Today, I was gobsmacked with a wave of nostalgia. I went to a new restaurant for my office’s lunch run, Belcampo, on 3rd Street in LA, and it was there (in the Verve coffee shop next door) where I spent many a day typing away at my creative endeavors. Whether the focus was My Cancer Story, a screenplay, or the then-numerous blog posts (yeah, sorry about that), I spent my free time (of which I had ample supply then) ticking away at my form of expression. On November 8th, it will have been three years since I moved into my first apartment here, the temporary room rental on Blackburn Ave.
Chapter 100: “Love Off-Key”
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Winter break was upon us, and from Scriptwriting 101, I got an ‘A’ and better yet, a feature-length first draft. Instead of delving back into this script for revisions, I decided to push on and get more of my ideas out there. I mean, I can always go back and edit them later, right? Plus, my focus had now been diverted to another project: a short film, and I had a plan.
My goal was to write the script during winter break, rewrite as much as needed, and secure a location & the props, all before shooting it during the Spring Break in March. It was foolproof. But what to write?
Yesterday, June 23rd, 2018 was the first year anniversary of working my first day as a Set Production Assistant on American Horror Story (AHS). While this day may fall two days before my birthday, I’ll forever remember it because it turned the tides of my life in Los Angeles into that of a favorable one. Let me share a truncated recap of that year working in Hollywood.
Before this fateful day, I had been utterly depressed; struggling with looming financial obligations that, frankly, were egregious for any city, let alone Los Angeles. Nevermind the medical bills I had yet to pay off or the cost of the gimped & laughable health care plan I had just purchased.
I had just passed six months in LA and was filled with rage and sadness, with no way to expel the negative energy swirling around me at all times. I kept my faux happy face on as I drove Lyft just to pay the bare minimum of my costs, knowing full well that this immediate income would never touch the detrimental effects that these thousands of miles had upon the life of my car (on which I still owed $15,000).
I took this first day with the utmost gratitude and worked as best as I could to ensure that I would get another. And I did. That second day, we worked in Orange, CA, and I was late. I thought for sure that I would never work a day again. A friend of mine had once said that “If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late; and if you’re late, you’re fired.”
Luckily, they kept me around, and I spent the next few months working a day here and there, slowly weening myself off of Rideshare Dependency. I didn’t drive as much when I made TV money, and so, I was able to work more on my writing. I lived like a pauper: eating the bare minimum, rarely going out to do anything – and regretting every penny spent if I did – and having zero savings of which to speak. The biggest blunder I committed was buying a Nintendo Switch with the one time I did have savings and paid for it dearly when the work dried up momentarily.
The same Assistant Director (AD) that gave me my first shot on AHS, got me some days on Legion, and I thought that was one of the coolest shows I had ever experienced filming (to be fair, it was the third ever). The visual style and the set design were something to truly behold. I had worked one day on the American Horror Story production company’s follow-up, 9-1-1, but hadn’t heard from them in a while.
Then, I got a request in November to work on 9-1-1 again. They were onto episode four, and there was an airport scene that was filming at the Ontario Airport. I was entirely nervous (as I am on any new production), but I didn’t let it get to me. I saw a lot of familiar faces here which helped the matter.
This day kept me working with Ryan Murphy TV for several months until we wrapped in March of the following year. I became the unofficial fifth staff PA, except that I was treated as a staff PA. I received wrap gifts and was invited to the wrap party.
I had planned on taking a week off then visiting my family – especially my newborn nephew – after we wrapped, but was asked to work a four-day stint on movie reshoots for Skyscraper right before I departed. I had always wanted to work in films, and even narrowly missed a reshoot gig for Dwayne Johnson’s last film, Rampage. It occurred the same day as that airport shoot in Ontario for 9-1-1.
I went home for two weeks, and unfortunately, received a lot of calls to work on other production during that fortnight. When I got back to Los Angeles, I expected many more calls, but the work proved tepid once more. Ahh, the ebb and flow of the freelance life. I had to resort to driving Lyft again.
I hated driving in Los Angeles.
