Hollywood on the Spectrum

It takes a certain kind of person to really flourish in this industry; someone very social, tenacious, a fearless hustler who also plays a good game. In many ways it does come down to luck for all. There are certain ways to increase those odds, and then there are ways in which you can also shrink them. It very much comes down to who you are. I am someone who, albeit is of Mensa intelligence, lacks the same social intelligence — I am someone on the autistic spectrum.

Autism, including Aspergers (which I was diagnosed with at 12) is a developmental delay. Contrary to popular misconception it is not a mental illness nor is it associated with mental illness. It is however linked to social stuntedness, a lack of self awareness, contextualizing things in black and white –and often shyness as a result. It is also linked to higher IQ, greater empathy and therefore less inclination to act in a morally unscrupulous manner. People with Aspergers are very loyal to those they care about and are not the sort of people to stab someone in the back.

In an industry where being an extroverted hustler and social savant is critical to success, people who lack that combination of traits stand a lesser chance at success. This is not to say that someone on the spectrum is not a possible combination of all those things; however there are a few notable ways in which someone on the spectrum would struggle in Hollywood. So allow me to go into some detail.

1. Taking Things in Black and White

People on the spectrum are not very good with social nuance. So much of this industry relies on coded messages and meanings. When life is defined in black and white, the grey in which Hollywood operates can be very difficult to navigate. This breeds frustration since all people like myself and others with Apsergers want is a clear answer (see the ongoing saga with myself and a former mentor). Rarely is this given, and it easily turns into a feeling of frustration when we are given codes or signs we cannot interpret. We wind up spinning our wheels on dead opportunities or wasting time on long shots. A social person with a strong perceptiveness would probably move on more quickly and rebound, whereas it’s easier for us on the spectrum to get stuck still looking for answers which will never come. Especially so when it’s what we want most.

2. Charlie Hustle

Ever watch ‘Better Call Saul’? Jimmy McGill’s nickname is Charlie Hustle. He started in the mail room and eventually rises to the rank of attorney through hard work, social cunning and strong perception. His ability to feel out situations where he could ascertain an opportunity or advantage allowed for great success — not to mention his personable nature.

The same skills are required for success in Hollywood. You will eat crow in low paying positions with the only way up the same skill set Jimmy had. Just to find those mailroom positions is often difficult enough on its own! This is not to say people with Apsergers lack hustle – not at all. We work just as hard but often require more guidance or mentorship at the outset of our careers. We lack the same level of natural perception and social cunning that might make us take risk or sniff out that ‘new position’ which may not yet be available. We work hard but constantly second guess ourselves and are unlikely to pick up a phone without encouragement — good luck finding that in the mailroom! Without a good mentor, it’s very easy to wind up lost and directionless navigating a complex industry.

3. Oversharing & Blunt Talk

So much of this business is about having a certain personality. Part of that is being really level-headed, positive and not oversharing. People on the spectrum tend to lack a filter that comes natural to others. Sometimes this leads people to conclude someone on the spectrum is too blunt. We’re usually too honest for our own good. Especially when we’re frustrated, or doubting ourselves — we take to Twitter, blogs or just vent to others because we desire to be understood and seek empathy. This could come across as emotionally unstable or weak (i.e why would someone say that?). We’re not emotionally unstable, but we are sensitive (weakness in this field). This industry requires thick skin and an understanding of when to say a white lie or avoid how one is really feeling. You gotta sell that confidence and that smile – you’re happy to be here! People on the spectrum are honest and morally inclined. To lie, be phony, talk shit or just play a good game of bullshit is not in our nature. We are more likely to despise it.

4. Adherence to Meritocracy

Those on the spectrum tend to have very high IQs. They usually know they’re very smart and so for someone who is morally inclined and intelligent it is hard to settle for the world of nepotism, favors and brokered deals which place intelligence and potential after ‘the right cultural fit.’ It is hard to watch ‘the right fit’ win over the best qualified, or the person with most potential. Hollywood is not a meritocracy. This is probably the most annoying thing to those on the spectrum because of their moral inclination and very black or white sense of fairness and justice. It’s why people on the spectrum tend to flock toward industries which are more meritocratic like the hard sciences. There one’s intelligence and capability is more important. Not so in Hollywood, you could be average and capable with the right personality and win over the person who may be brilliant but not be ‘the right fit.’
While many with Aspergers are writers, directors and musicians, not many are screenwriters; probably because writing novels is an introverted process whereas writing scripts is collaborative. You have to deal with that junior exec’s notes; someone who got the job from their aunt. Being a director or musician, one is in charge of the creative process (and the directors I refer to here aren’t the Yes men working for studios, but in the Indie world). You must have incredible social aptitude to be a good screenwriter – not just a good writer.

Conclusion.

