Monday, January 9, 2012

Farewell 2011.

I don't know about you, but going home for the holidays is usually bittersweet for me. Sweet because I get to see and spend time with family members that I only see once a year, and bitter because, well, I have to spend time with family members that I only see once a year.

But this year was especially bitter. A lot has happened in my large family in the past twelve months, and especially to the dozens of cousins that make up my family peer group. First houses have been bought, grad schools have been attended, impending baby arrivals have been announced, world travelers have come home for the first time in years, wedding proposals have been made, etc, etc. And all these are joyous occasions, of course. I'm not disputing that.

What made this year's annual visit such a thorned pill to swallow was that I had a pretty momentous year as well, and no one aknowledged it. No one understood. No one realizes how rare it is for a female my age to work on the shows that I've been on this year. No one recognizes the names of those who've I've had the pleasure to work for; the leaders in their fields and the fact that I got to meet, let alone work for them, have painted my L.A. friends green with envy. None of them know that I do things like work with high voltage and ride condors. They all enjoy listening to music, but none of them know I worked with that band they're enjoying on a music video. And that commercial that's playing on the T.V. in the background? Yeah, I had a hand in that as well.

But none of them know that. None of them asked what this year was like for me. I was lost among the shuffle. I was pushed aside as relatives scrambled to get closer to those with the more relatable news of upcoming weddings and stories from abroad.

And it's not that I was jealous of all the attention the others were getting. I'll be the first to admit that their news is understandably bigger than mine. But a handful of family gatherings later, everyone was still gushing over the same people they were a few weeks ago as I sit idly by with a cup of cider in my hand. And to top it all off, most of the conversations I did manage to have with Aunts and Uncles involved them saying things like how brave so-and-so was for traveling on their own. Or how smart my cousin was for installing his own sound system in his new house. And throughout their boasting, I'd politely smile and nod in agreement, but in my own head, I'd be thinking, "Oh yeah? Forget traveling solo on your thirties. Try moving on your own to a place you don't know in your early twenties with no money, because that's what I did." "Installing a home speaker is nothing. I'm in charge of putting in high voltage cable runs to power hundreds of people on a daily basis." But I'd hold my tongue.

I definitely understand that in this world, very few people know how a movie is made, and even fewer know what a bitch it is to make a sustainable living off of it. But damn it, I had a motherfuckin fantastic year and it sucks that I can't share my news with family because they'll never get it. The stories of my struggles and success will fall on unsympathetic ears as their eyes glaze over and search for a more "accomplished" family member to latch on to.

And I know I've touched on this topic before. But for whatever reason, this year's neglect seemed much more prominent, and I must admit, I've never been so glad to be back in L.A.


Michael Taylor said...

Just as cops, firemen, EMTs -- and for all I know, plumbers -- live and work in a world of their own, so do we in the film/television biz. Outsiders, be they family or friends, have no way of understanding what it means to succeed in our business, especially for someone who came from outside the system. There's no frame of reference or common ground to bridge the gap between our industry in their world far beyond Hollywood.

But we who have shared your pain and triumphs on set know the score. We who have wrapped endless runs of muddy 4/0 in the pouring rain or through the fetid, shit-stained alleys of downtown LA after a long and miserable all-nighter, we understand. We who have felt the bittersweet (there's that word again...) blend of victory, completion, and loss on the last day of a feature or television show, we know what it means to accomplish something difficult, then melt away into the night.

It's a hard life you've chosen, but you made it your own and have prevailed where others faltered and failed. Congratulations on having such a great year, for making it as a woman in a man's game, and for sharing the trials and tribulations of the journey along the way. If your family doesn't appreciate your accomplishments, the rest of us do.

I hope 2012 is as good for you as 2011.

Niall said...

I got mad respect for you AJ. This job as man can suck to get contacts and work but for women I'm sure it's just down right horrible. The fact you can support your self and have established with in the world of LA is pretty fucking cool in my book.

Keep up the work, it's good to see some one have a good run of things right now. Can't say the same for my self right now. But 2012 is still fresh and new. Here's to a great 2012.

The Grip Works said...

Happy New Year AJ, dont let it get to you.
Most of my best friends dont really get what I do ... and its kind of why they are my best friends.
Its nice to be around folks who have nothing to do with the business.
Just look at it differently ...maybe you will feel better !

D in PDX said...

I'm lucky...I have family in the entertainment industry. They get it. Your family will understand eventually, but you will have to figure out how to communicate it.

You have more fortitude and drive than I did. I freelanced for a couple years, but I took the easy way out when a full-time job came along...Now I don't see sets or stages, I only build and fix equipment...And only some of it is for the film industry.

And on travel: My work took my solo mid-20's butt on 30,000 miles of flights in the past 6 months, all to countries that don't speak English. Me and a massive toolkit. Solo travel is easy. Making something of it is hard.

Going somewhere on your own, making a living at it, and being asked to come back for more work are more than what 99% of people can do.

Have a good 2012!

A.J. said...

Michael, Niall, The Grip Works, D in PDX - Thank you all so much for your kind words and support! It's definitely good to be home. :)

As good as 2011 was for me, I can't wait to see what 2012 brings for all of us.

Scripty said...

I totally understand! I too am in the same situation. My friend who I've know for YEARS introduced me on New Years Eve as an Editor. Um, let's think about this for a moment. I have the ability to know she's a graphic designer. That is her title. I have told her I am a script supervisor. That is my title. How is it that a two word title gets so mangled in her brain that she can not manage to repeat it on introduction. It's like I'd introduce her...Here's my friend Alese she's a project manager. Sheesh. Civilians!

CJ said...

My favorite is when the round-robin discussion of careers and accomplishments happen at family functions and the only question I get is, "So, have you worked with any famous people? Did you hear, he worked with Tom Cruise, yeah, no foolin' Tom Cruise..."

Like Mike says, we live in our own little world, populated by like minded people, born of the same blood, sweat, and tears brought on by a business built to wear you down. But it is our love, it is our passion. Civilians aren't interested in what clamp you used or how much 4/0 sucks to run, they just want the glamor. I learned a long time ago you have to be your own cheerleader in this business and you have to brush off those who don't understand.

Congratulations on a great year and, by the looks of it, a fantastic 2012 awaits. I'm sure others can back me up on this, when I have a job and I call my people in, I don't care if you're a man, woman, young, old, seasoned or a juicing virgin, I want the attitude of someone like you. I can handle the rest. This is coming from someone who hires out, you have a great future ahead of you. Keep your chin up, your ears and eyes open, ask questions, and keep the passion.

A.J. said...

Scripty - Yikes! That must've been an awkward moment! It sucks when we can't flaunt the job titles we've worked so hard to gain.

CJ - As annoying as that question is, my family usually replies with, "Who's that?" I somehow got stuck with the only family in America who doesn't watch TV or movies. You definitely have to be your own cheerleader.

Thanks for the kind words and I hope I get to work with you someday. :) Happy 2012!

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