Saturday, October 3, 2009

You Better Be Worth It.



His eyes are a brown so deep, you'll feel lost just gazing into them. Yet there's a sense of security and comfort when he wraps his arms around you. He'll give you his jacket when you're cold; he'll hold doors open for you; he'll call you to make sure you got home okay.

On your first date, you'll go to the movies. You hate horror films, but agree to see one anyway because you don't want him to think you're a wuss. You wince every time there's blood on screen and by the third slaughter, you notice him watching you. You feel embarrassed and vulnerable, but he smiles that boyish smile of his and holds your hand. He agrees to never take you to see a slasher film again and the two of you go out for ice cream. He gets mint chocolate chip. You order cookie dough.

A job comes up that takes you out of town for a few days. He watches as you pack, wondering why you need to carry around four different kinds of screwdrivers, and do you really need that many wrenches? His questions are annoying, but in a way, also endearing. There are no phone calls exchanged when you're gone, but he'll send you text messages. Silly ones at first ("Marco Polo never learned to swim! Ironic, isn't it?") but they get more personal as the week progresses. ("My favorite shirt just shrunk in the dryer. :(" and "I miss you.") The two of you spend the day together when you get back.

He wants to know everything about you. Family, school, friends, how your first pet died. You tell him your story; he tells you his. He'll talk about how his day was. How his boss accidentally hung up on an important client, or how his coworker spilled split pea soup on the carpet. It took two janitors and a steamer to clean it up. You tell him stories of how the gaffer read the lighting plot backwards and what happened when the dolly grip wasn't paying attention and almost ran off the track. Then you explain to him what "gaffer," "light plot," "dolly grip," and "track" is. He sits there, listening, entranced. You don't know if he's in awe of you or the business you're in, but you don't care. You keep talking because you love the look on his face.

But one day, that look on his face isn't there anymore. You finish your latest story and ask him if something's wrong. "You work with a lot of guys, don't you?" he asks. It's then that you realize that most of your stories features men with the occasional cameo from a woman. That's just the way the job is, and they're more like the brothers you never had than anything else. But you sense that it's making him uncomfortable, so you begin to censor your tales of set antics. Instead, you prod him more about his job, hoping to draw attention away from your own line of work.

Eventually, you begin to notice that he gets jealous at more than just your coworkers. He glares at the guys sitting the next table over when you're out to dinner and makes snide comments about how chummy you are with the man you buy your morning latte from. You try your best to reassure him and no longer exchange witty banter with the barrista. The subject of work doesn't even come up anymore.

Then one day, you'll realize you're no longer yourself around him. You two have a long talk and break up. "I always knew you'd leave me," he says, "I never felt like I could trust you." His words hit you like a rock. But as much as they hurt, you're too tired to explain yourself. There's no reason to. So you walk away.

This is the point where you'll usually eat a bag of cookies and play "I Will Survive" on repeat. But you'll get called for a job instead. You'll spend the next couple of weeks in New York, eating pizza and hot dogs, taking pictures of the dizzying lights in Times Square and walking (and working) around in the cold. You're a California girl, born and raised, but the numbing cold feels good. When the shoot's done, you feel ready to go home again. You curl up in your own bed and sleep better than you have in a long time. In the morning, you'll wake up to a very quiet apartment. It's almost too quiet. You open a bag of cookies and put Gloria Gaynor on repeat.

After some time has passed, you'll come home to find him waiting for you on your doorstep. He'll have a movie and microwave popcorn in one hand and a single red rose in the other. You invite him in and the two of you watch the movie and eat the popcorn. The movie ends, the credits roll, but neither of you move from the couch. Instead, he takes your hand as you lean your head on his shoulder, and just as you drift off to sleep, he tells you how much he missed you.

The next few days are filled with awkwardness. Like two teenagers on their very first date, your time spent together will be filled with long pauses and nervous twitching. But eventually, things will get back to normal. He'll send you silly text messages ("Did you know that ducks can't digest rye bread?") and you'll bake him cookies (chocolate chip). The nights are often filled with good chicken wings, bad Karaoke, and lots of laughter.

Things will get so good, you'll talk of moving in together. Nothing's definite, but the two of you decide to look at apartments anyway. He wants a pool; you just want air conditioning. The first few places the two of you check out are dumps. You learn that "fixer-upper" and "cozy" are just code words for "run-down" and "cramped". The next place you're scheduled to look at sounds more promising, but you never make it there. Your friend calls you last minute to best on a music video and you have to leave immediately.

