Monday, March 14, 2011

And Here Comes the Lie...

I got a call from LaserFiche document imaging in Torrance, California. Torrance is NOT Hollywood. Document Imaging does NOT deal with celebs. Document imaging is like being a parking lot attendant, but for college graduates. I interviewed with them and got the job. And all this before I even started my gig at NBC. I told them I had a commitment with another company and that I couldn't start for four weeks. They nearly retracted the offer, but said okay, as long as I promised to not bail on them.

I kept my word. SUCK!

I did my two week temp job--dream job--at NBC and then the dream ended and I became a drone of the corporate world once again. This time only a few miles from the world's dream factories. It was practically torture being so close, yet still feeling a million miles away from what I wanted to be doing.

LaserFiche, or LaserHell as we liked to call it get the picture right from the nickname. This should sum it up:

President - woman (I mean nothing derogatory by this, just stating a fact)
Vice President #1 - her husband (who has/had a brain tumor and mostly just monitored employee email accounts)
Vice President #2 - her ex-husband; office right next to VP #1 and they didn't get along.)
Marketing Manager - son of President and VP #2
Lead Software Developer - also son of President and VP #2
Financial Controllers - auntie and uncle of President

and the list goes on.

Everyday was a new nepotistic connection that I learned about. It was a weird company and did nothing for my career except bump up my pay grade. I was there for a year and a half and then got a job at an ad agency on the business side. Pay raise, great office, nice company, great bosses, no nepotism, sucky number crunching duties. I was there for five years and learned a lot about marketing, advertising, etc. I worked on great clients like Cirque du Soleil, Macerich, Fox Television, etc. Finally a step in the right direction, but still not close enough.

Now here's the thing, and kind of the beginning of my point of this whole blog. From an outsiders perspective, I'd kind of made it. Window office with ocean view in Southern California at a cool ad agency working on some world renowned clients in the entertainment industry. So why did I still feel like an outsider?

One of my clients was Macerich. They own 100+ shopping centers across the US. I did the advertising for a couple dozen of being Pacific View Mall in Ventura, CA. Occasionally they'd need video for a commercial, or to shoot an event and I'd been referring her to my wedding videographer friend from San Diego. For one particular event--a lemon festival-- he wasn't available.

And here comes the lie...

So I told my client, "Jeff isn't available to shoot Lemon Fest. However, I have an amazing camera that shoots 24P so it'll look like it's shot of film, but will be video and you'll absolutely love the footage I'll give you. And it's $1000 for me to come shoot it."

She said, "Okay, sounds great."

So I went and bought the camera. I spent around $6K getting started up. Money I didn't really have, but I figured, if I did that five more times, it'd be paid for. Fortunately that shoot was on a Saturday since I was still at the ad agency and had to work Monday-Friday.

After buying the camera, I called my friend Larry Bagby, who had been on Buffy and a number of other TV shows and movies. And I asked him if he wanted to make a film short so I could learn how to use my camera before the LemonFest shoot. He graciously agreed and we made a little movie. You can see it here...

I actually worked with a couple of great people on that little film, Larry Bagby and Courtney Cole. Both of them, to me, were huge Hollywood insiders that had both worked on successful Hollywood films and now I had them in my first movie! I felt like I was heading in the right direction, but by no means had breached that impenetrable Hollywood caste system.

While I was at my agency job, I went to lunch with the publisher of a local magazine. I don't even remember what it was, but I think it was one of those LA hotel pubs of some sort. She was 45 minutes late and then threw a mild fit that the Italian restaurant we went to didn't have Worcester sauce. It was indeed a strange lunch and I left a little ticked, but still was as nice as could be to her.

She quit and started her own production company producing events.

I finally quit and stated my own production company doing video. And then I got another life changing call, this time to join the Hollywood ranks and shoot a Hollywood Event. A real Hollywood Shoot, complete with real D-List celebrities who were on real shows on the UPN!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Call Not THE Call

So I got a call from my dad's friend who was running a couple of businesses--primarily one that sold security systems...door to door. Now I had worked at Nordstrom as a way to put myself through college over the summers and Christmas and I was almost always in the store's top 10 in sales. I was pretty good at it. I didn't really like it, but I could do it.

We'd known this family for years and he suggested that I move to Ohio to live with them and sell security systems. His top guy was making $100,000 a year. For that kind of money, I'd do almost anything as long as it wasn't unethical. So without giving it much more thought, I gave my two weeks notice, packed my bags and headed for Ohio. Little did I know, I was just trading one unpleasant winter for another.

