Freelancing

Several times since graduating, I’ve entertained the idea of staying at home, working remotely as a freelancer. And granted, I do freelance work already, as a social media manager and copywriter. But since finishing up on my last production job, the idillic dream bubble of a flexible freelance schedule that would allow me to work in my pajamas everyday has been burst. I am so stir crazy it’s not even funny. And when it comes to maintaining a productive schedule for my own writing and pushing my career forward (as well as applying for jobs) I’m terrible. It’s not that I’m unmotivated or disorganized, it’s simply that I’m me, and when I don’t have an endpoint, a visible or viable purpose, I don’t worry too much about impressing me, because I can’t fire myself.

I also start talking about myself as if I’m a separate entity, because clearly, staying at home has made me go crazy.

I went to lunch today with another Hollywood assistant, one a little more seasoned both in his career and life, and he made a lot of great points and had a lot of good insights about working in this industry and building a career out here. It was awesome listening to him talk about his goals and how he got to his current job, as well as about his cats. (People out here can be so quirky and I love it.) But he mentioned something in passing that really stuck with me. He said, “If  you can see yourself anywhere else, if there’s anything else you think you might want to do, go do that, but if this is what you want, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else, then you’ll do whatever it takes to get where you want to go.” Kind of a sharky thing to say, don’t you think?

He was addressing my concern at not having the thick skin required for working at an agency out here, or being an executive assistant on the development side of the industry. He made a good point; it’s not really about having a thick skin at all. It’s about choosing to have a thick skin when you need one. Hence, the above quote.

I’d like to dive into this topic more in a separate post, since I really do think it deserves its own meditation, especially coupled with the revelation my roommate once revealed to me that we each control our own emotions, ergo, no one can make you feel anything that you, yourself don’t choose to feel. But for this post, I’ll stick to the quote.

It’s funny, because a few months ago, when I was working on Instant Mom, if you had asked me if I could see myself doing anything else, I would have probably told you no, hands down, without question. After a couple months sitting at home, though, you start to forget what it feels like to have a weekly obligation. To go into a job every day and serve a purpose other than for your own individual needs. You forget what it feels like to be a part of the magic of production.

And now? I don’t know. I’m not sure what I feel. I still want to write, don’t get me wrong. But it’s hard to want something that doesn’t want you back. And maybe I’m feeling mopey, because I’ve spent too much time in the house, watching Netflix. But it’s a tough world out there. And it’s hard to navigate a life that doesn’t come with guidelines. It’s hard to find answers when you don’t even know the question.

Even if you don’t work in the entertainment industry, I’m sure many of you have crossed this bridge before. I have, and I’m really not that surprised that I somehow find myself having to cross it again. But I guess when we look back on things, this is really what makes life interesting, isn’t it? It’s the unknowns that teach us the most, and really take us to places we didn’t realize we wanted to go. If you’re going through something similar, I hope that in the meantime, you can find creative ways to keep yourself financially secure.

I know that financially and physically I’ll be okay. Emotionally and mentally are more difficult when you’re going stir crazy. I guess it’s a good thing that I live so close to theme parks and beaches. If you don’t, I highly recommend taking up knitting. It’s a life saver.

-tlc

A Short PSA About How to Get My Job (AKA be a PA)

So today I got a friendly e-mail from a KU alum who had seen me post about what I’m doing/where I’m working now that I’ve graduated from KU and am living in Los Angeles. He sent me the same type of e-mail that I know I sent to a million and one people when I was reaching for the stars and entertaining the insane idea of moving out here to work in television. He asked for my advice on how to get from where he was to where I currently am. Now, I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t nearly as friendly in my advice-giving as the people who answered my inquiries when I first came out here. In my defense, I wasn’t in an optimistic mood, and I whole-heartedly believe in keepin’ it real (unless you’re keeping up appearances–idk wtf am I even saying? It’s a Friday, guys. I just want to go home and drink).

But I also believe in paying it forward, and if this is truly something that he wants to pursue, I want him to jump in head first, knowing exactly what he’s getting himself into (because, believe me, I totally relate, and I completely support pursuing your passions).

I also really just wanted an easy blog post for this week, and since I’d already spent a fair amount of time writing this gem of an email, I figured, why not share it with the rest of the very small world that reads this blog?

So, two birds with one stone. **DISCLAIMER** I am not, in any way, shape, or form, an expert in giving industry advice. If you want something a little more thorough, check out The Temp Diaries  or The Anonymous Production Assistant, which can give you a much better idea of what it’s like to work as a PA in this town.

If you want a laugh, though, please, read on. I was in a very sarcastic mood (edited for privacy purposes):

Hi Tasha!

