February 02, 2006

the agony of ambition

**WARNING: Huge post ahead. Sorry, I guess I had a lot to say.**

My work since about 2000 has been in the more administrative side of the movie and tv business. Before that, I had studied television production in college, and even went to audio school for an intensive six-month program. After schooling I worked at a couple audio facilities.

My first gig landed me as an "assistant" at a small, scary audio studio run by frightening scientologists. All that inherent drama aside, there I trained under a mixer and editor, learning the ins and outs of various audio and video decks, the two different computer audio systems (including ProTools - where my love of all-things Mac began), the mics and the mixing boards. I assisted in ADR ("looping"/voice re-recording) sessions, and was a favorite of all my clients. I was fast, and good, and loved the kind of work I was doing. They slowed up, and various weird management stuff was going as well, and they laid me off.

Then I got a job at West Productions, a bigger audio facility that worked on shows like "The X-Files", and "The Practice". The mixers and editors there were Emmy-award winners. It was also a union-shop. I gladly took the job as a runner because I knew I had the skills to move up in this growing facility. Nearly three years went by and I got no higher than the title of Vault Manager. Why?

Well, it was a union shop. It's very difficult to move up in a union shop when you're hired into a job outside the union's jurisdiction. It's fucked up in a few ways, but it has it's place. I worked damn hard at that facility, spent my nights and weekend sitting next to editors in their work bays, and staying after on my shift to hang out while the mixes were happening. My job as a Vault Manager wasn't really all I was doing.

In reality, I was doing the job of an Assistant Editor (a union position) as well - loading elements into the Digital Audio Workstations, preparing the workstations on the stages the night before a mix was to start, formatting and maintaining the external storage drives, blah blah blah. When I asked the boss to bump me up to an Apprentice Editor job - almost the absolute lowest rung of the union ladder - he scoffed and flew off the handle, accusing me of trying to blackmail him. He had some issues.

Anyways, time passed, and I stayed there, always in the hopes that the tide would turn and I'd be given the opportunity I felt I earned and deserved. The admonition by the boss left me less-than-excited, however, and I decided to keep my options open and start taking some night classes at the local college. Having a degree couldn't hurt. And then the management of the company split - the President left with another key management figure - taking several shows with them. Layoffs were the talk of the entire facility. Everyone told me I would be the last one to go, in conversation. But I was the second one laid off. I was devastated.

I got calls from a few of the editors in the days following my layoff. They all were showing their support, offering to help me in any way they could. And a few days after that I got a call from the old scheduler at the facility, asking me to come help her as an assistant scheduler. It was at a decidedly larger company - this one working on major release motion pictures - not just television. They agreed to work around my school schedule, and I needed money to survive, so I took the job.

About a week later, I got a call from a producer from one of the tv shows they had worked on at the previous facility. He was going to start working on a new show for the WB called "Angel", and he wanted me as his production assistant. I politely declined, informing him that I had already committed to a new job. Potentially. Worst. Mistake. Ever.

This new facility was fairly tumultuous. The old scheduler (the Director of Operations at the new place) who called me on ended up kind of going a little loopy and quitting altogether. This left them with only me to do any of the scheduling and day-to-day operations stuff. The president of the company called me in to his office and asked me to step up. He gave me the biggest raise I had ever had and the title of Operations Manager, but I would need to drop out of school. I did so. The money was too much of a lure for me.

They hired some more people to help me out. I was by no means trained in handling the financial concerns of a large audio facility, so they hired someone to be the financial director. And they hired another girl to do the scheduling aspect of operations with me. This girl turned out to be Rie, a fantastic friend for many years. She left after awhile (a career change... smart girl!), and another girl was hired to replace her. And then the company went into a merger situation with another sound company. After it was all over, I was laid-off... again.

Sensing a pattern? At this point I wasn't thinking about what I wanted to do with my career, I just wanted a new gig. A little while after losing this job, I got a call from a woman who used to work with me at the facility, in the sales department, and she was working at another audio facility that needed a scheduler. I was hired.

This was a distinctly SMALLER and more low-key company than the previous two, and sometimes the idea would creep up that I'd like to get back on the ProTools machines to edit... but it always faded. My several layoffs and inability to break through that glass ceiling left me ambitionless. I just wanted to make money. As much as I conceivably could. i wasn't making a bad living, but it didn't afford me much more than my garage apartment in Glendale.

