“Write about a time you followed the road less traveled and it made all the difference.”
I don’t like to follow the crowd. In many ways I’ll observe what seems to be the popular thing to do and then do the opposite. When straight hair was in, I got a perm. When everyone in my group got a tattoo, I passed. These might seem pretty superficial, but in my mind I was being independent by not being a copycat. So when it comes to following a road less traveled, it would have to be when I moved to Los Angeles just weeks after graduating college. At that time some of my friends had secured corporate jobs while still in college. Some planned on my moving back to their parent’s place to figure things out. I hadn’t done either. I picked up and moved west. I wasn’t alone. I moved there with one person, a girl that I met in my script writing class my junior year at Indiana University. The class met once a week for two and a half hours. We wrote an episode of “Mad About You.” The semester ended, I studied abroad the following semester and then lost touch with the girl. Fast forward to the last few days of senior year and I ran into my former co-writer at a bar. She asked what my plans were for after graduation. I told her I had no concrete plans, then I said what I had never said aloud, that I might move to LA. She said, “here’s my home number, call me if you do.” So I did. And we moved out a month later.
I majored in Telecommunications and minored in Spanish and Business (big yawn!). Besides writing episodes of current television shows, I also studied Nielsen ratings, counter programming strategies, the history of golden era of tv, and many other fun topics. TV was fun. TV was what I was raised on. TV was what I knew. So when I started lining up interviews for my post college career I would pick random companies that had offices in California. A long shot, I thought, but maybe a decent paying job, in any field, in California would get me closer to working in the industry. This was the dawn of the internet, so to get a listing of production companies I visited the job center in the telecommunications building and grabbed the biggest book I could find with the tv/film/production studios. “ILLEGAL TO COPY” it said on the front cover of the book. I didn’t care. I took the book to the copy machine, threw in a quarter and slid the book under the copy machine’s heavy lid. I started at the back of the book. Five cents a page. I copied five pages and put the book back, graduated a week later and began calling the names of the companies I managed to steal from that book.
I graduated in the beginning of May. My second night home my mother asked (in a rather annoying tone) “So, what are you going to do with your life?”. I could imagine this situation was only going to get worse, the persistent questions, the nagging, the pressure, so I called that girl from my writing class and said, “I’m moving to LA – do you want join me?”
By June I had gone out there to interview. I really had no skills. I had babysat and was a camp counselor. That was it. I was still twenty one, so my parents had to rent me a car, my father bought me my first cell phone for this trip. Since I made copies of the BACK of the book with the production offices, I interviewed at places that started with Z, Y, W. I called Witt-Thomas Productions. The woman I talked to weeks before said to call if I ever made it to town. I was sitting outside their offices off of Sunset Blvd. facing the Hollywood sign when I placed the call. Again she said, “If you ever make it to town call me.” I said “I’m sitting outside right now.” I think she was rather impressed because I was hired on the spot. I asked for a week so I could go home, get my stuff and find a place to live.
By July I was moved in. Down the street from Nicole Simpson’s old condo.
By August ever Friday night I was hanging out on the set of a rather lame Joey Lawrence sitcom, but I didn’t care. I had made it.
Sometimes not having a plan is the best plan. Sometimes following the road out of town is the the road to success. I found myself in Los Angeles, I became an adult in Los Angeles. The road less traveled led me to myself.