I’ve been doing comedy in Chicago for a while, but my wife and I have been eyeing a move out west for a while. One of my shorter-term goals would be to land a writer’s PA position at a scripted TV show — so when I saw your post, I thought, “hey wait a second, that’s what I want to do!”
I’m sure you’re extremely busy, but if you have time to give a complete stranger some advice, I’d greatly appreciate it. What path did you take to get your current position? What sorts of things should I be doing to get there myself? And have you enjoyed the job and/or found it helpful advancing your career as a writer?
Thanks!
Okay, so here you go:
Hi,

Honestly, I hope I don’t sound like a complete asshole, because there isn’t a whole lot of advice I can give you. There isn’t really one specific way to get a job as a PA. Pretty much everyone I know (including myself) has gotten their job through the connections they make out here–so living in LA is probably the first step. But I’m sure there are lots of production jobs going on in Chicago as well, so trying to find some job listing groups on Facebook and get in with a production crowd as a freelance PA while you’re still in Chicago might also be a good way to go. I know lots of people who’ve been able to advance a lot faster because they knew/worked with people back in their home towns/other cities before moving out here. But basically, just getting out here and NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK.  (This is also miserable, because LA is expensive and even once you start landing PA positions they pay like shit. I’m making minimum wage and thank God I get fed at work or else I wouldn’t be able to pay rent.)
Besides the money factor and the difficulty in finding a job, I absolutely love what I do. I don’t know that it’s really advancing my career as a writer, but it’s been motivating and a great learning experience to meet the writers, sit in the writer’s room, and get their advice/feedback on writing. However, I should also specify that I work for an amazing crew of totally nice super awesome people. There are quite a lot of jerks in Hollywood, and I get spoiled where I’m at right now. So not every job is this great. I worked a reality show before this, and even though the people I was working for were super nice, I absolutely hated it. I drove an hour both ways just to get to work, and then did 12 hours straight on my feet without sitting down, with the only other time I was off my feet being when I took my mandatory 30 min unpaid lunch break. It sucked.
Keeping with the whole honesty thing–and here’s where I’m going to sound like the biggest asshole you’ve ever spoken with–being a Writer’s PA/Writer’s Assistant on a scripted show (or getting into scripted TV, period) is about the hardest job to get in Hollywood, and most people will tell you this. For one, it’s just difficult to break into the industry, period. For another, there is about triple the amount of reality TV programming to scripted television. I fell into the job I currently have because a friend of mine, who I studied abroad with my freshman year of college, had a friend who worked as a PA under my current producer, and somehow heard there was an opening on this show and so my friend forwarded my resume to her friend, who forwarded it to the Production Coordinator, who interviewed me and offered me the job two weeks later when the producer I work under found out I was a KU alum (he went to KU, too). So an insane amount of chance got me my job. It sucks, but hey, if you’re good at making friends and have a good work ethic, then you might stand a chance.
Another thing you should know–especially because I don’t know what your wife does for a living–is that jobs aren’t steady or consistent. I was extremely lucky to get work so quickly after finishing my two internships (I spent four months working full time for free out here before I started looking for paid work, and I got paid work insanely quickly). But even after working on a sitcom for five months, we are almost wrapped with production for our current season, and I’m not sure what’s happening next. Right now I’m looking at unemployment for at least the month of September, and crossing my fingers that something comes along before I burn through my savings or have to become a barista like my roommate, who gets up every morning before God is even awake.
Anyways. I hope that answers some of your questions. If you’re crazy enough to still want to move out here, let me know and when you and your wife get out here we’ll go get drinks in a super dive-y LA bar in Midcity before I show you the van where I live down by the river.
But seriously, I actually do know a guy who lives in a van. I wish it was down by the river but, you know, drought.
-Tasha
I really hope this guy e-mails me back. I think we stand a real chance of being great friends. Oh, also, he added me on Facebook, where I post links to my blog every week, so if you’re reading this right now, I’m sorry I didn’t ask your permission before posting this. I hope I left it anonymous enough for you. Being honest again, though, I have no shame. Your e-mail saved me something like two hours of extra brain power.
Until next week,
-tlc

On Mistakes

So recently I think I told you all about starting my new job. It’s been amazing, and I don’t think it’s truly hit me yet that I’m not only working on a television set like I used to dream about as a small-town teenager, but that I’m also working around the writers and directly with the writer’s assistants, which is a tremendous first step forward for becoming a writer on a show here in LA. Honestly, I’m not even sure it’s really set in that I’m living in Los Angeles–and I’ve been here for eight months!

I know I’m extremely lucky to have fallen into the job I now have, and it happened so quickly that a little part of me is worried about losing it just as quickly. It’s a slightly irrational fear, as I’m not (to my knowledge) doing anything that would get me fired, and there’s a whole season of episodes to shoot ahead of me. And it’s an even more irrational fear because I work with literally the nicest people I have ever met in my short time in this business.

