Urban Camping

The Week Of Moving has descended upon us. I've already started preparing for my move from Chinatown to Hollywood, putting small knick-knacks inside of small boxes inside of bigger boxes with no apparent organizational strategy. Except for underwear. Underwear goes in the underwear drawer.

Undie I-know-exactly-where.

Undie I-know-exactly-where.

There's not much to report on the home front since the movement aspect of the move hasn't happened yet. And who knows how long until you'll hear from me after it does, since apparently the keepers of Time Warner are unable to grace us with their presence for another week and a half. We also can't move/find a fridge until next weekend. And so, Casey and I are preparing ourselves for a week of wondrous

URBAN CAMPING

úr●ban cámp●ing: (n., v.) The phenomenon or act of camping in a minimalist and otherwise rugged outdoors manner, while indoors; usu. out of necessity or against the sole alternative of actually camping outdoors; originating from the Greek phrase ástegoi idioktí̱ti̱s spitioú, meaning "homeless homeowner." Ex: Technically we were supposed to be out of the dorms a week ago, but going home means being nagged by my parents to get a job, so I'm just urban camping until security notices.

Sans fridge and internet, Casey and I will endure the cruel elements of a hardly-furnished apartment, with little else besides a mini fridge, stove, fireplace, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 4G lte plan to sustain ourselves. I hope you will all keep us in your prayers.

~Click the heart below if you love clicking on hearts.~

Little Boxes Made of Panic A-Ticky-Tacky

What was meant to be the third act of my grueling LA apartment search is now taking a whole new twist.

And everybody's doing it.

We FLIPPING NAILED a HACKIN' apartment. In WIGGITY-WACK HOLLYWOOD.

The journey in happy sporadic panic attacks has ended earlier than scheduled. Leaving just one awful thing to do...

WAIT.

Waiting to move into a new ultra-shmancy apartment is the first item on the list of first world problems, especially when the stakes are as low as they are. I have my current place through the first week of February, affording me a very cushy overlap between apartments. But I think my brain was sprinting with such an extreme amount of anxiety and incipient panic that it wasn't ready to rejoice.

My brain knows me so well.

My brain knows me so well.

So we have a place secured, the deposit and first month is done, we have keys, and a very low-stress timeline for figuring out how to get all of our junk into this place.

AND THE WORLD FEELS LIKE IT IS ON FIRE.

It's textbook insanity. In the same way my stomach feels like it's eating itself whenever I get super hungry, my brain is thinking itself into a stress-induced black hole. I keep catching myself spiraling into bouts of extreme worry. Which is silly the second I think about all the amazing things about this place:

  • 2 bedrooms / 2 bathrooms
  • 2 parking spots (!!!)
  • Balcony (!!!)
  • Fireplace (!!!)
  • Ample closet space
  • Cute as fuh
  • Safe 'hood
  • Walking distance to the metro line that will take you the most places
  • Walking distance to a bazillion restaurants and bars (though I will no longer be able to afford them thanks to the cost of rent)
  • Close by all the important stores for my production design work
  • Co-occupied by my best friend and roommate veteran
    • who is also vegetarian and also loves bright colors and also intends to get balls-deep in home deco crafting
  • Super close to the boyfriend and the friends that come with the boyfriend
  • Not nearly as outrageously expensive as it could be
  • Has a living room! [insert Baptist choir]

When I review these bullet points I get pretty excited, and then seconds later I relapse into a goldfish and start frantically wondering if the place is only a good deal because it's haunted by an ill-natured Armenian pimp.

This entire apartment hunting experience has been very enlightening, and I would like to be a personal testimonial that it is indeed possible to find a desirable place to live in LA for under $52,000 a month.

Some tips. 10, to be exact.

10 Tips for the LA Apartment Hunter

  1. Expand your horizons beyond Craigslist. I seriously had 7 apartment finder apps on my phone (that I ritualistically uninstalled the same night we got our place... tré cleansing).
  2. Search constantly. You will develop a vision problem and a double-chin with the amount of time you spend staring down at your phone and computer for places. It is a full-time job, which was great for me, since I don't have one of those.
  3. Call the second you see a place you want to visit, and schedule it ASAP. Don't wait, and don't email them if there's a number you can call. Use what you learned at that summer internship and be proactive on the phone.
  4. Establish early on what your criteria are. For me it was good access to the freeway and to East LA, viable parking options, and a low property-crime neighborhood. For Casey, it was metro access, and a balcony. JK BUT WE TOTALLY GOT ONE SO WOOHT
  5. Come to your viewings prepared. Casey and I learned our lesson early. Have all your information available to fill out the app then and there if possible. Bring cash for a credit check. Bring copies of pay stubs or proof of income. Bring your checkbook. Be that guy.
  6. Be persistent. Lots-- by which I mean like 90%-- of landlords are flakes who are not invested in calling you back. Just in general be prepared to be underwhelmed by landlords. Many of the people we called sounded like their phones were from 1987. And I shit you not, I called one listed number that turned out to be a fax machine. How does that mistake even happen?!
  7. Be prepared for sudden decisions. God help us if all parts of the world are like this, but most places want you to come visit the place Monday, process the app Tuesday, and move your ass in by Wednesday. Casey and I were way too paranoid to begin our search 1 week before move-in, which is the average timeline.
  8. Do your neighborhood homework. Walkscore is the tits. It straight up tells you how safe your neighborhood is. It will also tell you about public transit, and how close the nearest gay bar is.
  9. Pay attention to vibes. Casey and I saw places that "would work," but we vibed hard on the last two places it came down to. If it feels right, it's right. Probably.
  10. It doesn't hurt to hit the pavement. Sometimes you gotta kick it old school! Our hunt came down to this place and one other one, which we only found because I drove around looking for "FOR RENT" signs. It wasn't listed on any site we could find, and it was AMAZING. Some landlords don't know how to internet, and if you spend the time going out to find those places you'll have a lot less competition!

If you have any further questions about the apartment searching process feel free to pose it in the comments below. I am permanently scarred and full of sacred wisdom.

Back in L.A.ction

One week back in LA and I'm happy to be breathing in that sweet, sweet air pollution.

While it would be far from a fair comparison to hold Rochester and LA side by side, I gotta say, LA is really good at making you forget how boring other parts of the world are. It wasn't until I moved out here that, when I went to any other city, all I could think was "WHY IS THIS PLACE ONLY RITE AIDS AND SUBWAYS."

No, Jared. NO.

No, Jared. NO.

Things in the land of glittery expensive distractions have been fine since my return. I'm applying for more PD projects, doing some work from home, and beginning the hunt for a new apartment.

Which is big news!

Not only because I'm spiritually/geographically moving up in the world, but because this will probably be the only thing I blog about for the next month or so. Get ready to hear all my thoughts on linoleum and double parking spaces!

I'm looking for a new place primarily because I think I've outgrown my current living space. It makes me sad, because I love it here. My little Rubik's cube of a bedroom has served me well this past 21-some-odd months... first and foremost by being unfathomably affordable. But especially when your line of work (are we calling it my "line of work" yet?) involves storing and accumulating props, it seems necessary to have a place to put those. Not to mention it's kind of difficult working/playing/entertaining in a room that-- FACT-- is the ring box Prince William used to propose to Catherine. Perhaps the biggest tragedy, aside from lack of a living room, is that I don't live with my bestie Casey. She currently lives 12 whole minutes away, but problem solved, now we're going to live together! You can take the college out of the college roommate, but you can't take the roommate out of the college roommate. Did I do that right?

It's been a swell experience in my first LA apartment. Chinatown has been a fun cultural Scooby Snack... I feel like I have a solid knowledge of what it has to offer and what it's about. If Chinatown could talk, it would say, "Can't we all just quietly tend our gardens and cook weird overpowering fishy-smelling meals in peace?" Yes, Chinatown, we can. Inside of you.

Casey and I are in the early stages of apartment hunting. We're keeping an open mind about areas to move to, and Chinatown isn't ruled out, so maybe my Good Bynatowns are premature. Guess you'll hear more about it in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for offensive LA maps!

