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Quitting, Leaving, New Beginnings, And All Of That

22 Aug

Beach walkWell, I did it. I quit. Why did I quit my job, you ask? With less than two months before I get married, it’s time to make this transition and fully focus on the bittersweet process of leaving my old life and starting my new one. Some of you I’ve told in person, others may be finding out for the first time…I’m sorry if I haven’t had the chance with all of the craziness to talk to you all one on one, but at the end of September, I’m moving to San Diego County. I’m not going to say this has been the easiest thing for me. In fact, it’s been incredibly hard. But I think it will be good for many reasons. And it’s not like I’m moving to Djibouti.  It’s two hours away.

I’ll soon be entering into the unfamiliar territory called marriage and in order to do that well, I need to give myself time to process my life here in LA and all that this has meant for me. I need time to fulfill this bucket list of things that I’ve never done but have always wanted to do. Taping of Jeopardy anyone? A visit to Sprinkles? Touring some of those incredible looking churches on Wilshire I drive by sometimes? Also, most importantly to my soul at this point, I need to not sit on the 405 for three hours a day anymore. So, I’m leaving my job.

I’ve been in LA since 1998 and I’ve wanted to move to here since I was 10 years old and had the dream of becoming a “performing artist”, as I liked to call it. I even did a report on this when I was in 7th grade. My freshman year of college at USC, I made part of this dream a reality and I moved out here. Then I fulfilled another dream  of learning about film and television and got into USC’s film school. Not knowing what to expect, I fumbled my way through my freshman year as a Midwesterner public school kid in a California private school. I figured out how to write college papers, made some surface friends and then later some real friends, and learned a ton. I also became a Christian, which completely changed my priorities.

Upon graduation, I had several fun but crazy jobs in entertainment, I co-wrote a screenplay, wrote a play, worked on several TV shows, and realized that what I wanted most in this crazy city was a place of belonging. So I joined a women’s life group and a church and faced the world, relationships, breakups, unemployment and disappointments with others by my side.

I love LAI’ve grown to LOVE Los Angeles in many ways. I know it. It’s familiar. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere. It’s eclectic, diverse, interesting, never boring, urban, suburban in parts, and it’s the city where my dreams turned from superficial ones where I would become the female Steven Spielberg to where I learned how to follow Christ with all my heart, love justice, be a friend, serve, love, be broken, and be rebuilt again. It’s where I learned that money wasn’t everything, friendships could be fought for, and sticking to my true values in romantic relationships was more important than the feeling of being loved that I was so desperately chasing. LA has shaped me. I have so many memories here. As my time comes to a close, I hope to write about some of them and share what I’ve learned. I hope to end this chapter well and on my own terms so that I can enter my new life with a healthy outlook, spiritually grounded.

When I joined ChristianMingle and “smiled” at Mark, I did not know where San Marcos was. I thought it was a lot closer until I looked it up on a map.  We’ve been doing the 100 mile drive almost every weekend since April 2012. That’s a lot of miles. We’re both ready for that to be over and can’t wait to actually come home at the end of the day and get to be together.  With that happy possibility looming, it’s making my departure from the LA life brighter. I have hopes for the future. I want to be able to drive to the beach in 15 minutes. That will be awesome. I’ll hopefully be able to go to Mission Bay frequently and meet Shamu, finally. I hope for new friends, a new dream, and to fully launch my writing career that has been birthed out of my time here in LA.

Lots to do. 58 days till my wedding. 10 more work days, 20 more commutes. I’m doing this!

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What I Noticed On A Saturday in Santa Monica in February

25 Feb

Flying, flying

The seagulls call to one another silently and in a swift, fluid motion, they join together one after the other gliding over the Santa Monica horizon.

Where ocean meets sky, where sand meets water, the seagulls fly.

Over the crowd of Road Runner LA marathoners clad in orange shirts, each with their neon green water bottles tucked neatly into the back of their equipment belts.

They fly over the band of surfers in wetsuits, waiting patiently in the easy waves for their next jolt of life.

Over the kids in helmets learning to ride bikes and their exhausted but excited parents in pursuit.