Still, every time I mess up I cringe a little like a dog who knows their owner just discovered they ate the laundry. I know there’s a learning curve to every new job, but that doesn’t make me any less hard on myself. And then there are moments when I am hard on myself for being too uptight or flustered because I’m too hard on myself! What a viscous cycle.

And then something weird happens. In these moments of feeling low, I start to wonder at the path I have chosen to stroll. I’ve come to that point of clarity that can only be reached after some distance from college and some water-treading in the career/job market where I’ve come to acknowledge and accept the fact that most people live several lives and usually work several jobs within their one lengthy life. And this is a bit comforting, because it means that I can spend a few years exploring this trail, and if the time comes, I can venture off into the wild and find a new trail to blaze. And then I can do it again, and again, until I’ve lived the life I want to live. In fact, it’s usually the people I meet who seem to have stuck to the same trail passed the trail’s prime that make me nervous.

But despite my reassurances to myself that I am still young, and still have a long story to tell, I wonder at myself. Am I wasting my time?  Have I chosen a path that will lead to a fulfilling career? Is this job good enough for me and my talents?  Am I good enough for it? Maybe this where the whole “I still don’t have the answers” conclusion that seems to haunt every age comes into play. I look at friends who seem to have so much forward momentum in their jobs, careers, lives, and goals, and I wonder if I am stagnant; but this is only my first job, right?

I dunno.

Being Stupid

Sometimes, you have to ignore the practical mindset, and take stupid risks.  This, at least, is how I feel about moving out to LA.

That’s right, I finally officially said it: I’m moving out to LA…or, at least, that’s the plan at the moment.

I know–I’m sorry, I haven’t been fully straight with you. I know I promised we were in this struggle–errr, ahem, journey–together, and that I would be upfront and honest about exactly what it is I’ve gone through this semester. And for the most part, I have. I’ve only really left out the specific application details because I didn’t want to spout off about future plans and then have to come back next week and tell you all about how those weren’t actually going to be my plans, because I got rejected.  So in other words, I didn’t want to look like more of a loser than I already am.

But, now is the time: I will tell you all, because there are some very valuable things to be learned from my experiences.  First, though, I want to put a disclaimer here that my plans are still not set in stone. Things could change tomorrow, or next week, or two months from now–I refuse to take anything as solidly official until I am actually there, doing it, because the line of work I am pursuing right now is a fickle and constantly changing one. Therefore, if, next week–or two months from now–I write to tell you that I am doing something completely different from what I have planned right now, do not be alarmed; be thankful (with me) that I have at least found something to replace any plans that have fallen through. But for now, here it is:

In the fall, I will be moving to LA and working as a development intern for Phoenix Pictures (if all goes according to plan). I was offered the internship earlier this month, and exact dates and plans will be set (hopefully) later in July.  This internship is unpaid (unfortunately–but what can you do?) but is part time, so I will have the flexibility to work part time for a paying job to make rent each month.

I’m going to be honest with you: at first, I was embarrassed to announce that I had accepted an unpaid internship; like I noted in my last post, my idea of success has always been getting good grades, graduating, and getting a financially stable job doing something related to my field of interest.  However, I’ve realized over the last few weeks that it’s not about that at all–success is pursuing what you love, doing what you love, and I’m still trying to figure that out. I have always been interested in film and television, and I’ve always dreamed of working in the industry–pretty much ever since I was old enough to watch a Disney film.  So, though I won’t be putting my college education directly to use by means of gaining a communications job in an office somewhere, I will be utilizing the writing skills and analytic training I have gained through my degree to pursue a more creative career.

I’m taking this one step at a time. I have a summer job lined up with Duke TIP in San Antonio, as a creative writing TA at Trinity University, and then will be heading to LA sometime in August, most likely. I’ll do this internship, hopefully, and (also hopefully) find work to help pay the rent while I’m out there, and (extremely hopeful) try to find a PA gig through networking or (if I’m extremely lucky) through my internship. But, if, somewhere in between there, plans fall through, or things aren’t working out, or I realize I’m not happy with the direction I’m going, I’ll start looking for something else, maybe move back home, and start from square one. Anything is possible. Like I said, one step at a time.

I started looking into internships out in LA back in January (I applied for Duke TIP back in January, too).  I made my interests known to two different alumni groups on Facebook, and made a contact there that has gone out of his way to send my resume and general cover letter to every contact and internship opportunity he has heard about. I got lucky, and did really well on a script coverage sample for an application that I never expected to hear about–and then, to top it off, by chance, the summer internship turned into a fall internship instead (to get around me needing to take it for credit), which ultimately worked out for the best, because it meant that I could still take my paid summer job with Duke TIP. Like I said, I got really lucky.  Now, that internship application came in late March, and the offer came in early April. I had been applying and looking for jobs and internships at this point for around three months.  In total, I’ve had about six phone interviews and two script coverage sample applications. I can’t tell you how many internships my contact has actually submitted my resume to. More than I could ever count, certainly. I’ve only had the one offer.