Oh behave!

Oh behave!



Season's Grievings

Greetings from vacation-land... I've had no time/willpower to blog the week before vacation, but all the time in the world during.

Possibly because I'm spending the holidays in Rochester.

I haven't been to New York in six years or so, but I distinctly remember the areas I visited last time being significantly more happenin' than Rochester. I was checking out Pratt Institute, where I was considering going for school. In the end, I felt I could get further ahead in life as an LA douche bag than as an NY snob.

Rochester is not The City. Rochester is A City. The trendiest areas exist in strip malls with laundromats. Every part of town is the part of town that “gets sketchy at night”. And the sun goes down at 4pm. The city is primarily sustained by the Kodak plant which, as you may guess, has not been doing so hot in the past decade. And I don't know if this is a Rochester thing or a my-grandparents thing, but, pimiento loaf? What the literal fuck?

Because who wouldn't want to eat a bologna replica of their reflection from age 14 to 20.

Because who wouldn't want to eat a bologna replica of their reflection from age 14 to 20.

I bash fondly on my mom's hometown though; there are actually a lot of charming qualities to Rochester. The homes are large, old, and beautiful-- driving down the street I feel like there must be a Jane Austen novel being reenacted in all of them. There are picturesque little dobs of snow on the sides of the road, despite it actually being pretty sunny and moderate out. By some Christmas fluke the weather has hovered in the high 30s to 40s. I don't know which celestial beings to thank for THAT, seeing as the warmest article of clothing I own is the Matrix trenchcoat I used for my Halloween costume. Oh yeah, and things are pretty cheap out here. Except for at Wegman's... the obese lovechild of a CostCo and Gelson's. LA prices but HOT DAYUM that bakery section.

We spent today at the Strasburgh Planetarium, learning about planets and watching... what some flyer called the “holiday planetarium light show” but was more like projections of a Windows 93 screen saver.

For reference, the 3-D maze wasn't introduced until Windows 95.

For reference, the 3-D maze wasn't introduced until Windows 95.

Now that we've done that, I don't know what we're going to do for the next four days. I might just steal the rental car and drive up and down the freeway, enjoying my vacation from the 10, 101, 5, and 405. That's what vacation is really about.

That and family... unfortunately. I would never volunteer my life to be made into a family Christmas comedy, because there would be nothing funny about it. Here's how the pitch would go:

“It's the discomfort and anxiety of The Family Stone, meets American Beauty, without anyone learning or changing anything about themselves and there's absolutely no poetic justice. Also the cinematography won't be great.”

It is actually very cool to see my relatives this year, since I haven't seen this particular limb of the family tree in a very long time. It's been a treat seeing them. My anxiety is really just concentrated to one family member who knows exactly which cattle prod to jam into my side. I guess that's true for most people... there will always be people in the bloodline who are good at getting it boiling. Still learning how to react/not-react to that.

Well, since you won't be hearing from me 'til after the fact, happy holidays and may your iron pokes not poke you and may your blood not boil. We'll see each other soon, probably about 10 pounds heavier than the last time we met.

Jabba say click heart below <3

Oh Nick-Hell-No-Deon

After a (quasi) two-day hiatus from anything related to theatre, I feel fresh and ready to face the next coming weekend... which is two matinee shows, so, ain't nobody gettin' crazy anyhow.

Except for this guy... but then again, Jorge was always different.

Except for this guy... but then again, Jorge was always different.

Now wouldn't you know it, but what should arrive in my mailbox the other day but a postcard from the Nick Writing Program, soliciting a call for entries... since the deadline is February 28th.

what the what.gif

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST 8 TO 11 MONTHS OF MY LIFE?!

Besides the obvious reasons that are so colorfully detailed each week in my blog. All of a sudden the holidays are upon me, I haven't purchased or made a single gift for anyone, and I have to pick a goldmine spec script out of my butt. Sorry not sorry for phrasing. I don't even know what to do. My writing group is out of session, and if you recall, the script I submitted last year took several months-- about half a year-- to fine tune and perfect before I was rejected and bereft a $30 submission fee.

I don't even know what show to spec. Last year I submitted a Bob's Burgers spec which was actually pretty convenient, since the show's popularity took off soon after I had committed to completing and polishing the script. I have an Always Sunny spec that has been collecting dust with all the other rudely chiseled hunks of material I've got locked inside my documents folder... but Always Sunny isn't fresh anymore; in fact, it's the epitome of overdone. I don't know how much I've discussed the process of "picking a show" before, but your spec-- on top of being written better than any typical episode of the actual show-- has to score high along some arbitrary "hot or not" criterion that is pretty much entirely subjective and undefinable, yet immediately identifiable. Maybe on the other side of the plasma curtain there's some scientific algorithm that calculates the perfect "trending" show to spec, but for the little mortal writers pathetically trying to poke our little noses into the room, the best we can do is go off a hunch.

"No Quasimodo, I don't have time to give you feedback on your Seinfeld script. Now come on, ring the bell for your public beheading or else we'll all be late."

"No Quasimodo, I don't have time to give you feedback on your Seinfeld script. Now come on, ring the bell for your public beheading or else we'll all be late."

If a show is too popular, it'll be overdone and the judges will roll their eyes and be insanely bored. If a show is too old, then it was probably too popular a few years ago and the judges will experience the nostalgia of being insanely bored. If a show is too new, the judge may not have seen it and your character analysis will go straight over their head. If a show is too vulgar or controversial, writing programs like Nickelodeon or Disney may symbolically throw your script into a toilet.

So where the hell is your middle ground? I think I was very lucky in that the middle ground found me last year. When I first set out to write my Bob's Burgers spec, many people warned me that the show wasn't widely known and that I should be careful of judges not "getting" my script because of that. Weh-heh-heh-heeyl, the timing worked out such that Bob's Burgers as a show really took off in popularity a month or two after I submitted my script. And while I can't even fathom what the conversation (if any) was about my script, I can probably assume that my script stood out slightly among the 1 zillion 30 Rock and Always Sunny specs.

That all being said, it still didn't make the gravy.

My script is a repressed and overworked 50s housewife who just can't seem to get Thanksgiving right.

My script is a repressed and overworked 50s housewife who just can't seem to get Thanksgiving right.

So, courtesy of Nickelodeon's call for submissions-- as I'm sure they're really scrounging for applicants-- I've been kicked into sit down and shut up and stop watching Trailer Park Boys and write a damn script mode.

Worse comes to worse I re-submit Bob's Burgers, with all the changes I assume people are pointing to when they don't laugh at the jokes when I read it aloud.

Because I am here to entertain you. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, NICKELODEON?

 

And as always, click that little heart down there so I can keep my ego inflated.

Out of the Fryer and into the Deep Fryer

A nearly two... three? weeks' lapse in posts as I have been a busy little bee. At the moment you've caught me mid-Starbucks, post-rehearsals, and pre-other shit I gotta do before tomorrow. It has been a hectic and mostly non-stop two weeks-- except for Thanksgiving, which was actually a gratuitous amount of relaxation. It definitely didn't cushion the fall back to reality.

Two weeks ago I was on set shooting a short with the same crew I worked with on another project earlier this year. It feels good to work with people you've worked with before... you get a better shot at anticipating what's ahead, you forge relationships, yadda yadda yadda. Though this shoot called for a lot more than the last: 4 locations, 5-6 art set-ups, wheelchairs, gushing blood... madness, I tell you, madness! But a good testament to the love of your profession is when you recognize yourself loving it even when you're hating it. Most shoots get there at one point or another: you're sitting in the corner all huddled up like a little production Grinch and thinking "MYEH this!" and "MYEH that!" and you can feel a little Charles Schulz-esque cartoon rain cloud being sketched over your head.

But the feeling isn't deep-seeded... it's a momentary aggravation that dissipates the second the project wraps and is then replaced by, "Let's do that again!"

This is quite a masochistic profession.

