There will be times when you might get frustrated with your current work situation and think there is no way up or out. I had achieved making an excellent pot of coffee and copying and collating scripts without pages missing, but something was lacking in my life. Oh right, living out my dream. Like most people, I can get impatient. Ambition will do that to you. What do you do when Hollywood is taking her sweet time making your dreams come true? Do it yourself!
While I was working on "That ’70s Show" as a production assistant, one of my many duties was to get the director his dinner every Friday night. I would pick it up at 4:30, have it at his dressing room door at 4:55 and hand it over with a smile. The Friday night before we went on Christmas Break, he called me to his dressing room and handed me a Tiffany’s jewelry box as a thank you for being polite when I delivered his dinner and always getting the order right. I thanked him profusely and felt this was a gateway to ask him a question that had been on my mind for a while; how do you go from production assistant to director? He advised me to put on a stage play. He encouraged me to get a theater, recruit actors and put on my own production. I secretly wanted him to just promote me on the spot or at least let me direct a scene of the show. Hey, a girl can dream.
I could not bear to ask my parents to send me to grad school to learn how to produce a play or film, since I had a degree in Television/ Radio and had worked on two sitcoms. I quickly realized the beauty of working in television (or any production), is the education you get which enables you to put on your own production.
The production coordinator taught me about accounting, production schedules and call sheets. When I wasn’t running around stocking a fridge or delivering mail, I sat in the bleachers watching the director direct the actors. I also took note of the roles the A.D. (assistant director) and the script supervisor have, and even had an opportunity to sit in the writers’ room to learn more about the craft of writing. With all this information at my fingertips, I was confident enough to tackle my first production.
I took my current romantic situation (or lack-thereof) and wrote a play called, "One"—about being single and having friends who aren’t. I tapped into my savings (without going into credit card debt) so I could produce and promote it. The casting director I worked with on "Just Shoot Me!" cast the play while I searched for a theater.
By March I had my first rehearsal and in July the play went up for four nights to standing room only crowds. The director came to one of the performances and pulled me aside after the show to tell me "I’ve got the goods". He was kind enough to tell his agent at William Morris to check out the play, which he did. However, the agent was not sure if he should represent me or date me.
After the play wrapped, I spent my nights and weekends producing two plays and assistant directing on two of short films. However, I was still itching to do more with the resources available to me. I took a drink from the cup of courage and decided to make my own short film. Even though I had worked on two short films, I felt I did not know enough about making a single camera movie considering I had only worked on multi-camera TV shows. I hired an excellent and patient DP (director of photography), which was key– he basically gave me a crash course in single camera directing. I wrote an eight page silent movie about my first job in Hollywood as a receptionist where I had the menial task of handing out a bathroom key. The movie was appropriately called A Day in the Life of a Bathroom Key. “…Bathroom Key” played over thirty times across the country at festivals and screenings and went on to win four awards for "Best Short Film".
The one thing I have learned, while waiting for my "big break", is there is nothing more satisfying, rewarding and validating than seeing your name as the writer, director or producer on a play or film you did yourself. Who knows, maybe you will write the next Napoleon Dynamite or My Big Fat Greek Wedding!