I worked at that facility for several years, and again, was laid off when the company needed to downsize. I took a few months to deal with some shit, try to put my mind back together, and re-establish my career goals. I was DONE with post audio. I didn't even TRY to send out any resumes. I thought about going back to college to become a teacher, or go into international studies and go work in the Peace Corps for awhile. But after four months, my money was drying up, and I needed to get out of the house. I sent out two resumes, interviewed for both, got one.

And now I work here - as a frickin' scheduler. When I was interviewed, I told them of my technical background, and of my desire to get my hands back on the machines. They understood, and said they made a priority to hire and promote from within. They weren't entirely truthful. Don't get me wrong, my pay has raised almost 50% since the day I started here, and now I'm making more than I ever have - but this stupid desire to, I don't know, get away from the administative side of things has again really started to rear it's fugly head.

I find myself searching out any possibility. But it seems pretty useless. This is a union shop, so I can't even TRAIN on the machines to get up to a talent-level where they might be inclined to hire me. But now we have this new digital encoding explosion thing going on internally - what with the advent of the video iPod and people wanting to download movies online, it's touted as the next big thing at our company.

So I, of course, make a fool of myself in meetings, inquiring about who they're interested in hiring for this type of work, and will it be union work, and will there be a training or apprenticeship program? And I seek out the new guy overseeing the new department, asking him what he would suggest for someone looking to get into it. But do I really want to upset my own status quo? I like the money I'm making. Making 50% more would be awesome, but is it necessary? It is, to a certain extent. I can't afford much in the way of ANY housing on my own, without completely neglecting to save anything and/or giving up my MINI. And there are other concerns, which I perhaps would be wise to refrain from going into in too much detail right now...

*Sigh* Anyhow, I'm stumped. This drive in me, it hurts sometimes because I consistently feel thwarted. I wish I could just stomp on it enough to make it go away, soI don't have to feel the aching, the longing, and the hurt - but it just keeps on coming to the fore, like a bad habit.

posted by julie at February 2, 2006 04:12 PM

things people have said

Change is a bitch - and you've been through it too many times for it to be a stranger. Based on your trend, do you think you could be laid off again? Even then, you'll still be wishing you'd jumped ship when you had the chance to persue your dream job.



Whatever you do, have fun.

so said: Sheryl at February 2, 2006 06:30 PM

I never visit your site and look what I stumble upon. Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick!! What can I say about this subject? Let's start with the fact that NOTHING ever comes easy. As you well know, I have been pursuing a similar path for just as long and am nowhere near being satisfied. The only thing you have to ask yourself is this: is it something I really want? If it is, you need to upset your apple cart in order to get it. And you can't employ Plan B until you are sure you've given it your best shot. Once you feel you've truly put yourself out there then you can make a decision about your future. Being in a similar position (sans paycheck!), I know exactly where your head is at. It fucking sucks. We aren't getting any younger and it is thoroughly disgusting to look back on the progress made over the years, especially when viewed against our expectations. In closing I would just like to say (insert inspirational quote of choice here). I'm going to stop writing now. I'm not Dear Abby and if I had any salient advice I have already deftly employed it for my own good.

so said: David at February 3, 2006 05:28 PM

here is one for you. I am sitting in my new building - checking out a mix stage we are going to get up and running - a stage rumored to have been home to the X-Files at one time. I keep thinking to myself, "who do I know that worked on the X-files!" many days pass. Then I remember - JULIE DID! Then I read your crazy long post - how funny. So I am in the old WEST Prods. building now - anything I should know???? This builing has alot of dark, creepy areas.

Hope all is well - or at least better than it was in that post!

so said: Snow at February 8, 2006 12:22 PM

Dan - watch out for the raccoon population in the nearby neighborhood at night - they are fearless and probably-hungry. I worked a night-shift at West for several months, and yes, it was distinctly creepy.

I'd love to come by the new facility to visit once you have things square.

Other than that, things are all fine with me, but, you know, I'm just a spoiled brat who can't not complain about something all the frickin' time! ;)

so said: julie at February 8, 2006 01:51 PM

You turned down a gig on "Angel"?? Boy, are you stupid!

BTW, no one cares that you're TAKEN. Don't flatter yourself.

so said: Mighty Dyckerson at February 12, 2006 01:38 PM

maybe i shouldn't, but the fact that you read at least eight paragraphs into this post is pretty flattering in a way - thanks!

so said: julie at February 13, 2006 08:53 AM