I set out on this road-trip, this adventure - if you will - because I needed to chase my dreams of writing scripted drama to LA. Like all heroes who embark on big quests, I also felt like something was missing. I needed a change. SENTIMENTALITY WARNING: You may encounter some melodramatic schmaltz in this particular blog entry.
Since most of the storytellers I've grown to worship as heroes live and thrive in sun-soaked Los Angeles, therein must lie my transcendental answers.
A bit of backstory. I’ve alluded to having a Desperate Need for Validation (my hero's "tragic flaw"). I’d like to think this is semi-normal for hopeless romantics - gay or otherwise - and especially creative folks pursuing careers steeped in rejection. Always questioning if you're really good enough; if you have anything of value to say. Never feeling anybody understands you for who you really are. Finding the cure to this particularly dangerous and not well documented addiction is the subject of my next blog entry, but I digress.
So I'm a hero with a tragic flaw embarking on a quest. I was prepared for setbacks along the way. But all was well by the time I rolled into Texas - the midpoint of my journey, for you structure-savvy readers into foreshadowing. I'd learned a lot through the redneck Midwest, survived my skeptics' visit to the Museum of Creationism with nary a non-believer flagging. Then I landed in Houston - to reconnect with a friend I made a year ago in New Orleans when I competed against him in the Great Urban Race. The badass part? He works Mission Control at NASA! He does cool science. For a living!
Staying with him for a few days commenced a whirlwind tour of geeky fun. Videogames, scientific philosophizing, a harrowing Settlers of Catan campaign. It all had its climax during a tour of NASA’s mission control and space station training facilities.
Climbing aboard a space shuttle and sitting in the astronaut's chair, I was reminded some the reasons I chose the path of the career storyteller. To explore what felt like uncharted territory. To take interesting facts of real science, morph it with technobabble to answer provocative and/or ludicrous questions in science-fiction!
Now beyond all the geeking out and all that southern hospitality, NASA had a profound impact on me in another way. I warned you there'd be some sentimental hoo-haa.
You don't just wake up one day and decide to work for NASA. Working Mission Control was this guy's literal dream job and he took the necessary steps to make it happen. That probably took a little courage, a lot of self-assurance, and oodles of drive, and he did it without compromising himself. The fact is, not many people have the passion to make their dreams come true, especially not while staying buff or good-looking (the leading causes of bad, dreams-derailing behaviour) and I give mad props to that kind of discipline. Being around a fellow hot, gay uber-nerd with an uncompromising sense of who he is, gave me the clarity to understand my own self-worth. I felt like I was validated for the right reasons.
By the end of this pitstop, I felt like I already had my answers. All I had to do to apply these epiphanies into making my career a reality in Hollywood. Nothing could possibly go wrong...
So with my wisdom, I arrived in LA with a plan. This trip was all about research. Scoping out the town that would one day be my home-base. Meeting the right kind of people to get an inside scoop on what I need to do to move to Hollywood and pursue a career in scripted drama. So that meant talking to working writers, producers and directors and networking my ass off.
It wasn't long before I had the random luck to meet a producer who’d helped champion two of my favorite films to the silver screen. SIDEBAR: If you're hoping for names, titles or anything less vague, I hate to burst your gossip-hounding bubble, but that's not the point.
Once he'd buttered me up with tales of behind-the-scenes production, he knew I was enamoured, ripe for the picking. The producer reached his hand down my pants and forced a sloppy kiss on me. Remember when Professor Callihan put the moves on Elle Woods just before Brooke Taylor Windham’s trial? How it almost shattered her iron-clab resolve to become a lawyer and fight the discrimination levied against blonds wearing fabulous pink two-piece suits to court?
Alas, once he broke out the coke (does it get more cliché?), I excused myself to the bathroom to freshen up and regroup. I told myself, this was my chance to impress a top producer with an eye for good genre writing. Just go with the flow; live a little; don't be so Bree Van De Kamp. But was this really the kind of shit I'd have to do or put up with just so I could maybe land a contract in Hollywood, assuming this sleaze-ball even remembered me in the morning?
I thought about NASA and what he probably did to get his dream job in Mission Control. Extensive exam prep during his undergrad. Check. Certainly some rigorous interviews with a few hard-boiled commanders. Maybe his psyche got pushed to the brink in life-or-death simulations (if they do that in Starfleet Academy they must do them at NASA). But was his integrity pushed to the point of compromise when the Flight Director forced him to let loose at Black Eagle? I imagine not.
|A job environment where you can't sleep your way to the top.|
So I gave an inoffensive excuse and retreated to my hotel for a good disillusioned cry. I know you’re thinking I’m the sort of guy that cries watching Teen Wolf, so what's big deal? Yes. Women have known for centuries that men are objectifying sleazebuckets, so why was I so shocked and horrified to encounter producers and network execs that would use their laurels to get into my pants?
I guess when you're 4,000 km away from anyone you trust, trying to figure out what you need to do to make your own dreams a reality, you get a bit vulnerable. A touch naive. A lot more stupid. I really thought I’d be connecting with other artists who have similar passions for telling stories. But nope: instead I'd meet a development exec for one of the big four networks to talk shop. Then, after a drink, he'd invite me back to his place to "watch a screener".
|Academy Screeners: Device used by crafty producers to lure writers/actors onto their casting couches during the busy holiday season|
I learned countless more horror stories about other gay directors and/or show-runners that had ushered in comic book / YA franchises I adore. In other words, some of my heroes. But apparently they care more about the casting couch, pre-teen orgy parties and satiating any number of drug addictions than telling the stories they get the credit for. I was so debunked.
|What did I learn at the Griffith Observatory?|
With fleeting memories of spirits uplifted back in Houston, I decided to visit the Griffith Observatory for another injection of popular science. The nice thing about planetariums is they quickly remind you not just how cool our universe is, but that it's pretty freaking huge. That it isn't just one seedy collective trying to assimilate you into their conformist ways, even if West Hollywood may seem that way.
|Perspective: What if I lived on Jupiter and weighed 425 pounds?|
Despite these not-so-inspiring encounters, I managed to meet just as many writers, producers and show-runners in my last week in LA that didn’t feel the need to cope a feel. In fact, they left me with a couple pieces of wisdom, which I shall now bestow:
1. To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift: Even if you have a gift for giving good blowjobs, if your writing sucks, your writing still sucks. Just work really hard and get really damn good. Then be persistent in a way that doesn't involve sucking dicks you don't want to suck. You'll be much happier when you land that parking spot on the lot.
2. Don't meet network executives off of Grindr. West Hollywood is probably not the best place to find profound enlightenment.
3. It's not about getting the big house in the hills. As
Miley Cyrus' talented songwriters taught us: it's about The Climb.