I’ve been a non-student for a year…

It took me awhile to figure out how to word the title of this post. I guess it’s still unbelievable to me. This weekend marks the final weekend of the BUinLA program, meaning that a year ago today, I was done with college classes and essentially out of school. I didn’t officially graduate until January 25th, so I guess I really have a little over a month, but I know that month will go by before I know it.

It’s been an interesting year. Last December, I knew I wanted to move back out to Los Angeles, but I was unsure of when. It took me about a month to decide, and then another two weeks to plan the week-long, cross-country trip my father and I took at the end of January. The week’s worth of driving and traveling was a good cushion for me to reflect on the huge life move I was making. Once I got to LA, the Friday night before Superbowl Sunday, it hit me – I’m in Los Angeles, I’m here to get started on the rest of my life. College is over, welcome to the Real World, Josh.

That weekend, things happened quickly. I was staying with my friend Rob on his couch, and as comfortable that situation was, I was really eager to find my own place, so I could settle into this new environment as quickly as possible. I went looking for apartments on craigslist and after viewing the second place I looked at on Sunday afternoon, I took it. I’m still in that place now, despite thinking I may move on a couple occasions throughout the year.

Obviously at this point I’ve settled into the living arrangements, and my general life schedule. I’ve been working the same internship for about seven months now, on and off depending on what other project I’ve been involved with. Despite not having a full-time, or even part-time job, the internship has helped give me experience, a regular weekly schedule and kept me busy three days a week. My off days normally consist of heavy job searching in the morning, a couple hour break in the afternoon at the gym, and the rest of the day working on whatever editing project I’m involved with.

The editing projects, most of which have been visual effects work with After Effects, have also kept me busy and given me great experience in post-production. While the work is also on an unpaid/deferred basis, I don’t mind because I need the practice and eventual footage for a reel.

The production work I did, while not very regular (I’d work as a PA about once every couple months, on average) was also valuable in the fact that I got experience, met some great people, and was able to learn all about things that you just can’t learn in school.

Sure, it’s a bit disappointing and discouraging when most of my friends out here have more substantial jobs than I do, but I made choices about what kind of work I would look for early on and stuck with them throughout the year. I could have gone a different route and probably got a more regular job, but it would have been at something I wasn’t as interested in doing. In that same sentiment, I could have stayed in Boston, lived at home, not be paying rent and working a job that I was even less interested in doing. To me, the whole point of moving out here was to pursue a dream of working in entertainment as a writer (now I’ve revised that goal to include being an editor). Obviously there isn’t one path to get to a goal, especially not in this industry, but a personal goal was to remain happy with what I was doing, and to be honest there are some jobs and paths that I could not see myself being happy in doing, even if I was happy to be getting a regular paycheck at each week’s end.

There’s a balance I do have to address, in that I can’t live off savings forever, and eventually will need some form of income. That may very well end up being a part-time job of some sort, but as long as I can keep writing and editing in my spare time, and as long as I keep pushing toward that career goal and don’t get sidetracked or distracted by other things, I can stay out here and keep at it.

I’m nervous but excited for the “1 year in LA out of school” mark. There are things I’ll have to deal with – do I risk driving around with an expired Massachusetts inspection sticker just to keep my Mass plates and Mass ID, or do I go through the process of registering as a California resident? Up until now, despite living in the state for almost a year, I still don’t consider myself a resident. That may change if my car and my license say I am.

There are also things I’m excited to try out – a few friends and I may begin to take Improv classes, something I have only really done on a very small scale – a class at camp, joking around with friends, etc. I figure as a comedy writer I should flex or at least train my comedy muscles in as many areas of the genre as I can. I even started writing a standup act (although have no real plans to perform just yet).

I’m also writing music again, and with the great decision to bring my electric guitar back to LA with me, there’s more potential to jump back into that arena. Why not? I’ve always considered music to be just a hobby, despite how talented people have said I am, and how much I enjoy it. But why? I’m out in Los Angeles now, pursuing a dream of becoming an entertainer, why would pursuing music be any different?

Ambition is a great thing to have out here, and while I may not be the most ambitious person in the world, or the city, or even among my own friends, I do want to succeed, and I do want to be happy with whatever I’m doing. I’m not sure I needed a whole year to convince myself of that, but hey – we all work at our own pace.

The Greater Los Angeles Area – A Brief Study

One of the perks of being in the entertainment industry is the rare and (usually) great opportunities it brings about. For example, As an intern at FOX last year, I got to work the Simpsons “Treehouse of Horrors” Premiere Party at Universal Studios. After checking in guests, some of them big names like Weird Al Yankovic and Joe Mantegna, we rode the Simpsons ride for free. Pretty cool and exciting for a 21-year-old finishing his last semester of school in Hollywood. Also at FOX, I got to sit in on a table read for the new show “The Cleveland Show.” After the read was over, I stayed in the room with the Network Executives and two Executive Producers of the show as they went through network notes. It was literally the four of them, and me in the back, observing. I shouldn’t even have to mention how amazing it was to be an intern at “The Office,” one of my favorite shows on television. My first day I had lunch with Stanley (Leslie David Baker), and ate free In-N-Out Burger from a truck that came in (it was also my first In-N-Out experience).

These examples kept me in the confines of Los Angeles County. Sometimes, you’ll get to travel outside the immediate area; from exciting places like the beach in Malibu, to not so exciting places like a community college in Azusa. One thing I’ve noticed about traveling to these places (especially going into the surrounding counties), the vistas change very drastically, even once you’re 20 minutes outside of the city. For how wide and spread out LA is, it’s almost jarring how quickly the scenery changes.

Maybe it’s different for me coming from New England, where everything is really close together and everything pretty much looks the same, except for the big cities. There’s just something a bit odd about how you can turn a corner within LA and the neighborhood suddenly changes. Or you can drive away from the city 20 minutes and the hills no longer have houses sprinkled on them, and instead of buildings and cars everywhere, you look to both sides of the freeway and see empty rolling hills or big empty industrial parks. It’s almost like there’s an invisible line drawn around Los Angeles County that keeps all signs of civilization within those borders, and when you venture outside of them you immediately wonder where all the people went. Unless of course if you’re stuck in traffic, then it seems like everyone in LA is in their cars, sitting on the freeway right next to you.

I guess on a more personal note, it’s interesting for me to observe these things about a different area of the country, because up until a year ago, I lived my whole life in New England, and although I did vacation outside of the area on many occasions, never really appreciated the subtle (and not so subtle) differences of each place I went to. I noticed this while driving cross-country, and it was actually pretty amazing to see how much things changed from place to place. It’s a big, diverse, beautiful country out there…hopefully you all get a chance to see as much of it as you can.