All of these examples may not apply. In some cases none apply. However in most cases a combination of those difficulties can make it extremely difficult to break into the coveted film industry with autism/Aspergers. While many on the spectrum are very creative and capable, they are often deemed not the right fit. It’s easy to fall trap to social stuntedness. The most one can do is be self aware of these limitations and try to fight them (it’s what I do every day). I won’t say it’s not hard — it’s a constant struggle where for others the pursuit is more effortless. I am a well of potential crashing up against the walls. While I will never use my Apsergers as an excuse, certainly not for my failures, I will also not deny that it does occasionally play a part. I am my own worst enemy, and I must conquer myself before I can the industry beyond.

Dreamers v Settlers

There are two types of people in this world, the dreamers and the settlers.

“I was more at ease with you going to Europe than LA… anywhere in the world is potentially unsafe but at least in Europe you had an itinerary.” These are the words of a settler. They are the words of my concerned but supportive father. A settler has a low appetite for risk and likes a clear itinerary in life. The settler settles for comfort over risk and therefore usually takes a stable career in industries with a lot of job security and financial comfort.

This is not to disparage the settler types. Settlers are happy in their decision to hold onto a secure job which gives them guaranteed benefits and a solid understanding of how their life will play out. All my dad had to do was move up in rank while inching closer to retirement. Granted his job as a NYC fireman was hard from guarantees in one respect- safety. He was a 9/11 first responder and I am supremely proud of his heroism. Still, a government employee now enjoying a secure retirement, he is very much a settler.

My mother too is a settler. For a while she wouldn’t talk to me due to my decision to move. She is a nurse manager who worked at the same hospital for 35 years as a nurse manager. She’s done well and will be traveling to France for an entire month in May. She settled for a secure job, a good salary and certain guarantees.

But I am a dreamer. I have already seen France in my 20s because I want to see the world young – not in my retiree years. In fact I don’t want to wait to enjoy my life in retirement. While I think my dad enjoyed the FDNY I’m not sure my mom was always very happy at work. It was very much just a job to her. A dreamer like me reasons that if we have one life to live and most of it will be spent working, we may as well love what we do.

So I am taking a huge risk in moving to LA without a job and savings to get me through the summer at most. Dreamers will take risks that a settler would be terrified of – naturally my parents are terrified for me. But I’m not scared. Dreamers can’t waste time being afraid of failure for they must only concern themselves with the prospect of success. Dreamers are the people who change the world because they are the unconventional, the risk takers – the ones who won’t just settle for ‘that’s the way it is.’

“So you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” – John Lennon

Lennon was a dreamer too. Some of us dreamers will fall short of the stars he reached. If you shoot for the stars, you might still end up on the moon. And I’ll take that over the same boring place on earth until my 60s. Life is an adventure – go live without any regrets.
***
Side note: I shared this piece with my parents and for the first time I believe they understand the differences and why what made them happy won’t make me happy – and vice-versa why taking huge risk wouldn’t make them happy. Finally I believe they respect who I am and that this is how I must live my life. I think now I finally have their support, even if in addition to their concerns.

Parachutes

One week from now, I’ll spend my last weekend in NY. For a while anyhow. I’ve got barely enough savings to hit the ground running – and that’s if everything goes smoothly and according to plan. In many ways this move to LA feels like jumping out of a plane with a busted parachute, it may or may not open.

I had a dream last night that I’d wind up begging in front of the supermarket for food. My mother has decided not to talk to me, hoping I might change my mind. Yet somehow I must remain mentally strong enough to make this life altering decision with little to no support. Somehow I’m expected to write, work on this feature and apply to jobs with an albatross of fear and anxiety around my neck.

Harder still is knowing that as I write this it is cathartic but few to nobody will read it – including him, the one person I’d hope after all these years would reach out again. It’s never going to happen. During this time this blog has become more personal than ever. Yet, while I write for me I don’t do enough for me. I don’t put myself first. That’s why moving to LA is a necessary step for my own career and goals.

My single greatest fear is winding up just another shattered soul along the boulevard of broken dreams. Part of this whole journey is starting to feel like the fallacy of sunk costs. I’ve put so much time into saving money for this move to pursue a career that I fear switching plans. Then I remember that I don’t know what else I’d do. I also don’t know how I’m even gonna keep my head above water and get started. I feel old next to 25 year old assistants – a job I’d kill for. In this industry, I’m like Robert DeNiro in the intern.

There doesn’t feel like a happy end in sight for this Hollywood tale. I’m moving without anybody in my corner and everyone I speak to seems to want something from me that I can barely give to myself. I’m near tapped out of energy, spinning toward the ground with this faulty parachute. I just hope to find a soft enough spot to land…

God speed.