Over the guy on his cell phone half running after his giggling baby playing gleefully in the sand.

Over the shirtless lifeguard removing the locks from his tower’s windows, opening up for his daily shift.

Over the paparazzi yelling out names of celebrities exiting limos as they arrive for the Independent Spirit Awards.

Over fans, also yelling names of their favorite stars, while stuffing the morning’s left over bagel into their mouths and wiping away the crumbs.

They fly over the two women jogging on the beach catching each other up on the happenings of their week.

Over the carnival rides at the Santa Monica Pier where distant screams of glee fill the air.

Over memories. New ones being made, old ones being forgotten.

Over volleyball games just beginning. Sons learning from fathers how to spike a ball.

Over unruly dogs trying to steal the leash from their owners.

Over problems and the people who cause them.  Over fights. Over parking mishaps. Over police directing traffic. Over smiling kids. Over tourists. Over empty beach in this February off season.

Over me, laying here observing it all, watching their flight and wondering if anyone else has taken the time to see how magnificent it all is.

The Hike Where I Almost Died, The Risk That Hurt, Singleness, and Other Mini-Thoughts

29 Dec

Mini-thoughts On My Year – #1

At the end of the year, I often reflect on where I’ve been, hoping to find some commonalities, a story, maybe the imprint of God on my life. This year was no different. An unexpected year, to be sure. A difficult year? Yes, in many ways. But did I grow more? Did I stretch more? Yes. Yes I did. Did I impact lives like I’d hoped to? I’d like to think I did even if it wasn’t in the ways I’d originally thought. Did I love until it hurt? Yes. I can say that for sure I did. Did I come out unscathed? No. I have bruises and scrapes. My heart hurts sometimes from loving this much. Was it awkward? Yes. It is always awkward to love people. When it’s really love, I’ve noticed that it becomes a sacrificial act. And it’s intentional. I had to decide to love even when I didn’t want to. I had to step out. Do things that hurt. Forgive. Grieve. Laugh again. Risk again. Know when I couldn’t participate. Know when I had to push myself forward to take part. I had to trust. I had to examine. I had to let go. I had to spend some time in counseling. I surrounded myself with great people. I realized I have a long way to go. Still do.

Mini- thoughts On Singleness- #2

Note: The following is not a boo-hoo fest on being single. Just a few thoughts I’m processing.

The hardest part about risking and having it not work out is that you sometimes lose a friend in the process. That’s what I’ve noticed about dating. It’s a lot of fun to date and get to know someone else. I highly recommend it and think that it’s necessary and essential if you ever really want to be known. But if you do it right, you’ve gained a real friend when getting to know someone and saying goodbye to that person, no matter how long you’ve been seeing them, is painful.

This is especially the case around the holidays, as I’ve discovered this year. When you see couples and families and get Christmas cards with pictures all over them (which I happen to love, by the way 🙂 ) and you somehow hear every version of “Blue Christmas” ever recorded (the one from Glee is my fave this year!), or when you are just having a sad moment when you remember what it was like to not be alone, it does make it a little difficult for us recently single people.

BEGIN PSA- So this New Year’s Eve or even this next year, if you have someone to kiss or you have kids and a family, remember those of us who don’t and give us a hug. Invite us to hang out with you. I realized the other night when I was hanging out with one of my favorite families and my 5 year old friend was bejeweling my fingers and toes after painting them with hot pink Hello Kitty nail polish, that hanging out with families is so healing for me.  I’m reminded there’s more to the holidays than my blues. I’m thankful for how I’ve seen my married friends and their kids grow.  Hug us. Give us a call. Invite us into your lives. We won’t be sorry and neither will you.  END PSA.  

Mini-thought That Turned Into A Story #3

If I could encapsulate this year in an analogy, I would say it was like this hike that I took in the latter part of this year in Malibu.

