I write this on the five hour plane ride from Atlanta to Los Angeles. I've cumulatively gotten five hours of sleep in the past 72 hours. My body is tired. My mind is even more so. For some reason, however, I find myself unable to sleep, causing me to have a deep urge to begin writing this post.
I left Los Angeles for South Carolina on October 23, 2016 with nearly no knowledge of what I'd be doing. I had a rough idea of the responsibilities I'd have as a production assisstant, but never imagined that I'd be given and trusted with so much. My position in name was Key Set PA, which allowed me to step into a role in charge of other production assistants. Not only that, I was tasked with being able to be on the same wavelength as our 1st Assistant Director (more on him later), anticipating his thoughts, needs, and commands in order to help successfully make our day. Alongside those two, many other responsibilities landed in my lap: snack/water/coffee runner, talent driver, walkie protector, truck driver, stand in, picture car driver, babysitter, and even ISIS guard (not as weird as it sounds), were just a few of the roles I took on during production. In brief, however, I was tasked to be a problem solver and a loud voice on set, both things I find come naturally to me. It was hard. I mentioned it briefly in "A Moment to Breathe," but though many 17+ hour days in a row would stack up and weigh down on any person, I felt no need to complain or whine. I felt like I was where I needed to be. I felt like I was where I wanted to be. Throughout the show, I found such deep pride in the fact that I would hear things like: "How many years have you been doing this?" and "I legitimately can't believe this is your first show, I would have never guessed." A huge honor was having a first time production assistant tell me that I was a great teacher and that she was grateful I was the one who taught her.
All this considered, I feel incredibly humbled to have done all this with the people I did it with.
My 1st Assistant Director, mentor, friend, ass kicker, and kinda dad for a few days there, David Thienes, was the man who taught me everything I know. He threw me into the fire and trusted that I wouldn't burn easily. He shit on me consistently knowing that I could clean myself up and I'm so grateful for it. The level of trust that he had in me was unbelievable and a genuine honor. In turn, I made it a point to have his back regardless of my understanding of any given situation, something that I have rarely done with anyone else in my short life. I wanted to be the best because he needed me to be the best and I did all that I could to get there. I enjoyed every minute of it and want already to go back and do more.
Another mentor and massive role model to me was the writer, executive producer, and lead role on the project, Scott Pryor. Scott was the man who originally got me in contact with the producer, Gloria Stella, allowing me to come on the show in the first place. At our wrap party, Scott pulled me aside and told me exactly what I needed to hear at that moment of pride and excitement earned upon completing my first show with seemingly flying colors. In brief he told me that he was proud of my hard work and that he understood that I'd be working more in the future, advancing quickly. HE ALSO told me to keep my head on straight, keeping strong character and deep rooted morals, telling me that it'd be so easy for me to fall if I didn't keep pushing to do right, calling me on some of the shit he knew I had done during production. I could never articulate it the way he did, but when he said the things he said, it shook me so deep to my core that I was basically slammed back to earth with the most humble attitude possible. I'm grateful for that. I needed it so badly. I needed to remember that character is what allowed me to be how I was, starting from day one.
Others that I can point to with gratitude are:
John Carrington (Director of Photography), who took me in and showed me kindness all the while being a massive, hilarious dick.
Justin Berrios (Director), who is so level headed and genuinely awesome that every day on set was a pleasure.
Diana Cromer (Key HMU) who gave me a much needed haircut TWICE. AN EFFIN MOHAWK. WHOO and was always amazing to be around.
Brad Tarnowsky (2nd AD) and Amber Givens (Wardrobe) who also took me in to the family and taught me so much about being a Key Set PA.
Gloria Stella (Producer) who I had to email basically every day for 5 months in order to get on the project.
Kim Cecale(Talent driver and mom in the South), who treated me like a son and was a level of kindness that I could barely come to comprehend.
And the rest of the crew of Submission.
In brief, my trip to South Carolina was exactly that, a trip. A surreal, intense, crazy two months that I can just BARELY describe in words. I learned much and find myself itching for more; so much so that I've decided to move to that side of the country in 2017. A decision that is prompted by the fact that the work and the opportunities to advance quickly are there.
Specifically, the decision was reached when the wonderful John Carrington pulled me for a lunch at Bacon House (where I was treated to some legitimately incredible ribs), and told me, in response to my questions about why he was based in Greenville and how he developed his career so fast, these words:
"It's better to be a big fish in a small pond."
It was at that moment that I knew that South Carolina was where I was supposed to be. My goals are the same: I WILL become a writer and director, I WILL win an Academy Award, and I WILL impact film like the greats before me. Now, however, the path has begun illuminating itself. I see individual steps becoming clearer, asking to be taken.
Way too confidently,