My Reality

Someone more wiser and more experienced in this business once said to me, "You gotta make television your job and movies your hobby." I don't remember who that wise sage was but I understood what they were saying.
Production Crew at the impromptu wrap party

At the time though, the advice didn't take root because that wasn't my reality. I didn't have a job in television and didn't see one coming in the near future. However, that seed of wisdom stayed planted in my mental garden and only now, in the past few months, do I see it coming to some fruition.

I have, since the dawn of my young career as a writer, been able to snatch some kind of word-smithing employment. Some of the work, like being hired to hammer out a full-length screenplay was right on point with my particular passions and other writing gigs were a bit off the mark, like writing white papers for an MBA focus group. Yet, it all kept my head above water.

However last October a flood came. Call it Hurricane Writers' Strike. The strike nearly drowned me as it sucked out any air of employment I might usually take in. When money got thin, I was forced to work for a temp agency which, though I was grateful for the gig, was nevertheless mind numbing.

All I did was file, for eight hours straight. I did so much filing that I dreamt of filing at night: Robertson... Robinson... Ro...

Then a call came from a friend who let me know about a possible Production Coordinating gig on a reality show pilot. I leaped at the opportunity. I had recently returned to production work by working as a coordinator or manager on short films, videos and commercials--on the weekends mostly-- so a tv pilot was right on time. Although I had never done "reality TV" my prior experience and the interview I gave landed me the job. The only rub was that it was being shot in Atlanta and if I was to be hired, the budget dictated that I had to be hired as a "local." That meant I'd have to fly myself to Atlanta, find my own lodging, get my own transportation and receive no per diem. Nada. Ouch. Not the best situation. But then I thought of filing.

The next week I flew my butt to Atlanta.

The show was called "The Single," an interesting reality show premise that tracks a once top-o'-the-chart musician's attempt to work with a currently hot producer in order to create a single song that will catapult that musician to the hit list once again. The pilot featured R&B singer Monica as she worked with uber-producer Brian Cox. The hours were long (most times I wouldn't get home until after 2:00am.) but the work was solid, gratifying and I thoroughly enjoyed the production company I was working for.

Apparently the appreciation was mutual because not long after "The Single" wrapped they offered me a job on another show that was gearing up for production. This time it was "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is--Season 3." In order to fully talk about the roller coaster ride I was on (in fact that we were all on) with that show it would take another post or two. But don't let me mislead you. The experience on KC3 was invaluable. The people and production company great (this time I was flown in and had a car provided). But the schedule and cast was, well, wild. I repeat, WILD. And just like any hair raising, thrill a minute roller coaster ride, it all came unexpectantly one day to a screeching halt. But like I said, that's fodder for another story.

Fortunately though, my story with this production company has continued as I'm now on yet another reality show they are producing. This one is called "Celebrity Dream Day" and will be shot out of Los Angeles. This work is in no way as topsy-turvy as "Keyshia Cole." The hours are relatively normal and consistent and the cast appears to be relatively drama free (so far!). So now I'm living in LA during the weekday and returning to Aliso Viejo on the weekends and I'm following the wise sage's advice.

TV has become my job.

And writing movies well, has I guess, been relagated to the status of a hobby. But know that I'm still workin' hard on the weekends to make it a paid hobby, indeed! That's my reality.

Copy Of A Copy

I rarely watch music videos these days, but apparently my good friend Kevin Ross does. He writes daily on a great site called 3 Brothers & A Sister. One of his recent posts features Alicia Key's latest video. Kevin writes about the video:
Seeing as though I met my now wife when I was twelve, I'm absolutely digging "Teenage Love Affair" by Alicia Keys. It's my favorite cut on her slamming cd. After watching the video, I'm just beside myself [Kevin gets this way sometime!] As a Morehouse Man, the whole "School Daze" vibe is so on point, I feel like I'm back in time.
Okay, first thing first. Watch the video. Trust me. It's decent. No booty shakin' or platinum grill teeth flashin' at ya.

alicia keys - Teenage love affair

I agree with Kevin in that there is a wonderful sense of nostalgia invoked by this video. However, that blast from the past ahh shucks vibe resonates with me mainly because the video is modeled off of "School Daze"--- a movie that echoes with visions of my experience at Morehouse in the late '80's. But there is also something disconcerting about director Chris Robinson's video.

