Working For A Living

Get it? Oh, for fuck's sake, PLEASE get it.

You know what’s ironic?

Driving 950 miles on the pretense that you’ll land one of two internships, both of which turn you down, only to instead through the good graces of a friend get an honest to goodness career style job in the entertainment industry, and be far better and more competent at that job, one which involves navigating complex computer systems in order to literally build television, than you were at your previous Neanderthal-style summer jobs washing cars, busing tables, and making milkshakes.

I guess that’s not ironic. Maybe it’s just sort of amusing. At least, I think it’s amusing.

When uncertainty first began to spring up regarding my internship situation down here (see last week’s update), I contacted my friend Patrick, Giver of Jobs, to see if he could get me an internship of some sort at the production company where he works, just so I could have something on my resume for the summer other than, “Sat around waiting by the phone; considered getting a gym membership.” Patrick’s response was that he wouldn’t allow me to come to his production company unless I had an actual paying job, and so he aggressively pitched me to his boss, who subsequently hired me as an assistant video editor.

So far, Patrick is arguably the only good thing to come from me socializing with Mike, Smoker of Cigarettes, on a regular basis. Patrick and Mike went to school together in the charming old timey Western village of Medford, Oregon, and when Mike went off to pursue a degree in journalism and lame public access television at the University of Oregon, Patrick went to film school at Full Sail University in Florida. He then graduated and, rather than getting a job at Subway like most film school graduates, actually got a job in the entertainment industry at Roundhouse Kick Entertainment,* a reality and documentary TV production outfit, where I now work as well.

*For those of you who weren’t here two summers ago, my places of employment on the blog always get pseudonyms, and that trend continues today. While it may look like I’m trying to protect them from any bad shit I may say, I’m actually trying to protect myself from Roundhouse Kick finding out that I’m blogging about them and firing me for exposing secrets (not that I will, guys).

It’s a good job, and it pays $500 a week. Yes, I guess that’s impressive by Oregon standards, but keep in mind that rent on my apartment in Studio City is about $690 a month when you factor in utilities (which is a pretty good price out here, by the way) and I run through one $50 tank of gas every week driving the 20 miles to and from work every day. It’s still a damn fine wage that I’m happy to be paid, but with the cost of living down here it’s about on par with most entry level jobs.

But why is it a good job, you ask? Three reasons:

1) Snacks!

All my other jobs have been food service, and under those circumstances one is surrounded by delicious food but knows he will be torn a new asshole if he eats any of it, because that food is the product, and skimming the product is a really bad idea that will probably get you killed (according to The Wire, at least).

At Roundhouse Kick, though, there’s a kitchen full of delicious snacks. Granola bars, Chips Ahoy, bagels, cream cheese, bread and peanut butter – keep in mind, folks, that given proper quantities of the aforementioned foods I could probably make it through the apocalypse no sweat.

Also, I definitely picked the wrong summer to swear off of soft drinks, because there’s a dedicated refrigerator completely stocked with all the Sprite, Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and Dr. Pepper anyone could ever need. To your garden variety elementary schooler who (hopefully) has yet to discover the joys of alcohol and pornography, our company kitchen, lovingly appointed with all the free candy you could ask for, is probably Valhalla. To me, it’s a good excuse to leave my office every so often.

2) The Commute!

Yes, I know – not only do I hate driving under the best of circumstances, but I live in Los Angeles, the bad traffic capital of the world.

The thing is, though, that I work nights,* which means that I’m in the car going to work at 6:00 PM. Traffic is still kind of nasty at that point depending on which freeway you’re on (my commute takes me across three – the 101, the 405, and the 90, which, if you’ve never been to LA, probably doesn’t mean much), but it’s never so bad that it takes me more than 40 minutes to get to work.

*Yes, I work the night shift – this is a pretty big subject and will be covered in depth on Wednesday.

And honestly, I’d much rather deal with LA traffic going five miles an hour than LA traffic going full speed, which as I may have mentioned is like 2 Fast, 2 Furious meets the scene in Serenity when the ship is falling into the planet’s atmosphere and they’re trying to dodge an entire space battle between the Alliance and the Reavers.

Plus, I get off work at 5:00 AM, at which point it takes me a good 15 minutes to breeze on home, listening to Morning Edition and playing Spot the Hobo Village every time I pass a surface street.

3) I Like The Job And I’m Good At It!

What does an assistant video editor do, you ask? Well, he assists the full on video editors in editing video. Duh.

More concretely, it means that I polish up the raw Television that comes in from Roundhouse Kick’s productions and generally make it ready to be cut together into refined, premium Television.

As Roundhouse is a reality TV studio, a lot of the stuff I do involves grooming the excess reality out of the video that’s handed to me. This primarily happens through a time intensive process known as ‘Locating,’ where I watch the raw video footage of client interviews, historical research, and ghost hunts (I work on a ghost hunting show) and place color coded markers, or ‘Locators’, in places in the video which are of interest. There are markers for relevant dialogue, nonverbal reactions, people entering or leaving, and the all important paranormal activity marker (used sparingly).

Thanks to these markers, the editors know which parts of the 90 minute long tape are interesting enough to start working with. It isn’t their job to watch the cast fiddling with their microphones or a crusty old guy at the historical society yammering about his dog for 15 minutes – it’s my job. I also categorize and label B roll (general footage of the haunted house, the town it’s in, the cast dramatically getting out of their cars, etc) and stack audio (synchronize the video footage with what the cast’s independent wireless microphones recorded).

Is it sort of tedious? Yes. But I don’t care – even though I don’t watch reality TV and take the paranormal about as seriously as I take organized religion, I fucking love this job. Sure, it’s tedious work, but it’s tedious work that helps television, one of my favorite things ever, get made.*

*My other favorite things ever are pretty difficult to get jobs with – science fiction isn’t hiring at the moment and I’m underqualified for a job at a distillery.

I guess what I’ve learned is that I’ll throw myself headfirst into a tedious task if I appreciate the end result. So fuck you, Mike’s Drive In! It’s not that I wasn’t good at making milkshakes. It’s that I didn’t appreciate the end result.

Truman Capps thinks you wouldn’t have appreciated the end result at Mike’s either if you’d seen some of the manatees who had come in every day for their bacon burger and extra large shake.