Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's Story Time.... so far

CHAPTER 1: Gonna  be in episodic stages, kind of like the way Dickens used to publish things in Household Words way back in the late 1800s). It’s called Uselysses an OddEssay on my struggles to find success in the movie biz (ugh, what a terrible curse! why didn’t I want to do something easy like be an astronaut?). Anyway, it began in Melbourne Australia where I managed to land a job with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC, but not the U.S. version) at their Ripponlea Studios center. My job title was Location Assistant, and the duties entailed driving cast members to and from the studio to whatever location we were filming at on any given day. It was an easy gig – drive them to location, sit around and watch filming until it was time to take someone back to the studio. I got to meet some Aussie stars (but these were in the days before Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe were stars so not them), and I worked with Kylie Minogue before she was ever heard of. She told me she had gotten the role by accident and was planning on going to college after shooting was completed. The next I heard of her was a few years later, when I was working in London. I was listening to this happy little pop song on the radio and when it ended the DJ announced it was by new Aussie singing sensation Kylie Minogue. I was like, wow, so much for college and good for Kylie. Boy, I wish I knew her nowadays.
Anyway, I had this job for about two years and worked on a couple of shows before I decided it wasn’t enough work or experience to really help me out. I interviewed on many films for a job as a runner (the bottom of the ladder in production) but couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I couldn’t land a job. I mean, being a runner? I could handle that in my sleep. To make it sound like I had more experience, I would say in interviews that in addition to driving the mini bus, I would also help out on set when able, like helping out the grips and whatnot. Now, being inexperienced as I was, I had no clue that the moment I said this whoever was interviewing me knew I was lying. Because (as I learned later while working on a show in England) it was absolutely against union rules for anyone not a grip to even touch any of the equipment or go near it. So I never got a job because no one bothered to tell me “look dude, I know you’re just trying to get a job, but when you tell me you helped out the grips I know it’s B.S. so forget it.” Why couldn’t someone just tell me that? They wouldn’t have to hire me. Just arm me with the information that could save me in my next frigging interview. Yeesh!
So I never did get a job as a runner on any Aussie movies. It was time to head for different shores. I got in touch with a very famous (in the movie biz) 1st A.D. (that’s a first assistant director) named David Tomblin who at the time did all of Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ films and asked if he would help get me a job if I came to England. I’d just read an interview with him in a magazine and he sounded like a cool guy so I figured I’d send him a letter. Since he’d done a lot of work on Spielberg’s movies I figured I’d call Amblin Entertainment’s offices and see if they had an address for him. Their receptionist put me through to someone’s office and when I explained to the girl who answered that I wanted to find out where to write to David Tomblin she said – and this is no word of a lie: “well he’s standing right behind me so would you like to talk to him?” Hell, I didn’t want to talk to the guy! I wanted to figure out how to present my case and put it all in an extremely well-written letter that he wouldn’t be able to ignore. So like an idiot I said: “Sure, I’d love to talk to him.” He got on the phone and I stuttered my way through an introduction and then managed to tell him I was gonna go to England and try and get a job in the movie business. He told me I was crazy. But he said if I went to England he would meet with me and try and help me get a job (told you he was a cool guy). He did warn me that there was no guarantee (is there ever?) and that I shouldn’t go to England merely on the hopes that he could get me onto a movie crew. I told him I was getting nowhere in Australia and that I was off to England no matter what. So he gave me his number in London and said call him when I got there. So I bought a plane ticket and off I went (well, it was a little more detailed and a helluva lot harder than that makes it sound but these are the broad strokes here). Next chapter: London...

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