Instead of culling his video idea from a fictional film I would loved it more if he had pulled from his own vision, his own scenarios, and his own take on the black college experience. As it is now, he's made a copy of a copy. The black college experience is so rich, so vibrant, so visual to mine from, that he could have created his own homage to the past if he had done a little work. Maybe he and Alicia didn't want to. Did they love "School Daze" that much? Has it become a "classic" already? Or was Chris perhaps a bit, um, lazy?

This video is really an homage to Spike Lee and the black college experience that was seen through the prism of HIS artistic vision, and not Chris or Alicia's. The issue (and hence the reason for this post) is to express my concern when artists rely upon other art as their sole inspiration instead of life itself. They lean on the learning of history or life from another's work without deriving that knowledge from the source.

Of course, especially as it regards old knowledge, you can't talk with anybody who has lived in ancient Rome or fought in the Civil War, so you've got to pull from third parties, books, archival films and whatnot. I'm a fan of Alicia Keys and I do like Chris Robinson's work. He has a fine narrative sensibility in many of his videos, but lawd knows, there are plenty of people who attended Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Hampton, Howard and other HBC's to gather insight from--even if Chris didn't attend one himself.

Heck, they could have called me.

Worried About Pissing Off People Equals Zero Posts, Stupid

Before the word blogging was invented (it's kind of funny to think of words being invented but they are--every year), I published by email a regular little column for my friends and family that I dubbed "L.A. Diaries." They were basically short essays, thoughts and stories about my experiences as a young fresh earnest screenwriter embarking on my career in Los Angeles.

These days I'm still earnest, though perhaps not as fresh (or young!) as I once was (hopefully more knowledgeable and experienced though), and the blogsite has replaced the en masse emailing. Though I love the technological benefits blogging gives me, I've lost something in the transition.

Because of the public, aye, world-wide access posting anything on the web provides, I have found myself becoming very conscientious about mentioning particular names of people I interact with. I speak namely of the stars, those people who generate fifty-zillion Internet pages when they are googled (that's a recently invented verb).

It's not that I have anything damaging to say about any of these people (for the record, my relationships with all of them are good and those I really know are GREAT people), it's just that in a business whose daily decisions are so precariously perched on the pinnacle of public opinion that they can be swayed by a mere positive or negative breeze, I don't want to be the guy who's blowing the wrong winds. Are thousands of people reading my blog? Heck no. But it only takes one:
"Ya know this writer named Avery has told the world that he's frustrated at how slow things are moving with you."
So in trying to decide whether or not to write about this or that, I ultimately end up not writing at all. That's got to change.

In fact, my whole approach to writing professionally needs to be fixed. What that entails will be the subject of my next post--unless, of course, I have a very important story meeting with Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg to tell you about first.

I could only wish.

Desperate People

BET held what they termed as a "job fair" yesterday in Beverly Hills. I went, with shoes shined and resumes in hand. I sat in front of a rep from New York named Wayne Brooks who looked like a football player. He seemed like a nice guy as we quickly exchanged pleasantries. He read my resumes while I talked about myself as a writer. "Well, we definitely need strong writers," Wayne said, "And from the looks of things you certainly have the experience. I'm going to pass your resume on to Robin [a BET exec who works in the LA office] and hopefully she'll give you a call." A few more kind words were swapped, then a handshake and I was gone. I've never gone on a speed date but I would imagine it feels something like that.

"Hopefully" echoed in my brain as a I walked to my car passing dozens of hopefuls, on their way inside, grinning nervously with resumes tucked under their arms. I've probably become a bit pessimistic these days but it all felt kind of sad and desperate, like cigarette ashen gamblers pouring in their last monies into a Las Vegas slot machines. Personally, I'm tired of pouring. I doubted that Robin or anybody else from BET would call me, so I quickly fixed my mind into other income generating ideas.

After talking with Stacey McClain, a former stand-up comic and talented writer who wrote for "The Parkers" and "House of Payne" but who is now relegated to going to the "job fairs" too, I drove over to Julie Baker's house to finish up a treatment for a reality show she wants to do with Queen Latifah. (She's Latifah's very good friend who's been styling the Queen's hair for the past decade).

And all the while I'm thinking, my future will dry up waiting on things to happen from other people. Why not do my own thing? So I started pondering once again on a business I'd like to start. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this probably is the way to go, a way to pull myself away from the Hollywood slot machine and pour my talents into something with a bit more guarantee for a decent pay off.

I'll discuss more about that idea, later. My phone is ringing right now. Maybe it's BET calling...
yeah right!