Sunday, July 15, 2012

LA scouting report

My scouting journey ended on Wednesday night as I hopped on the red-eye back to Michigan. I've been a zombie since, so bear with me.

I'll get this part over with. No job yet, no place to live. 

After spending three full weeks in LA and having no tangible changes to my situation other than a full e-mail outbox and intriguingly long fingernails (packing oversight), I'm holding out and calling the trip a success.

I'll tell you 5 things that happened which I'm excited about.

In no particular order (besides ascending in importance).

5.  Smart & Funny Girls want to make Smart & Funny Things

79% of my time in LA was spent at Starbucks. And probably 96% of my bank account.

During a coffee-fueled rampage one afternoon, I was trying to educate myself in the world of online news. After spending 4 minutes reading the LA times I found myself on Twitter. I've always appreciated the humor of smart and funny girls and, and in the past few months, have been in awe by the talents of a few of my friends. So, to take advantage of their wit (AND BECAUSE I'M SO THOROUGH AND CONSISTENT WITH MY ONLINE PRESENCE), I decided that we need to make comedy/advice/girl-produced website. Not Hellogiggles, though. Don't get me started.

So, I contacted three of the smartest and funniest girls that I know and we're in the works of putting something together. STAY TUNED.

4. Grown-Up Partying

After getting together with the Not So Scary Man's Daughter (who also took his advice and moved here 5 years ago) she's been helping me with the job/housing search. My second Saturday in LA, she invited me to a party with grown-ups.

To say I was a little nervous about going to this party would be like saying my mom is a little nervous about me moving to California. AKA it's a gross understatement.

BUT, I went and the party turned out to be the most awesome thing ever. If only I'd had a little less pride and took pictures, I could have captured how grown-up the party actually was.

It was American Flag themed: as you can see, the decorations were off-the-hook. And don't even get me started on the food. American Flag cake pops, Buffalo Chicken Dip that made me want to eat nothing else ever again, AND a S'more bar. (you put marshmallows on these cute little kabob sticks and roast them over these tiny decorative flames inset in a rock display). All the while, I was surrounded by established, put-together, Los Angelens who have real-person jobs in the industry.

I made a lot of great connections, listened in horror a story about shrooms, nodded nonchalantly at names I didn't recognize, ate 17 cake pops, and didn't even spill on myself.

The girl who hosted the party is having another one in December, so I won't be doing anything but anticipating it from now until then.

3. Getting the Ball Rolling

I've been palling around with a teammate's sister who is in the same boat as me (except she's employed and not a general disaster). On Saturday, Lexi introduced me to a bunch of people she graduated from film school with. A lot of them are near our age and freshly moved to LA. We got to talking and, miraculously, they like the idea of a rap music video that Klare and I wrote back in February. We'd planned on shooting it in Lansing but never our act together. But now that I'm in the land of opportunity, we're going to make it happen!!
So, during breaks in the job/housing search, Klare and I have been e-meeting to work on rap rewrites.
After the wedding this weekend, we'll meet with our music extraordinaire to lay down some sick beats and put us on course to shoot it in LA late August.

2. The Luckiest Break

I had the fortunate privilege of meeting with a writer who graduated from MSU and has seen a lot of success in the industry the past 15 years. We had coffee my first week in LA and he gave me a lot of straight-forward, genuinely helpful advice. He's bee encouraging me to take improv classes, something I've been interested in for a while, and has been helping me figure out the whole job thing. At the end of our convo he offered for me to keep sending him my work so he can give me feedback/help my writing fully form and that he'll eventually pass my work on to his agent. So, yes, I haven't slept since then.

1. Finding the Meaning of My Life

(this wouldn't be a blog post about my life if it didn't include extreme at least one irrationally bold statement)
After a lot of digging into research about improv in LA, I discovered there are a lot of great training grounds for comedy. (go figure) In true fashion, one club stood out the most because they require an audition in order to get into a more elite program. The curriculum is designed for professional actors buuuuut auditions are free so I obv signed up. (I took a life-guarding class to learn how to swim, so at least this ignorant overcommitment can't result in drowning)

The Groundlings is known as a breeding ground for SNL stars, so I was giddy with excitement to see a show. The theater was really cozy and sold-out with an audience ready and willing to laugh. The performers were animated, genuine and believable. Even with all that, it was the all-encompassing sense of community that the theater provided which solidified that I want to be a part of it.

Sorry, that got sappy and weird. I actually took notes about all that I felt while there and will spare you the psychotic-sounding details.

So, for now, I'm really jazzed about what lies ahead, because it's really, really cool.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Adventures of Couch

So, I started writing this a week ago and am picking it back up now. We'll see how it turns out.

I'll give the sparknotes version of my first week.

My First Friday: I spent 2 hours packing and unpacking my bag to nervously avoid making phone calls. I'd like to point out how much I regret nicknaming the producer who convinced me to move "The Scary Man". It's a lot harder to cold call someone when you have them in your phone as Scary Man.