That being said, I sprinted right out of that last shoot into tech for this play I'm doing scenic design/props/etc. for. It's been many a moon since I've lived dat backstage lyfe. Our opening night is tomorrow, and we've been at the theatre running through the show all week. Throughout the week I find I've been experiencing the following emotions:

1. Stress

2. Discomfort

3. Aggravation

4. Guilt/self-degradation

I am shocked by the negative emotions culled by simply participating in this play, especially since I love theatre, I love this particular show, and I work with some pretty great people (like, my boss got me a power drill as an early Christmas present... THAT great!). Yet I sit backstage, quietly baffled by my visceral response to being backstage. I don't know whether I've shared this before, but theatre is my roots... it's in my blood!

And, regrettably, yearbooks.

And, regrettably, yearbooks.

So it is really a strange thing to come back to it after all this time and feel this way. But as I psychoanalyze myself and try to figure out what is "really going on," I truly believe it boils down to a couple things: my nervousness that I will be judged, and my sudden confrontation of ways in which I have not changed for the better over time.

POINT A: BEING JUDGED. This is my first time actually designing the set for a play. I've tip-toed around the position before... I've been a prop master for plays, I've helped build and paint sets, I've managed the "artistic aspects" per se of shows I've directed, and totes obvi my current line of work is pretty similar... but dang, hombre, I'm so outta my element!

All 118 of them!

All 118 of them!

It's a very different mindset and skillset. I want the set to be perfect-- which is TOTALLY reasonable-- but hiccup after unresolvable hiccup keeps happening and I'm falling over myself to keep up. This and that and the other thing are all wrong, and I can't do anything about them at this point. And they can't be edited around or photoshopped in post... it's all me out there. If the foam brick falls off the wall, that's my shitty craftmanship. If there are glaring wrinkles on the backdrop fabric, well fart sounds, that's Ms. Jessica Dearest. And with nothing and no one to hide behind, I feel very vulnerable as an artist. I don't know whether this is the cause or result of my constant scrutiny over details of this painfully simple set, thinking to myself, "That looks cheesy. That looks awful. That looks fugly."

POINT B: MOMENT OF SELF-AWARENESS. In high school, I wasn't scared to be loud or go up on stages and be a dumbass in front of people. I did it even when people politely asked me not to. Now, walking four steps onto a small stage in total darkness to remove a set of chairs feels like a televised audition for American Idol. What the hell! Here I've been so proud of myself for the ways in which I've come into my own since being a socially awkward blob in high school, and now I've discovered that I've become more shy and reserved. This blows, man!

Wasn't that refreshing to have all my negativity and self-depracation dumped onto you?

I need a major turn toward the positive to get me through this play. A simple change in mental state. The external factors aren't the issue, so let's poke at the internal.

Let's create a mantra!

And drink matcha!

And avoid manowar jellyfish!

(they're coming for you anyway.)

(they're coming for you anyway.)

Jessica's Stop-Needlessly-Hating-Everything Mantra

There's no need to hate things.

It's better to love things.

When things suck,

It's better to love them.

When people anger you,

It's better to love them.

When you hate yourself,

It's better to love yourself.

 

Now let's get out there and stand behind a curtain for 90 minutes!

I Got Nothin'

Life with one job has been a dream come true. Time seems less like the enemy... more like a completely ambivalent security guard watching you walk your dog from the other side of the street.

I'm slowly relearning how to do the dishes.

Laundry still needs work.

I'm still tired though.

I've been thinking about grilled cheese all night.

This is just a lame blog night. Maybe I'll come back with something better, or maybe I'll just come up with some sort of ingenious diversion to distract from the sheer apathy seeping out of my thoughts.

Golly, does this grilled cheese look great or what!

Golly, does this grilled cheese look great or what!

 

 

Secret Life of the American Twenty-Something

If the past two weeks has been a testament to anything, it's that a lot can happen in two weeks. Hey, that was an observation!

Where to  begin?

At the beginning, of course.

At the beginning, of course.

Well, in the realm of personal life and life as a slowly wrinkling human slugging along the asphalt landing strip of life, I attended my school's homecoming last weekend. The only school-related thing I did was act the way I did in school, by showing zero involvement or interest in what my school was up to. I did, however, rally for a straight weekend with my ratchett-drinking fraternity fam. It's perhaps somewhat arrogant of me to act like I'm all old and shit at the green age of 23, but it did truly feel like stepping into some 80s-movie CGI mirror that aged me back into a college student. Partying with like 15 other people in one apartment, drinking cheap-ish beer and cheap-ful champagne, scraping up enough money for everyone to get a burrito from Taco Bell... those were the days. I think we were all stunned and overjoyed to find that we really missed all being together in one place like that. I don't think we even knew how to consort with each other as "adults," so we just defaulted back into the college years. Since this is officially the last year that I really know or have friends at my school, I think I will come to appreciate these moments more. They're no longer readily available to me, unless I wanted to pull the asshole/creeper "I'm an alum and I'll sock you if you don't let me into your college party" card. I'm not saying I want to. I'm just saying I could.

In the realm of work life, I have had a couple exciting and turbulent changes. Most recently, as in, today, I stopped working at the agency. Kind and positive experience though it was, I am happy to feel a little less like Mr. Centipede:

Though I wish I had that many arms, and a giant edible boat house.

Though I wish I had that many arms, and a giant edible boat house.

My attentions are now turned towards working for boss-chita numero uno, and something else that I don't want to talk about until it's 100% confirmed. I am a very, very secretive person.

/jokethatisitsownpunchline

In the realm of #setlife, the very secretive web installment I've been a quasi-part of wrapped late last night. I've been peeking on the internet to see whether any of the parts are released unto the web, but to they have not yet un.

In the realm of random awesome life, I discovered my new favorite Halloween tradition: The Rise of the Jack O' Lantern in Descanso Gardens. Best friend Casey told me about it and we knew we had to check it out... it's like the jack-o-flippin' Halloween equivalent of the Del Mar Fair holiday of lights! Which, for anyone who isn't from that particular blot of San Diego, is a crazy display of Christmas lights and decorations that you can drive your car through on the racetracks during the holiday season.

If the Holiday of Lights were a 90s video game.

If the Holiday of Lights were a 90s video game.

In the same way the Holiday of Lights transforms the racetracks for Christmas, The Rise transformed Descanso Gardens for Halloween. These pumpkins were bananas, y'all!

And not the other way around.

And not the other way around.

I don't know how else to describe it other than a haunting, whimsical jack-o-wonderland. It was a walk-through of amazingly carved pumpkins-- intricate and ranging from the hyper-realistic to the utterly fantastical. I couldn't possibly pick a favorite carving; there were so many. Movie stars, video game characters, skeletons, the solar system, effin' dinosaurs. They basically thought of everything you could do with a pumpkin and did it! Though nothing you could really take a picture of, because phone cameras aren't equipped to ensnare the magical glow of jack-o-lanterns. Here are my finest Instagrattempts:

As if this wasn't the best thing you could be doing with your life already, there's booze there, too! They straight up sell beer and wine you can drink (/chug) as you walk through the gardens. Who invented this and will they please hire me to be a professional carver next year?

Lastly, in news you don't care about, I'm in the process of putting my Halloween costume together and I am most excited. Again, being the sneaky lil' secretive nuisance that I am, I won't tell you what I'm going to be. Just know that it will be great. And the teensiest bit obscure.

I was on set far too late last night. *yawn* Luckily, my blogging office is also where I sleep!

 

...My bed. My blogging office is my bed.

 

[[Click the adorable little heart below so that I can quantify my popularity. Thanks for reading, chicka-dee-dee]]

DAWN OF A NEW DOMAIN ERA

Oh yeah baby, you're reading this post from my new red hot sexy website! This project has been lodged in my brain for pretty much the last year and a half and didn't really get kicked out of the idea-nest until I was jobless and felt some sense of urgency. Well, it's finally unleashed into the world and out on the prowl. For what? Clients. And marshmallows.

Watch your asses, marshmallows.

Watch your asses, marshmallows.

