden camera prank.