Timelines

It’s very easy to consider yourself a failure before you’ve even had the chance to become a success. That’s because society and those around us have established timelines for success. This timeline has not budged much in expectations despite economic recession and new generational attitudes. You will still be judged by this timeline, and you will be rated by where you rank on it. Approaching 30, by most accounts I am  a failure according to it.

What is this timeline I speak of? It is the societal expectations of the American middle class. It began with the Boomers, and has shifted little over generations. It goes a little like this: go to college, get a degree. Get job with degree, and by 25 have a career path outlined with stable benefits and income. By 30 you should have moved out, and optimally are looking to purchase a home. By 35 you should be making solid money and have married with plans for kids in the next year or two.

On this timeline, I am a failure. I feel the judgment every time I speak to timeline adherents, like my parents (both stable by 30). Or even my neighbors, including those five years younger than me —  they’re all on track to stable lives; one a policeman, the other a teacher, the eldest a corrections officer, the youngest born in 1998 is taking the FDNY exam and will probably be making stable income by my age (29). Sure they’ve all chosen stable careers which will promise middle class lives at most. They didn’t take a lot of risk, but they’re OK with that. They want stability, and the timeline adherents support their decision.

Settle. Plan B. These are words I hear all the time. From my parents. From neighbors when they politely say they saw a job opening at their boring company in the city. I feel it when out with friends who’ve become very successful because they entered a high paying field (computer science). I sense the judgment every time I cannot afford the same restaurants as them – let alone neighborhoods to live in. Everyone is more successful than me. Heck even my own [former] mentor, my idol in the industry, was at least an assistant working for an A-list production company at my age. He’d already started a career track with coordinator credits on major features to his name. By 35 he was a CEO. By 35 I hope I can at least afford rent!

What do I have? A blog and some writing samples – a few read by major players? Some sporadic work experience in the industry dotted around temp gigs to support my dream career? Assistant experience at an indie company where I barely made any money? Independent projects which look like a dime a dozen since thousands of kids will be calling themselves ‘producer’ making their friends films? What I do have is an appetite for risk. What I do have is good work ethic. Most importantly I refuse to give up no matter how many times I fail.

I will move to LA with no excuses left in two weeks. I am terrified. I keep thinking of the timeline, the disappointment I am to others, the possibility of failure. I also realize that I must live for myself and adhere to my own timeline. My former mentor said to me several years ago, “it takes ten to fifteen years to get anywhere in this industry.” He’s not wrong. I am barely five years into it. I got a base of experience and I know LA will provide me with more opportunities, and most importantly opportunities with career advancement.

I have no clue what will happen, but I will take the risk anyways. I know my parents hoped I’d grow out of this dream by 25. I didn’t. I’ll continue to pluck away. It’s a numbers game, and most will give up but I refuse. The longer you stay in the struggle, the greater the chance for reward. So if you’re like me ignore the timeline adherents and their judgmental comments. You’re on your own timeline, and you will make your own success. The only thing worse than failure, is settling for it.

 

Head in the Clouds

What do you want to do?

Such a simple, yet loaded question. Some know the answer right away. Others spend a lifetime trying to answer it. For me, I know exactly what I want to do – the trouble is it’s not an easy thing to do at all.

I often try and distract myself from my jealousy of friends who made bank in computer science. They have an abundance of both opportunity and money. I got angry when a friend said that because he works for a certain tech company he could live anywhere, including Paris. In fact, he told me he was considering it. It was like a slap across the face because it was him bragging that he could get what I most want…

What do I want to do? I want to be a writer and live in Paris.

Hahahahahahahaha

Ok now that you’re done laughing at me, allow me to finish. I get this is a pipe dream. But only I’m stubborn and tenacious enough to try and squeeze through that pipe. In two and a half weeks I will take my life savings to LA to begin to try and accomplish that dream. Continue to write, get any job in the industry – we all start somewhere.

The truth is I know exactly what I want but no idea how to get there. I guess none of us really do. There is no strategy guide for life. There is no how-to. Not having the answers is frustrating. Within that frustration is the torment that comes from imagining having the answers – the day dreams of living in Paris. Oh and the day dreams of working for the man I call Paris.

I’ve worked hard getting the experience I need to take this next step. Two days back from my favorite place in the world and I feel a shadow of myself. I’ve lost all momentum. I’ve stared at the same point in my script for a half an hour before returning to relive my videos of Paris again. I’ve spent so many minutes thinking of working for Paris too that I just wish it were reality. It’s completely counter-productive.

I have my head so firmly stuck in the clouds I can’t focus on how to actually make my day dreams my daily reality.

What do I want to do? I know exactly what I want to do. I may not get there but I’ll spend a life time trying… if only I could get my head out of the clouds, maybe I’ll get back to Paris, maybe to work for Paris, to write this script… to make my dreams a reality or something close to it.

The truth is, what is life if there is nothing grand to aspire to? The only one who can make your dreams a reality is you – so it’s time to get to work.

