The Coming Artistic Revolution
And its courageous, $40B/yr Los Angeles investor
“That’s a wrap!” I was assistant directing a national TV show and the day’s stress was almost over. An hour later, I said good night to the producer, the only other one left on set, as he headed to his car. Beginning my walk home, I looked at the empty street stretching off in front of me and breathed for the first time since the morning: respite. Then a car, coming from behind me, screeched to a halt in my path.
“Get in, I’ll give you a ride to your car, no one should have to walk!”
“I mean, OK, I’m going to the Red Line.”
“That’s, what, a 10 minute walk? Come on, get in.”
“I was looking forwa…”
“Go ahead and walk!” He started to pull away.
Do what the producer says. I got in his car and we drove off. He then asked, as if I was crazy, “How can you work in film in LA without a car?”
That’s a complicated question, so I replied in the simplest way I could, “I live Downtown.” But to fully explain an answer, it takes longer than a four-minute drive; we have to go back 100 years…
World War One was over. Banks in New York City with newly minted deep pockets began financing Germany’s post war reparations to the rest of Europe. Coupled with a low reserve ratio and an already prosperous post-war economy, the whole of western society became rich overnight. Average people had the means to spend money on their passions without a care for responsibility. What followed was a society courageously accommodating the future, birthing the most artistically advanced decade of all time—The Roaring Twenties.
The Jazz Age freed music—setting the stage for every modern genre. The Flappers reinvented fashion—creating a backdrop for every contemporary style. The foundations of the old artistic world were uprooted and a new world created. A world that still gives homage nearly 100 years later.
For instance, in Woody Allen’s 2011 movie “Midnight In Paris” his modern main character, a writer played by Owen Wilson, is able to go back to the 1920s and meet some of his idols — Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, etc. Ecstatic at his luck, he tells a 1920s girl, “We are in the greatest artistic moment of all time!” But she doesn’t believe him, instead claiming Belle Époque in Paris some 30 years prior was.
The ultimate point of the film is to embrace the now, but even the film fails at its own premises; Owen Wilson’s character needs advice on his modern pitfalls and the only ones who can help are the masters of old.
In a critical review of the film in The New York Times, Joseph Berger states, “Many a writer or artist has longed to travel back in time to the sizzling Paris of the 1920s, to sip absinthe with Hemingway at Les Deux Magots or dine on choucroute garnie with Picasso at La Rotonde.” Any artist who knows their craft knows the ‘20s as The Great Modern Artistic Decade.
Never again. The collective psyche of the world was irreparably damaged one day in October 1929 known as Black Tuesday. Our grandparents, who lived through the ‘20s and felt the hurt of The Great Depression, built a world that revised banking practices, forgave war reparations, and shunned irresponsible living, preventing the financial boom of the 1920s from ever happening again.
And rightly so. To inject such a massive amount of unrestrained capital into peoples’ passions could only invite another catastrophic collapse. Today, we live in a ripple of the 1920s. Axis of Awesome, an Australian comedy band, recently wrote a song showing how pop music has hilariously done nothing for decades. Our arts, though they have advanced, have never been fundamentally changed from their 1920s foundation.
After watching “Midnight in Paris,” I was suddenly saddened. I could not help but think, I will never see the world put away the ‘20s as the ‘20s put away Belle Époque. But hope persisted, maybe there was something else beyond resources that contributed to the 1920s artistic explosion.
A powder keg. Often times art is a response to something and the ‘20s were no exception—a technological revolution took place.
The first TV, along with the first Talkie, was invented—solidifying film set job titles like “Assistant Director.” The automobile, which before WWI could only be afforded by the rich, was made widely available because of mass production. Fitzgerald, in his essay “My Lost City,” speaks of buying magnificent cars while living in the walkable Manhattan of the ‘20s as if they were nothing. Technology dramatically transformed the artistic landscape.