It'll take you two shakes of a lamb's tail to figure what we do here at Jessica Miller Creative Services. Our multi-billion-dollar corporation provides joke editing services for comedy writers, and production design/artistic director services to the creatively wanting. We will dispatch one of our 50+ production designers to help breath art and life into your otherwise dull set and/or roommate's parents' house. And maybe, if you're lucky, Jessica herself might be the one you get. It's doubtful though. She's usually pretty busy up on the seventeenth floor of her Century City office.

WORLD'S FUNNEST FACT: I didn't really know jack or jane about photoshop until I decided that I wanted to create my logo. Through trial and error, and many obtuse Google searches that may only be published when I'm on my death bed, I eventually made my first successful "graphic design."

This unpaid intern just got more desirable.

This unpaid intern just got more desirable.

As an FYI all future blog posts will be made directly via my website. No more Blogger. It served me well... but alas, it is no longer 2003, or whatever year Blogger was popular.

So, on to the good ol' fashioned [[bologna]] blogness. GUESS WHAT I HEARD.

The LA Philharmonic!

One second you're sitting in a parking lot drinking beer, but because you're doing it on Larchmont it's a "beer garden." Then bam, next thing you know, you're winning orchestra tickets in a raffle. Then bam, a kid drops her sweater. Then BAM, an owl flies overhead. There's a lot of crazy stuff happening around you. Keep up.

So yeah, randomly scored two tickets to the Philharmonic for me n' my bay. Bonus: the show was at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, of all extraordinary places. For those of you who don't know, here's what the outside looks like:

And here's what the inside looks like:

This was a real double-whammy of an experience, since I don't know that I would have ever paid the amount it costs to be at the Concert Hall OR the LA Phil. But thank my privileged stars, I was gingerly kissed by the posh-gods and am very grateful to have had the opportunity.

This may come as something of a shock, but I am not the cultured and sophisticated bizznatch my posts paint me to be. The orchestra is not my forte... though I do know enough about music to make that high-caliber joke. So I admit when boyfran and I got all dressed up for the LA Phil I had some skepticism about whether I would enjoy it. I'm used to going to dive-y Silverlake shows and singing with Alanis in the car. The closest I get to orchestral music is samples in Kanye West songs. How do you sit and watch people make classical music for an hour and a half?

Not very difficultly, I'm happy to say. Have you guys even heard of this Beef-oven dude?! I might be getting ahead of myself, but I think he's going to be big someday.

And I'm going to ride those coattails to the top.

And I'm going to ride those coattails to the top.

It was a bit of a relief to know that I am at a phase in adulthood where I can begin, ever so slightly, to appreciate classical music. Before you know it I might acquire a taste for free form jazz.

Well, that's all my toothpaste brain can squeeze out tonight. Explore and enjoy my website, and click the adorbs little heart below so that I can quantify my popularity.

A Cat-roversial Matter, or: We Want Our Rights Meow

IT'S OCTOBER BITCHE$$$$$ AKA THE MAGICAL TIME OF YEAR WHEN it doesn't make a god damn difference because it's still 90 degrees out.

's too damn hot.
No but really, October is probably the best month in all of month-dom and I am so excited that everything is brown and orange and red and covered in a gross excess of fake cobwebs. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. October also seems to be the month where people wake up from the boredom of summer and remember that there are things to go out and celebrate-- traditions to uphold, baked goods to pay homage to.

Also there are spiders. Lots and lots of spiders.

I'm writing little "la-tee-ta"s about the wonder of Autumn because the other thing that I want to talk about is not ready for public consumption yet. Yesirreespongebob I am gearing up for an unveiling of sorts, and believe me, I'm dying to share it with the world. It's very exciting.

Almost as exciting as a freshly-carved chair.
In the meantime, I guess I'll tell you a little bit about this cat I met. He was a nice cat. We met at a cafe. Oh I'm sorry. We didn't meet at a cafe. That's absurd. We met at a


 Now I know what you're thinking.

"What's that, some kinda cafe with cats running around inside of it?"

Psh. SON that's exactly what it is.

This is serious. Do you guys have any idea what this means? It means that it is literally possible to have a recurring dream so many times that it physically manifests itself in the real world. A cafe where god's little sassy thank you cards roam about doing what they do better than any other creature on this planet: be adorable and ignore you.

The concept of pet cafes is apparently an international phenomenon that is attempting to make its way over to the US. I'm not an expert, I just watched the Kickstarter video. What I went to this past week was a temporary pop-up installation where the folks behind Catfe rented out a small space in Chinatown and did a "sample" Catfe. This was basically to promote the project and give the public a nibble of what a Catfe really is. It's painfully straightforward. You go to the cafe, order food, and there are cats around. I think you pay a fee to go inside, but, y'know, cats. For all your logistical questions they're already loaded with answers, but I don't want to talk about health codes. I only want to talk about cats. Forever.

Yeah, I'm one of those people who loves cats. We know this. We've established this. Deal with it.

The way this cat does.
To be honest, the concept of pet cafes is actually kind of a conflicting cat-flicting one for me. RE: health codes, I don't give a flying cat. A cat can sit by me while I eat anytime. In fact, I pre-fur it. I also don't doubt that the cats are very well taken care of... a business like this sits on a landmine of potential cat-lash from animal rights activists and I'm sure (/I hope) they are being overly-caring to debunk any possible animal cruelty claims. Perhaps it's petty of me, but I'm more concerned with the obcatjectification implied by a Catfe. Or any pet cafe, for that matter. Truly, the cats are there as an accessory, serving no function in the estabbylishment beyond aesthetic. I'm sure not many people are concerned about this, but it does actually bother me. It's essentially Hooters with cats instead of large-breasted women; the main difference being that a cat's self-esteem is unfaltering.

Now this exists on the internet. You're welcome.
In all partial seriousness, I do feel this is something to be wary of. Strewing cats around a room like furry vases brings us closer to the idea that cats are fun little pillows we get to smoosh our faces into whenever we feel like and further from the idea that they are living things that, like humans, live moment to moment in a continuous flux of wants and needs. Do the cats want to be around people all day? If they don't, and they have no escape, then that bothers me. If they're okay with it, then I guess I'm okay with it. And if they don't care, well, that wouldn't be entirely out of character, would it?

#catstereotyping

Final conclusion: none. Just hoping people will think about it and come up with the moral verdict I have failed to produce.

One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Wallpaper Putter-Upper

Hello. No post last week, because life. But I'm back with arms full of wondrous narrative treasures.

One of the cool recent happenings was the set I worked on this past weekend. It was a short film that was being shot at Silver Dream Factory, a funky studio with all sorts of sets that I often had to tunnel through to get from point A to point B, ensuring my life felt like an extremely genre-confused movie.

But I prefer the term "genre fluid."
Since I just sort of arrogantly strut onto sets without any real background or formal education in set design, every set I work on is a guaranteed learning experience. I'm fortunate enough to even have quasi-mentors, aka unnecessarily kind and intelligent production designers who patiently teach me how to do shit. I got recruited on this set by someone I've worked with in the past, who taught me a ton on our last gig and even more on this one.

On this particular set I was not the production designer, but the set decorator. When movies have larger budgets, the art department sometimes gets the luxury of stratifying its responsibilities. Here we had our production designer, the head honcho and final authority (besides the director) on all artistic decisions, the set decorator who gets to do the fun stuff like decide what goes where in the picture, and the prop master who makes sense of the chaotic mess of props and furniture and keeps the most important pieces on hand. Now, I say that divvying up these duties is a luxury, but on this set it was definitely a necessity. We had so much shit, both to do and to keep track of. In the end, three people was hardly enough to undertake our undertakings.

90% of this shoot was wallpaper. Lots. and lots. of wallpaper. Sickening amounts. The surface area we had to cover was unbelievable. And because we couldn't actually apply the permanent adhesive of the wallpaper to the set walls, we had to lay down a complex matrix of painters tape and carpet tape beneath it... essentially, we covered the same four walls three times. Specifically, these walls:



After about 12 straight hours of staring at a wall, getting evil mutant tape boogers stuck to your fingers and scissors, trying to match the edges of wallpaper patterns together, and pretending not to hear the DP's passive-aggressive remarks about how long this is taking, you are sometimes tempted to hate the world and everything inside it. But then, eventually, you step back:



And you think, "Well, we are some bad-ass interior decorating motherfuckers." And you know you are right.