Luckily, some of these jobs eventually came back around, and I even continued to work with the same AD from Skyscraper, and a few of my fellow PAs from there. That job, Kidding, was the first show Jim Carrey had starred in since his In Living Color days. I was and still am a huge fan of his work, especially his more serious roles like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Man on the Moon, and my all-time favorite, The Truman Show.
And that’s where I stand now! I’ll work with the Kidding crew until I return to 9-1-1 in the middle of July, rejoining my first group of wonderful people. That’s the best secret of Hollywood: most people who work in the business are good people – or at least professional – sure, there are bad eggs, but the majority of crew members are hard-working and lively folks. It’s a pleasant surprise that many outside of the business wouldn’t discover based on the stereotype that perpetuates surrounding the industry.
If you take all of my music videos (as PA or 2nd AD), days in television, commercials, and movie reshoots, I worked 150 days in my first calendar year.
That’s one hell of a year. Here’s to this year and my personal growth within the industry.
Thanks, Mike and Michelle,
The downside of being a duteous Production Assistant is that Jamie doesn’t get to write as often as he would like. As of now, he’s taking a breather before he rewrites his Cancer Story, and hopes to write and talk about movies again soon. But when he has a moment, he continues a rewrite of a screenplay he hopes to sell one day! Never stop working on what you love! Jamie won’t!
Today, I had ONE less meal and I didn’t even notice! How is that possible? Maybe it was this dream:
One year. It’s been one year since I moved out west. Okay, so truth be told, I moved into my first apartment on November 8th but I’d rather not be linked to that day for obvious reasons. No, November 6th was the first day I laid my head down in California.
It appears that late October/ early November is a time of great change for me. Four years ago, I was shooting The Tale of the Three Brothers and simultaneously realizing that my marriage was over. Two years ago, I quit my longtime job at EMMC and began at Verizon. And last year, I moved across the country in pursuit of my future.
I’ve never had dreams about Los Angeles since moving here, but I had my first one this morning. A way to make ends meet down here is to work the grind of audience casting. My friend, Kevin, does this and he’s taught me a lot about it (considering I used to go to audience gigs inadvertently for free).
So it’s no surprise that my first dream of Los Angeles was in this setting. I was a member of a four-person pub trivia team for a televised game show. Here, we all answered a series of questions on a sheet of paper, and then we’d hand in our answers to a host very similar to Alex Trebek.
Chapter 39: “Preparing for the Best”
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Mom recovered nicely from her surgery, and somehow, she was a fan of the food (maybe I’m still quite picky after all). February progressed without so much as a medical whimper, but with my past experiences, I was ready for the absolute worst. What was to befall me in my last weeks in Medical care; Crohn’s Disease? Chlamydia? A prolapsed anus?
…Maybe I should slow down on these guesses… Cannot afford to tempt fate at this junction.
Instead, I focused on what was to come after treatment. As much as I always knew I would come out of this relatively unscathed, I hadn’t thought of my future, post-treatment. I devoted so much of my own mental energy to healing, that the thought had rarely crossed my mind.
La La Land is a film that will forever be in my mind. But I hate musicals, and “Look at Me!” Hollywood Oscar contenders…Read More »
I’ve had this draft saved in my blog’s bowels for over a year now. Originally, it was called “My Physical Memory Lanes,” but it’s more than that now; this post is about the mind’s different abnormalities, or rather the ones which I’ve encountered. I’m going to touch upon three unique experiences that my mind had been privy to over the years, the most recent occurring a few nights ago. But first; the most common occurrence of the three:
1. Deja Vu
Have any of you ever experienced Deja Vu? The term literally translates to “Already Seen,” and happens to around seventy percent of the population at some point in their lives. It usually occurs for about thirty seconds, but can sometimes extend past that duration.Read More »
As I sat in my room, packing away my belongings for my trip across the country, I came across a few things that made me pause.
First, was a yellow notepad that had an outline detailing all of the time travel elements for one of my scripts; it was convoluted and thus the outline was necessary (that alone screams “rewrite”).Read More »