Learning a lesson in expectation versus reality

by Steph Kiser / Beacon Staff • April 30, 2015

LOS ANGELES—The following is what I believed my time in Los Angeles would look like:

The first week would be torture. I would eat my feelings, cry, eat more, and then cry some more. I would diagnose myself with a bad case of homesicknessforwhich, as you may know, there is no known cure. I would drive to the nearest Target to get essentials (toilet paper) only to get lost six times, curse my GPS, give up, and drive back to campus. Later, when I would use the bathroom, there would be no toilet paper.

Then, I would start my internships at Kinetic Content and Allison Shearmur Productions. I’d mess up and almost get fired, but luckily, my managers would remember I work for free and decide to keep me for no reason other than that. I would buy overpriced souvenirs on Hollywood Boulevard, sit in too much traffic, and spend many days wondering why all the boutiques only carry up to size four, but then, there would be a change.

Suddenly, all the question marks about post-grad life would disappear, the light would shine down from above and a peaceful journey to adulthood would begin. In a twist of fate, I would have figured it out. Figured it all out. I would drive from Malibu to Silverlake without Google Maps. I would make friends with every promising 20-something in town. But most importantly, my time in Hollywood would have taught me exactly what kind of career I wanted. The questions that keep me awake at night would have all gone away. I would have lived and worked in LA and know everything there was to know.

What a nice idea. Now, let’s talk about what really happened.

I did mess up, and I did get lost. I did fail at making friends with hip and young celebs. I never stopped missing my loved ones at home, and my suite did run out of toilet paper—very often, in fact. I also failed to narrow down what I wanted to make a career out of; instead, I broadened my scope. 

I learned that sitting through hours and hours of horrible auditions can be exhausting, but that feeling you get when the right actor or actress walks in is inexplicable. However, if you ask me what kind of casting I want to do, I start drooling and my brain turns to an old pile of lettuce. Sitcom casting is fun, but lacks a seriousness. In casting for reality shows, you get to meet all sorts of strange and interesting people, but the job is certainly not for everyone. And casting for blockbuster productions is where most people aim to be, but that part of the business is the one thing I can say is not for me.

In short, what I’m trying to say is that Emerson Los Angeles has left me with more questions than I arrived with, and my career path has more possibilities than ever.

Everyone you meet here has a story, and if they’re in the business, it’s a story that you’ll want to hear. If they work in editing and you want to direct, it doesn’t matter. Los Angeles is a big city, but Hollywood is a small town. That editor may not have the same career path as you, but he may have worked with a director who inspires you. 

I took an internship in casting at Kinetic because it produced a show that starred my longtime hero, the actress Betty White. A few weeks before I arrived, Kinetic found out Betty White’s Off Their Rockers would not be picked up for a new season. I was devastated. I thought my time here would end up being a waste after hearing this. But now, nearly four months later and because of this experience, I am now interviewing at casting agencies for my first full-time job.

I came to ELA hoping to find out where I was meant to be and what I was meant to be and I failed. I have no answers. But that’s what this program is about: giving students their first taste. 

At the end of April, I will leave Los Angeles with way more experience than I had before, and while I did not find my exact passion while I was here, I am leaving one step closer to finding it.