For me, this weekend's shoot had a lot to do with transformation. The above photos are a drastic example, as well as the transformation of the kitchen. The kitchen transition, however, will actually appear in the movie, since there is a flashback that takes place there. Behold:

Dirty scary kitchen

Clean un-scary kitchen
We also completely redecorated a bathroom, created rain effects with a pvc pipe and a spray bottle, and used a wind machine... which both sounds like and vaguely resembles what Leonardo DaVinci would one day coin "the fan." Because that's exactly what it is.

That's enough of that chatter. Another exciting development is the newest addition to my job collection: agent assistant! Yyyeah buddy, it's official now. I'm working in comedy and comedy development. I go in a couple times a week and talk to stand-up comedians and casting directors and watch comedy reels and it's super fantastic. Plus the perks are bomb diggity. Last night I got into a show at the Laugh Factory for free, where I both watched and met like a metric buttload of big-time comedians. There were a couple exciting drop-ins (speedy comedy vocab sesh: celeb-status comedians who come by the club last minute and say "hey, lemme do some jokes," and then they do) including Dane Cook and Paul Rodriguez. Wut?!

Anyway, that's just me bragging about how great my life is. However, if we're talking full-disclosure honesty the truth is my work-work-life-work balance has been tough, in the sense that it is nonexistent. Between assisting my director, assisting my agent, production designing, being a friend/girlfriend, and requiring clean laundry, I find myself trying to mash my obligations together into a cohesive schedule. I'm going for jambalaya but winding up with succotash.

Seriously. This is how god punishes vegetables.
Every obligation is a conflict for the other, and I can't lie... it's really, really tough.

And out of sheer insecurity I feel the need to end this blog on a high note. Hey, check out this fat squirrel!


In Apple Valley, Hike Takes You

The weekend started off strong with a trip down to SD for boyfran's birthday. Happy birthday, boyfran.

After a night of drunken buffoonery involving lots of friends, beer, hard alcohol, and a prize wheel, I drove my righteous booty back up to LA to meet up with my three friends Casey (girl version), Casey (boy version), and Lee to embark on the journey of a lifetime: a backpacking excursion to the Deep Creek hot springs in Apple Valley. Please put sunglasses on before viewing:


And somehow, the place is even prettier than in this photo. It's the Meryl Streep of nature.

"Where does such a magical place exist?" you are probably wondering, with a Flapjack-like twinkle of wanderlust in your eyes.

Is this cartoon still relevant to you people?
It is located here:



That ain't no red brick road, y'all. That's a good 2.5 hours' hike. To get to the magical hot springs you have to navigate about 4-5 miles along an unmarked path. It's a challenging hike with lots of inclines and declines and straight lines and felines. Not to mention you're also carrying everything you'll need while you're camping out there-- food, water, shelter, clothing, toilet paper, copious amounts and varieties of psychedelics... by the time you've been hauling everything uphill on your back for an hour you start wishing you had left your 1990s tv set back at the car.

Compound all this with the fact that, especially in recent times, it is WAY too hot to go outside. I'm currently in default with my bank because I won't go out to the mailbox. Can you imagine rigorous and prolonged hiking in the mo' flippin' desert? No way, osprey. So, what do we do? We hike in the dark.

Every iteration of previous-me would have been scared to walk around in the forest at night. The only difference between them and current-me is that I didn't really think about it until we were out there doin' it. Funny thing. As it turns out, some forests aren't filled with misunderstood lab mutants.

And others are.
They are, however, filled with beautiful stars, lush desert plants, and the sounds of invisible creeks rushing below you.

When we finally reached the creeks at about 10pm, we dropped our junk in the sand, put on our bathing suits, and joined the other campers who were swimming around in the hot springs. Many were in the nude, so of course, when in Rome... just in case you're wondering why I don't have any photos of me enjoying the hot springs.

The site was sparsely populated with friendly, fun-loving, naked hippies. It was a perfect place to be. I was sad when, on the following evening, we had to finally pack up our gear and hike out.

Fortunately, I didn't have to say goodbye to nature as quickly as I anticipated, because on the hike out we got utterly, completely, hopelessly lost. One guess of a turn became a second guess of a turn became a third, until it got to a point where the four in our crew had zero clue where any of us were going. It was dark, we were exhausted, and everything looked like trees. We thought that surely if we kept heading in the right direction, we would make it back to the random Twin Peaks (which is a real place!) off-ramp where we had left the car.

Well.

9 miles in and no such luck. We had been hiking along the face of a mountain for nearly 4 hours and seen nothing promising... except an aintfuckinwitchu bridge enshrouded in darkness that joined the two adjacent mountain faces. It was fun playing the "Guess how many yards you'll fall to your death to" game as we crossed.

Ambiguous guesswork soon led us down into the ravine between the two mountains, which was a treacherous downhill climb bested only by a similar escapade on the way in, where we lost sight of the trail and slid halfway down a mountain face before finding our way again. (Fun digression to that story: my friend saved my life by pulling me back up to the trail with a poncho. Just spend some time with that mental picture.)

Once at the bottom of the ravine, we trekked through the river bed, searching for the alleged trail that never quite appeared. Half of the river bed was dry, but yes, the other 50% was in fact a river bed. That's when things got pretty Oregon Trail.


Despite the fact that by that point two of our flashlights had died and we had run out of water, it was an invigorating experience sloshing through the river in the dark. Had I not been completely exhausted and, y'know, needed water, I would have been content to do it for longer. But by our 12-mile mark I just wanted politically-incorrect slaves to carry me home on a banana leaf.

That did not happen. Instead, I somehow climbed up an impossibly steep cement bridge that had been built into the side of the mountain. Yup, we did takesies-backsies on the whole "going down into the ravine" deal and climbed back up.

By the time about 6 and a half hours and nearly 15 miles flew on by, we at last struck asphalt. We followed it to a gate that indicated we had been slogging around in a restricted military zone. We were in Victorville, several miles from the car.

From there, one member of our party (and the decided hero of the evening) literally took off running to get to the car and drive it to our location so that we could go home. In the meantime, the other three of us sat and waited. At that point we were 89% dead, so we unrolled our sleeping bags and napped on the side of the road.

I'll skip through the part where we momentarily hitchhiked with a dude until discovering the road we needed to get on had been closed on that side of the mountain for years. But that also happened.

At long last, we reached home at 6am (only 6 hours behind schedule!). And I spent the subsequent 24 hours not moving, because every inch of my body had crystalised into a solid glacier of pain. Regardless, it was a grand experience to be coerced into bonding with nature. Being with 3 very good friends also helped. In fact, they made it worth it.

The hot springs were lovely enough on their own, but this weekend will be among one of my more memorable experiences. I can say that much.

A Rube Shooting Videos at Youtube Studios

Tonight's (this morning's? time is relative) post will be brief. On most other nights I would diligently take 17 paragraphs and 3 personal anecdotes to explain why, but for now, let us chalk it up to this: other writing. It is an exciting and stressful time to be me. I wish I could slow down time and zip through the world like in Clockstoppers.


Unavoidable observations before moving on:
1. It is amazing to me that short-sleeved shirts over long-sleeved shirts were ever a thing.
2. If you found yourself in hyper speed would you really spend that much time playing with a fucking bee?

So last week I booked a production design gig for a something I'm not allowed to talk about yet, lest the mighty goog of Google fall upon me. I am, however, allowed to share Instagrams. So here's where I was:


At the fabulous YouTube Space in Los Angeles, and yes, I do mean fabulous. The YouTube Studio has all the hip bells and whistles you might expect of a trendy multi-million dollar corporation. Google treats 'em gud. To my understanding, the space is available for rent and free for YouTube users who have achieved a certain number of followers, so that's kind of cool. The YouTube Space boasts several large and fully-equipped sound stages (big, empty, usually expensive rooms specially designed for building and shooting movies in), and is decorated with lots of cool furniture and fun/confusing post-modern art pieces.