Sixteen hours later, you'll come home tired, dirty, and in desperate need of a shower. But that shower will have to wait. He's sulking on the couch, upset that you bailed. You try your best to explain to him the concept of day-playing and how a lot of jobs you get are last minute calls, but your mind's so fried you don't know if you're making any sense. Finally, he says, "Why don't they just plan these shoots better?" To which you'll reply, "That's what I ask myself every day." The two of you share a slight chuckle and as you finally step into that hot shower, he's in the kitchen making you a sandwich. You never end up looking at that fourth apartment.

Eventually, you find yourself on the crew list for a feature. You start shooting on Thursday and couldn't be more ecstatic. Two months of solid work compared to the ridiculously few days you've had all year. That night, he surprises you at dinner with a weekend getaway. You hate the look on his face when you tell him you can't go. It breaks your heart. "Can't you take a couple of days off?" You tell him it doesn't work that way. It's been a slow production year and you need the money. In this line of work, there's no such thing as paid vacation or sick days. He says he understands, but you can tell he's crestfallen. You order his favorite dessert to cheer him up (apple pie, a la mode).

The job starts. The hours are long, the days are hard, and no one can seem to figure out why the bulb keeps blowing out on that 5k, but you love every second of it anyway. Only you don't get to see him as much anymore. You leave early in the morning only to come home late at night, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed. Your weekends are filled with laundry, grocery shopping, going to the bank, and other mindless errands that you don't get to do during the week. But he'll say he understands. He'll sit with you at the Fluff 'N Fold and wait in lines with you. You'll bake him cupcakes which will still be cooling on the counter as you fall asleep on the couch.

Before you know it, it'll be your anniversary soon. He wants to celebrate with a romantic picnic on the beach. You tell him you're working that day. He'll plan a late dinner instead. But an actress will forget her lines, a stunt car will crash into a street light, and you'll end up working overtime. You leave an apologetic message on his phone, explaining the situation. It's no use though. When you finally make it home, he's waiting for you; not pissed off or annoyed, but disappointed. He'll say he's tired of only seeing you on the weekend and he's tired of all the times you had to cancel on him. And he'll accuse you of choosing work over him. You'll say that you're not, but staying late is part of the job and if he can't understand that...

He cuts you off before you can finish. "But it's just a job."

His words stop you. Working in the film industry isn't just a job; it's a lifestyle choice. Endless hours on a moment's notice, often working from sun up to sun down and vise versa. You can go days without eating a home cooked meal. And yet it's a job that you'll fight for because this is something you want to do. Hollywood's a creaky, shaky, unstable roller coaster, but you love to ride it.

You realize that if he doesn't understand your line of work, then he'll never understand you.

You will say good-bye for the right reasons. The days are just going to get tougher as you fight tooth and nail to climb that industry ladder to reach the top. You'll need someone who will trust and support you; someone who'll help you back up if you fall. Not someone who will make you feel guilty for choosing this life. Not someone who will resent you for it.

But until you find that someone, you find comfort in the fact that you'll always have a bag of cookies, Gloria Gaynor playing on your stereo, and a family waiting for you on set...

4 comments :

Michael Taylor said...

Terrific post. Although written from a female POV, it speaks to all of us who chose this Industry life. Sometimes you start to wonder where "home" really is -- on the set, or back in the apartment/condo/house where you hang your toothbrush...

The equation shifts as you get older, for lots of reasons. At a certain point, the drive to "get to the top" (however you define that) fades, replaced by the simple desire to make it to the finish line. Eventually, enough really is enough -- and you'll know it when that time comes.

That's what I keep telling myself, anyway...

Nathan said...

My GF and I met on a job 16 years ago. Now, neither of us complain about how long the other one works. We complain when the one who has time off won't get the hell out of the house for a few hours when the first one finally gets a real day off.

:D

Chris Kittinger said...

Excellent post. Glad Michael Taylor turned me on to your blog. Although it does mean one more blog for me to love. But I guess I will always have room for the well written, the heartfelt, and the thoughtful. And your blog is all of those.

Bethany said...

I can relate all to well. I remember when I was working one of the hardest and lowest paying gigs for props and my personal life decided to freefall from a cliff leaving me suddenly single and homeless 3 weeks into the job. What I didn't know then was that the family I had on set would carry me through being sick and even getting fired by a shitty producer who had it out for me. Eventually I ended up dating one of the grips from the show. We had our ups and downs and split for a while to see other people, but what I've found is it is insanely difficult to find people that understand what a production life is like when they've not lived through it themselves. My boyfriend, the grip, and I have been back together for a year now and we're so thankful that we're always understanding and accepting that we chose to ride this roller coaster and we're strapped in together.

Here's hoping you find someone who gets it.

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