The whole point of the hike wasn’t to get to the waterfall at the end, although that was a big part of it. I didn’t know where I was going. At first, it was just a street with a group of majestic mansions on it. It was a beautiful walk but did not resemble a hike quite yet. Little did I know what was coming. After the street, I trekked down through the grass, on a dirt path, through the woods. I got to this point where I literally had to crawl up a steep part of a jagged path. Then after I made it through that, I scaled a couple of boulders and pulled myself up. Finally came the rope. In order to climb up the side of this steep cliff, I had to use a rope and lean back while pulling myself up the side of a mountain. I was parallel with the ground. That took trust. Part of me didn’t want to continue.

After venturing past that and a lot of people, I made it to the waterfall. It was beautiful and tall. Unexpected.

Along the side of the waterfall was this branch that jutted out. Next to that was a slim that one could use, if they were crazy enough, to climb up, shimmying their way across a slippery, thin ledge up into the waterfall. It took a lot of faith, a few swear words, a whole lot of trust, and a few people to help me, but I wanted to climb up into that waterfall and make it back in one piece.

The water was cold even though it was an 80 degree day. It was pelting on my head and I was shaking, getting all of my clothes drenched as I muddied my arms and hands, clawing my way up through moss and slippery rocks until I stood erect in my triumphant arrival .

When I could finally stand and enjoy it, I realized something. I had to figure out how to get back down. I had made it up so part of me knew I could make it. But sooner or later, I would have to start down the waterfall the same way I’d come up. I was surprised when I was able to climb down. It took more effort than climbing up. A stranger literally had to prop me up. I took steps and then backtracked, not trusting where I was stepping. I almost cried. Part of me wanted to jump off although I surely would hurt myself in the fall. In the end, I made it  down to safe ground and I was proud. Proud that I had risked at all. Exhilarated that I could do something like that and not die.

Ever since that moment, I’ve wondered what else I could do. How else can I let myself be surprised? How else can I trust? How can I go through 2012 with more moments of triumph?

Risking in community

Mini-thought on Risk #4

Going back to my year, I’m surprised. Surprised that loss after risk didn’t do serious damage to me or to my friends. Yes it hurts. So much. But not as much as it would hurt if I hadn’t realized what I do now. I know more of what I want after I risked and it didn’t turn out. I am healed more from a past that sometimes feels like a bag full of rocks that I don’t want to carry anymore. As much as it has hurt and still sometimes hurts, the risk was worth it.

My Crazy Night, Part 2

23 Jan

After the talk, I was nervous. During the Q and A, I’d heard Mr. Abrams discuss JJ and how he hadn’t actually encouraged him to be in the business. Wow, I’m so glad JJ actually went ahead and became the mega-branded triple threat (producer, writer, director) he is today.

Part of me wanted to ask a question but I thought in person would be better. I was mustering up the courage. It was weird because I haven’t gotten this starstruck in a really long time. My mind went back to that time when my best friend chased Owen Wilson down the street and I chastised her for it. Okay, I wouldn’t be that girl. When the Abrams’ finally emerged from the theater, I was hovering near the table with the fruit skewers and the cookies and I had a cute little box of chinese chicken salad that I was trying to down.

“Okay, we’re going over, right?” I asked Cara. But I was scared. I thought I needed her to go first. I kept telling myself that they were only people. We walked closer. I looked into Mr. Abrams eyes, shook his hand and said,

“I’m Melissa. I have to tell you I really love your son’s work. It’s been highly influential to me.” He smiled and mentioned that he was just working with JJ earlier on a trailer for his next project, “Super 8” (with Steven Spielberg as producer, starring Elle Fanning and my favorite, Kyle Chandler, from “Friday Night Lights”).

I realized later I only had a limited time with him, but somehow I started rambling on about “Felicity” and how it was on my first year of college and how I had come to LA from Chicago and could totally relate.

“Oh, with Keri, yes,” Mr. Abrams recalled.

“The thing with that show was that they were always saying “I’m sorry” for everything,” he said. I agreed. Somehow he got distracted and started talking to someone else.