Interestingly enough, today, we have also undergone a technological revolution: Steve Jobs ushered in the age of mobile computing. When asked by someone from 1920 what the future is like, the modern man’s best reply is: We have a device that fits in our pocket, and, having all the information in the world on it, we use it to look at funny pictures of cats.
Unlike phones from the last 100 years, today, accessible from 40,000 ft. in the air, a million things can be done on the latest smart phones. This functionality has become so widespread that physical commuting has even become irrelevant. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So why have we not experienced an artistic response to this revolution? Perhaps it’s something else beyond money or technology...
What else? Like Woody, I examined the artists of The Crazy Years. There were a number of reasons Hemingway and others moved to Paris in 1921, not the least of which was because “the most interesting people in the world” lived there. The 1920's saw the first group of artists courageously discovering the new world. Coined by Gertrude Stein, this “Lost Generation” was a massive collection of masters who greatly influenced each other—the 1920's were also fueled by a critical mass of experts.
Does a critical mass of expert artists exist today? First, according to Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, “Outliers,” expert status is gained only after 10,000 hours of practicing a craft. The Beatles, for instance, had their 10,000 hours before their mid ‘20s, which fueled their later, unprecedented success. Second, in doing some research on Los Angeles for another article, I came across a statistic touted by The USC Stevens Center for Innovation:
“There are more artists, writers, filmmakers, actors, dancers and musicians living and working in Los Angeles than any other city at any time in the history of civilization”
But how many of this group can be considered experts? Let’s be extremely safe: we have not experienced an artistic revolution, therefore, we have not reached a critical mass of experts. Assuming LA has been minting expert artists for more than 10 years, we can easily conclude, our pace does not create a critical mass.
Has art just gone dull? LA has the most artistically dense population in history, using the most advanced technology in history, and we are still fascinated by speakeasies, movies, and cars. Perhaps there could be another cause for an artistic revolution, but it is beyond me to find it; where on earth could billions of dollars and billions of creative hours appear overnight?
An answer was, however, revealed to me nine months ago when I first asked a friend about car ownership. Billions of dollars and hours are right here in LA, pending one simple fix to one major problem:
The cost of transportation.
I can’t imagine Fitzgerald, after the success of a few books, being in want in the 1920s. But buying luxury cars while living in Manhattan today, dilapidated or not, could only be a pastime of the super-rich.
In fact, the car is almost nothing at all what it once was. Joan Lowry, an AP Business writer with USA Today, casted doubt on America’s “Love Affair” with the automobile in a recent article, claiming Americans no longer drive as many miles, or buy as many cars—especially among teens and twenty-somethings. To them, the number of views they get online is more important than the number of heads their cars turn.
Traffic fuels road rage, where we yell death threats that sound like justification for allowing 40,000 people in the US a year to be killed by the automobile (to give some scale, there are 440,000 deaths/yr from smoking in the US, about 1,500 deaths/yr by train in the EU, and about 800 deaths/yr from airplanes worldwide)—by the same cognitive dissonance logic, a car can actually be akin to smoking: “I know I’m killing myself, but I feel alive!”
Not only do cars destroy lives, they destroy themselves whether by extensive use or no use, atrophy eventually claims all automobiles after, on average, 20 years.
Cars do still have their uses: they’re fun, help move large loads, assist physically getting to remote destinations, and, parking aside, are generally the quickest way to travel over certain distances. But this usefulness is hardly capitalized on because cars sit parked for 95% of their lifetime (90% by this source).
The worst part about a modern car, however, is the cost. According to AAA, a car costs on average between $8,000 and $10,000 a year, or $160,000 after 20 years. The equivalent cost of putting a kid through a $40K/yr four-year college.