Frankly, this one is obscene as it is racist.
But personally, for me, the highlight was this coffee bar:


The punny name alone would have been enough, but everything on the menu was gratis (typed in italics to create the illusion of sophistication). I enjoyed it far more than the typical c-stand:

After much deliberation, I've decided I'm not going to explain what this is but rather direct you to the Wikipedia article. Don't say I never redirected you to anything.
The shoot was swell-- good cast and crew, and a fun new studio to discover. I hope to return soon, for more free macchiatos. Oh yeah, and to PD some P's!

...That didn't sound inappropriate until I typed it out. Welp. That's showbiz.

Agent Double-OMG

The hilarity of my last post is that while I so proudly and willingly preached to all you babies about making decisions and sticking with your passions, I soon after went into a spiraling fire-tornado of overwhelming indecision so severe the USDA Fire Service mistook it for an imminent threat and raised fire danger levels to "very high."

Note to PSA-land: if your mascot is going to be referencing to anything as "very high," you probably shouldn't name him "Smokey."
Which leads me to make the following amendment: if you're having trouble with indecision, it's good to have level-headed people in your life who can be the voice of reason when you're too busy running around like a headless chicken. This is exactly where my source of re-invigorating calm came from, and I'm happy to report that I'm back to my cheerful, relaxed holier-than-thou self. I also got a good pep talk from my boss. See guys? She's like, totally nice. And she just so happens to be a certified life coach aside from the 1 million other things she does as a director. Convenient? Chyeah. I'll take those free consultations over dental benefits any day.

Serenity and cheerful, relaxed holier-than-thou self aside, I'm not any less busy. In fact, it's the opposite. My agency internship is kickin' into full-swing and that's gonna be a whole thing. I had my first day last week. It was fine. Very basic work answering phones, doing some data entry, and making small talk with the friendly front desk intern. The coming months, however, promise a heavier workload. While I can handle a heavy workload, I'm a little nervous... because I'll let you in on a little secret, gang:

I HAVE NEVER WORKED AT A TALENT AGENCY    


And I'm desperately trying to get myself up to speed fast enough to where my supervisors will forget that. Remember the first time you ever ate spaghetti as a kid? I don't either, but I'm sure your parents have photos. It feels a lot like that-- messy, confusing, complicated, saucy, and hey! Pretty enjoyable once you discover what you get out of it.

Disclaimer: This is not me as a baby.
Speaking of which, some of you may be wondering why I'm diggin' on this unpaid internship so hard. After all, I'm an artsy tartsy writer. Why do I want to be at a talent agency?

Why I Want to Be at a Talent Agency


1. I get a firsthand look at what kinds of material do and don't get looked at. Remember, this is also a literary agency and I am working in the agency's comedy division. Chances are a lot of funny comedians and written material are going to pass my way. If I'm planning to shop my writing (industry slang for: ravenously send stuff out everywhere in the hopes of somebody important reading it) in the future, I want to know the best way to get it picked up (industry slang for: purchased, maybe and/or eventually, and actually made, maybe and/or eventually).

2. I can develop a relationship with the clients. In this case, a bunch of comedians. Buko networking. They have an agent so you already know they have some credibility, and they might have a good hook-up.

3. I can develop a relationship with the agents. They are the hook-up.

4. I can scope the competition. My experience thus far has been that, though it is quite established that this is a competitive industry, we are all angry little beta fish who often can't see past our glass into all the other bowls. So instead we fantasize that the others are either vastly superior (ref: inferiority complex), or vastly inferior (ref: presumptuous dickhead). Seeing what "all the others" are up to is a good way of knowing to either step up my game or to give myself some credit. It's also just very useful craft-wise to read others' material and absorb any useful formulas.

5. I still get my creative fix. This certainly isn't true of every agency, but because of the nature of the role I'm playing my creative input holds some value. This is an emerging division; right now it's no more than a feeble growth on the ably-tentacled body that is the entire agency. I get to be one of the players adding strength and vitality to that little growth. How's THAT for a metaphor?

6. I finally get to explore development. Comedy development, no less! Development is something I've become interested in since getting me some industry exposure out here. Development is the process of discovering new material-- so a lot of reading, summarizing, commenting, and best of all: criticizing. I'm great at criticizing.

7. Question mark question mark question mark??? If the past year has been any indication, there is NO telling what the future holds! I could really enjoy the work of an agent, or even one day become an agent, or discover a new career path, or get fired for exposing myself to a co-worker. The possibilities are endless!

Right now the best I can do is be effing jazzed. I don't know that I've mentioned this, but my first solid goal towards *achieving my dreams* out here was working at an agency-- preferably a literary one (check!). And now I'm here... unpaid part-time, but, y'know, still here. It's very surreal.

Specifically, this bowl of surreal:


And in case you're wondering, "Are you

?"
 Yes, I'm 100%

.

If I Only Had a Brain, and Dental Benefits

Since life beyond school out here in Reality-Reality-Land, I have noticed that events tend to come in swells and lulls. First, absolutely nothing is happening and your life feels like the wheel during the beta phase of its invention.
Nailed it.
Then, next thing you know, you're getting swept up in a tornado of decisions and opportunities. Sometimes it's a good tornado, and sometimes it's a bad tornado.

Pictured above: bad tornado.




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Pictured above: good tornado.


Well, the tornado that has hit me recently has been a jumble-- one or two bad things but primarily good things. Like the tornado in Wizard of Oz... it would have been great except for the wicked witch all up in there with her bicycle. And, you know, the whole being inside a tornado thing.

But allow me to switch over from metaphor to narrative. With my job situation as fluid as it is, I have been enduring the diet version of a problem I believe every artist of any trade faces: stability or creative fulfillment?

In real life, the question doesn't arise so eloquently. It usually manifests as, "Do I take the dental hygienist gig or continue living in my parents' back house until my bottle cap art business takes off?" This past week I was forced to make a similar decision when I was called in for an interview for a receptionist job I had applied to, like, eons ago. Literally, eons. The last receptionist was a bracheosaurus.

And that bitch was stealing white out.

I felt obligated to at least go to the interview, even though the first thing my gut shouted at me was, "GET THE CHEESECAKE." And then the second thing it shouted was "NO MORE OF THAT STUFFY ADMINISTRATIVE NONSENSE. YOU HAVE A GOOD THING GOING. ALSO YOUR BOSS IS NICE."

My choices were very clearly laid out before me: do I drop everything and take a receptionist job at a production company, where I get a decent full-time salary, benefits, and occasional left-over craft services? Or do I continue my  present struggle of spinning multiple plates so that I can do production design on film sets, where I can eventually get stable enough work/money, and feel creatively fulfilled?

Maybe the answer is obvious to you. It wasn't to me. That is, until Sweet Baby Jesus Himself threw me a bunch of signs, the first being:

"There's no room for mobility in this position." That was the disclaimer on the receptionist job. So basically, the one thing that practical me could have used to appease artistic me was ruled out. From the outset they wanted to let me know I would not be the famous writer and/or production designer who started out as a receptionist at ______.

The next signs came in rapid succession: I received 3 inquiries regarding production design work at the same time. In case you're thinking this happens often-- it doesn't. Half the time I'm lucky if I get a rejection email.

So I decided to continue on my current wavelength.

Lesson? I like to make my blog readers think I'm very important By the powers of whatever force you choose to decorate your Christmas tree for, I was being shoved towards creativity. It was a big, fat, juicy sign that I shouldn't abandon my creative endeavors just because I'm paralyzingly afraid of instability. Mentally, creatively, I love the place where I am now. If I want to add "financially" to that list, I have to be willing to take and commit to the risk. And I know, at least for me, the risk for happiness far outweighs the certainty of misery.

