This is an anniversary of sorts. Fourteen years ago this week I loaded my gunmetal gray Chevy Caprice and came to Los Angeles. I moved in with three guys I didn’t know, in a building across the street from my current home in Glendale.
And now, just this week, I know for sure that I’m leaving Los Angeles and I’m moving to Park City, Utah.
I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve lived in LA. My life before California was somewhat transient: Kingsville – 3 months, Houston – 3 years, England – 6.5 years, Houston – 4 more years, Norway -1 year, Houston – 3 more years, Waco – 5 years. And then LA with big plans, big dreams, and a lifetime ahead of me.
Now this city is more my hometown than Houston ever was. This state feels more inviting than Texas ever did. I have so many memories and milestones here that I’ve begun to forget them all and cling to the big ones –
My engagement. My first real job. My marriage. My favorite outdoor adventures. My most exotic travels. My screenplays. My Car Show. My dog. My son. My best friends… All linked to Los Angeles. All growing from roots planted here.
I’ve fought to stay in LA this long. My wife has fought alongside me. And while somewhere inside I knew I wouldn’t stay here indefinitely, I always imagined I’d have done “more” by the time I packed up and moved on.
But those feelings lead me to the other side of this equation. LA has taught me anger. LA has made me cynical. LA has taken a boy who was naïve and easygoing and tried to make him bored with life and mad at the world. Hopes and dreams have been soured into fantasies and impossibilities.
So, I live in the city of dreams, but I no longer dream. Not of a big screenplay sale. Or directing a studio feature film. I’ve seen those things for what they are: glass houses full of smoke and mirrors. Now instead of dreaming, I doubt.
There are things I would have done differently. Moments I would have capitalized on, or opportunities I didn’t see until later. But taken as a whole, I’ve done a lot. And I’m learning that my background and life experience are more impressive than they feel to me – like listening to your voice on tape for the first time only to discover that everyone else thinks it’s normal and even impressive while you alone believe it’s odd and disappointing.
So with all I’ve done. All we’ve built. All that still feels left to accomplish. The time has come. And the catalyst is quite simple – money.
I’m only just now realizing that those outside the film industry have no idea how bad it is right now throughout Hollywood. On top of the fact that California is bankrupt and trying to tax people right out of the state, Los Angeles is offering fewer jobs while paying even less.
If you want to work for free, then Hollywood wants you right now. But if you want to get paid something worth a decade of experience then go sit down… With the 300 other people who have your same experience and are desperate for this same job!
In the past year, the only people I know who’ve been hired by the film industry have all been right out of college and getting their first job. Luckily for them, they will advance from their entry-level over-worked and under-paid opportunities to better hours, better titles, and better pay. But what does this new Hollywood hiring plan mean to someone like me?
It means I have no work. And I’m moving.
The really challenging thing for me has been the things this move has stirred up. The classic mid-life-crisis style questions of “what am I doing?” and “what do I want my life to be?” are unavoidable in a time like this. Yet, unlike my move to LA I’m now married with a young son, a dog, and things I could never imagine at the age of 23.
So my wife and I are going through our life, really deciding what’s important. What really matters. Both physically, in the hordes of furniture and gatherings that are part of a life, and figuratively, in those intangibles that bring about contentment.
And we settle on one recurring thing: We want a high quality of life, not quantity of life. We both know too many people who work too much, make a fortune, and only enjoy their lives for the two weeks of vacation they take each year. I can think of few things more heartbreaking.
My goal is the same as it’s been since leaving New Line: Grow and Contribute, and get paid to use the skills I have honed over this time. Now with the Canon 7D and the Red in every company’s closet there are places all over in need of high quality production and post.
As a result, we went in search of what we want our life to look like and then tried to find a job to back it up. Of course, it’s never as easy as it sounds in your head, and my job search has been anything but straightforward. But we’ve always wanted to live in the mountains, close to skiing, hiking, climbing, and the scenery that speaks to our souls.
Which brings us to Utah, and Park City. Most people expected us to leave LA and move right back to Texas. But we’ve done Texas, and the things in life we really want aren’t there. I know plenty of blessed, happy, thriving people in Texas. Yet I can’t imagine myself among them. It feels like putting Pocahontas in Victorian England.
So as He often has, God provides in ways we didn’t suspect and lets us drift frighteningly close to the edge before grabbing our collars. A place to live, a lower cost of living, and work opportunity have all materialized around Park City. All while promising a quality of life we always reserved for “someday”.
There are plenty of risks in this new life we are starting toward. No guarantees it will turn out as we hope. But we’re talking about what we want our life to be, and what’s possible, and what might be in our reach if we stretch. In the midst of this planning, striving, mourning, and risking … something new has arisen.
Suddenly, out of a dusty corner of my mind… I’m dreaming again.
And it feels good.
I just never expected to feel hopeful while leaving.