Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Worst Job in Hollywood I Ever Had, Part 1.

Post by Trai

Someone who reads my blogs met me at a party and asked that if Hollywood was such a great time, why did I leave?

It occurred to me that I was slanting the view a bit for my readers – only showing the shiny, glossy, glamorous parts. Going on the assumption that you wouldn’t at all mind hearing some of the worst parts, here’s the story of one of the Worst Jobs I Ever Had in Hollywood.

I was 24 and a friend of mine, Dawn Wildsmith, the cult B-movie goddess from movies like “Surf Nazis Must Die,” hooked me up with my first real movie job: production assistant for her ex-husband, famous B-movie director Fred Ray. There was no budget on this straight-to-DVD hot mess, but it did have a big, if fading star: Marc Singer, known to most as the “Beastmaster” and the hero of TV’s original “V.”

On my first day I arrived maybe third (PA’s are always first in and last out) at our location: a beautiful Japanese garden in the Valley. I was given a Motorola walkie talkie and sent to the entrance, about a half mile away, to guide people to the set. “You there yet?” asked the Assistant Director over the speaker. “Yes,” I said, teeth chattering, perched on a big rock by a deserted road.

It was 7AM, I was sleepy and cold and seriously grumpy.

But I clutched that walkie talkie and my sign diligently, consoling myself with one of my oldest habits: talking to myself. I talk to myself constantly; some folks say it’s a stress reliever, and that morning I was stressed out. I kept telling myself how crazy this was – “I was a graduate of the NYU film school; what was I doing out here, earning $7 an hour flagging B-movie crew down in the freezing cold? My next job wasn’t going to suck nearly as bad as this one. Guess I was paying my dues…”

And on and on.

Then a car drove up from the direction of the set and the AD got out. He took the walkie talkie away from me and clicked a button.

“You have to release the talk button, or we just keep hearing what you’re saying,” he said and I about fell through the ground with horror. They’d heard all my whining and moaning and supercilious bitchery.

From that day on, I was more dedicated than ever to my job – never complained, always smiled, always did what was asked and I stopped talking to myself.

But it was too late. Their impression of my bad attitude was already cemented. If I hadn’t been Dawn’s friend, I’m sure they would have fired me.

Was I happy to be on that set? Sometimes. When I was working 18 hour days with bronchitis, so delirious driving home, I was a danger to myself and everyone around me, not at all. When we were staging the big shoot-out on the same set “Cagney and Lacey” used to shoot on, and I got to yell out “Fire in the hole!” all day to warn everyone guns were about to go off – you bet!

But I learned two important lessons that day: one, no one wants to hear you complain, especially if they’re the ones giving you a break, no matter who shabby or back-breaking that break is; and two, production work wasn’t for me. I got an office job after we wrapped.

Nothing like immature self-embarrassment to help you learn how to be a better worker, and I carried that lesson with me to every job thereafter, including my most important ones – the ones when producers and agents were telling me they weren’t sold on my writing. I never complained; I just got to work. There’s a lesson for us all to be had on that craptastic B-movie set, one of the worst Hollywood jobs I ever had.

Did you ever learn a lesson at work that has helped you learn to be a better professional writer?



Jenny said...

Just reading about the walkie-talkie incident made me blush. I think I would have died on the spot.

Even though we have more opportunity than ever to express our opinions, it doesn't mean we always should.

Name: Luana Krause said...

Lesson learned, Trai. A positive, grateful attitude goes a long way. No matter how horrible our job, there's is always a bright side. I've learned a lot from the jobs I've hated. Just as you learned you didn't like production, I learned I don't like event planning. I love marketing and PR, but not being in charge of the event. Too much stress.

Patricia Stoltey said...

The walkie-talkie story is priceless, Trai.

Since I was in the business world before getting serious about writing, I learned a lot about not confronting authority, productive listening, and dealing with criticism. That came in pretty darned handy during my first experiences with my editor at Five Star.

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