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Confessions of an FSM Intern

Installation #1: Look Ma, No Hands

by Jason Comerford

When I told my grandmother about my intention to come to Los Angeles for an internship, she gave me a worried look and said, "Don't go out there, Jason. Stay in North Carolina and work. There's nothing but crazy people out there." Grandma lives in South Carolina, and hardly ever travels. Taking care of my ailing grandfather is an adventure enough -- she'd much rather stay somewhere she knows and understands.

Needless to say, Grandma's worried look was not the first danger sign I'd seen. Earthquakes, LAPD, and places that are whispered about -- Compton, South Central, the FSM office -- plagued me endlessly.

Understand this. I'd never seen the Pacific. Never set foot in California. Hardly ever even spoke to anyone in those places aside from my irregular communication with the FSM team and the composers I interviewed. Everyone was always very nice and forthcoming, but still my doubts lingered.

But still. I'd committed myself to a career in the Film Industry. Something I wanted to do since I was five and saw Ghostbusters for the first time. I always tell my friends to stop whining and accomplish their goals, no matter what. I always tell them to roll with the punches, to quit bitching and moaning. Time to take some of my own advice.

So I called up the FSM team. "Need any help?" I asked. "Sure," Tim Curran and Lukas Kendall said. I imagined two gruff trolls in a newsroom, rubbing their hands together and cackling and salivating at the prospect of fresh talent to exploit.

"Okay," said I. "I'll come out for a month." Look, Grandma, to the wolves I send myself.

I've been trying to figure California out, and still an accurate description tends to elude me. People told me that there was a Starbucks on every corner. They weren't lying -- there's one right outside my apartment. People said that the women were consistently beautiful -- that was no lie, either. I've seen beauty I never thought physically existed. People said you can get anything you could ever want here -- no lie. In one stretch of road I saw a Persian hairdresser, a Borders Books and Cafe, and a rental car agency. And I have yet to really explore this place.

I'm still a pathetic fanboy tourist. I saw the Nakatomi building (the building used in Die Hard, which is the Fox headquarters) and freaked. I saw the Comedy Store and started pointing and screaming. Ditto for the Mann Chinese Theatre, Beverly Hills, the Santa Monica Pier, the Virgin Megastore, and so on and so forth.

Then reality sets in. Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Hollywood -- they're all just towns, like every other town I've been in. There's just more to see. I saw the famed Hollywood letters and said, "Big deal." I saw The Perfect Storm at Mann Chinese -- it's a tourist trap, and the nine bucks I paid for the mid-afternoon show seems like robbery in hindsight. I took a walk on the beach at Santa Monica -- it's just another ocean, albeit colder than the Atlantic. I envisioned a lot of uber-rich, uber-snotty people everywhere speeding around in BMWs and Porsches, but there are plenty of working-class schmoes like myself puttering around in spit-and-baling-wire cars to balance the load. Maybe the rich people tend not to mingle with the commoners. It's probably not kosher.

Parking, groceries, gas, movies -- the prices are obscene. Ever paid four bucks for a gallon of milk before? Well, I'm sad to say, I have. The grocery stores have valet parking. (That's the damndest thing I've seen yet.) If you don't know exactly how to say "caramel macchiato", you're looked at like a leper. You can drive like Jeff Gordon on methamphetamines, but if you jaywalk or run a red light, you're in big trouble. ($50 and $300 tickets, respectively.)

But it's cleaner than I thought. The air is clean and clear, and the sidewalks are swept daily. Everyone smiles and is polite -- even the bums. Need directions? No problem. Places are fairly close together and easy to get to -- the streets are ridiculously easy to navigate, as long as you're not puttering around at rush hour.

And the FSM office? It's more like my mom and dad's office building than a bustling newsroom. There are couches, computers, bookshelves, videos, DATs. I recognized Jeff Bond's cubicle immediately -- there's an autographed picture of Charlton Heston in one of the Planet of the Apes flicks on the wall, next to a vintage poster of The Mephisto Waltz, surrounded by more sci-fi and genre toys than I could shake a stick at. I can only assume that the Phantom Menace calendar on the wall outside the cubicle area is some kind of a joke. But the photo montage of Jerry Fielding conducting an orchestra is fascinating, as is the huge Italian poster of The Wild Bunch -- Il Muccio Selvaggio! it screams. There's a framed collection of photos of Lukas tossing a couch of a window -- dare I ask?

And there is, of course, music everywhere. You want it, it seems, you got it. Beside Tim's computer alone is seemingly every Varese CD released in the past two months. (Basically, everything I've wanted to hear but hardly can afford.) I used to wonder where they put all the CDs that they review -- I doubt they know, either. All the song-compilation CDs are kept on a pair of racks near the stairs -- they look like they've been quarantined.

Look, Grandma. I made it all right, in one piece. Now I just have to do like I always do -- put my nose to the grindstone and hope like hell that it gets me somewhere.

JComerford79@juno.com


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