Brought to You By

originally a short script. Adapted as a short story format.

A Long Island Shopping Mall. The mall is crowded with shoppers meandering aimlessly through the labyrinth of stores, ads and fatty food carts. On one corner just before the elevator that takes you to more of the same is a fantasy bookstore, THE TREASURE CHEST.
It’s a relic from yesteryear when people still clamored for the latest fantasy fiction in physical form and so unsurprisingly the store is offering a “BLOWOUT, EVERYTHING MUST GO” sale ahead of its permanent closure.

Inside, Terry, a 30-something bookish young lady works the cash register. Only a few patrons wait in line, with one lady adamant about her interpretation of the stores signage. “It says everything must go, shouldn’t that apply to the Fabulous Four comics too? I want to see a manager!”

Terry calm as ever, “I am the manager, and I’m sorry but we don’t set those prices.” She points to a display table. “That is the table that applies to the comics and fantasy novels on sale.”

Not having it, “you really need to change your sign then, because this is false advertising, I’m not paying 10 Blipcoins for that when I can watch 15 ads and get it on Amazon for free!” The lady leaves in a huff, immediately on her phone – to complain most likely.

James, the other clerk on shift gives Terry a look that implies this is the regular interaction they’ve come to expect from today’s customers. “Pretty soon, we’re just gonna barter with each other for Blipcoins or ad-hours to redistribute for our very survival.”

Terry is half-joking, “your cynicism depresses me… I’m leaving for break, be back in fifteen.”

The pizza place is the least crowded line compared to all the cheaper chain eateries. As Terry waits in line, an overly enthusiastic man approaches her with an unsolicited pitch. “Hey there, do you have a moment to talk about women’s health issues?”

Terry is visibly annoyed, “no, I’m actually on break.”

Pleading, “it’ll only take a minute!”

Adamant, “I only have ten of those left…”

The man frowns, walks away to find another woman to prod. Terry lines up her phone under the scanner to pay. The zit-faced pizza boy speaks up, “I can save you an extra blipcoin if you watch two ads?”

Almost exhausted by the intrusion at this point, “no thanks.”

Terry finds a seat next to a family of four, the kids treat the food court like the playground. The parents keep to their phones. Terry leans back, working her own phone. A new text pops up from Allison, “I can’t believe he died! OMG.” The link is jumbled into a sketchy bit link format, not revealing its site name. She clicks it anyways.

On screen, an ad page half loads before spitting out a video ad on top of it. An extremely obnoxious Muscle Head of a man starts shouting before a cheesy parking lot background of a  family-style restaurant:

BIMBOS!
Do you like big boobs? Do you like hot wings? Do you like beer? Of course you do! So come on down to
BIMBOS!
Wednesday night is dumb blonde trivia night, the guy with the dumbest girlfriend gets free-refills
ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
BIMBOS! It’s fun to be dumb!

The ad closes out to reveal a three sentence long paragraph about the death of former internet sensation, Grumpy Face cat: “Meme celebrity, GRUMPY FACE is dead. Sources say the cat died of natural causes. Check back for more updates!”

The kids smash a chair to the ground. People look up from their smart phones, then return to business as usual. Terry scrolls down to read the comments section even though she knows better, reading them in her head…

NANCY67 (V.O.)
I made 6,700 blip coin and two hundred ad hours in one week with this amazing work at home trick! CLICK CLICK CLICK NOW !!!!

Terry takes a sip from her soda, more comments…

PATRIOTBOB (V.O.)
This is what happens in Democrat America, we care more about dead cats than dead patriots fighting illegal immigrants on our border! Your dumb!

CONCERNEDCITIZEN101 (V.O.)
*you’re

PATRIOTBOB (V.O.)
*you’re Gay.

Terry closes out the phone screen when an alert pops up: “Break Over In Five Minutes” — She gets up throws her plate in the trashcan, which is also covered in several ADS…
KEEP AMERICA GREEN, AMERICANS FOR CLEAN COAL, AMERICANS FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY, RECYCLE YOUR OLD JUNK.

The sanitized off-white corridor is so saturated with ads, it’s a wonder any of them actually makes an impression. A wireless stand catches Terry’s attention: “NEW IFruit IN STOCK!!!” A mass of people are on line for it. Two adult men argue over who was in line first… “I slept in my car last night, you’re just gonna cut me?!”

Terry reaches the safety of THE TREASURE CHEST, empty but for a single Chinese man in his 40s. “Hi do you work here?”

“I do, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to buy your entire inventory, how many Blipcoins?”

Terry stares at the man, wondering if he’s joking. “I’d have to consult the owner on that…”

“Can you? Oh that’d be so great, in China, where I am from, people will pay five times the price online for American comics and merchandise.”