Meanwhile, Cara was talking to Mrs. Abrams. I eagerly introduced myself and told her the same thing about how her son’s work meant the world to me. We talked about passions and she said that JJ loves what he does. And if one day he stopped loving it, she would want him to find what else he loves and do that. We talked about starting with something we thought we loved but feeling freedom to change to something else. She encouraged Cara and I to love what we do because, “you only have today!”. She was very down-to-earth and nice. I was appreciative. When we finished talking to her, she patted my arm in a sweet way and shook Cara’s hand.

I was floating on air. I should have given them my card, but I didn’t care. I had made a huge step and I had conversations with the parents of someone whose work I’d been following and loved since the early 90s. In retrospect if I would have told them about my weekly “Alias” gatherings or “Farewell to the WB” party, that might have been over the top. So I’m glad I kept mum.

I had the courage, after that, to network. I suddenly loved Penn State alumni functions more than USC’s. I talked to another panelist about what hot spec scripts to write and what it was like to be a producer in Hollywood. I even asked the University PR guy about the piece I’d heard on “This American Life” about Penn State being the #1 party school and found out that he was the one who had permitted Ira and the gang to come! (He had wanted to admit the problem of alcohol abuse and try to have people see that it was a problem at all schools, not just Penn State. If you can, you should listen. It’s a good one!). I talked to an architect grad and found maybe the only other person at the event who went to USC and not Penn State. Overall, a successful night of putting myself out there.

The night only got better when Cara and I drove to Bergamont Station to see our friend, Grace, who works with a publication called Slake. They were having a party over there and several of our friends were a part of it. The crowd at Slake was way different. Overly artsy, some hipster, and definitely more pretentious than the Penn State gang, the crowd browsed art and sipped the free signature cocktail of the evening. We mostly caught up with some friends and then I adjourned to the next room to talk with my friend about the JJ parent meeting.

Soon after that, Cara wanted to go to another gallery to see some more art. The art itself was somewhat disturbing. I can’t explain why, but I felt this strange vibe after walking around that gallery. That’s where I saw the lady with grass coming out of her hair and everyone in that gallery was dressed in loud outfits. We didn’t stay long. The best part was what happened when we came out.

There it was: The Grilled Cheese Truck. I’d heard about this truck and always wanted to try the food. As I approached the line, I realized it was probably cash only. NOOOOOO! I had just given my roommate my $20 that I’d been carrying around for emergencies like this one! I read the menu. Did you know that the Grilled Cheese Truck has a grilled cheese with MACARONI AND CHEESE in the middle of the sandwich? I know. I didn’t know either. I LOVE macaroni and cheese. Like LOVE it. It’s one of my joys in this world and I often get made fun of by friends and family for it. Cara and I started talking about what I was going to do. I dug through my purse and found a checkbook and $1.25. Enough to buy a side condiment.

“Maybe I can write one of these people a check and they will spot me?,” I wondered aloud.

A creepy guy with a nub of a ponytail heard me. I did not make eye contact. How badly did I really want a grilled cheese? I tried to be nice to him, but I decided I wasn’t going to ask him. That would just be weird. Good choice because he kept staring at me and Cara was about to tell him to take a picture because it would last longer. A couple next to me needed a menu. I got it for them. We discussed the Cheesy Melt, as it was called. I was hoping that maybe there would be a credit card machine in that truck. Suddenly before I could make my decision about what to do, the guy from the couple handed me seven dollars. I couldn’t believe it. WHAT?! No way. LA was just voted the rudest city in America? Clearly this guy wasn’t included in that poll. I was amazed. I was so happy. This was the best night ever. After giving me the $7 he walked off into the crowd and I couldn’t even thank him properly.

NOTE: If there’s anything I love more than macaroni and cheese it’s FREE food. I raid Costco for the samples. I hit groceries on Friday. I clip coupons. I love free food.

I gave the girl in the truck $1 of my free money. Pay it forward? HECK YES! As soon as I had ordered, they closed the truck! I was the last person to get a grilled cheese that night! NO WAY. You can imagine how grateful I was.  JJ’s parents, free grilled cheese with macaroni inside? WOW. Night to remember. Thank you, Lord, for such an amazing experience! I found joy last night in unexpected ways. WHOO HOO. Keep it coming!

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