Oy, a whole week between posts. I'm sorry. The fact is, I've been so busy for the past month, that I simply haven't had the time to write the usual drivel that often occupies this space. Even worse, I've had absolutely no time to read all the other great writers I like to spend time with every day.
What's the deal, you ask? I know I keep mentioning these big changes and a new job, and if you've actually been paying any sort of attention, you can probably put together the pieces. The short version involves leaving a major cable network for a local film festival; saying goodbye the stability of a corporate paycheck plus benefits for a short-term/seasonal gig and potentially a life of freelance .
The slightly longer story starts over a decade ago when UCLA and I decided to part ways with each other, just short of proof that our relationship had been consummated. I found myself working briefly as an entertainment journalist, writing and producing a daily entertainment news wire fax and show for radio stations around the country. The problem was, I didn't really want to be an entertainment journalist or a fixture on the junket circuit at the time.
I wanted to work in the film industry. Judging by the amount of time I spent in that post (less than six months), one would never have guessed that over the course of the next 11 years of full-time employment, I would basically have only three jobs.
The day after the Northridge Quake in 1994, my boss with unnamed independent radio syndication company called to tell me my show was being cancelled. This didn't come as a surprise – they hired me to write about movies and sold the show hip-hop, urban stations. The show I wrote was picked up by another syndicator (a larger, more major one) who started their own deal with the same entertainment cable network my employers had partnered with, and it's basically been a success ever since because it was sold to the right markets. But I'm not bitter.
No really, I'm not. Losing that job happened at an opportune moment, one that allowed me to go work for a small talent and literary agency in Beverly Hills. I started as the receptionist for $250 per week, and several months later was the assistant to the head of the agency. The only problem? I never wanted to be an agent, so I was kind of in the wrong part of the business.
I wanted to go work for a producer or director, but I also found myself very unhappy living in Los Angeles. I had become enamored with New York, never having lived here, but feeling more at home the few times I visited than I ever had in Southern California. Maybe it was my San Francisco roots (which admittedly – and rightfully -- breed an anti-LA bias). Whatever the case, I was determined to move to New York. That determination was tempered, however, by my middle class Jewish upbringing which dictated that one doesn't leave a job without another one in hand.
I spent a year looking for a job in New York from LA. It's hard enough to find a full-time job in the film industry in New York; it's basically impossible to do it from Los Angeles, at least from the relatively low level I was at. Again, stupidly enough, I was so focused on New York, I passed-up opportunities in LA that might have been good for me. But whatever – it all worked out, eventually. At least for a time. Sort of.
It was September 1996, and on a whim, I decided to take a trip to New York between the Jewish High Holy days. A friend of mine was coming to NYC to visit his family and said I could stay with him. While we were here, he and I had lunch with a client of his who at the time happened to be a personal assistant to Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. I mentioned that I was looking for a job in New York, although by that point, I had actually given up. He told me he could get me an interview at Miramax, but I didn't want to work there for all the reasons one hears. (I actually disagree with that thinking; I would have liked to have gotten in those doors back then. The thing about a place like Miramax, at least back in those days, is that from there, one can go anywhere. And more importantly, whatever the problems were with the various personalities there and the working conditions especially for the support staff, there are very few companies that can actually say boast always promoting from within as much as Miramax.)
He then told me about a job at a new division of HBO, working for the man who ran it. HBO NYC Productions was the cable network's East Coast original movie division. It so happened that the man in charge was friendly with my boss in LA, who supported me whole-heartedly in my job search. This lunch was on September 21 (I remember because it was my birthday). I started work on October 23. During the intervening month, I met my future boss' former assistant, then met him, got hired, sold my car, got out of my apartment lease, packed up 8 years of LA living, and moved to New York. I knew three people here, and two of them were a couple I had only met twice previously.
They were nice enough, however, to give me a couch for three nights before I moved into my new studio in the East Village, subletted from an actress who it turned out was about to serve time in Virginia for trying to kill her abusive husband. I didn't know this when I moved in, and that's a story for another time.
As time went on, things at HBO NYC changed, and my job became, unfortunately, but necessarily, more secretarial. Being a big corporation, HBO offers tuition reimbursement, and since I had never finished UCLA, I decided I wanted to go back to school while I could still get someone else to pay for some of it. I started NYU part-time in the evenings. It was hard because I still had one of those long-hour, full-time, film industry jobs, but I discovered that I really enjoyed school, for the first time in my life, actually.
Eventually, my boss got a big promotion, one that necessitated a move to Los Angeles. Not only did I have no desire to move back west, but it was also time for me to move on from that position. Luckily, I went through a "job elimination" process which means I actually received a small severance. I spent a few months looking for that great, next development job, but it just wasn't happening. All the while, I was loving school – studying literature, and film, and film and literature, and film studies, and media, and … you get the idea. But I still needed a job.
