Thursday, May 20, 2010

The View From the Bottom

Post by Trai Cartwright
When I got my start in Hollywood, I did it the way almost everyone else did: as a temp. Once upon a time, the entire town was almost entirely manned by temporary workers, the magical creatures who knew the infrastructure of every studio and could be plugged into any department, any desk, anywhere and keep things rolling.

From this vantage, I was able to soak up an astonishing amount of how-to without being stuck in the job for more than a few weeks. All of this immersive work did two things for me: it made me a pro before I’d gotten my first “real” job and created a vast network of contacts that would serve me well in years to come.

Temping led me to at least three great jobs, including my all-time favorite as the assistant to five producers at a company called Prelude Pictures. Peter Saphier, the president of the company, took me under his wing.

Anyone’s who’s had great mentoring knows what this can do for a person. Here was the man who’d made “Scarface” and “The Deerhunter,” who’d brought the book “Jaws” to Universal, giving me the keys to the store. I flew up the ladder, helped make two movies, produced one of my own, run hundreds of movies looking for “the one,” and helped take over three dozen films through development.

Why do I tell you about my experience at the bottom? Because without it, I would never have gotten anywhere at all. The bottom is where the real work is done. No matter what our dream – including all of us who dream of success as a writer – it has to be stated somewhere, a place where we know nothing and can’t begin to fathom what it’s going to take to get to where we’re going.

The view from the bottom isn’t so bad. The pay is terrible, we sleep poorly, we are underemployed and under-appreciated, but the education is astonishing. Pay attention. Do the work. And when you get your shot at the big time, you’ll be ready.


Jennifer Carter said...

This is so true--great post, Trai. I would add too, speaking from my own experience, that since we start from the same place no matter which path we end up on, it's crucial to be at the bottom of the RIGHT ladder, the one you actually want to climb! :)

Amy Tate said...

Oh, what a great post! So true!

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks! This is something we all need to remember.

Kay said...

Getting minimum wage to learn? Or, paying thousands in tuition? Which is the best value?

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