When I was five years old, I dreamed about sashaying down the red carpet. It took 15 years, but this week, armed with a wristband I could flash at security to get almost anywhere I wanted and blistering enthusiasm, I finally made it.
“Made it” being a euphemism for being drenched in sweat while scrabbling for interviews with Bobby Moynihan, Phyllis Smith and Mindy Kaling during a three-hour stint in weather so hot I’m pretty sure my heels melted. As an intern for The Hollywood Reporter, covering premieres is part of daily life, and I’d been warned by many carpet veterans that the experience would be nothing short of hellish. They were right, of course. However, even if reality fell short of expectations, I couldn’t care less. After all, I met Drunk Uncle! I got to discuss “Lost” with composer Michael Giacchino! Amy Poehler made a joke five feet from me!
But, unlike my red carpet fantasies, my preconceived notions about Tinseltown — often handed to me by lists on the Internet, skeptical East Coasters or “Saturday Night Live” — were met. People love to talk about traffic and what roads they took coming to work. Gym regimes are a big part of lunch conversation, and lunch usually manages to involve quinoa. Century City is overrun with mini Ari Golds. Nobody walks (except for me). And everyone has a project: screenplay, novel, TV pilot or ten, comedy sketch, board game or music venture. At Georgetown, working on a book is an abnormality. In Hollywood, if you don’t have an ambitious creative pursuit and dreams of stardom, you might consider packing your bags.
It’s not surprising that people had so many opinions about what I should expect what I decided to uproot myself to Hollywood for the summer, but more than jokes about kale, I got warnings. Against the people, against how I would be treated, against giving up a stable business job for a potential life as a starving writer.
Maybe Hollywood and I are still in our honeymoon phase, but I believe that no assumption could have been more wrong. Sure, there are plenty of unpleasant sides to Hollywood, as there are everywhere, but underneath the glitz and the pursuit of celebrity and overpriced cars, the majority of people flocked here for a common purpose. Geeks, dreamers, shower singers — none gave up the pursuit of sharing a story with viewers across the globe.
I’ve gotten lucky with my internships: The Hollywood Reporter trusts me to take on insanely cool assignments. OddLot Entertainment, a production company where I intern in development, is headed by a female CEO I could spend hours raving about. Maybe I’m starry-eyed enough to see what I want to see, but it helps that so many people around me share my sentiments.
I know that there are agents only interested in the bottom line and plenty of Eve Harringtons and would-be Marilyns elbowing each other for a second in the limelight, but stumbling onto the arduous path towards success, I see, now more than ever, that a desire for a big paycheck or a big name doesn’t get you into the Hollywood elite. Most top executives have paid their dues in the mailroom or at an assistant desk. Aspiring actors don’t even have the security of a meager assistant’s pay.
As with any creative industry, the people who risk it all and stick through the ugly parts do so because they love it. Hollywood is, in many ways, an industry of passion. It’s a society of people crazy enough to put faith in fiction and story, and to collaborate with others to produce art that touches audiences they’ve never met.
But, really, if this is what it means to be crazy, I can’t figure out why you would choose to be anything else.
Kim Bussing is a rising senior in the College. Behind the Screens appears every other Friday at thehoya.com.
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