Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Twisted Confessions and Atramentous Musings of A "Broke" Writer (The Gatekeepers)

I'm honestly not sure why I continue to write this. I mean when I write about sports or movies and surprisingly racism, tons of people read my blog. Judging by the numbers from this "riveting and long running series" I'd say the only people who actually read these things are me, myself only to make corrections to my atrocious grammar, and my mother because she's supports anything I do and because well, she's my mother and she supports anything I do. Thanks for reading this mom because I know you are.

Anyway, I write these pieces for three reasons. One, to give all the people that say my job is so "glamorous" a look behind the "proverbial" velvet rope. (Frankly it isn't that glamorous. Well I got to meet Cuba Gooding Jr. and Turtle from Entourage yesterday as of the original posting so this doesn't suck all the time) Two, to give advice to friends looking to get into the business and/or give advice to friends already in the business. And three, and mostly, to get my thoughts out because God forbid I'm stuck alone with them.

A couple of months back I got a chance to be in a writer's room and it was easily the greatest job I've ever had. It took all of three seconds on my first day there to confirm that this, writing for film/TV, is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Monday through Friday for about three months, I got to sit in an office, watch six guys  talk shit, tell jokes in funny voices and laugh my ass off. Really? This was work? I was hooked.
Group photo of the writer's room as drawn by Jordan.

One of my weekly tasks as the writer's PA included picking up and mailing out our writer's room payroll. It came sealed in a large manila envelope and was filled with all the checks. The checks were separated by writers and everyone else. Each group of checks had an expense sheet paper clipped to it that detailed, down to the last cent I might add, what each group was making. Since it was my job, it wasn't like I had to snoop to figure out what these guys made. (Now I won't reveal the exact figures because I feel like giving you that much detail would be kind of unprofessional and there's really no need to know the number but I will say this... it was big.)

Myself and the writer's assistant made practically nothing. Seriously for the amount of hours we were putting in we really weren't getting paid enough, but then again we were getting paid to sit in a room for 12 hours and watch six guys dick around so it's still not bad work if you can get it. But what the six writers made combined was so massive, I became physically ill after I saw it for the first time. I'm not joking. That's not a lie. That's not a typo. I literally became physically ill. I had to sit in my car for a good 20 minutes. 10 just staring at the number to make sure I wasn't hallucinating and the other 10 to compose myself for the 45 minute drive in rush hour traffic from Burbank back to Hollywood. Needless to say, the rest of that day kind of sucked.

Eventually I got over it, continued my work and it was no big deal, but after seeing how much writers really made I've lost all patience for the "grind". (The grind is a term to describe the process of working in the film/TV business.) I've always been told that this is a business that takes a lot of hardwork, a little bit of luck and even more time. I've only been in a LA a year and some change, almost two in fact and here have been people that have been out here for five, ten, fifteen years before they get a break. Anytime I say "I should be doing this or that", people look at me, laugh and say "Paris, you're doing just fine. For someone that's been out here only a year, you're actually doing quite well." You couldn't tell me that but apparently I'm "doing just fine" so I guess I shouldn't start panicking... yet. But seeing those checks left me with the patience of a child waiting for dessert after peeking into the oven at nearly baked cookies. I mean I can hardly contain myself anymore.

How do I get there? What do I do? What do I need? I've always said, the only shortcut to success is nepotism. Since my uncles and aunts last names are Lay and not Bay, in this business you need to be with a "gatekeeper". You have to be in a union or with an agent. Getting in the union is the ultimate "Catch 22." It's like wanting to start a chicken farm. You go to a farmer and say, "I want to start a chicken farm. I need a chicken. Give me a chicken!" The farmer declares, "You don't need an chicken. You need an egg." "Ok. I need an egg. Where do I get an egg?" He replies, "A chicken of course." To get into the union you have to work a certain amount days and hours on an union show but to work on an union show, YOU NEED TO BE IN THE FUCKING UNION! I think I'll pass on this particular circle jerk thank you.

The other gatekeepers are agents and you can't do shit in this town without one. Agents, in theory, don't get paid until you get paid. So in a way they're agreeing to working for free. Having an agent tells people something about you. It's like the agent saying, "I believe in this person so much I'm welling to work for them for free for a bit because I know it's going to lead to a bunch of money one day." It validates you. And anyone looking to do business with you knows you're serious. (An agent doesn't mean you have talent because there are TONS of shitty people that have agents.)

So now I'm at that stage. Trying to get a gatekeeper. I'm working on a few projects that I really believe in and I've been sending emails and I feel really close but nothing so far. I'll close this with a Facebook status I posted a few weeks back because it fits and I'm lazy and don't feel like coming up with something "poignant" right now.

"This "shit" isn't for the weak of heart or mind. The business of film, especially the creative side here in California, is overcrowded, unrealistic, hypercompetitive and about as "stable" as a nine month old taking their first steps on ice. But the pot at the end of this rainbow is unlike anything I've seen. This business is filled with countless stories of people that finally broke through when it all seemed over.

It's that fact alone that makes me get up everyday and say, "Why not me?" When I lay down tonight I'm going to do what I always do. Thank God for my health, for my family's health. For feeding me and my kids. For job opportunities for my friends and I. And when I wake up I'm gonna think the same thing I did the day before, "Why not me?" "

1 comment:

  1. Your insights are wonderful! Don't stop blogging. We are reading and we are supporting you even if we don't comment. :)