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There And Back Again - this isn't a figurative title

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  1. I'm going to take our humble leader Chris's lead and start with a run down of how I've worked in the industry so far and where I plan on going from here. I'll give you a hint, it's involved a lot of travel and quite a bit of luck.

    To begin with, I'm a stereotype. I have been playing with cameras and writing for as long as I can remember. Perhaps less common though, I've never done anything else besides work in the film industry. A very long, personal story made short, I took 4 years off between high school and college due to health reasons. By the time I started undergrad at The University of Michigan - Dearborn, Michigan had a full fledged film tax incentive and a thriving industry. I spent a decent amount of time stalking a few sets of big movies around town. During Scream 4, I stood with a crowd for hours as they filmed a green screen fender bender. I walked my dog past the set of Trust countless times. Little did I know I was stalking many crew members whom would later become good friends and co-workers. I landed my first movie, a $100,000 horror flick, as an internship - the program head had befriended the director a few years earlier at Cannes. Don't ever let anyone tell you it isn't who you know, because in my experience, your network is the only thing that matters in this business.

    That one small movie (I was credited as production coordinator, although I did many other things on that job and earned college credit for it) set everything else in motion. I had the confidence to create a resume, sent it around, and see what stuck. Within a year, I was working so much as a production assistant I was nearly failing my classes due to lack of attendance. I scaled back on my PA work to avoid any issues with school, and to maintain my health. Somehow I managed to graduate on time.

    After graduation, I did what we all hope to - I headed to LA. I attended the UCLA Professional Producing Program, which I found through this very website back when I lurked in the shadows. My time in LA was unintentionally short-lived, I flew back to Detroit for my birthday and wound up landing my first 2nd Assistant Director gig on a kids movie. With the tax incentive still thriving, I quickly booked my second 2nd AD job within weeks of wrapping the first.

    I've worked on over 20 films in Michigan, LA and NYC. I have no idea how many commercials because I don't keep track. And I've dabbled in the unscripted world. But in 2015, the new governor of Michigan canceled our tax incentives outright. I was losing my home-base. It was time to change my strategy. Moving to continue working as an AD didn't feel like the right choice. The long hours standing on set, not going to the bathroom for 8-12 hours at a time, and the stress of the AD department took a toll on my health that I wasn't thrilled to continue.

    Last winter, I had an epiphany - writing was my passion. Writing was why I wanted to work in the film industry in the first place. I rushed to put together applications for my MFA in screenwriting despite having missed the deadlines for some of my top choice programs. It didn't matter, because the point was shifting my focus on a writing career and beginning to embrace calling myself a writer for the first time. Although I didn't get accepted to any programs, I was beginning to shift my focus in a meaningful way and attend a TV Writing Workshop at Columbia University in NYC. The pilot I wrote during the program was used as my sample for this years applications and is currently a film festival competition.

    Right now I'm focused on continuing to write for competitions, myself, possible producers, and whoever will read my scripts. The upcoming weeks include a long over due trip to LA for an interview with UCLA, lots of fun projects with my students, and hopefully some good news from other grad schools.

    If you have any questions or there's a topic you'd like me to discuss more, leave me a comment! I've never blogged before, so it's going to be a bit shaky at first. Hopefully I get the hang of it and someone out there finds it helpful or entertaining.

    Cheers.

    About Author

    IndecisiveElle
    Miraculously graduated from The University of Michigan in 2012 with a degree in Journalism and Screen Studies while working full time as a production assistant, then an Assistant Director during the former Michigan Tax Incentive on some movies you've heard of and even more you haven't.

    At present, applying for MFA in screenwriting for the second time while working as an educator at U of M in the department TV studio.

Comments

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  1. Chris W
    Great first post and I'd love to read more! :) You mentioned "my students"... you're a teacher?
      IndecisiveElle likes this.
    1. IndecisiveElle
      My current position is as an educator, yes. Officially, I am software (mostly editing) support, but I teach some because I'm close with the department faculty and have professional experience in areas they don't (they're all documentarians).
      Chris W likes this.