Friday, June 22, 2012
Bernadette sighed as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her faux vintage tee seemed to clash with the color of her sneakers, but a quick glance at the clock told her there wasn't anything she could do about it now. She grabbed her phone and keys off the kitchen table and ran out of her apartment, taking care not to slam the door this early in the morning.
With the sun barely starting to glow over the horizon, there were only a few other cars on the road. But that didn't stop her from stepping on the gas pedal just a little bit more than she needed to. After every exit she passed, she glanced anxiously at the clock on her dashboard.
6:13... 6:14... 6:16...
She knew without a doubt in her mind there was no way she could be late, but that thought did little to calm her nerves. Her anxiety was the kind every newbie starting out in this industry has. One that feeds off the desire to succeed in this town. Like a kid on their first day of a new school, this was a nervousness that cannot be quelled.
After moving to L.A. a few months ago, Bernadette didn't seem to be able to fit in with anybody. Despite her doe like eyes, petite frame and fair skin, it wasn't her dream to come to Hollywood to make it as an actress, like so many other girls her age who come to this town. No; for reasons that only she could know, she wanted instead to be behind the camera doing one of those thankless jobs the rest of the world doesn't have a clue about.
But after being in this city for some time now, this small town girl couldn't find a paying gig as a crew member. "Yes, I'm new," she'd often think to herself as another day of submitting resumes ends in disappointment, "but I've got passion and a willingness to learn. Doesn't that count for something in this town?"
But instead, the only few meager offers she'd get were for non-paying student projects or micro-budget productions that at most, only lead to other non-paying projects. Bet that never deterred Bernadette, who would take every opportunity that came her way. "You never know where it may lead," she'd tell herself. So when a Producer finally replied to her eager e-mails and asked if she could "help out" on their shoot, it didn't take her long to say yes.
As Bernadette pulled into the parking lot of the location, she glanced at the clock one last time. 6:32. She was twenty eight minutes early.
She turned off her engine and took a deep breath; taking in the few moments she had before she stepped out of the car. She was always nervous before starting a new shoot and today was no different.
But it wasn't long before she heard the familiar sound of a lift gate being lowered. 6:38. Still a little early, but Bernadette climbed out of the car anyway. Never to be one who just sits there while others are working, she grabbed her gear and headed towards the grip truck parked on the other side of the lot.
The day went by rather quickly. Partially because production was on a very tight schedule, but also because she got along rather well with the crew. They all met as strangers in the morning, but left that night as friends.
But even more surprising was the call Bernadette got a few weeks later from her boss on that job.
"Hey, Bernie. Remember me?" Of course she did. He offered her a spot on an ultra low budget shoot he was booked for the following week. "The pay is less than minimum wage, but at least it's something," he sheepishly offered. And of course, Bernadette took it. The pay may have been insulting, but it was a start.
The job came and went. It was brutal. The crew was grossly understaffed for what it was, but Bernadette was just happy to get through it and finally get her first paycheck for doing a job she loved. And even better yet, a week later, she got a call from the boss again for another paying job; this time with a slightly better rate.
Once that job ended, it wasn't long before he'd call again, offering this hard working girl a spot on his crew for the next job. And the next. And then, the one after that.
The work from him wasn't exactly steady, but it was money. And the rest of his guys were usually gems. All old pals before they became co-workers, they welcomed this girl aboard with open arms. For the first time since she moved to this town, she felt like she belonged somewhere. But most of all, it finally seemed like her career was gaining momentum. She knew she had a lot to learn still, but she was no longer a stranger and was being accepted as a colleague.
"Oh yeah," she'd sometimes think to herself after a particularly good day on set, "I'm going to be just fine in this business."
But it wasn't before long that it all went to shit. One night, Bernadette got a call from the boss. After some chit-chat, she wondered when he'd get around to telling her about their next gig. Only, he never did. Instead, he asked her if he could take her out to dinner sometime.
She sat there in silence for a second, stunned. "But don't worry," he continued, sensing her concern. "Even if you say no, I'll still hire you. You're an awesome tech and a good part of the team."
She turned him down as gently and diplomatically as she could. "No worries," he answered. "I understand. I figured I'd at least give it a shot though. And don't worry. Like I said, I'll definitely still call you for work. There should be something coming up real soon," he promised.
They ended the conversation as they normally did; sounding like nothing more than colleagues, and as she hung up, Bernadette breathed a sigh of relief. Turning down a guy you're not interested in is tricky enough, but it's even more treacherous when it's your boss. But she believed him when he said he'd still call her for the next show.
A few weeks came and went without another call from him. Then a whole month passed by. Then a few months. Then a whole year. Then a few years.
It soon became very obvious to her that despite his promise, she'd never hear from him again. And as time passed, she eventually found other crews to take her in and other jobs that paid. Though she still frets about her sneakers and the theoretical traffic in the mornings, she now walks onto each set with a sense of purpose. She no longer worries if she'll ever get a paying job. Her schedule is filled with work. She's come a long way from who she was a couple years ago and she's proud that she's made it this far by herself.
But every once in a while, as Bernadette sits and reflects on how far she's come, her mind inevitably always goes back to the first Key who's ever hired her for a real job. And she'll think back to their last conversation. And she'll wonder about the real reason why she never heard from him again. Was it because of his bruised ego? Was he afraid things being awkward on set? Did he lose his phone?
Eventually, her mind will ask the question she isn't sure she wants to know the answer to: Did he hire her in the beginning because she's good at what she does, or did he only hire her because he thought she was cute?
And despite where she is now and what she may accomplish in the future, that question that will haunt her for the rest of her career.