On Quitting Your Day Job

I began my career many moons ago after living in Australia for a year. While in Oz, I took odd jobs to fund my trip as I made my way around the country, every time I was running short on money or on the brink of begging my parents to pump cash into my account. Server, bartender, cleaner, shuttle bus driver – you name it.

Since then, I’ve had a satisfying professional career and I’ve met some incredible people along the way, many of them lifelong friends. And one mantra I’ve always maintained, no matter what, is to never quit your day job.

This, of course, applies particularly to people who are pursuing something creative or high risk that potentially won’t earn a viable income. I’ve always preached, especially to my creative friends, the importance of remaining gainfully employed while in pursuit of your dreams.

For some, they get lucky early on, and figure out how to blur the lines between day job and dream job. For the rest of us, it’s a delicate dance between committing fully to what feeds your belly while still carving out time for what feeds your soul.

I thought I had this down. While being relatively satisfied in my day jobs, I’ve always made time – dedicated time – to my creative pursuits. For a while it was freelance journalism and about five or six years ago, before moving to Los Angeles, it became screenwriting.

In LA, I’ve worked out a sort of writing schedule or ritual. Every Wednesday and Saturday night, for about two hours, I settle in to my favorite table in my favorite bar in Venice (the oldest bar in Los Angeles) where my favorite bartender has a cold glass of California chardonnay waiting for me. Like. Clockwork.

Last year, I decided to turn one of my scripts into a short film, something I produced, directed and self-funded while maintaining the most demanding job of my career to date. And I discovered how much I loved the experience of collaborating with a diverse group of creatives and the journey of bringing a story from page to screen. Meanwhile, as I was shooting said film, I turned 40. I’m not sure if this is related because I hate the idea of having some cliché midlife crisis, but I decided to quit my day job to develop more projects for film and TV. I guess this was my Ferrari moment?

I’m a writer first and foremost, no doubt about it. I’m happiest sat in the darkest corner of the darkest bar observing and writing. Much like the dark little London pub I’m sitting in right now as I write this. But there is something thrilling about the challenge of directing, working with actors and translating a script into a moving picture.

So here I am, nearly two months in to a self-imposed professional hiatus, having followed none of my own advice and quit my job. My goal is to complete as many projects as possible by the end of summer to pitch, develop or sell. And given I live in the real world and not the fictitious scenarios of my characters, I’ll need to land another day job soon. And that’s okay, cuz a girl’s gotta eat. But I’m grateful I was in a position to give myself the space and time to pursue these creative urges. Even more grateful to have a loving partner who understands and supports me.

I still stand by the mantra of not quitting your day job, but if you can take a little break to give your dreams your full attention, give it a shot. You never know what interesting opportunities may bubble up.

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Here’s to the road less traveled

It’s strange how we more often feel compelled to pay tribute to people posthumously rather than when they’re alive and well. When we have the opportunity to reach out and tell them how they inspire us or have taught us something valuable.

I’ve always been a little obsessed with the road less traveled. If tourists were going in one direction, I was bolting in the opposite. When we visited Rome during our honeymoon, the last thing I wanted to do was cram myself into the Sistine Chapel among the throngs of people holding their smartphones towards the sky. Instead, my husband and I skipped it to simply people watch at a nearby sidewalk cafe.

Those bizarre, unchartered and sometimes dangerous places that — much to the chagrin of my husband — I’ve always been drawn to are where some of my most surprising, wonderful, life-altering experiences have taken place. And when Bourdain hit the scene with his rockstar approach to travel and storytelling, it was like the travel guru I had been waiting for was finally a reality. And that’s just it, isn’t it? Why everyone loved him. He was real and his subjects were real and it was never some staged interview set among a perfectly lit location. It was never about following the flag of a tour guide to get a money shot of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

I’m so very grateful to have attended an event at LACMA last year for the premiere of the season eight finale of Parts Unknown, which happened to be Rome. Tony and his producers were in attendance for a Q&A with the audience afterwards. When he walked into the room people cheered at a rock concert decibel, as though Mick Jagger had walked in alongside him. It was electric. People really admired him.

I remember all the whispers from folks around us after the episode was over, speculating that a romance might spark between Bourdain and Asia Argento. Their chemistry literally jumped off the screen and reverberated through the theater. I can’t imagine how broken she must feel today.

More than anything, I appreciated how Bourdain wrote and spoke of Los Angeles and the California high desert, both places I now call home. My husband and I just purchased land in Yucca Valley, minutes away from the Integratron, an architectural marvel in the middle of nowhere in part made famous by Bourdain and his innate interest in all things unusual and unexpected.