Later on, Terry sits in an empty store except for a few remaining fantasy novels and old stuffed animals of Pikaman, a Japanese anime animal popular over ten years ago.

James is back from his break too, “so do we just close up shop now since China bought our whole inventory?”

Wishing it weren’t so, “we still have the Castle Invader series and a few plushies for sale, so we’re still stuck here until 6.”

“Great… A Game of Palaces knock off and two more hours of work. Plus we’re gonna be stuck here for Ad-Blitz.” James slumps even deeper into his cynicism.

Terry dusts off some shelves with a paper towel, the towel also has an ad: Get 50% Off Wings At Bimbos By Presenting This Towel. “What if I cleaned up dog shit with this towel, you think they would accept the coupon?”

Snapping out of it, “their wings taste like dog shit anyways, so probably.” James laughs at his own bad joke when a  YOUNG BOY enters, looking around bewildered at the absence of stuff.

“Hi do you have The Fabulous Four comic?”

“Uh I think we just sold them all to a 40 year old dude.” James can’t believe it himself.

“What about the Star Saga action figure set?” The boy isn’t going anywhere just yet.

“Also sold to a 40 year old dude. Sorry little man.” The boy frowns, walks out — when IT hits.

Out in the Mall corridor, A CARNIVAL SIREN fills the halls and several DRONES fill the halls air raid style. Several people try and run for the bathroom, as the drones drop ad-barriers in front of them —

The ad-barrier blurts out: “Watch this ad before you pee, or insert 10 Blipcoin to skip.”
One man happily complies, while a woman punches another barrier, which forces it to replay the ad — “Replay ad selected, three more ads will now show before admission to restroom.”

Caught off guard, “fuck — it’s ad blitz! Quick, make for the back room, maybe we can get out of it again.” Before they can move, an overly bubbly AD-DRONE enters the threshold of the store.

“50 Blipcoin to skip ad-blitz today, OR 10,000 to avoid ad-blitz for the rest of the month.”

Terry is furious, “what kind of shake down is this?! We already paid our ad-blitz fees!”

“I’m sorry, did you say replay ad?” Resistance is futile.

“No, I said we already paid the 10,000!”

“Now playing, 10,000 ads.” The ad-drone gears up for the long haul. Ads shoot out like rapid gun fire… Terry looks at James, they both nod — and split quick.

The two make a mad dash through a cacophony of THOUSANDS OF ADS playing all at once — Ads for paper towels, floor cleaner, classic rock tunes plastered over car commercials, kids toys, adult toys, movie trailers — James chimes in, “I don’t know why we can’t just go back to the model of paying actual rent to the owner of Smithson Malls, this ad-blitz crap is insane!”

The two round a corner when Terry slams into an AD-DRONE. “Featherweight is the leading brand in feminine hygiene –” Terry punches the drone out of the way, continues toward AN EXIT…

“We’re almost there!” Four Ad-Drones surround James in a glass box —

“I can’t get out of it, it’s a three-dimensional video ad!”

“Please wait 30 seconds before continuing to exit.”

Hopeless, “just leave without me, it’s OK! I have ad-block!”

Terry makes it out, THE BUZZ of ad-blitz can be heard from inside, it’s a lifeboat perspective of the sinking Titanic. Thirty seconds of running and Terry begins to wonder whether James has made it out, turning back toward the door from the parking lot, distant screams mixing with anxiety drug ads… “Come on James, use the ad block.”  Terry waits, fixated on the doors, but nothing.

Back in the mall nearest the exit, a pile of drones towers all the way to the ceiling, blinking and repeating their moniker: “Illegal contraband detected. Ad-Block forbidden…” There’s no sign of James, or anyone in the immediate area. The Drones moniker and beeping FADE TO….

A suburban living room. Terry sits on the couch, a worried expression on her face as she watches the local news. Several pop up ads appear over the INTRO THEME, before falling away to reveal the Anchor Desk. In the usual melodramatic anchor voice, “Ad-Blitz has claimed another four lives, bringing the death toll to 146 during the controversial programs operation in American Shopping Malls.”

The Broadcast is interrupted by a COMMERCIAL, abruptly — A legal ad: “Have you or your loved one by assaulted by ad-drones?”

Terry tries muting the television, a prompt appears: “mute not available during this program.”

“FUCK IT ALL TO HELL!” Terry picks up the television, ripping the chord from the wall, and SMASHES the TV. Her mother rushes in…

“Do you realize how many ads I’m going to have to watch to replace that TV?!”

“Maybe if we actually went back to paying for things in physical currency instead of watching ads people wouldn’t die!”

Like this is reasonable, her mother retorts, “it’s cheaper, Terry. Blipcoin is hard to come by these days.”

“You don’t find it even remotely disturbing that only the wealthy Silicon Valley elites who program the Blipcoins on their servers can afford to avoid ad-blitz?” Check mate.