What do you know, HBO came a calling. Or rather, I called HBO. I was looking for something that wouldn't be as time consuming as what I had been used to. I wanted a job that would actually be 9-5 rather than some time early to some time late. I wanted a job that would work around my school schedule rather than the other way around. And I found such a job back at HBO in HBO Sports. My vested benefits picked-up right where they had left off as did my salary. It was a win-win situation, and in a year, when I had finally finished that nasty, evasive B.A. degree, I would resume my job search in the film world. I meant to work at HBO Sports for about a year, maybe a year-and-a-half.
Uhm … it's five years later now, and I held that job longer than any other job I've ever had. It was pretty cushy. I had a boss who was very supportive and understanding, even though he knew that I really didn't want to be there. I stayed so long due to a combination of poor fortune – not finding another job and/or not getting the jobs I did hear about and interview for – and complacency. It's hard, you know; hard to leave something stable and good, no matter how boring, tedious, mind-numbing and draining it may be. My job at HBO Sports was very easy (at least for me), and I don't really do well with easy.
Less than four years ago, after 9/11, Robert De Niro and his partner Jane Rosenthal announced they were starting a film festival in Tribeca. I had previously met with the then CFO of Tribeca Film Center, the woman who was going to run the first festival. I sent her my resume and said I would be interested in learning about jobs on the festival, but I did so too late. Instead, I was placed into the volunteer pool. I decided that I would take a week off of work to volunteer "full-time" for the festival, though. I figured it was a good way to see a bunch of movies for free, you know?
I wound up on the screenings team, the front-of-house volunteers making sure everything looks and sounds right in the theater and that the audiences get in and out. I really threw myself into the thing, basically staying beyond my shifts all day every day. The only thing I didn't do was see any movies.
OK, that's not 100% true. The volunteer coordinator had told everyone that we could potentially get into any film other than the major gala premieres which included About a Boy, Insomnia, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and Star Wars Episode I. Ironically, the only three movies I saw were About a Boy., Insomnia. and Star Wars Episode I.
Anyway, when Tribeca came around a second time, I called to see about being a paid house manager that year. I kind of wanted to be involved again, but I didn't really want to work as hard as I had without getting anything out of it, other than that "personal satisfaction" thing. But I called too late, and they were all staffed up already. They really wanted me to come back and volunteer again, though, as some sort of roving assistant house manager. Unpaid of course. They said I could come and go as I pleased and attend any movies I wanted. Of course, I'm sure they knew that if I was there, I would work, and I would throw my all into it. And that's what happened.
I talked to one of the people who ran the festival, though, and told her that the following year, I'd really like to work full-time, unless of course I had finally found a job that would preclude me from doing so. Well, 2004 rolled around, and I was able to arrange a leave-of-absence from HBO. I could go away for 10 weeks, work at Tribeca, and when the festival was over, my job would be waiting for me back at HBO. And that's what I did.
When last year's festival ended, I told my boss there that I would love to come back and work the 2005 festival, but I hoped that I wouldn't be able to. Guess what? I was able to, and there I am. But the difference between this year and last is that I'm not on leave from HBO. Instead, I've left HBO for good … at least for the time being. I've definitely left HBO Sports for good, however. It wasn't easy though. When the festival ends in May, I'll be unemployed. If I don't find something permanent by then, I'll be attempting that freelance thing for the first time ever. And that terrifies me.
But I was at a point where I really didn't have any choice. Sometimes things come easy, and sometimes we have to force them. I love working at Tribeca as much as I eventually disliked my most recent ex-job. It's not my job itself that's so fascinating – I'm the Screenings Coordinator this year – but I enjoy working on something I care about and believe in. It seems almost trite and overly-obvious to say, but I don't think people always pay attention to whether or not they care about the ultimate product of their endeavors. I took a pay cut, and the job will be over in under two months, but right now, in the immediate present, I'm happier than I have been since … well … I guess last year at this time.
I don't plan to completely disappear from this blog, at least not until the festival actually starts when I will likely be sitting at a computer basically never. However, posting might be lighter than usual over the next two months.
Anyway, that's the big change I keep alluding to. I quit my job for another job that only lasts 10-11 weeks. I don't have a huge savings account waiting to support me for months on end while I look for something else, so I'm hoping and searching for something else, and with a year of this blog and (now) something like 25 Gothamist Interviews under my belt, I'm hoping to maybe make a little bit of money writing. (Foolish, I know.)
So to all of you who actually made it this far: uhm, keep me in mind for a gig, ok? Oh, and come to the Tribeca Film Festival. This will definitely be the best one yet. Ooh, ooh, even better: volunteer! You could end up working with me, especially if you're dedicated, dependable and have tons of availability.
And while I don't like shilling for employment opportunities on this site, feel free to send any job leads my way. Just use that little email address at the upper left corner of the screen.