Departure

Darn you clichés. You’ve proven to all be true. The semester has flown by so fast. I’ve learned so much. I can’t wait to go home to my family and friends.

But in the words of Nacho Libre, “Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.” Was my time in California all I hoped it would be?

There weren’t crushing, earth-shattering lows. There weren’t top-of-the-world, life-changing highs. In short, even though I was in Hollywood, life wasn’t following the traditional three-act narrative structure of most Hollywood films. I didn’t get any job offer, but I did get a few useful connections. I didn’t sell a screenplay to a major studio, but I did learn a lot about what makes a good screenplay great through my internships.

Michelle, a script arbitrator (someone who works on the legal side of screenwriting), shared with me both her and her husband’s Hollywood journey. Her husband, Joey, had made three script sales to major studios. She said Joey thought he’d hit it big, but is currently in a dry spot. He has proof that he’s got the skills to succeed, so why isn’t he?

This all helped to emphasize to me that success on this earth is fleeting. God doesn’t guarantee me a Hollywood happy ending. Even if I had the best day of my life, life would continue the next day, and I would have to move on to the next story.

Biggest area of growth this semester? Well, I feel like I’m a much better driver than I was when I came out here. My first time driving to work was one of the more terrifying experiences of my life. But on this friday, my last day, I made the trek with ease even with the torrential downpour! Small victories, folks. Small victories.

Oh, and for those who’ve kept up with my blog from the beginning, I’ve promised the full list of clichés that found their way into the scripts I’ve covered this semester.

Out of the 80 scripts that I read this year:

  • The protagonist died a dramatic death in at the end of 9 of them. 6 of those deaths were from a “We have to activate the switch manually! I’ll sacrifice myself to do it!” scenario.
  • 15 of the scripts’ protagonists were struggling writers. FIFTEEN! All of them were thinly veiled representations of their authors’ own struggles as a writer.
  • Plot twist! The trusted mentor was actually the villain all along in 13 of these scripts.
  • The protagonist got his car towed in 5 scripts. Poor guy.
  • But if you really want to make us sympathize with your character, have them hold a photograph of their deceased relative, and then have them take out and admire it during the most emotional parts of the story. 21 scripts thought this was a great idea.
  • But what if that relative isn’t really dead? I kid you not, 3 scripts had the dead girl’s ghost whisper, “find me” to the protagonist.

Some scripts had great, specific ideas. Someone else just happened to have the exact same idea.

  • 3 scripts were coming of age stories set in the 80’s. All three protagonists had single mothers who were anxious to get back into the dating scene because they can’t grow old yet, darn it! So the protagonist walked in and caught her mother in bed with a complete loser.
  • A different 3 TV pilots all opened with a tape recording of a deceased character reading out his will. The script then revealed that two characters who hated each other were actually related! They would have to live together and follow the deceased character’s orders to inherit his vast fortune.
  • Another 3 scripts were about a priceless painting being sold for cheap. The characters then scrambled to get the painting back from the unappreciative new owners.

I’ve got a ton more clichés, but that’s enough for this blog. Thanks for staying with me throughout this journey. Peace out.

Peace Out.

Peace Out.

The Fame Monster

“I don’t think I realized that the cost of fame is that it’s open season on every moment of your life.” – Julia Roberts

See? Totally normal.

See? Totally normal.

We got to go to a screening of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” on Sunday. Afterward, there was a live Q & A with the star of the film Ralph Fiennes. Besides learning that his name is actually pronounced raef fines, I learned that this world famous actor is surprisingly still very human. Even after playing Voldemort, the role of a lifetime, he didn’t try to portray himself as anything more than an average, ordinary guy.

This was a surprise to me. The celebrities I’d seen previously in California (Weird Al, Conan O’Brien) were still performing. They kept up their act on stage, so I never got to see the vulnerable, human parts of their personality.

But do I want to?

I mean, look what happens when Ray Rice gets caught in domestic abuse? What happens when Bill Cosby is accused of sexual assault? Do I really want to see these stars fall apart? I don’t struggle as much as some do when it comes to attributing godlike status to celebrities, but more often than not, I do see them as invincible. I hate to see someone I respect destroy themselves.

But I’m not the celebrity’s friend. I’m not even their acquaintance. I probably will never even have a conversation with them. So then why do I feel like I know them? Why am I hit so hard when they fall from grace?

Even though I never spoke with him directly, because of the window I got into Mr. Fiennes life outside of a performance, I felt like I connected with him. It made it that much more tragic to watch him try to leave while ravenous fans swarmed and suffocated him to get an autograph.