“They spent their entire lives programming currency, redistribution of Blipcoin is socialist nonsense, I didn’t raise you to think like that.”

“Sometimes I’d rather live on a deserted island…” Terry thinks about this for a moment…

****

A beautiful land of palm trees, foliage-laden mountains and white-pearl sand in a oasis of tropical blue water. Terry has found herself in a makeshift hammock, beside a camp fire roasting wild meat. She rolls over to see: A SHINY OBJECT on the shoreline. She squints, but can’t quite make it out, so she decides to walk toward it…

A calm island breeze mixes with the rhythmic motion of crashing waves, waves which have washed ashore: A BOTTLE. Terry picks it up, it’s a bottle of BUDWASTED, she notices something blinking inside — when dread overcomes her, she CHUCKS the bottle but it’s too late!

An AD-DRONE escapes the confines of the bottle. “Please insert 50 Blipcoin to pass ads, or watch two ads to drink your next two BUSWASTED absolutely free!”

Terry falls to her knees… “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

END

Nothing Left to Lose

Sometimes in life, our only option left is to take a great risk in order to succeed…

Complacency is something which has come natural to me, like many others. You get into a routine, of financial security. There’s never a good enough time to take a risk because you’re secure. The thought of abandoning comfort for uncertainty seems irresponsible. That’s why there’s no greater time to take a risk than when your back is up against the wall.

I wanted to save a certain amount before going to LA. I knew I would hit my target by the summer. I didn’t get the chance. At the end of my office’s busy season, I was laid off six months after being hired. Instead of getting upset, I actually felt relief. I’m 3/4 to my savings already. Besides, in my complacency I was already talking myself out of a summer move because I told myself “you should save even more.”

The reality is that nothing was ever going to be enough.

I hated my job with a burning passion – I hated that job and it’s shitty culture more than anything I ever did for a living before. But I did my work without complaint. As they say, last to be hired, first to be fired. I wipe my hands of it now. Yet before this unfortunate event, I was almost growing used to the suffering because I was saving a lot of money.

Yet what good is saving if you don’t plan to somehow use those savings to better yourself? That’s where I find myself now. I have no choice but to escape complacency. I have no choice but to take a great risk or be left to take some other shitty job or low paying NY film job with no advancement opportunity. So without hesitation – before I could even talk myself out of it, I put the gears in motion for a move to LA.

I feel physically sick just writing it. I am terrified. I have no job when I get there. There is no security in this decision whatsoever. It feels financially reckless. Yet, it is my only option less I wind up in the exact same place I have been since I moved back from LA five years ago.

It is my only option or else I will wind up just spinning my gears in perpetuity with my next ‘day job.’ I will be 29 in three months. It sounds young, but it’s not. I need to commit to something or spend my life with regrets.

Complacency is awful. It is laziness. Most importantly- it is misery. The only thing stopping you from achieving your dreams is you. The reality is, I probably have more savings than many going out West. The reality is, I’ll find something – even if it’s not in film to start. Complacency is the result of lack of confidence, and to take risk requires confidence. Believe in yourself, it’s a small first step.

I wish it didn’t take such an awful set of events to force me to act. Yet I take my newfound situation as a blessing. This is the best thing that could’ve happened to me because it’s forced me out of complacency. If you find yourself spinning wheels, acknowledge it and take power over your situation in life before some awful external event does for you.

“You’re not the right fit for us at this time,” HR said. I couldn’t agree more. NY isn’t the right fit either. I’ve known that for a while. Now I act on it.

Reject complacency or forever live life with regrets. Life is an adventure, go explore.

Gender Discrimination in Hollywood Isn’t Just a Male Thing

I worked for a production company that made it a mission to hire more female writers and directors. Prior to my start, the company had already made databases of studio-ready female writers and directors (with numbers in the hundreds for both). It was at my recommendation that we also create a database to track female agents at major agencies (WME/IMG, CAA, UTA, Gersh, ICM, Paradigm). While the producers I worked for had contacts at these agencies, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and build more relationships. And so the talent agent database was born.

The theory behind the creation of the database was that women might be more likely to represent other women – or at least care about gender representation in the industry. As I began my exhaustive three months of research into agents and their client base, the opposite proved to be true. There was no statistical correlation between male and female representation by gender of the agent. Most “super agents,” those who represent the top talent in the business were still overwhelmingly male at all agencies. The top female talent also had male agents, and many big talents had several agents listed as representatives which included both male and female reps.

Sadly, the results didn’t shock us. To understand why women are no more likely to  support and shepard other women, it is important to understand the way the agency business operates. The agents are promoted to agent status only after a grueling period of assisting other agents, and rotating desks – often while making poverty wages for long hours. During that time, they develop relationships with existing talent and attempt to scout new talent primarily through their mentors contacts. Depending on their success, they are either promoted or remain at a desk.

