Friday, November 30, 2007

College Grad For Hire

A little over two months ago I drove across the country, and after a two-week adventure, I landed in California. My destination was predetermined, however I arrived in Los Angeles with no job, no apartment, and few friends. My dream—to work and live in the entertainment industry, brought me here, as it has brought many East Coasters before me. Things started out well—I was networking, interviewing, meeting people—even finding roommates and a great apartment near the beach in Santa Monica. The prospects were good. I did a little bit of temp work, testing out the waters in some industry-related jobs and I even had the luxury to turn down some job offers. I was being picky about my entry point in this industry, to ensure that my first job out of college will provide me with a greater learning experience and an important stepping-stone for the years to come.

Then something funny happened. On Monday November 5th the Writers Guild of America went on strike.

My Hollywood ambitions weren’t explicitly to write, and my initial, basic understanding of the strike was that only writers would be affected at first. Wrong. In this town, when something goes wrong with the entertainment industry, everyone feels the effects. I soon learned that many of the agencies I was hoping to get a job at, whether on a desk or in the mailroom, had installed a hiring freeze. Assistants—another likely job for myself—were being laid-off at production companies and networks all over town. The temp work slowed down, job opportunities that once seemed ample were suddenly sparse.

After my quick maturing in understanding the strike, I soon found myself obsessed with it. I couldn’t get enough strike coverage—I would spend hours digesting information, opinions, and photographs at The New York Times, The LA Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and the website for Entertainment Weekly as well as the WGA’s own UnitedHollywood.com. Any time I drove by gathered pickets on my way to an informational interview or any excursion that brought me by a studio, I would honk my horn and wave to the writers (at one point I spent an hour driving from studio to studio in Burbank, checking out rallying WGA writers). I was moved by the cause, excited by the drama, and intrigued by the uncertain future.

My excitement faded quickly, and here we are, more than 4 weeks into the WGA strike. After several weeks with no conversation between the writers and conglomerates, both sides went back to the negotiating tables this week. However, the prospect remains dreary. Even worse the American public is about to face a television season that is likely to end soon. What I find frustrating is that a lot of people aren't aware of the strike and the all-encompassing impact it has on so many aspects of American life and everyone in this country. I am curious what will happen when young mothers in Ohio can't watch Desperate Housewives anymore, or when college kids won't gather round Thursday nights to catch their favorite episode of The Office. I have a feel that a lot of Americans are going to be really pissed off that they can't watch the tv shows they love, and all we are given is a bunch of rehashed, over-dramatized, and painfully embarrassing reality shows.

Additionally, I still don’t have a job, and that dream I came out here to pursue is going to be delayed until the strike comes to an end. I don’t want to put my dreams on hold. Again, another clichéd-sounding sentence, but I mean it. Why should I have to stall my Hollywood ambitions?

The flip side to all this is that because of the strike I am in a unique situation. I need to take advantage of this time, re-evaluate my own career aspirations; it is important to note that something good will come of this. Perhaps I will find an opportunity that I might not have previously considered. In fact, I am already using the strike to my advantage by doing more writing. Sure, I don't get paid to do this, but I am exercising the creative juices in my head, and that counts for something, doesn't it?

I desperately want the writer’s strike to end—for the writers, the actors, the crews, the studios, the networks, and for the American public. I want to be able to watch new episodes of Friday Night Lights and Private Practice. I want to see the little man effectuate change in an unstable, constantly-evolving world of entertainment. However, I selfishly want the strike to end for my own personal reasons.

I want a job.

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