He loved the Chateau Marmont, and stayed there exclusively (according to him) when visiting LA. Anyone who is a fan will know this. It’s history, elegance and the role it played in the rock and roll heyday of the Sunset Strip. He seemed to revel in it. From now on, when I go by it’s haunting castle facade, I’ll think of him. Perched high on a balcony overlooking our beautifully chaotic city, a Negroni in hand.

“Los Angeles. The landscape of our collective dreams.” – Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain - LACMA

Anthony Bourdain, LACMA, Los Angeles 2017

Chateau Marmont

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The funny thing about creativity and screenwriting in Los Angeles

I didn’t move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. This question comes up almost immediately when meeting new people here. I’m not surprised, LA is the epicentre of entertainment. But I have to admit, when I’m at a party and stumble upon people with “regular” jobs, it’s almost a relief.

My husband and I moved here for every other possible cliché you can think of. To escape the dismal Canadian winters, for a new adventure, a change of scenery. To do what most people wait until retirement to do – spend our savings on living our dream now, while we’re young(ish). Despite my “regular” job and my pure intentions of enjoying the spoils of an eternal summer, it doesn’t disguise the fact that I’m plugging away at screenwriting in my spare time. *Insert eye roll here*

I didn’t move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. But, I happen to love film so it’s not so bad living in the epicentre of entertainment. Moreover, I’m fascinated by the art of creating a script. Stringing words and dialogue together to make people feel something, whether it’s inspired or angry or balling hysterically into a box of popcorn. Film is one of the most powerful communication vehicles in the world. Why wouldn’t I want to take a crack at it, even if nothing ever comes of it?

I’m a big proponent of creating things, even if no one ever sees it. It’s still an outlet. The act of being creative can be a reward in itself, if you train your ego to give you the freedom to enjoy it.

This has always been my mantra. There’s no reason why you can’t lead a creative life, just because you don’t make a living from being creative. Which is why my best friend – a singer who has struggled to find balance between his creativity and what he deems successful – recommended I read “Big Magic”, by Elizabeth Gilbert. *Insert second eye roll here*

I don’t have anything against Gibert, other than the fact that a popular book she wrote transformed Bali from a lesser-known island paradise I traveled in the 90s to a mecca for middle-aged women writing their own memoirs of divorce and enlightenment. I digress; I needed a fun read to get me through a flight from LA to New York a few weeks ago so I picked up her new book.

I was in town for the Tribeca Film Festival but also to soak in the energy of that grand old city and recharge my creative battery. Despite living in the epicentre of entertainment, LA can really suck ones inspiration dry. The beautiful weather we moved here for is an inconvenient distraction. How could I spend a Saturday inside with my laptop when I could be frolicking at the beach? I’ve heard people joke about how New York is where you go to write and LA is where you go to pitch your script. I’m starting to get that now.

I was halfway through a screenplay that, in large part, takes place in New York. Set in the 1960s amidst some of the most iconic locales of that era, I needed to physically be there to be sure I was getting it right. How can you write about Hotel Chelsea if you haven’t loitered in its lobby, taunted its ghosts or stood below it’s failing façade, held up by precarious scaffolding? How can you describe an afternoon in Gramercy Park if you haven’t lingered by its gate, hoping to sneak in behind a kind key holder? I appreciate not all screenwriters have the means to travel to locations where their story takes place just to soak it all in, but I guess that’s one of the perks of having a “regular” job.

Back to Gilbert’s book, I was at a place in my script where I needed a spark to get the thing done and one section really kicked me in the ass. The theory that ideas float around the universe until they land on a human being they can confidently collaborate with; a channel to transform them from idea to physical thing. And if the human doesn’t act, it will eventually float away until it can find another person to collaborate with. I realize we’re edging on mysticism here, but she had real life examples to back up her theory plus who cares what or who ignites a creative spark in you. Hold on tight and go with it, people!

I’m close to completing the first draft. Whether it was New York, Elizabeth Gilbert or the universe giving me a break, I’m not sure. But sometimes your creativity needs to be confronted. Sometimes you need to shake things up to shake out your story. Sometimes you need to get the hell out of LA, instead of letting an idea passively slip away while you lounge poolside posting Instagram pics.

One morning while I was in New York I was walking over the Brooklyn Bridge when two ladies behind me mentioned Vancouver. Excited to hear some Canadian accents I immediately struck up a conversation, declaring I too was from Vancouver but currently living in Los Angeles. One of the women asked me if I was an important actress they should know about. Immediately I replied god no, I have nothing to do with the film industry. Not yet, anyway.

IMG_9619

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