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  • The Eternal Carrot

    May 7th, 2010

     

    The whole entertainment industry is based on a Bugs Bunny Cartoon. That silly wabbit was constantly being led around by a carrot on a stick placed strategically just out of reach, though it seemed so close. This is the very essence of Hollywood and why thousands of people – from the homecoming queens to the techie geeks – swarm to Los Angeles every year. And it’s why people who have been in Los Angeles for 5, 10 or 15 years, stick around, even if they have yet to find success, money, or fame.

     

    Everyone – actors, writers, directors, producers, etc – come out to LA with five year plans. But when five years comes and goes in what seems like a blink of an eye and you’re nowhere near where you thought you’d be…you have to find something that keeps you going.

     

    Enter, the Carrot.

     

    The lure of Hollywood is the fact that one month, you can be living on Ramen noodles and doing menial tasks 12 hours a day and the next month, you could be making a 6-digit salary and getting invites to the Oscars…And most of it is all due to luck and timing. I have a friend who, when he stepped off the proverbial boat, signed up with a temp agency and the first job he got through that agency was as Tom Cruise’s personal assistant. Seriously.

     

    And we’ve all read the pieces in Variety about the boy from the Midwest who graduates college, moves out to LA one week, sends his first script (which he wrote in two weeks) to his old roommates’ friends’ brother who happens to be an assistant at an agency, who loves it, brings it to his boss, who also loves it, who gives it to a junior exec at Imagine or Bruckheimer or some studio and one week later, BAM – that lucky fresh off the boat sonuvabitch is eating so many carrots his face turns a lovely shade of orange.

     

    But for most, it’s a much longer chase.

     

    A solid 50 people from my graduating class moved out to Los Angeles around the same time. Bright-eyed and excited about our new paths in life, we’d all hang out and help each other, rooting for each other’s success. By the five year mark, probably 50 percent of them had left the business or moved back East. And since then, probably another 20% have joined them. By year ten, probably another 10% will have bitten the dust. And it’s not because they couldn’t hack it – it was because they stopped caring about the carrot.

    They stopped visualizing it. Some just stopped enjoying the chase.  And others realized it wasn’t the right carrot for them. For some, their carrot became family, babies, and buying a house instead of isolation, long hours and eternally renting. I don’t blame them.

     

    And while I miss some of them, part of me is happy they are gone because it means there’s one less person chasing that damn vegetable, so perhaps my odds (and yours) just got a bit better.

     

    The limitless possibility for success is what separates Hollywood from other professions. It’s also the reason that entry level wages in Hollywood are insanely lower than almost every other profession – certainly lower than any profession for which you need a college degree. Teachers start at around 45k, Cops around 42k, Doctors and Lawyers around 150k. An entry level assistant in Hollywood starts around 20-25k. In Los Angeles, that’s barely livable wages. It’s all part of the test – to make sure you really want to be here. To make sure that you’re willing to sacrifice for your success. But it’s not really a question of “if” you’re willing to sacrifice, it’s “for how long?”

     

    Because you just don’t know when or where or how you are going to get that big break – but it’s coming. Maybe it’s this next project you find, or write, or direct. Maybe it’s this little indie project you acted in for free. Maybe it’s this new assistant job for a bigwig studio exec. You just never know. And everyone thinks it will happen to them.

     

    And just when you start realizing it might not…your best friend signs a multi-picture deal at a studio or her pilot spec gets bought or he books a role in a studio movie…and then you’re faced with an even bigger problem – trying not to hate your friend.  But that’s a whole different story.

     

    You have to be optimistic. Keep writing, keep working, and keep planning. And keep telling yourself that you’re not giving up until you get a taste of that delicious carrot.

     

     

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