This may seem like a good opportunity for women to seek out female talent, until you understand the prevailing philosophy in the agency business: women don’t bring in the money.  Whether male or female, young agents by the time they reach the level of agent are jaded. They are taught that certain genres make more money, and those genres are geared toward men and male audiences. Never mind that women might also like, write and direct those films — the fact remains that there is an implicit bias when it comes to seeking top dollar talent. After you’ve been working for starvation wages for years, taking a risk seems foolish. The result? Stick to the same formula and dated assumptions.

The solution to this problem is complex simply because nobody sees themselves as part of the problem. During a Star Wars panel, female super-producer Kathleen Kennedy stated, “We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do ‘Star Wars,’ they’re set up for success…they’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.” Kennedy was roasted for this statement, since what she was repeating was the same excuse the industry always uses when scouting and pushing talent: women have no experience. This simply isn’t true. Not only that, but Rogue One director Gareth Edwards was given an opportunity with Godzilla after a single indie. So too was Josh Trank — once attached to a Star Wars film himself.

Until women are scouted and pushed the same way as men, we cannot say that Hollywood is meritocratic. Until young agents are pursuing the many women that make and write great independent action and thriller films the way they pursued Edwards and Trank, we won’t be any closer to gender-equity. Back to the database at the start of this post; I know for a fact there are numerous women ready for the next step (based on festivals, box office and other critical metrics). Unfortunately, the agency database seems to almost directly contradict that given its lack of focus on female directors except for three or four names. It’s time to stop making excuses, stop promoting dated assumptions and implicit bias. Most of all it’s time to stop being lazy and do your due diligence when scouting talent. All it takes is some research. Unfortunately, too many are not willing to do it.

Are You The Weakest Link?

Gossip. It’s the office politics, the high school cafeteria chatter — and it’s the talk you pick up spending long hours on set or in the company of high profile people. If you want to continue to work among them, you better reassess your priorities when it comes to gossip.

This may seem like really straightforward advice but there’s a number of areas where it’s easy to give yourself a bad reputation without realizing it. So here are three things to avoid doing to prevent the label of gossiper and untrustworthy person.

1. THE BLOGGER

You go to work for a production, maybe even as an assistant to a director or producer. A writer from Variety, or perhaps a prominent film blog asks you for an update. You know never to leak anything to the press without consent from your boss, except they know that too. So they ask you to confirm something or use language like it’s already known. Unless your response is “no comment,” you’ve betrayed your boss and the production.

Yes, this true even if it’s just a small tidbit of information. Why? Because you’ve shown yourself to be untrustworthy. If you’re willing to leak a little detail, what’s to say you won’t leak something larger or more juicier? When working with above the line people, it behooves you to reveal nothing as discretion is of the utmost importance. Failure to be airtight in protecting their private life or active projects from leaks will jeopardize your position.

2. THE SOCIAL BUTTERFLY

A blog. Twitter. Maybe an anonymous message board used by industry folks. People love to anecdotally reveal their experiences in the business. The problem is if someone really wanted to they could figure out who or what you’re talking about.

I’m guilty of this myself on twitter and even on this blog. I even gave a former mentor a code name — now I avoid even subtweets aimed at him less someone try and put pieces together. I still very much want to work for him, and know not to reveal his identity. I am loyal and would never leak anything.

Always be wary how you come across on social media. The smartest working for those above the line just delete theirs or avoid interacting much online. You’re someone’s right hand – you shouldn’t be too accessible. You DEFINITELY shouldn’t be revealing things unintentionally, no matter how vague you think you’re being – you’re probably not.

3. THE TESTER

I’ve actually worked with people that would feed bull shit just to see if you’d repeat it. This is especially prevalent in set or crew work. Someone would start a rumor, just to see if you’d spread it. The idea is to test and see if you’re a loquacious person. By making it seem like they’re just in the know, gossiping themselves, they give the impression they’re in on it too. The reality is they’re testing you and this is their means of doing so.

The best way to avoid failing this test is to just not repeat things told to you. Even if you saw something firsthand, just don’t say anything. Don’t spread rumors yourself. Don’t trust the person telling you stories – chances are they’re feeling you out. Can you blame them? In a business that operates on maximum discretion trust is essential.

So those are my three main ways that you may unintentionally be labeled a gossipy person. Be aware of it, strive for self awareness and adopt a lower profile if need be. Keeping a highly active twitter or talking to the press is not worth sacrificing your career over. Being an assistant or even a writer on a studio payroll requires maximum discretion and selectivity in online presence. In fact deleting this blog and wiping my twitter is the best indication that I have moved on to bigger things or am working with VIPs 😉

New Capitalism

Earlier this morning I came across a provocative headline for a Forbes article on Facebook — “If It Doesn’t Change, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity by 2050.”