My time in Ohio, is mostly irrelevant to the rest of my career. Suffice to say, I hated it. Even worse than being at the ad agency. It was a horrible job and no money in the world would make it worth it to me. I guess that's the one lesson I got out of it. I lasted less than three months and then finally quit. For the next six or seven months after that I ran my dad's friend's paintball field that was part of their backyard. It was fun, but was only busy on the weekend and didn't really make much money.

I was finally ready to make the jump and head for California. I told the family I was staying with that my time there was done and it was time for me to move on. I packed my car with everything that I owned and headed west with no place to stay and no job lined up.

Just before arriving in California, I called a friend from when I had lived in Huntington Beach. We had moved away when I was nine, but the years I did live there, we were best friends. I asked him if I could crash with him for a few days while I got a job and a place to live. He said sure. Day one, I got a PO Box so I'd have an address to put on a resume.

Day two, I got a cell phone so I'd have a local phone number to put on a resume.

Day three, I was back into Hollywood, trying to find a way to crack those impenetrable studio gates. This time, via the temp agencies. It worked!! Within a couple of weeks I landed a research job at NBC!!! I was elated. TV wasn't movies, but hey, at this point beggars couldn't be choosers.

But before I even started my job at NBC, I got another call that would change the course of my professional life.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Lied and Started a Company

I lied and thus launched a company.

A little background first. I hated school. In 7th grade grade I took one of those "what-should-I-be-when-I-grow-up" tests. It came back with two choices... a bartender and a parking lot attendant.

Now not to say those are bad jobs, just not lofty careers to which middle school kids usually aspire.

So I made it through high school and went to college. I could barely decide what I wanted to do in college.

Originally I wanted to be a lawyer or an actor, but actors have it easy or tough. There's generally no safe route or middle ground. As for my lawyer aspirations, that was quickly dashed after about the first week of a law class and they said I had to do some reading. And not the Cliff Notes kind of reading. The actual book! Next.

Here was my way of picking a major...

"What's the easiest?" I asked.

"Well," responded a friend, "you can watch TV for homework if you get a degree in advertising."

I QUICKLY quipped, "Great! Sign me up for that one!" And that's how I chose my major.

I graduated with a solid 3.14 or something like that. I wasn't really keeping track nor did I much care. I just wanted to get out with a degree, not look like an idiot and have spent as much time ditching class for waterskiing or other fun activities as I could get away with. I did it just like that and had no intention of going into advertising.

Then I fell into a job at an ad agency. My friend's mom's cousin's lesbian partner was looking for an assistant. I said no. They said, just interview and see how it goes. I got the job. Uugh. I was a "Research Assistant" now. I was there for a year. I hated it. It was number crunching. I earned $20,000 a year and I was stuck in a town I hated, complete with winters. Gross!! I got busted once for printing my resumes at work.

I even tried to move out to California by flying out to Los Angeles for a week with the hopes of just not going back. My goal was to find a place to live and a great job at a movie studio in a week.

I remember my first day in LA, I drove up the 5, and saw a sign for Paramount. I got off the freeway and drove around looking for Paramount Studios. I was in the city of Paramount. If you don't know what that means, Google it. It wasn't good.

I finally made it up to Warner Bros. I was dressed to impress. Tie on, ready to conquer the motion picture industry. I drove up to the security gates and announced that I was there to get a job. They took my resume and in that drone, monotone, parking guard voice said, "We'll turn this into human resources and keep it on file for a year. If any qualifications match up, we'll call you."

Qualifications? What qualifications? I was fresh out of college with a few weeks as a "research assistant". I didn't HAVE any qualifications!! Maybe things will go better at Disney Studios. And so off I went to the dream factory, Walt Disney Studios. I'm sure you can guess what happened there. If you can't, just read the previous paragraph and substitute WB for Disney.

Not to give up after just two tries, I went to Universal Studios next. I GOT ON THE LOT!!!!! Oh, I was so excited! I went to the human resources department and they had a huge book of jobs. I started looking through it and found some jobs that in my head I was perfect for. On paper, I didn't exactly qualify for, but maybe it'd be close enough. I applied for a half dozen jobs or so, turned in my paperwork and they said, "Thank you for applying at Universal Studios. We'll keep this on file for a year. If any qualifications match up, we'll call you."

Seriously? You'll call me?! Can I call and follow up?


I have 6 days left to find a job at a major motion picture studio, and I'm running out of studios after just a few hours. I don't think it's going to happen. So I went to Disneyland for the rest of the week, before returning back to winter wonderland as a "research assistant." And there I stayed for one year. Broke, depressed, desperate to get out of there.

Then I got a call...