This is something that I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks, and it continuing to show to be true in this town, so I wanted to share. No matter what your primary title is, when you’re starting out in this town, you need to keep your eyes, heart, and mind open for many things; guarded, but open. You have no idea what things may be a blessing to you, and the things you thought would be your blessings may turn out to be something that harms you. One of the best ways I’ve found this to be effective is to find places to serve. Let’s look at that word “Serve”. This doesn’t mean drop everything and go into charity, but it means don’t be afraid of doing free work. It’s hard, I know, because “free work” automatically puts stress on bills and time, especially if it’s not in the field you call your primary profession. However, I’ve found that God works in so many mysterious and complicated ways, that I’ve been blessed more in free shoots than paid ones. Here are two examples that I’ve had in the past few weeks.
I was looking through my LA casting notices, when I came across a familiar name: Matthew Morrison. Apparently he was doing a music video, and they needed extras and background players. Sadly, the compensation section said “No Pay”. Mind you, just by submitting yourself does not mean that you automatically get into the production, so I thought “Why not?” So I submitted myself for it. The next day, I got an email saying I’ve been selected to be in their music video as “Young Couple”. It was exciting to know that I was going to be in a music video, but it was hard to know that it wasn’t paid. Then, the email said that we were shooting on the Paramount Lot! So I thought “Okay! I get to be in a music video for Matthew Morrison, and I get to shoot on the Paramount Lot!” So when the day came, despite the 7 am call, I was ready to go; a little hesitant in the morning because it was so early, but I still made my trek over there. I got there super early as well because I was so paranoid of being late, so I was there with just the 2nd AD and the producer. But I was able to just walk around the lot, looking at some awesome stages, including a pool stage with the sky backdrop thingy, which I got super geeked out over. When the day finally started, the Extras Wrangler called me over and said that I was now the Cab Driver. I was okay with that, so I went over to where they wanted me to be, and what car’s waiting for me? The famous 1950′s Checker Cab!! I got to drive that cab around!! So if you see that music video now and see that cab, yeah, that was me. After driving that cab, while waiting around with the other extras (Awesome people by the way), Matthew Morrison walks over to us and thanks us each individually for spending our day for free to help this dream of his come true! So yeah, we got pictures with him, and talked to him, etc. I couldn’t believe I was just standing there watching Mr Shou do his thing!! So even if the day had ended there, I would have been happy working for free. It was such a fun shoot to that point! But the day just kept getting better!! I was waiting around to see if they needed me for anything, so a few of us and I just sat around talking and walking over to craft services for the cold but absolutely tasty breakfast burritos, then from the dressing rooms, this man walks out who looked SUPER familiar…it took me a little while, but it was Ryan Di Lello from So You Think You Can Dance season 6!! Then I turn around, and there’s his wife Ashleigh Di Lello as well!! I just stopped and couldn’t move for a while. For some reason, I geek out over dancers more than I do actors or film people. For the entire time from then til lunch, I was trying to find a time to be able to talk to them, because they weren’t shooting quite yet. My new friends thought it was absolutely hilarious that I freaked out that much, but I didn’t care. Right after lunch, I found the perfect window of opportunity to go up to Ryan and strike up a conversation. So I did, and I ended up talking to him and Ashleigh for the next 20 some minutes while the crew finished setting everything up outside. I couldn’t believe that I was just sitting there talking to these two amazing dancers that I loved during the show! Then the last cherry on top was there was yet another So You Think You Can Dance veteran Ashley Galvan shows up as well! So I met three So You Think You Can Dance dancers, and Matthew Morrison in one day of free work. That in itself was incredible for me, but I also became pretty close to some of the extras I worked with. So with that one day that I decided to work for free, I met so many incredible people and had such a blast on the Paramount Lot. None of that would have been possible if I didn’t agree to work for free.
