Until I was about 21, I thought I was going to be a rock star.
Until I was 28, I thought I was going to make movies and TV for a living.
Until I was ____, I thought I was going to be a professional computer nerd.
Life has taken a lot of twists and turns for me since the writers’ strike of 2007-2008. Since that strike began on November 5, 2007, I have spent almost twelve of these last 24 months unemployed.
Part of that was the strike. Part of that was my decision to move into the production line and out of working directly for producers, which is an inherently more volatile career path.
But much of it has been the way the bottom has absolutely fallen out of filming in L.A. The combination of the strike starting a rearrangement of the way the business works and the economy in general going down the tubes has contributed to a precipitous drop in filming here. There’s just no work.
I realized a couple months ago as I was making my bajillionth phone call looking for work that I have not received one phone call back since June. June was also my last interview, for a job I had locked down until an actor decided to put in a good word for his niece, and then she had it locked down.
I’ve offered to take PA jobs again, but they’re not looking to take someone with as much experience in higher-up jobs as I have. In some cases, they think it’s because I think I’m above the scut work (which I don’t, I wouldn’t be applying for a PA job if I did), and in some cases, it seems they think I’ll outshine them (with the people who are insecure enough to actually worry about this, that might be a more valid concern).
Everywhere I look in terms of what my skills can get me in the entertainment business, I either see jobs that are so severely overworked and underpaid that I would rather work at Starbucks again than take them, because at least at Starbucks I would get health insurance, or nothing at all.
And frankly, the way things are going right now with the economy and the out-of-state filming incentives and the studios and networks freaking the fuck out about every last penny, I don’t see that scenario changing in the next 18-24 months at the absolute earliest.
Sometimes, you just wake up and realize that the universe is trying to tell you something. And the universe is telling me it’s time to do something else with my life.
And now, a brief comic interlude:
From Amazing Super Powers.
I’ve always been a pop-culture nerd, but I wasn’t a serious computer nerd until the last 3-4 years. I learned some HTML programming in college, and really enjoyed it, but the complete time-sink that is working in entertainment pulled me off the track that would have kept me learning more about programming.
While the primary technical things that I’ve done in the last few years have involved technical troubleshooting and working as an ad-hoc IT Guy, what I really want to learn about is how to make computers do what I want them to.
And to do that, I need to learn how to program. I need to learn about architecture and C++ and the vagaries of programming for different platforms. I really want to learn how to take some ideas I have for programs and turn them into reality, from start to finish.
This, however, will require a fair amount of school. Right now I’m on step 0.1, taking some very basic classes at the community college level, trying to figure out exactly where my interests take me in terms of how I want to program.
My ultimate goal is a Masters’ in Computer Science. I’m in the middle of a choose-your-own-adventure bit of figuring out how that’s going to happen, but I do know that I’m sure as shit not going back to school just to get a second Bachelor’s.
I’m putting together an application to Stanford to start next fall, since a) they have an extraordinarily strong program and b) they are one of the only well-respected Graduate-level CS programs that will actually accept people who don’t have a CS undergrad background as long as they’re willing to learn.
It’s an extremely competitive program, so I have a fairly comprehensive backup plan standing by. I’ll get into it at some point down the road if need be.
If I do somehow manage to get into Stanford, however, I expect to hear a lot of this [note: mp3 link].
I’ve talked to a fair number of you guys about all this in differing degrees of depth, but I felt like I really needed to try and bring everything together in one place, almost more for my own purposes than to try and clarify it for everyone else.
I certainly won’t say I’m never working in entertainment again. If someone offered me a job right now that would help me keep my union health insurance even a bit longer, I’d take it in a second. But I don’t see my future in production anymore, and that’s where things have changed.
This is a path that’s been slowly coalescing over the last few months, and has picked up a lot of steam since about Labor day, when I finally accepted that I probably wouldn’t work in entertainment for much of the rest of the year.
It took a long time for the pieces to come together well enough for me to see them, but once they did, my way forward became much, much clearer. I’ve got a plan, or really a bunch of plans all leading in the same direction.
Now all I have to do is try and figure out how to get there from here.