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Confessions of an FSM Intern

Installation #3: Los Angeles Strikes Back, and Some Random Observations

By Jason Comerford

"Are you a woe-is-me kind of person?" Lukas asked me last weekend as we drove to play softball.

"No..." I answered carefully. "Do I come across as one?"

"Oh, no," he said. But his answer was too quick, and I know he was thinking otherwise.

I bring this exchange up only to show how my exuberance at experiencing the newness of Los Angeles has been given a hardcore dose of reality. My close friends might argue with me, but I've become far less negative and cynical a person as I've gotten older; I prefer to call myself realistic.

But in the space of the week, I've had my rental car vandalized, gotten lost in South Central, gotten one of those $40 parking tickets, missed meetings with composers, been yelled at by various members of the FSM staff about my last diary installment, and wondered if I had enough money to finish out my month here. The three people that I know outside of the FSM office are either unavailable, or unwilling to return my phone calls. I have no television, no stereo, no long-distance phone service, no cell phone.

But I'm perfectly content. I am not a woe-is-me person. But this is what happened to me, so I might as well say so.

I've been writing criticism for several years now, and one of the things I've learned is to not commit myself to a knee-jerk reaction against something. I've found it more interesting and fulfilling to let ideas and thoughts germinate, to take that gut feeling and figure out what brought it up in the first place. I don't like to review films or CDs or books immediately after I see them, listen to them, or read them. Ideas and thoughts come slowly, with more deliberation and insight.

This is why I'm not letting anything that's happened to me here get the best of me. One has to fall into the rhythms of any given place, of any given group of people. Instant reactions can be damaging. Long-term observations, however, are the most rewarding.

But it ain't all bad. My insurance covered the vandalism. I made it out of South Central alive. I paid the parking ticket. I rescheduled my meetings. Jeff Bond was just kidding. (But I do hereby dub him "Mr. Cranky", with love and affection.) And fiscally, I'm doing OK. I can certainly live without a TV, stereo, and long-distance. I'm better off without them.

So, rest assured, that my trip has been very much worthwhile. I'm still enjoying myself tremendously, and getting to meet and work with the FSM team is always entertaining. (And I was reminded to assure everyone that, contrary to popular belief, Tim Curran and Lukas Kendall DO actually put time in at the office.)

At my film school in North Carolina, we have a long-running joke: On any given location shoot, there will inevitably be a moment where a overall-wearing gentleman, riding in a pickup truck with his family in the cab and a shotgun in the back window, will roll up and holler, "Y'all makin' a movie? Kin ah be innit?" And we will always have to do another take, regardless, because the sound has just been ruined. We call it the NCSA addendum to Murphy's Law. One of many.

I only bring this up because seeing film equipment and film crews is much less common there than it is here. I've seen more grip trucks around the Los Angeles area in two weeks than I've ever seen in North Carolina. But, of course, people here are accustomed to this type of thing. So when the ADs (assistant directors) yell for "quiet on the set", people do as they're told. As a frequent AD on student-film shoots, I wish North Carolinians had that discipline. But perhaps we can take a few more steps towards educating them properly.

One day this past week, Lukas got a shifty look in his eye and yelled, "Hey, who's newest here?" So I raised my hand. When in Rome...

The duty? Compile the last two years' worth of letters to FSM suggesting future releases. And for the last few days I've been giving myself headache after headache, deciphering some indecipherable handwriting, and shaking my head at some of the alternately bizarre and obscure release suggestions. (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken? Hawaii Five-O?) It was an exhausting, but at the same time, exhilarating chore: it's exciting to know that so many people have so much enthusiasm for so much of this material.

It was better than taking out the trash, at least. But Lukas has let me know that I have hundreds of emails to look forward to now.

... do as the Romans do...

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