Day Job Blues

I’ve come to that point many arrive at where you begin to question an action you took. I moved to LA somewhat spontaneously after talking about it for many years. The impetus? I was getting older, and the final push was losing a miserable day job in a series of layoffs. I had reached about 65% of my desired savings (a year’s rent- or roughly $15,000). I was initially going to move by the Fall, but alas here I am in July- almost August. Here for three months now and I’ve begun to reflect on this decision.

I moved out here with the long term career goal of becoming a writer-producer. Yes I know, like thousands of other kids who move here every week. From Tribeca Films to assisting an Academy Award nominated producer, working production and doing script coverage around various day jobs at home I figured I’d find something here easily. After all, I have experience, references and a decent network. That network got me added to an elite recruitment seminar -only offered to less than 1% of applicants- at one of the three letter talent agencies. I was 28, everyone else was 22 and right out of school and despite my experience, being a top performer in my recruitment class and having an in with a partner there, I wasn’t hired. I was told to try again in October, and I don’t plan on it.

That rejection disheartened me greatly. Despite picking up set work afterward and expanding my network, I was still crushed. How do you measure progress in an industry which is not merit-based? It’s a question I still can’t answer. While I continue to write and get read, and offers for reads, I am back in the position I was in New York: working a day job to pay the bills while hoping for a career path to materialize.

I should add that hope isn’t the right word- I have every intention of working hard to make things happen. However, I need to get a year lease first and that’s not going to happen on a production gig-based job. You need a 9-5 in order to pass a rental application. Having spent almost half of my savings on the inflated cost of a furnished sublet, I don’t have the financial luxury of toiling in industry gig or temp jobs hoping one pans out and turns full time.

That’s the kicker, being financially independent means pursuing industry work is often a financial burden. Even if I got that agent training job, I’d only be making $13/hour. Literally. That’s it. Plus time off the clock. I would’ve had to live in a ghetto or with multiple roommates to afford it. So I have wound up in the same place I was before I moved, working a day job I dislike while wishing things could’ve turned out differently. Then that thought process turns into “why did I move at
all?”

I remind myself that a day job in LA is infinitely better than one in New York. It means being where the work ultimately is and provides me the ability to network. I’ve already gotten more requests for reads just living here than I did based in New York. People take you more seriously as an aspiring writer in LA than one anywhere else. While my near term goal is hopefully assisting a writer or producer, working for a well known billionaire’s company isn’t bad either. It’s actually great experience to add to a resume.

Finally, many writers wait tables, have side gigs. Even more are doing the same outside of LA. Those who are in LA often can’t afford to work in the industry and if they can it affects the amount of time they have to seriously write.

I am reminded of a recent panel interview THR did during last year’s Oscar season. Several high profile nominees were asked about their days jobs prior to success. Mel Gibson worked in a factory. Denzel Washington was a garbageman. Barry Jenkins mowed lawns. Oliver Stone was everything from a merchant sailor to a temp on a porno film. But when the opportunity arose to do something better, they did and sealed the deal with hard work and dedication.

It’s a reminder that life is hardly a straight path. The decision to move here hasn’t paid off yet. I do know that being here provides me with opportunity that being elsewhere would not. When that opportunity arises I will be ready for it and work my butt off for success. I will work harder than any of my competition if someone gives me that chance. For now I have to make money any way I can, get into a year lease and return to industry work once fully settled. It’s hard to assess risk-reward, because it takes a while for the reward part but I know I wouldn’t be in any position for reward if I hadn’t taken this risk in the first place.

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