He’s just an ordinary guy. Don’t smother him. He doesn’t deserve that.

I know I’m aspiring to go into the entertainment industry. If I have any luck, I might get the chance to work with some amazing, talented, and genuine celebrity figures. I’d love to finally have those deep conversations and see what makes them tick.

But do I ever want to be famous myself? Never.

The other World Series

“Do you remember that time Narrative Filmmaking class became baseball trading season?” – Jake Rundell

And boy did it ever.

Narrative Filmmaking, one of the biggest classes a Taylor Media Comm student can take, is not a class to take lightly. It’s a class that consumes your entire life for a semester. Even though the Media Comm department is full of amazing, talented people, the production team you work with can make or break your experience. People plan their groups of three months, even years before ever signing up for the class.

Then, in one fateful email, all our plans changed.

Because so many students needed the class to graduate, my professor added an extra section and doubled the group sizes from three to six. Oh boy.

Like a seasoned baseball manager, my original group (composed of the stellar students Keith Cantrell and Cadeau Juraschek) sprang to work, calling everyone we could. “Does this person have a group?” “What’s your experience working with this person?” “Who’s strong in this area of filmmaking?” “Oh! The first person has a group already. That means I have to switch roles if we want to go after this second person.”

You get the idea. It got pretty hectic. No one wants to break up the group they’ve had in mind for months. So if we don’t pounce on our choices, they’ll be snatched up, and OUR group will have to split up.

A high pressure situation.

inceptionSpeaking of intense phone conversations. I got a series of very creepy texts. An unknown number messages me, “Hello, is this Mr. Secaur?”

Suspicious, I reply, “Who is this?”

“Mr. Secaur,” he says, evading the question, “we need to verify some information with you. Are you still located at…” He then proceeds to list the exact address of the California University I’m housed in. An address known only to my girlfriend, a few family members, and my professors. It’s not on Facebook. It’s not on any official documents.

So again I ask, “Who are you?”

“My name is Mr. Garner. I represent an undisclosed party who would like to get in touch with you based on your adoption records from ’92-’93.”

At this point, I’m scared. How does this guy know that much about me. Adoption records? I’m not adopted! Am I? He got my birth year right. He knows my address. He knows my name and phone number. Am I going to be seeing a sniper laser soon?

But no. I stopped responding, and that was that. The mystery remains unsolved.

Until next time, stay classy folks.

I know you!

This week the TUHIP crew had an awesome reunion with our professors John and Kathy. They took us out to dinner and we got to reconnect with Taylor Alumni, faces we hadn’t seen in years. Hearing these graduates tell amazing stories offered me some hope. Look! Here are people who got a job in Hollywood! It is possible!

Not one of them had the same path into the industry. What worked for one grad didn’t work for another. I’m learning that there is no magic bullet. I’m going to have to figure out what works for me. Do you have an awesome story about how you got your current job? Share it in the comments!

Continuing on from last week. Do you remember what I said about how some well intentioned people often believe themselves to be more talented than they truly are? I met another one on Friday. A woman walks in to our Wind Dancer offices, completely unsolicited, and asks. “Is this a film production office?”

“Yes.” My supervisor Amanda replies. “Can I help you?”

The woman pauses for a moment. Nervous. “Are you casting for a feature film right now?”

“No. We’re not, unfortunately.”

“Oh. Well I’ll just hand you this. My résumé and head shot.” The woman fumbles with the contents of a fat manila file folder for a good thirty seconds before finally pulling out the material.

Amanda thanks her, and the woman leaves. My supervisor stares at the headshot, mouth agape. Haley, the other intern, and I peek our heads out of our cubicles to catch a glimpse. Then Amanda bursts out laughing. “How do these people get up here?” She flips the head shot around so we could see.

This is the head shot the woman submitted.

Haley remarks, “That’s not a headshot, that’s a mistake.”

In other news, I got to meet the creator of Hey Arnold!, Craig Bartlett! Without going into too much detail, he’s creating a new show for PBS kids in collaboration with Wind Dancer. It was the day before his birthday so we bought him pie. I got to serve the creator of Hey Arnold! pie! How neat is that? That’s pretty neat.

Thanks for reading my blog! See y’all next week.

How do they do it?

A friend of mine once told me that life is all about balances. A balance between fiscal responsibility and generosity. A balance between preaching the need for repentance and preaching God’s grace. A balance between having humility and having confidence. During a workshop on CBS lot, I realized how broad the self-image balancing act’s spectrum can be.

