Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Tis the Season

                         Rudolph on Laurel Canyon Boulevard

"Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear...” 

Closer to Fine, by the Indigo Girls

Working in film and television can be an endlessly frustrating endeavor. The potential for complications magnifies exponentially whenever the high-octane blend of talent, ego, and money (the essential building blocks of every successful production) come together to make a movie or television show. Tensions are inevitable whenever such volatile ingredients are combined, and the pressure of delivering a new cinematic baby into this world can bring out the worst in people.

We all have our own reasons for being in this industry, whether in pursuit of lofty-but-elusive artistic visions or with both eyes fixed on the more primal mandates of our inner Reptilian Brain. I’m not sure it really matters why we’re here – whatever the motivation, we’ve chosen to play out our professional lives in the arena of the film and television industry, and having made our proverbial bed in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, here we must sleep.  Many of the difficulties that plague the film-making process are beyond human control (weather has an enormous impact on location work, among other things), but even in the absence of such external forces, a clash of insecurities, egos, and ambition can lead to rash decisions, long days, and needless confusion on set. The collateral damage of these mistakes is considerable, usually in the form of suffering endured by everyone on the crew when things go off the rails.

This is not an easy business on any level. As the old timers were fond of reminding me when I was a wide-eyed young pup: “It ain’t all sunglasses and blow-jobs, kid.”

True, that. Nobody understands the vast gulf between the glossy image Hollywood projects to the outside world and the hard realities inside the Dream Factory better than those of us who live and work in the belly of the beast. Indeed, peeling back that glittering veneer to reveal the wheels and gears spinning within was one of my prime motivations for starting this blog, and I’ve tried not to pull many punches in describing that reality.  Still, my desire to “tell it like it is” can lead me to dwell on the negative at times, shooting arrows into every fat Industry target that waddles by. I won’t deny how much fun it can be to lampoon the myriad layers of absurdity and excess that abound in this business, nor that the process of writing about it allows me to vent the buildup of attitudinal toxins that might otherwise fester amid the darker recesses of my soul.

 And no good can come of that.

But as the year comes to a close, it’s time to put down the bow and arrows and remind myself how fortunate I am to be working in such a crazy business. Some gigs are worse than others, of course, and getting stuck on a crappy production run by pompous, arrogant fools – “legends in their own minds” – is never fun. In today's economy, few of us can afford to quit a bad job unless there's a better gig ready and waiting, which means having to endure and just gut it out.  Like every line of work, toiling below decks in Hollywood can be good, bad, and/or ugly, but one very real blessing about this industry is that every job is temporary. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

Bad jobs make for good stories, though, which is why you hear and read about so many productions gone bad here and elsewhere in the Industry blog community. Every veteran can recount his/her share of these horror stories – such tales come with the turf -- but as I look back on thirty-five years here in Hollywood and beyond, it’s the good times and great people that stick in my mind. It’s been a long road and a tough, uncertain journey at times. More than once I thought I was done with Hollywood – over, kaput, finito – but time proved me wrong. Whether persevering here at the cinematic whipping post was for better or worse, I’ll never know.  By definition, the path not taken must forever remain a mystery, but here I am and here I'll stay until the bell finally rings.

In closing out 2012, there will be no angry arrows fired in this post. The New Year ahead will doubtless provide plenty of grist for the bitter mill of righteous anger and indignation, so I’ll hold my fire for now.

Meanwhile, may you all have a wonderful holiday season, and emerge from the tinsel and brightly colored lights to find whatever it is you seek in the year to come. And as always, thanks for tuning in, especially those of you who took the time to comment on posts or via e-mail. Absent such feedback, I’m just another old dog on a short chain, howling at the Hollywood moon – and it’s always nice to hear an occasional howl in return.

 Merry Christmas.


Unknown said...

Merry Christmas, man. You run one hell of a site here.

Michael Taylor said...

Thanks, Ben -- I appreciate that. Happy New Year...

dstarz said...


Mike, this is the best...that's it.

Happy 2013!

Michael Taylor said...

Dstarz --

Glad you like it, and thanks for tuning in...