Other lesson? Don't be afraid to make a fracking decision. The people who I confide my problems in can all tell you that I'm really good at gathering every possible scenario in my mind and swatting them around like it's intramural badminton. But when it comes to deciding on an actual course of action, I just nervously hop from foot to foot until every open door inevitably closes. Don't be the me. Make a decision about what you want to do. Weighing pros and cons is fine, but if you're trying to base your decision off assumptions of what the future holds, don't be such an arrogant little bitch. Don't be the me. Don't assume you know what lies ahead. You really don't. You can only tell which things give you fulfillment and which things give you stress-induced eating disorders. Be the me who confronts choice based on happiness. I like being her, even if she does hog all the blanket.



ON A FINAL NOTE, here's another thing in my tornado: an internship! I never thought I'd be so happy to work for free. I'm going to be with the comedy development division of a talent/literary agency. Unbelievable. That is ALL the things. I'll be learning all about what sort of comedy gets picked up, what sort gets canned, and I'll be exposed to the comedic writers and talent of film/TV/stand-up. As a bonus, the woman I'll be working under is not interested in using me to sync her bluetooth devices or "put the emails on the phone." She seems like she's actually interested in mentoring.

This is a MAJOR step in the right direction. First agency experience. Wow. See, one-year-ago me? We're doin' stuff. And you didn't believe me.

I have to get up at an actual specified time tomorrow so I'd better sign off, but I will leave you all with the cover letter that helped me get this internship.


To whom it concerns,
This internship sounds incredible so I'm trying to get your attention. Hello! I LOVE comedy and entertainment. Currently I am trying to break into development for comedy, so this internship would be a mind-blowing learning experience. 
"But wait," you might be thinking, "this girl is a complete space case. Just look at this cover letter."
But what if I told you I spent the past year working as an Executive Assistant to a senior exec at a production company which required extraordinary multi-tasking skills? Duties included (but were not limited to) heavy research, scheduling meetings, managing paperwork and contracts, cold calls, updating calendars, arranging flight travel and reservations, call-rolling, casting outreach, making payments, organizing/filing office files, ordering office supplies, and creating items such as brochures and executive summary pages. 
It's true.

I really hope to hear from you as I would love to come in to discuss the possibilities of this internship more. I have attached my resume. I am reachable by email, phone call, or text if you have any questions. Available to start immediately. Thank you so much for your consideration.
Sincerely,

Jessica

Unprepared for the Unprepared

Last we met I was bitterly mitching and boning about a project I had been signed on to, purchased several materials for, invested several hours of labor and emotional exhaustion into*, and then been kicked off due to budgetary restrictions. My concern was that I was going to be left standing in the middle of the street uncompensated for the time and money I had already spent, since the contractor agreement I had created had never been returned to me, and in a fit of poetic justice would be hit by a car so hard that my pants flew off.

I am happy to report that I still have my pants. After a couple polite buggy emails I got my reimbursement and a li'l sump'n sump'n for my troubles.


Pants.

I was still pretty bummed that I had missed the opportunity for experience/money/networking, but what should the great glitter fairies of the universe decide to do and have somebody call me up to ask if I'm available to be the art director on another project being shot that very same weekend.


I hardly even had time to be sad before a new project was dumped onto my lap... wut wut!

The next day I was riding passenger-side of the production designer and wandering all over Los Angeles to gather props and materials. Talk about a stellar learning opportunity. The production designer was a friendly and frankly kick-ass individual who showed me new places to find props and costumes, introduced me to the best solutions for problems I've experienced as a PD, imparted tons of helpful advice, and even showed me the ropes with using Universal Prop House. I've used a couple prop houses before, but Uni is one of the biggest and most standard and I hadn't had a chance to visit it yet. Their selection was, unsurprisingly, glorious. It was also a giddy sort of feeling to pass all the furniture that was tagged for Revenge and Scandal and all those other shows that I don't watch but I know are a big deal. Be on the lookout for a cheetah-print framed mirror in the upcoming episodes of Glee, guys.

As for the project itself, it was very basic. It was essentially a series of short educational videos commissioned by a California teaching organization. Each video is about 3 minutes long and covers some topic like "diversity," "adaptability," "digital literacy." If you've ever worked for a grocery store you probably had to watch stuff like this during training.



So yes, we wound up cutting the buckets of blood and the scene where we find out the Boss A is secretly the gay lover of Gossiping Co-worker, but the videos are clean and concise. I was not getting paid much on this project by any stretch, but the sheer information and experience I gained made it beyond worth it. Not to mention everyone on set was very relaxed and friendly.

Of the crazier things I had to do during the shoot, we were supposed to pick up rental student desks for a scene that takes place in a classroom. The order went through way too late, however, so I was sent on a rogue mission to purchase cheap classroom desks. I was given the address of a Korean furniture warehouse that I drove past 3 times because the sign wasn't in english. When I finally got inside, I had to pick through piles of furniture to find the desk where somebody could help me. Now, by piles of furniture I don't mean there were neatly stacked pieces of furniture all around me. I mean it looked as though somebody had scooped up a bunch of couches, chairs, lamps, and headboards with a giant pitchfork and plopped them like mounds of cow shit throughout the 5 floors of this warehouse.

Perhaps they hired the poopsmith, or another esoteric early-2000s internet reference.
I got the desks and all was well, but for the rest of the chairs in that warehouse... I only wish I could have done more to save them.

A fun part about art department is that there's so much you often have to create on the fly. The director will often want or logistically need something on set that neither of you anticipated. Here's where the real creativity happens. Once again, the scope of creativity was somewhat confined by this projects' demands, but in a restaurant scene the director wanted the prideful chef to have a bit of stage business. So we created a "lava cake" for him to be decorating.


Delicious? Dubious. I stole a muffin from craft services, cut the top off, flipped that bad boy upside down, and drizzled it in chocolate syrup the PD had on-hand for (presumably?) blood effects. Or else any potential sundae-related emergencies. Now THAT'S prepared.

I don't have many photos of our sets, because for many of them you would be simply staring at a desk, but the fun "finale" of the shoot was designing 2 classrooms. Here's one:

Spoiler alert: it wasn't at night!
Can't you just imagine being a bored fourth grader in that room? I know. We're Just. That. Good.

As of yet I don't have photos of the second classroom, which was actually a lot cooler looking because it had a huge cut-out of a tree that we got to decorate, and we were able to paint the wall a peachy color so it wasn't this same bland shade of white. White = (both in production design and in US history) Death.

I love production design like crazy and I am so happy that I get to do this sort of thing for work. I don't know how I've been so lucky. That's one show wrapped. On to the next serendipitous gig.

________________________________________

*Emotional exhaustion: Attempting to strap 4'x8' sheets of foam onto the roof of your car, only to have them fly off the hood five minutes after you've gotten on the road because they were too lightweight and the wind jostled them loose, and then having to run into the middle of busy traffic as your sheets are repeatedly run over by cars so that you can save them, and then waiting outside a liquor store for thirty minutes for your friend with a large truck to come rescue you from the homeless guy who was being helpful initially but is now hitting on you and offering you weed and won't stop asking you if you would like a massage because he got his AA in massage therapy. Ladies and gentlemen, my life.


Four Emails and a Funeral

Skipped a week of blogging for no reason beyond sheer laziness. What's up with that?

I've been quite the harried hornet recently with a production design position that slowly, painfully became mine and then quickly vanished like pollen on the breeze. At least I learned something.

The Story of How Jessica Learned Something

I applied to a small production design gig for a thesis film. The following proceeded to take place over a 3-4 day period: director emails me back and asks for a mock-up of sorts. I design a mock-up of sorts. Director asks me a logistical question. I answer logistical question. Director asks me another question. I think in my head, "These are a lot of questions to be asking someone whom you haven't hired. Am I hired? Am I giving away secrets freely? What would I do for a Klondike bar? What has a Klondike bar ever done for me?"

Answer: nothing.
I ask him if he would like to meet in person. So we do. He tells me what he wants. I tell him what I can do. Student film budget wants nothing crazy, with the exception of a painted portrait of the actress, a casket, a fake axe to break said casket, and ideally wall-to-wall wallpaper. Oh and PS jellybean, we're shooting in a week.