My second story has to do with serving at my Church. If you’re not a Christian and reading this, finding some place to serve like this is always a great idea. Towards the beginning of my stay here in Hollywood, I found it so difficult to connect with people and to have friends that made me feel at home. I had 2 friends, both of whom are girls, and if it weren’t for them, I would have given up a long time ago. However, it was hard not to have any male friends. I didn’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t connect with the guys at church or alums from the LAFSC program, or at least the ones I met up to that point. I was at the verge of giving up with Mosaic when I don’t know how this happened, but I signed up to be a book club host of the new series Mosaic is doing. Of course, I chose the most awkward time (Mondays at 1 pm) so I didn’t get many people signed up at all. However, at the meeting, I met this really cool guy that I instantly connected with. We hung out for the rest of the night after having just met! Turns out, he was one of the leaders of the ambiance team at Mosaic (The ambiance team decorates the church before people arrive. Since I help out at the evening team, we light candles, set tables and chairs on the patios in their right places, etc.) This was the week of Easter, so Easter was the Sunday coming up. I find out that this guy was in charge of decorating a big portion of the church for Easter Sunday, so I offered to help that Saturday. It was an all day feat, but it sounded like fun. When I got there, it seemed odd at first because I came late so everyone had already started. But as the day went on, I was able to help get a lot of things together. The theme was an oasis, so we had tons of palm trees and flowers all over the place to make it look like an oasis. It really turned out beautifully. While I was helping out, I got to meet some of the other volunteers and the other leaders as well. One of the people I met that is sort of the point of this story, is a find arts photographer. I’ve never heard of it, so we traded information, and we ended up talking about what we both specialize in. He had just moved from Oregon a month after I moved here, so at this point he had only been around for a few weeks. As we continued to talk, I found out he was working on a music video, and he found out that I’ve had experience with editing film with music and dance in them. In the following few days, he contacted me to see if I wanted to help him with that music video! So we met to talk about it. Now, at this point, both of us had looked each other up; he had watched my films on my website, and I looked through all of his pictures on his. In addition to his photography, he had a book he wrote that he was selling! It was a little pricy for me at the moment because I still don’t have a job, but I really wanted to read it. On the way to the meeting I even thought about asking if I could just see a copy and read it. When I got to the meeting, he pulls out this white package wrapped real nice and hands it to me. It was his book! I thought it was hilarious that I was just thinking about asking him if I could borrow one, and he just gives me a copy! The meeting was great, though it was hard to know what steps to take from there due to some complications, but when I got home, I read through that book in 20 minutes. I normally do not cry watching movies or reading books, though there are exceptions. Up to this point, I had never cried reading a book. It was such a beautiful story, and his photography was such an excellent companion to the story. After reading it, I sent him a text message thanking him for the book, and telling him how much I loved that story. Then I received a text that had a jokey tone to it, talking about maybe turning this into a movie. I jumped on that boat so fast, and whipped up an outline and a binder (with nothing in it yet, but I printed labels and everything), because in my mind, this story lends itself so healthily into a feature length film! So I met with him again and presented the idea, and he loved it and agreed to let me make this film! So I somehow ended up landing my first feature on my 22nd birthday! (Yes, Best Birthday gift EVER!!) Ever since then, the two of us have been tossing more film ideas at each other. This happened just because I somehow decided (still don’t know how) that I was going to host a book club for Mosaic. I’m not in any position to lead anyone spiritually, nor am I equipped enough to host people into my home (which is why we meet at a Starbucks down the street haha), but I just went with the idea, and look where it’s lead me. Though it’s still not easy in the financial department (seriously, around $20 left for the rest of the month) I have community, a place to serve (I serve with the ambiance team every Sunday), good friends, fellow talented artists who want to work on projects with me, and support. Who knows where things will take me from here, but I’m excited to see where my path leads. I feel like this is a very good place to be. I’m still struggling to get by, but you know, what fun would it be if there was no struggle? It wouldn’t mean much either. This city, though I’ve been here for a little less than 3 months now, has become a place I can call home, and it’s because I found a place, not the place I want to land in forever, but a place that I can contribute. Keep your eyes, heart, and mind open. You never know what’ll be thrown your way. Just make sure you just keep swimming, and never give up. That’s my little speel for today!