Now besides those, I’ve spent countless hours looking into communications jobs, social media jobs, internships, and Disney things–besides the college program, I applied for twenty five professional internships–none of which I ever heard back from. I spent a lot of time looking into job opportunities abroad as well.  I’ve visited the career center several times, with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or talk about. I still am not 100% sure what it is I want to do.

My point is this: job hunting takes a long time. You’re going to face rejection–even if you’re good. It’s just going to happen. But most importantly, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do yet. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m going to be exploring for a while. Maybe longer than a while–maybe I’ll still be figuring out what it is I want to do when I retire. But you know, I’m kind of excited about it. I’m certainly freaked out–paying the bills is a worrisome thing–but I’m excited to discover. To get out, and just do. That’s the job I’ve really accepted after graduation: the job of doing.

Best wishes until next Monday,

Yours truly,

tlc

Just some thoughts…

Lately there’s been a lot going on in the news and media dealing with the three social issues that I like to think of as the most important social issues to grace the last century and a half.  It’s not that these issues haven’t been around for a whole lot longer than that–they’ve been around since the beginning of social construction in civilization.  However, in the last 150 years, these issues have come to the surface and been tackled time and again in the rising time of modern, western, and industrial civilization.  You can probably guess the three issues I’m talking about: Race, Sexuality, and Gender Equality.  And though we’ve reached a time in history when it seems that people can live in free and peaceful harmony and equality, there is still so many things left to be said and addressed.  I worry profusely for those who think otherwise.  Articles like this one, from Fox News, makes it clear that there is still a long ways for the world to go before we really reach equality.

When we play this pointing fingers game, this blame-game, this “who’s right and who’s wrong?” game, I know the world’s vision of rights, equality, and justice is still skewed. After all, equality is not about turning the hate from the oppressor to the oppressed, or simply switching the roles of these two, or even considering one side the “oppressor” and one side the “oppressed”; rather, equality is about just that–seeing both sides as equal, both sides as the same, and not sides at all, but rather one.  We are all people; we are all of the same species.  Time and biology and heritage has told us and shown us that we have our individual differences, but these cannot be generalized, not on more than an individualistic scale; I am no more different from my brother, or any other man than I am from my mother or any other woman; biologically or otherwise.  I do not think that men are less than women, I do not hate them or think them less than me for being raised in the same paternalistic society that I was.  In fact, I believe that most men, like most people in general, are decently capable of reasoning through the social constructs of our culture, and any society really, when they take the time to do so, and really take into account all points of view, in accurate measure.  However, I also think that some women, just like some people in general, are just as capable of confusing the truth about equality with very well-spoken but woefully ill-directed opinions and observations about society.  There is sexism, and racism, and homophobia prevalent everywhere; it happens in large scale (like the Trayvon Martin case–whether or not either side let race involve their judgement seems to be debatable; however, with the media and the response of the masses, the issue of race is still an undeniably large one in our society), but more often than not it happens in the small scale, in the comments, and the jokes, and the side remarks, and the small judgments we make everyday.

And I just think, what’s wrong with all of us?  Why do we put up with all of the small stuff? The small stuff is what fuels the fire; the big stuff is just the consequences of that fire.  And at the same time, why do we spit out all that small stuff?

I’ve been watching a lot of The Office lately;  I know, you’re probably thinking “Oh, yeah, Michael Scott is pretty bad about all of that,” and while, yes, when Michael Scott opens his mouth, I hear a lot of shocking things that I would not be surprised to hear come out of the mouths of a lot of people, I was actually thinking more about how everyone in the office just kind of puts up with it, particularly Pam.

Don’t get me wrong, the reason I have grown to love the show so much is Pam and Jim’s love story, and I really admire Pam’s self-awareness, and her ability to go along with things and remain professional.  However, it disappoints me and kind of frustrates me that she puts up with so much blatant sexism.  She is clearly overtly sexualized by her male coworkers, and particularly by her boss, but I just can’t understand why she doesn’t stand up for herself.  Yes, she does not go along with their sexism–if they request something of her that makes her feel uncomfortable, she defiantly says, “no,” but most of the time she just sits there and takes it quietly.  Maybe she is just more mature than I am, but it frustrates me to no end how passive she is!  And I wonder, are most people this passive?  Is this why we just take the small stuff, and let it accumulate into the big, fiery disasters that are tragedies like the Trayvon Martin case?

Who knows, maybe I would be just as passive if I was subjected to the sexism, racism, and homophobia that occurs on a regular basis in the fictional Dundermifflin office. But I’d like to think otherwise, and I hope you do, too.

Yours truly,

tlc