Pep Talks

To live in Los Angeles, you must have a thick skin. Just about every single day someone is going to turn you down. Someone is going to reject you. Sometimes entire companies take a quick glance at you and say, “No.” You want to know why. The truth is, there’s no real “Why.” Sure, they say you’re too this or your too that. As an actor you might be too tall, too fat, too skinny, too funny, not Hispanic enough. As a writer you might be too edgy, too political, too soft, too precious, or not manly enough. The truth is you just weren’t the right piece for the right hole at the moment. It’s nothing to do with you; it’s just business. Nobody’s trying to knock you down or hurt you. Everybody’s just doing their job. Everybody wants to do whatever that day isn’t going to get them fired. Taking a chance on you that day just might get them fired. So you’ll have to wait for someone who either loves taking risks or doesn’t realize that you might be one.

Absolutely everybody in this town is faking it. We all think we are frauds and we’re terrified we’ll be found out at any moment. To cover this up, we act like we don’t need you, don’t need him and we certainly don’t need them. Everybody’s seen everything before. Everybody knows everyone. You can’t bring up a topic — it’s already been covered to death. You can’t try and surprise anyone — there are no more surprises.

If there was ever a place that embodied the cliche “It’s not you; it’s me,” it’s Los Angeles. It’s very rarely “You” that is the problem. If “you” are the actual problem, there’s probably someone in your life that you love or trust who has hinted such a theory to you. Because the truth is this town rejects you so often and so harshly, so unpredictably as often as you could set your watch by it, and never lets you forget that you’re trying, trying, trying to make it — because it’s not the easiest job in the world to do this, when someone you love is trying it and isn’t very good, someone’s got to tell him or her — so someone usually does, because nobody wants to watch someone suffer such misery over and over again without hope.

It’s September, and like school starting up again, Hollywood starts up again. The machine starts cranking to life with meetings and deals and mixers and chats. Phone calls are finally returned. Jobs are beginning to get discussed. People meet just to “catch up” or “touch base” or “check in.” Contracts might finally get sent. If you’re lucky, you might finally get paid for something you’ve been working on for free for months. It’s a Hollywood Springtime. It’s also very easy to fall into some seasonal depression. What if this is another year where nothing happens? What if next August you’re sitting in the same place with the same accomplishments with the same total in your bank account? Even if there was a rise and fall in the year, will you be angry with yourself if nothing substantial happens this year? Are you ready to try this again, do this again, give it everything you possibly can to make it happen? Is this your year? Is it finally your fucking year?

To live in Los Angeles, you must be able to give a good pep talk. You must be as passionate about the work as you are about the work of your friends. You must be able to see when they’re falling, when they’re starting to bend from the pressure, when they wilt like wet flowers towards the ground and you’ve got to stop them from bending. You must intervene. There are people everywhere and it’s the loneliest city in the country. Every day it’s just you trying to be a better you out there, trying to get people to like you, pick you, want you. Remember picking teams for Kickball? That’s your entire life, right there. That ten minutes of anxiety every single day for the rest of your life. It can get overwhelming. That’s what the friends are for. We all know exactly what you’re going through.

We are all peppy, perky cheerleaders. Even the cynics. If they really thought this town was unbeatable, they’d get the hell out of here. Everyone that stays knows deep down they’re good enough to be here. They’re good enough to do it. They are strong enough to do it. We all just need a good reminding now and then. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve relied on many of my friends for support and cheerleading. Last night I was returning the favor. It’s part of life in Los Angeles. The work never ends and the load never lightens, and at the end of the day you just want a progress report that never arrives. Every day feels like your last. Every friend feels like a therapist. Everybody is a surrogate mother.

It’s either that or drugs, right? And who can afford drugs right now? Later, when I’ve alienated all of my friends and they all think I’m an asshole and I think they’re all money-grubbing wannabe coattail riders, then, then I’ll turn to drugs. But right now we’re a broke-ass talented family that should each have a sitcom or a three-picture deal. The coke comes later. Or so I’ve been told.

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