He is really a nice man. I called and left him a nice little shaky-voice message after three failed attempts. (I learned you can press 1 to re-record). Somehow he understood me enough to call back later on. He actually laughed when I told him that I'd listened to him and has since done a lot to help me get started out here.

Periodically between my other phone-calls, I'd take breaks to swim with Milkshake.

This is just an excuse to put in pictures of Milkshake
After all the scary stuff, I had my first weekend in Cali!

On Saturday, we had breakfast in a really cute diner in North Hollywood. The walls were covered in  cool old photographs of actors but I didn't take any pictures because I felt awkward.

That night, we went to see a movie in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

It's a really weird and kinda cool concept. A lot of stars are buried in this cemetery so we got to enjoy their stunning on-screen performances while their bodies rotted just feet away.
I'm as nervous as I look.
Mason's friends are all really cool and have truly been troopers putting up with my debilitating shyness.

On Sunday, they took me to the beach!

As soon as we got there, we were informed that there was a save in-progress. Apparently, two young girls climbed up the side of the cliff and got stuck about 50 feet up.

Apparently the only people less capable to get down from a precipice than those two girls were their rescuers.

It took them an hour and a half to finally lower the girls to safety.

In the process, we got to witness the attempted save from a chopper. They chopper save failed but it was a lot of fun to watch. If you look on the left you can see the man hanging from the chopper and our two little adventurers stuck on the mountain. #beachentertainment


After all that was over we went back to seeing other cool things like sea lions and dolphins.
Two of the kids we were hanging with are from Colorado so they took me on a barefoot climbing adventure. We got to see some tide pools, touch anemone and see gigantic starfish. It was awesome.

The next day I got wheels!!

I ran to enterprise then sweated in their lobby for an hour. 

After that, I really hit this town by storm.
In the midst of exploring I drove halfway up a mountain then cruised down going 60 in neutral. It was really, really thrilling. But these runs are gonna suck.


Oh okay, cool.

Lastly, here's a pic of my home these past few weeks, hence, the nickname "Couch".

Despite not knowing my actual name, the guys I'm staying with are really cool.

I'll update the past week of adventuring in a bit. For now, Couch is out.

A little of topic in this context, but supports my newest priority: "Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the porpoise of instruction. No, read in order to live." -Gustave Flaubert

Friday, June 22, 2012

LA: Days 1 & 2

On Wednesday, I awoke at 4:30 in Lake Orion to begin my journey west. After an eventful ride to the airport with my dad and sister, I arrived at DTW 20 minutes before my flight took off. Thankfully, the kind woman working security could tell that I was at puke-level panic and she let me scramble through a separate metal detector.

I made my way to the terminal in my socks and stopped to breathe a sigh of relief because they'd just begun to board. 
An account of being poor, I'd been assigned a middle seat. Luckily for me, a couple was put in my row so they offered I take the window in order to sit together. The woman gave me a hang-loose sign and said "Right on" when I complied which I think is note-worthy.

Hey look, a picture from a plane.

After four hours of not speaking aloud, I landed in Vegas!

I won $1.25 on the slots then promptly lost $4.

Aaaand then I saw this.


After tweeting 6.2 million times and talking to the fam, I'd finally had enough social interaction to will myself back onto a plane.

An hour later, I arrived at LAX!

A mean woman gave me directions and then this.

(I should've asked her for 15 more 
because I loved every response to the comment contest) 

So, completely by coincidence, Katie, Liana and Brian happened to be flying through LAX the same day on their way to Australia. I decided to wait around for them to meet up before departing. It was this decision that ultimately led me to be at LAX for 9 hours. 

And that was my first day in LA.

 It actually worked out pretty cool because the LAX international departures terminal has a sweet set-up. I ended up chatting with an older businessman, Sammy, for 2 hours while charging our phones. I didn't take a picture of him because I'm learning what boundaries are. But this is the chair he sat in so do your best to imagine him.

Sammy is a really nice man and has done a lot in his life. He speaks 7 languages and tried, unsuccessfully, to teach me Chinese phrases.  We talked about his daughters, one of whom is a producer for ABC and he ended up giving me her number. So that was cool.

 About an hour and half into our conversation he told me about a time he was kidnapped in Mexico. I'm pretty positive my mouth hung open for the duration of his story. 
Apparently, a group of guys grabbed him off of the streets and held him hostage for four days in order to travel around and cash checks in his name. They beat him up and pulled out some of his teeth. He told me he was lucky to be alive and I realized I should probably stop asking questions because being kidnapped is a horrible thing to recount.

 Miraculously, he's a really positive guy and seems to be handling things well. I'm really glad to have met him. 

After Sammy left to go pick up his daughter I wandered around and became more and more delusional and exhausted. Thankfully, my friends arrived right when I was getting myself stuck in a convo with a man and his unkempt soul patch so I really dodged a bullet there.


