A few days ago we had a staff dinner on a rooftop overlooking Venice boardwalk at the Hotel Irwin. The sunset and vertical slope transformed what is otherwise a dingy, vulgar area into an aesthetic utopia. Enjoying the sunset with my kind coworkers was a joy as I scarfed down (too many) fish tacos. A good friend of mine was visiting and able to attend. A compatriot in weirdness, introducing him to my new professional sphere was exciting. I could see our occupational imaginations merge as my friend (and collaborator) imagined himself working in this lovely city. This is the compelling beauty of Los Angeles, as disparate, global peoples unify in a visual practice as commercial as it is creative. As a favorite song of mine echoed from the well-curated rooftop DJ setup, I celebrated friendship and work, entities slowly but surely melting into one.
As a reminder, I am working as a general intern and script-reader at Lava Bear Films in Los Angeles. After many weeks, my experience of script-reading has remained consistent, but my skills have developed. Occasionally coverage can become an echo chamber, but it is comforting to know that my opinions often align with those of my more business-minded coworkers. It’s also fun how a bad script can be great fodder for nuanced (and gleefully literary) critique. I am sometimes reminded of my art-house preferences but I consider that par for the course. Fortunately, there has been an influx of engaging material and assignments in the last few weeks, so my writing has been more chipper. The only downside is that I’ve developed a slight reputation for a critical lens, but people have told me that they respect it.
In that vein, perhaps my most valuable learning experience occurred recently after reading a frustrating script. The plot, the characters, the tone all rubbed me the wrong way. Within 50 pages I knew had serious disdain for the work and I wrote accordingly scathing coverage. I ended up meeting with one of the head-honchos about my coverage; they had felt a kernel of worth was subsumed within the script’s cluster of issues, issues that dominated my personal opinion. Their critique of my coverage produced the most beneficial dialogue I’ve had here. They cited my disdain as valid, but also a factor that foreclosed subtlety when I relied on a negative approach. In retrospect, I completely agree with them. We also discussed generational preferences, a productive exchange for both parties. It was one of those utterly intimidating but beneficial experiences you fall into in life. I could feel my brain resetting as my perspective matured. That one conversation has led me to necessarily re-evaluate my coverage technique and criteria for script quality. I feel very fortunate that the people at Lava Bear take the time to engage me in this way.
For me, the highlight of each week (funny as I think the staff finds them mostly mundane) is the weekly Monday meeting. During them, we evaluate scripts read over the weekend. I can feel my presentation skills improve in these meetings. Pitching, something that terrified me before this summer, now feels accessible and natural. My analytical perception of scripts has shifted radically since I began. In the past I ha arbitrarily referenced box office and saleability, but I now feel genuinely informed. I’ve noticed that I now place a lot more value on concept. I often appreciate a script based on concept or core alone, whereas writing style and conventions usually reigned supreme in my old evaluations. This may come across as a subtle change, but it is paradigm-shifting for me, as a person who engages in critical analysis near-constantly. I look forward to exercising these skills in my filmic endeavors throughout senior year (and beyond!).
I am learning an immense amount, making a lot of progress on my goals. I cannot emphasize enough how expansive this experiential learning has been, compared to my classroom and self-taught knowledge. I’ve been taking meetings with many of my coworkers, more seriously discussing future career options. These choices are daunting (development or production, location, etc.) but these are the serious thoughts I came here to engage. Talking to different members of the staff has given me wide insight: young creative execs paint me pictures of career beginnings, financial overseers explain shareholder meetings and film slates, and industry vets teach me how best to evaluate talent. Comprehensive clarity about my career still eludes me, but I certainly feel much more informed. Witnessing the clockwork of film development has given me confidence that I could work in this field after graduating.
LA has begun to feel less idyllic and more like a simple, exciting city that I am merely inhabiting. Thus I have accomplished my goal of vetting Los Angeles’ viability; thanks to the WOW, I know now that I could happily move here. Some of my lesser goals, of course, have been slightly neglected. Goals of networking have mutated, once I discovered that virtually all connections (beyond the office space) are valuable, but in different ways. I’ve been writing less recreationally, an expected fatigue after reading writing and then writing about writing, all day, every day. My thesis remains a radioactive, untouchable fellow, but that is the reality of a 9-5 job, again, precisely the real-world experience I came here to attain.
In addition to my experiences at Lava Bear, I’ve invested in the local performance art community, gone to a bevy of screenings, and become a regular at a few locales. I’ve not lost sight of fields close to my heart. I’ve even met a few minor idols of mine (I shall keep them anonymous, I don’t ingratiate and tell!). I love the community here. I love the artists, the filmmakers, the writers, the executives, the Lyft drivers, and the people who run the food trucks. Okay, I hate the people who run the 711 next to my apartment, but they also sell gummy sharks, and where else am I going to get them at 2 AM?!