Maddox, of the popular/controversial youtube channel by the same name, led the seminar. For the part two of three segments, he invited audience members to share their videos. He would then analyze them for their ability to go viral. What followed was an odd mix of both vulgar garbage and clever, well-produced clips.

But do you know what united all the submitted videos? Their creators firmly believed they were the next big thing.

When the clever content creators presented, their demeanor was that of confidence. When the garbage dumpers presented, their attitude came off as a desperate ego trip. But was there an actual definitive difference in the way they carried themselves? If I hadn’t seen the videos before hearing them speak, would my reaction to their words have been different? Does the justification of confidence affect the way it’s delivered?

It’s this conundrum that makes me so nervous to talk about my own work. What if it is garbage? Why make people uncomfortable by claiming it’s otherwise? But then again, if I don’t champion the work I’ve done, no one will see it to correct the self-degrading perceptions I harbor.

Once again, life’s full of balances.

I do think I’ve finally adjusted to this driving on highways thing though. Confession: the worst grade I ever got was in driver’s ed. I passed the classroom portion with flying colors, but the driving portion I passed by the skin of my teeth. If only that 17-year-old Luke could see me now! I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can turn music on in the car because there’s room in my brain to think about more than, “Am I going to crash? Oh no! What’s that guy doing? Is he merging? I’m going to die. Can I change lanes? AGH!”

Where was I? Oh yeah! Balances.

I need to learn to spend money once in a while. Not spend less, but just spend some. I’m so worried about running out of gas money that, whenever the TUHIP crew goes shopping, my wallet buries itself in the deepest depths of my pocket.  I can just see me with a family one day. “Dad, can I get a new sweater for school?” “UGH! No! Use the one you’ve already got.” “But there’s five holes in it!” “Bah humbug!” I may need a visit from three ghosts or something soon.

Thanks for reading, gang! Enjoy your week!

Not at Home

So I’ve been boring this past week.

After a month’s worth of tagging along with friends around the city, I’m peopled out. Back at Taylor, every weekend night I spent alone in my room doing homework led me to feel unpopular and boring. Now I miss those nights. I miss being able to drive to somewhere in less than half-an-hour. I even miss Taylor’s Dining Commons.

In short, I miss my small town.

So friends, guest speakers, professors all ask me whether I plan to move out here after I graduate, and I don’t know what to say. This is where the jobs are, right? If I want to be a part of the entertainment industry, I have to stick it out, right?

I just don’t know.

I got to walk through Sony Pictures’ Lot on an errand on Friday. That was pretty cool. I’ve never seen a studio on the inside besides on a DVD’s special features.

Practices have started for the play I’m in at Providence, “The Good Doctor.” I’d forgotten how much I appreciated Neil Simon’s comedic genius. Our director, Kevin, is crazy in the best possible way.

See ya next week, folks.

Moving up!

I went mountain hiking for the first time, you guys! So that’s the literal interpretation of the title. I moved up a mountain.

mountainclimbing

A cool tree covering on our path up the mountain.

But then there’s growing up! I’ve also been doing more adult things. Like fueling up a car! Making dinner! Meeting new people! Paying for credit cards! And getting a parking ticket! Okay, so that last one wasn’t the most enjoyable of grown-up experiences, but at $63, I learned a valuable lesson about which way to point the nose of my car! Two guys, whose car was parked right next to mine, struck up a conversation with me. One of them was an Aussie and was pumped for the Australian Football Superbowl. It’s a slightly modified version of rugby with a circular field.

Then I got to meet a super cool friend-of-a-friend who is the “night lead assistant editor” for America’s Got Talent. He told me his story of how he broke into the industry. He originally wanted to be a director, but felt more at home in the editorial department. He even got a letter of recommendation from Ben Stiller!

The internship is still going well. It is so refreshing to hear a supervisor tell me that my work is appreciated! You have no idea how a simple, “good work” can make an intern’s day. If you have the opportunity, tell someone (that cashier at checkout, a friend, etc.) “Good job. I appreciate you!” It will make them smile!

Since buying the CDs at Amoeba, I’ve bought two more albums online (at major discounts). I’m thinking, “Hey, $3.99 is about what I’d spend for dinner. I can spend that much on an artist I’m interested in!” I’m just hoping this doesn’t turn into an addiction. “Hi, I’m Luke. And I’m a member of Musicaholics Anonymous.” I’d be going from having no music to having too much to know what to do with.

Thanks for reading! More next week.