Monday, December 6, 2010


Over the past couple of years, I was terrified to leave L.A. Due to strikes, threat of strikes and an economic downturn (among other things), work around here was scarce and hard to come by, making it difficult for me to justify skipping town for a few days. Not only was I too broke to travel, I was in constant fear of missing out on a call for work because I was visiting friends. (It was a known rain dance for me: once I plan a trip, the calls will come.) It sucked. Although I wasn't working, I felt like I couldn't visit people that lived more than a few miles away. I was unemployed and had all this time on my hands, yet I was nervous about leaving town for more than a day.

Eventually, work started flowing in again and I secured a spot on a crew that shoots pretty frequently. Things were getting good. Only, I felt like I couldn't leave town for a few days then either. Though work with those guys was pretty steady, the schedule was not. There was no telling when the next job was; you only knew that there was one coming up. That made planning a little vacation hard. I had finally found a tribe that likes me and I felt like if I missed the next job, they'd find a replacement and I'd never get back in. And it's not like there's such thing as a paid vacation in my line of work. Unlike most other industries, when you plan a getaway, you not only have to factor in the actual cost of the trip, but the money you'd be missing out on from work as well. Suddenly, that weekend in Vegas you were thinking of will cost you a lot more than just a room and a few drinks.

Then, things started getting really good. Hollywood got busy again and it seemed like everyone and their mother was shooting something. I was suddenly landing bigger and better gigs left and right. I got so many calls that I couldn't take them all and it seemed like each job I took offered a better rate than the last. For the first time in a while, I felt like I was finally making some progress in my career again. But alas, I couldn't leave town then either. How could I when the biz is so hot? It seemed stupid to leave during a time when it was practically raining money into my bank account.

Then Summer turned to Fall and Fall is now slowly creeping into Winter. The calls aren't still pouring in like they were a few months ago, but I'm working steadily enough. More so than I was this time last year, that's for sure. And as I was packing up the truck after a long night of shooting not too long ago, I thought to myself, "Damn... I need a vacation." And that's when I realized how long it's been since I've left L.A. for a little "me" time.

I also realized that there's never a good time to take a break if you're a freelancer in this business like I am. You're scared of missing work when things are slow. You're scared you won't get your groove back when things are steady. And you're scared that you'll be missing out if you leave when times are good. There's just no winning.

So I decided that since there's never a good time to leave, now is as good of a time as any. I booked a flight to somewhere fun and made plans with people who don't live within a hundred mile radius from here. Will I miss out on work while I'm gone? You can count on it. Will I be able to get my spot back on the crews I leave behind after I return? I have no idea. Will the money still flow like profanities from a trucker? It depends on what calls I get when I stroll back into town. Will I answer my phone when I'm gone? Hell no.

But despite all these uncertainties, I think it's time for me to stop worrying about work and start worrying about myself for a little while. I've been working really hard this past year, and I think I deserve some time off. Sure, Hollywood is unforgiving and often changing, and things may be drastically different by the time I get back. I may find myself searching for another crew to work with and I may find myself unemployed for a while again. But I have to believe that I'm good enough and strong enough to bounce back from whatever changes I may find.

Work will always be here. But life only happens to me once. I think it's time for me to enjoy it a little.

1 comment :

Michael Taylor said...

Definitely -- you're doing the right thing. You've succinctly described the free-lance trap that keeps so many of us right here, with our noses strapped to the Hollywood grindstone. After a while you start to believe this is normal -- and it's not. Get the hell our of Dodge while you can, and enjoy some time off. You've earned it.

There are no guarantees in this line of work, ever. With so many people trying to climb the ladder, keeping a slot on a crew -- your new tribe -- is not a given. But there's a reason this crew keeps calling you back, so sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and buy the plane ticket. In some ways, this is a real test of your place in that tribe. If the slot is still waiting for you when you get back, then you're in solid. If not, then you've got some work to do.

As do we all, on every crew, in every tribe, until we finally retire. It never ends.

But something tells me your crew will be glad to see you when you return to LA. Have a great time on your vacation...

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