Meant to illicit clicks, it did its job. I read through the article but found myself somewhat perplexed by its conclusion – that we must adopt “new capitalism.”

What is this ‘new capitalism’ you might ask? Quite simply, what the author unintentionally advocated for was Marxism. While he used examples of start-up culture to illustrate the idea of labor owning the means of their production – it is not Silicon Valley who founded this economic philosophy. Unfortunately, here in America we’ve been sold a bad bill of goods about democratic socialism and its underlying Marxist philosophy because our schools have long indoctrinated us against anything but capitalism.

The Red Menace, communism, The Soviet Union – a bastion of evil, horrible living conditions and a people abused by autocratic rulers. It is a place where your neighbor might be ratting you out to the spies. The buildings all look the same and so too do the cities as a result. Planned cities, cities like Chernobyl, a crumbling relic of planed living shrouded in a toxic cloud of atomic dust. Big giant nuclear bombs and missile parades celebrating pure lust of power – of global domination and where America and capitalism and freedom is the enemy! The Domino Theory and the end of the world as we know it. Most importantly, where Marxism is the root of all this evil.

This is how American school kids are taught about Marxism. Any word tangentially associated with this great evil – the USSR – is by proxy considered anti-American and evil. So to discuss the actual merits of Labor owning the means of production (you know, real Marxism) is a complete non-starter. You can’t even broach the topic with most people born before 1985, and many after too.

That is because they live and have lived many generations in an America where they were taught by Boomers afraid of the red menace to fear communism and that socialism was a bridge to said evil. They believed and continue to believe and educate our kids that Capitalism will set you free – that it is a system which offers choice and prosperity. Communism these educators say offers no such choice, it is anti-freedom – or more specifically it is anti-American.

The education system in America is designed to intentionally obfuscate and propagandize corporate capital and consumption. It is designed to protect the status quo and keep you mindlessly strolling through shopping malls. So instead of a debate between two economic theories – one where labor owns the means of production (Marxism), the other where capital owns the labor class (Capitalism) – we get a Cowboy versus Indian story of good versus evil. And as a result, John Wayne is considered an American hero while writers trying to organize for better workers rights were blackballed from an entire industry.

So beyond this good versus evil nonsense taught in our schools what does Marxism, or rather “New Capitalism” look like?

It looks like Germany, where the board of companies like Mercedes are split 50-50 between the workers and the owners. It is in start-up culture, and companies like Google, where workers participate in profit sharing agreements so as to own a piece of the company themselves. It is in Italy, Germany and Nordic nations where in order to become CEO, you don’t graduate with an MBA and nab the job but work in every facet of the company as a worker beforehand. Workers owning the means of production mean that robber barons and titans of industry can’t screw them over because they can block that from happening because they own the means of their production instead of it being owned exclusively by the capital class.

On the government side of this equation, It is in Western European nations like France which has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. While they pay higher taxes, they pay less than we do out of pocket for superior care. In fact we pay more out of pocket for life’s necessities than Europeans do — but we don’t call it a tax. Although it should be treated as such, only we pay our tax to aloof corporate overlords instead of benevolent government.

What else is provided by said taxes?  University is subsidized – in many cases free – and only the brightest attend. For those where college isn’t an option, they train via trade schools and educate their kids in high school better than many American colleges do. They invest in science and research. They have state of the art facilities like CERN. Arts and letters are supported versus looked down upon as a waste of time. Many European high school students are better educated and more well rounded than Americans with bachelors degrees!

Americans have been sold a lie. Ask yourself why you can’t afford your healthcare premium/deductibles? Capitalism. Ask yourself why you can’t send your kid to the college of their dreams without incurring massive debt? Capitalism. Ask yourself why you can’t afford to buy a home when your parents could years ago? Capitalism. Ask why your wages aren’t keeping up with inflation and you can barely afford to feed your family? Capitalism.

Capitalism is socialism for the rich. It is the massive theft of Labor redistributed to the capital class at the expense of your economic well being. It is a system of freedom and choice, but only if you have lots of capital. Capitalism has an end stage, and that stage is upon us now – where only the rich have choice and opportunity. You have people making off with the whole damn pie while we are left fighting over the crumbs!

The only reason this is possible in America is because people still see socialism as a dirty word – associated with the USSR. They have been indoctrinated since childhood by a school system that sought to lie to them. A system which told them if they worked hard and did a good job, they’d be able to live the American dream. They lied.

But it’s not too late. We can have an honest debate about the merits of empowering labor, as Marx advocated – but only if we first get rid of the propaganda in our education, entertainment and political landscape. This will be a tough fight, but it is an essential one to have. Let’s go out there and fight for “New capitalism” – since socialism is such a dirty word.