People. Be kind to your production designers. We can only make your movie look good if you let us make your movie look good. In this scenario, I would have six days to build a casket, paint a portrait of somebody, and  address all the other set needs like gathering props and visiting prop houses. This is realistic, if you are a zombie and do not require sleep within a 72-hour period. But not even that is accurate, since everyone knows zombies are terrible carpenters.

I see a hand in the audience.

Yes?

"Yeah, hi. I'm a visiting student from Washington. My question is, why don't you just rent a casket?"

An excellent question. You may sit down. Well, as much as I would love to rent a fancy casket, fancy casket rental would be approximately 75% of my allotted budget, and we would not be able to send any axes through that bad boy. So, here we are.

Another hand all the way in the back there.

"Hi, I'm Chad Wallace, reporting for Time Magazine. How exactly does one build a casket?"

You know what, Chad, I'll tell you. I don't fucking know. But after doing a little bit of digging around on the internet I found a simple way of making a realistic-looking casket out of foam. Lightweight, destroyable, and cheap-- perfect! Like a small, dirty prostitute that you feel like killing. 


And that's when things got shitty. I would send the director an email asking for very basic things, like-- can we set up a prop house account? Can you send me the contact info of the person you said could help me? Can you send me the photos you told me you would send like three days ago? What are your thoughts on Klondike bars?

Silence. Utter silence. I had a crap ton of work to do and I had been given zero resources to complete them. Mind you, I wasn't bombarding this guy. In a three-day period I sent 3 emails total. Compare this to my inbox last February when I was PD'ing for Scarlett and I came home to at least 4 unread emails and texts every day. When it's crunch time, it's crunch time.

Three days went by and I had not heard from him. I had already spent money on props and had begun the laborious task of building this casket. I began to panic. What if this guy is purposefully not talking to me? What if he's avoiding me? Who is going to reimburse me for all this shit? Was I even hired to begin with? Oh god, this is how it all ends.

After his lapse of silence I decided it would be wise to cover my bases [ass] pronto with an independent contractor agreement, which I do with all projects, and he never responded. Paranoia sunk in as I realized nothing in print held him accountable for all the work I had done so far.

It was in this torrent of frustration and anxiety that I learned a valuable lesson: don't do ANY work until that contract is in place. In the past when I've been hired on projects we have always verbally agreed that I would do X work, and one of us would eventually send the other a contract somewhere along the way. Never in my days did I worry about doing all the work and then fretting they would do takesies backsies half way through.

Which this guy did. He said he couldn't afford to have me on the project anymore, which I interpret as some excuse or another. However, he has asked how much he owes me, meaning he doesn't have plans to leave me high and dry.

Just to leave me.

So in the end, I will not technically have lost any money, but I will not have not gained money I thought I was going to earn. Oh yeah, and I spent like a solid three days of my life putting in hours that I most likely will not be compensated for. Heed my tale, friends. It seems obvious but it can get forgotten about easily. Contracts before work, not during or after.

Or you will end up with a weird space-looking 15% completed casket that you need to clear out of your boyfriend's back yard at some point.

RIP casket.

The 1 Year Anniversary Post

Update 8/3/14: Written yesterday, posted today! Don't worry, this post has been sitting safely beneath the heat lamp of the interwebs.




Today is not a very special day. It's overcast, my room is at max capacity with piles of laundry, and I have a vague stomach sickness that is making my belly puff out like an inflated bagpipe. Yesterday, however, marked a very special day: my one-year anniversary since moving to Los Angeles!





Can we stop punching all these alligators for a second and just think about that? One year of not being in school. One year of working. One year of Chinatown. 525,600 minutes of forgetting to delete the Rent soundtrack off my iPod. This is crazy, you guys. This is huge. I have proven the impossible possible. I am officially the first-ever human being to be terrified of prospects in "the real world," only to find that things are not that awful and in fact they can be quite extraordinary.

For this, I feel it is appropriate to formally self-congratulate myself with this official certificate of existing:


And in fact, for anyone else who is currently existing, you also merit a certificate. Print this out for yourself:

But you have to fill it in yourself. Pussy.
We did it! We navigated through the harsh tempest of reality with all the savvy and awareness of an unborn sloth fetus and did not die. When you think about how many people in the world die everyday, that's pretty impressive.

It seems befitting to take a moment for reflection on what has happened over the past year. Things have changed. Other things have stayed the same. These are acute observations.

I don't really know where I thought I would be one year ago today. Whatever it was, I can guarantee that it was not positive. While the wonder and allure of LA was there, I had so much dread about the tough decisions I would have to make. You know, the ones I never wound up actually having to make.

One year ago today...
I was worried that my apartment would have major bug and sanitation issues
I was worried that my roommates would be ungodly psychopaths
I was worried that my landlady would be an ungodly psychopath
I was worried that someone would break into my car
I was worried that I would never feel safe at night
I was worried that I wouldn't find a job
I was worried that the only job I would be able to find was teaching
I was worried that I would teach "just to pay the bills" and then whoops, look at that, seven years have gone by and I'm getting a teaching credential even though the thought of being a teacher for the rest of my life depresses me and I've completely forgotten about the only thing I've ever wanted to do with my life, which is write
I was worried I wouldn't be able to trust anyone
I was worried nobody would be nice
I was worried I would be lonely and isolated
I was worried I would lose all my friends
I was worried I would be completely broke
I was worried that I would somehow get roped into a world of meth and prostitution
I was worried I would hate LA
I was worried that I would be turned cynical and want to leave
I was worried I would be a creepy alumni and hang out at my college all the time
I was worried I would have to be an adult
I was worried I would hate being an adult
I was worried I couldn't be an adult

This is literally all it was. Worry, worry, worry, snack time, worry. Never for a second did I think I might actually come to love where I live, that I would make friends, and that I would make actual steps toward making a career out of what I love doing.

Well, for anyone who has been supportively following my chronicles as an L.A. Vida Local, you can gather that virtually none of this has been the case.

After living for a year in LA...
I have grown to love my little apartment
I have bonded with both my roommates
I have bonded with my landlady and her family
I have not been robbed
I sleep easy
I have found multiple job opportunities
I have held job titles like "cake decorator" and "director's assistant" and "production designer"
I am not a teacher
I have received help and kindness from absolute strangers on the street
I have made new friends in the area
I have kept myself busy with social activities, of which there is no shortage out here
I have become closer with the people who I was already friends with
I have more or less survived financially and have learned to calm down about the whole matter
I have made and surrounded myself with people who make good life decisions
I love LA
I have become wiser to and more enthralled by what it means to live here
I am just an alumni, not a creepy one, and I paid a tactful number of visits to my school
I have discovered that I am an adult but I am still young
I have discovered that being an adult isn't the end of happiness
I have discovered that I know how to be independent

Bonus: I'm not even lying about any of this for the sake of sentimentality!

These are all things that arose from merely navigating myself from day to day. Which is not an incredible feat, since beyond a couple sci-fi movies I can't really imagine how else one would exist. If the sand is hot lava, of course you're going to just keep going from one ring to the next.

Monkey bars: not just a healthy way for kids to have fun and stay active, but also a profound metaphor for life.
I've also faced a lot of other amazing discoveries and changes over the past year. A relationship ended with somebody who taught me that I was worth caring about, and I've begun a new relationship knowing that about myself from the get-go. I've discovered a love of production design that I never knew existed. I've gotten enough job experience and industry encounters to know when and why people  lie, which is useful when such persons are discussing what they would like to pay you.

And I haven't really talked about this, because some things need to get cut so I can fill my demanding poop joke quota, but I have low-key begun a search for spirituality. I don't think I'm going to put on a bath robe and retreat to China to spend a decade as a monk any time soon, but I'm in the process of developing a conception of a greater power and what that power means in relation to my life. So far I'm pretty sure it ain't a white dude named Jesus, but that's not narrowing it down much. It could be that amorphous space cloud in Futurama, or an avatar from another dimension, or the Energizer bunny. The truth is I don't know that I'll ever know. But, much like the art of being alive, I'll get asymptotically closer to the answer one day at a time.

Fucking Christ my stomach still hurts. If only I could poop my troubles away.