I stuck around to have dinner with them before saying goodbye as they headed off to Australia (read about their adventures here: Lianakatiebriandownunder). Afterwards, I went to wait in the underground land of LAX for my shuttle.

By the time I was in the shuttle I'd been awake for 21 hours and was really close to ceasing to function.
After a 45 minute trip I finally arrived at my friend's place in Panorama City (or Shitty as it's called) (we'll get to that). 
My safety wasn't much of a concern, however, because I a pit-bull literally slept on top of me. You can not get more safe than that. 

Her name is Milkshake and she is the best.

Day 2

I woke up and decided to sit in the dark living room and look at Panorama City crime statistics for 2 hours.

 Don't ever do that.

The only thing that prevents me from carrying Milkshake with me everywhere I go is a lesson I learned two summers ago when I went through a phase of Wikipediang serial killers.

We don't need to get too much into it, but for some reason I researched all of the gruesome details of American serial killers and didn't run alone for a month. 

Now, I'm infinitely wiser than that Allie I rationalized that just because I read the crime statistics it doesn't mean I will automatically get murdered. (BUT DON'T WORRY I'M STILL RUNNING WITH PEPPER SPRAY, MOM)

After becoming brave and taking a shower, I spent the day talking with the guys in the house, e-mailing people about jobs and googling more stuff about housing. Around 3:00 I remembered what eating was and walked a block to the nearest grocery store.

The place is called "Seafood Market Superstore" but I in actuality is just a hodgepodge of asian stuff.

So you get a sense, this is the noodle aisle NOT the oriental aisle:


 Oh look, eggs:

Just in case you ever happened to buy a seedless watermelon:

By some stroke of luck, I found a few grocery items I was famliar with and made my way back home.

 Unfortunately, a pipe burst in the house I'm staying at so their kitchen is inoperable. 


So, for dinner I just threw together a PB, honey, and carrot sandwich.

E-mail me if ya want the recipe

In my defense, this was my only option at Little Asia for jelly:

I'm really tired and a little overwhelmed by the search but each day more and more things are coming together for me. So, I'll keep on it and keep you guys posted.

Sorry this one isn't very funny or enjoyable to read. 

Oh well.

"We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the porpoise of profiting by dearly bought experience. " -George Washington

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Observation #1: Succesful people respond

In preparation for my trip to LA, I learned my first lesson about people in LA. It's this: Successful people respond to e-mails. Promptly.

During the past two weeks of frantic networking, I've contacted 16 people that live out in the area and are involved with the industry. They range from unemployed student and consistently employed grip to accomplished "deep voice guy", locations manager and director. Plus, there's a ton of in-between.

Here's what I've noticed: the most accomplished people respond first and most consistently.
The individuals that I'd put in the category of "Successful, real-life adults" each responded to my emails within five hours.

And these guys are busy! One has written a musical that was made into a movie. The movie came out on Friday. I e-mailed him on Sunday. He e-mailed me back 2 hours later.

Sidenote: Rock of Ages is hilarious.

Now, you know these people aren't responding because they can somehow benefit from connecting with me. If anything, I've done a great job making it clear to them that I am a disaster. But, they reply. And their replies are fantastic. They offer advice, one offered his couch, and all of them offer to meet up with me once I'm there. They are really trying to help.

I have a hard time diagnosing precisely why the individuals who are 8 million times busier than myself are better at responding to my e-mails than I am to theirs.

As a rule, I am terrible at responding. To e-mails, text messages, really any form of communication.  In thinking about it, I realized that I'm overwhelmed by communication. It's much easier to check something and decide that it can be handled later than it is to sit down and tackle it right-away. These guys, on the other hand, knock stuff out instantly. And it's no coincidence that they have this attitude and have accomplished some really great things.

If you've listened to me in my past posts you know that you should never listen to me. I've done a thorough job getting across the fact that my life is a scattered shitshow. So, I'm not writing this to give advice. I guess I'm just letting you all know, starting now, I've realized that it's important for me to be better at responding to e-mails (texts, phone calls). So, I'm going to be. And you guys can hold me to it.

The people I've contacted are helping me out so much and I'm infinitely grateful. I hope it's only a short matter of time before I can help out the future disasters.

"The porpoise of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. " -Albert Schweitzer

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Advice from smart people

In the past few weeks I discovered these and find myself coming back to them.

I think they are relevant and valuable to anyone who is starting something new.
Which is everyone.

Check them out, yo.

 "Make Good Art"
Neil Gaiman
This is just plain amazing and completely worth every second to watch.


"You Are Not Special"
David Mccullough Jr.
I think this guy might really hate himself but he makes some good points. If you can stick with it until the 8 minute mark, it's worth it.


"The Opposite of Loneliness"
Marina Keegan
She offers an outstanding perspective while addressing the sincerest fears a lot of us have about graduation.

"Any idea, plan, or porpoise may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought." -Napolean Hill