The Many Answers for “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I’ve moved out to Los Angeles to pursue the ever-mocked and questioned career in entertainment, and yet I still find myself having to explain “why?” to friends and family. Nothing against any of them who are asking those questions – it is a tough thing for people to grasp, especially when the decision and subsequent move snuck up on a lot of them.

Let’s shift back in time a few years, to when I’m entering college. I decided upon Boston University because they had a great Communications school, and I was looking to study Journalism, because I enjoyed writing. However, the beginning classes in Journalism, and the articles I took it upon myself to write for two school papers quickly made me realize that writing was really the only thing I liked about journalism – not the reporting, not newspaper deadlines and formats. Just writing. I saw columnists like Dave Barry, or in later years Bill Simmons, and saw that they pretty much had carte blanche to write whatever they wanted, and both seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. However, you can’t just become a national syndicated columnist with the green light to write about 90210 or Silly Putty. They had to come up from somewhere, learn the ropes of the industry and work their way up to the top, where they wanted to be.

Again, nothing wrong with that career path, but I realized that I liked writing, and just wanted to write about whatever – my first bouts in writing all were personal memoir-type journal entries and stories, I never had the burning desire to report on school funding and where exactly our large Undergraduate Student Fees really went to. I figured since I was at this great Communications school, which aside from a great Journalism program, had a great Film and TV program, I should focus my writing desires into television, where I could not only write from a more personal level, but I’d have more creativity with it and it was a medium I always enjoyed, and found it incredible that I could study it as a major.

And so, I ventured into the world of entertainment, looking to write for television, and as I took classes at BU, really enjoyed them and knew this is what I wanted to do. Once I found out about BU’s Los Angeles Internship Program, I knew that it would be something I’d benefit from, and it would also give me a taste of what Los Angeles and the real Entertainment Industry would be like. I did the program, liked it, and that pretty much cemented my decision to move out here.

Now, during this time,  I may have only discussed school-related things with friends and family on rare occasions; whether it be family functions or short catch-up sessions during school breaks where we’d talk about how school was going for about 15 minutes, then go back to making dick and fart jokes and reminiscing about high school, realizing that the drama we thought we left at home still existed whenever we came back. We never really delved into what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing. Plus, especially with friends, and I’m guilty of this too, college and the work involved is so self-involved that there’s not much time to concern yourself with how your friends are doing in their individual endeavors – you have a big midterm to study for.

This sounds a bit cynical, and I don’t mean for it to be. I’m just commenting on the inherent personal pressures we all face in college, and especially toward the end, when we’re trying to finish school and figure out what’s next, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and forget about the other people in your life.

Anyways, back to present time, where I find that every time I go home and hang out with friends, or see a family member, I have to update them on how things are going, which inevitably means rationalizing the decision to move to LA. Yes, this year has gone a lot better – I’ve found more consistent work at a reputable production company, and have also been getting consistent freelance editing work on the side, but it’s still nowhere near the financial security that a lot of my friends have. Right now, I have jobs lined up for the future, but I am still technically out of work and struggling between jobs. But I am happy, and the work I do is very helpful in learning new things about editing and the post production process, which will definitely help me later on in my career. But despite this, there are still parts of my life I have to rationalize to them – I’ve worked but there are always periods in the industry where work dies down and people have lulls in projects – it’s just the nature of the beast. I’m not going to start out as a CEO of a Production Company or an Agent – I won’t have job security for a few years at least. But I can take this time off to write, to pursue other interests like comedy or photography (which will come once I have money to buy a nice camera). When you just have a desire to create and entertain, everything you do toward that goal is considered progress.

Every now and then I have to think back and ask myself if I could have done anything else with college or my life after college, and I really can’t find a solid answer to that – which probably means I’m either not qualified for anything else, or I picked the right place and industry to be in. In a way, it’s an industry full of ambitious and creative people, who often did not have other options or qualifications; something compelled them to create and focus their ambitions toward entertaining the masses of people who chose more stable and realistic careers – many of whom are the same friends and family who ask “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

That’s my long answer to the question, but I guess it can be answered in a short way too – “Why Not? What Else should I do?”

Revelations from a 15-Year-Old Josh

I’ve been writing again, and perhaps since I’ve specifically been working on screenplay about my former crushes and relationships, I’ve again realized just how personal writing can be.

For the past few years I’ve made a habit of keeping most of the things I’ve written – either for school, or  my occasional personal journal entries and stories. As “research” for this script, I went back into my hidden archives to see if I can find anything about a certain time of my life was blanking on (middle school – I’ve blocked out most of it, and for good reason).

Not finding what I was looking for, I did however come across a journal entry/free-write from when I was about 15, that touched on how I may have found my calling in writing, and perhaps a viable career path to follow – journalism (which I would pursue until Sophomore year of college, then drop like a Terrell Owens football.)

The paragraph itself is a little raw/unfounded and very stream-of-consciousness, but I found it interesting,  having sifted through a lot of angst and uncertainty in writing from my teenaged self, and settling upon a thoughtful, decisive moment that had a strong effect on my life for at least five years after I wrote it.

Here are some quick excerpts:

“After about 15 years of wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up, I think I might’ve found a suitable answer. Although guitarist in a punk/alternative band or comedian are perfectly reasonable ideas for careers, I think journalism might be a little safer.”

Note the inherent sarcasm that was just budding in my young mind. It’s also a bit funny (no pun intended) that I mention comedian, as it’s also something that in the past year I’ve given consideration to (at least in the form of writing a standup set).

I go onto explain why journalism makes more sense for me as a 15-year old high school student:

True all three involve a lot of talent and all three involve being hired (or getting gigs) which isn’t easy if you aren’t the best. So I figured since I can’t go anywhere in the rock scene without an electric guitar, and I can’t be a stand up comedian if I have no material, I at least can write freely and practice my writing skills.

A lot has changed in 8 years – not long after this entry, I did end up getting an electric guitar AND thusly joined a rock band (Bulkhead lives on!) And again, recently have developed some standup material (whether it be humorous to others, I really have no idea). While I obviously couldn’t have the foresight to know that I would eventually move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in entertainment, I did have the intuition to know that good writing takes practice. And I followed that plan throughout school, and even now with this blog.

While I didn’t stick with journalism, I stuck with writing and especially now that I’m attempting to get back into the groove of proverbially putting pen to paper and creating something tactile from a general idea in my head, it was very important for me to relive my early days, learning about myself and my skills as a writer.

And as for trying to figure out just what the hell happened during those blocked-out middle school memories, I’m not sure that’s a trip down memory lane I’ll come out smiling. Some stones are better left unturned.

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.