Why cars? Why do Angelenos, the largest group of creative people in history, spend so much on underutilized transportation and not art? After asking a myriad of people, these are the reasons I typically receive:
- “It increases employable area, or decreases rent.” This argument is erroneous because at an extra expense of $8,000/yr ($666/mo), few can afford to lessen their employable area or increase their rent budget. Everyone should include the cost of transportation with housing—some even speculate that it might be the straw that broke the housing bubbles back. So really, the argument is a Chicken or Egg: Did the car allow for a far away job, or require a far away job?
- “Public Transit isn’t reliable.” This is no different than unforeseen traffic or car problems when driving. Not only are passengers not directly responsible for repairing the train, there are usually multiple ways to get from one place to another via transit, and there are plenty of apps that give accurate Next Trip ETAs.
- “The Metro isn’t convenient for me.” When I lived in West LA and commuted to Beverly Hills, a 15 min drive down Olympic, the bus “was not convenient” for me either. My pride, which said I was better than a 30 min bus ride, cost me ten times more money.
- “Sitting on public transit forever will drive me crazy.” The Metro takes longer, there is no debate there. But with the widely available smart phone, people can spend more time gaming, web surfing, or engaging in relaxing and productive ways drivers can’t.
- “Occasionally I work late, like late late.” Busses run 24/7. Also, thanks again to the smart phone, there are market priced ride sharing options like Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar.
- “I have three auditions today, if I don’t have a car my hair will be ruined!” At four-hour increments, renting four times a week, Zipcar is still cheaper per year.
- “Moving to centralized transit areas, like downtown, is too expensive.” If we adjust for rent without a car, we can add $600 to a rent budget downtown.
- “It will rain on me.” Please go outside. I promise it’s nice.
There are many other reasons Angelenos use to justify owning a car, in fact, it seems every car owner—without exception—is uniquely exempt from riding transit for one reason or another. But given the crushing cost of an automobile, the underlying reason I can’t seem to avoid is simple: popularity.
“Everything popular is wrong.” ~Oscar Wilde
Human Nature. Charles Mackay, in his book, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” first published in 1852, chronicles a whole gamut of delusions groups of people have believed throughout history despite contradictory scientific evidence, and how, in each case, disaster follows.
The famous example is Tulip Mania in Holland during the 1600s when people believed tulip bulbs had more value than gold. One could finance an entire voyage across the Atlantic, ship, crew, and cargo for the cost of the right tulip. But the tulip bulb, simply being a flower, turned out to be a poor keeper of wealth, and when the tulip market crashed, the fortunes of thousands crashed with it.
Given the cost of a car and availability of public transit, inner city car ownership in LA has easily returned to its pre-1920 “luxury” status, but popularity explains why people still think they need their car. Popularity also explains why LA critically views those who take transit by choice as diseased, criminal, or crazy. And lastly, for anyone who has lived in any transit-oriented city, popularity explains why LA thinks no one should have to endure the “pains” of a 10 minute walk.
But when only five states have more cars than the number of cars registered in Los Angeles County at 5.8 million, the car in LA isn’t just popular, it’s extraordinarily popular.
“Thank you for riding Metro.” In November of 2008, two thirds of LA voted to approve Measure R, a 30 year, $40B tax to fund congestion relief. Measure R promises to expand the LA Metro, which is centered in downtown, and accessible by a $1.50 ride or $900/yr monthly pass.
Within the metro expansion, there are two projects of note. The first is the $1B, 6 mile Expo Line Phase II Light Rail extension from Culver City through Santa Monica to the beach, which will take about 10 years to build (rounding way up). The second, and most expensive, is the Westside Subway Extension, which will extend the Purple Line 6 miles underneath Wilshire Blvd from Korea Town to Century City. The cost is $4B, and it will take about 30 years (again, rounding way up).
Multiplying the $8,000/car/yr by five million cars is $40B/yr spent on cars in LA. Over 30 years, that’s $1.2T vs. $40B for Measure R. By comparison, nearly two full orders of magnitude separate the two, raising a red flag: when dealing with orders of magnitude, saying the numbers will not suffice, scale must be given:
- Scale for amount: For every 30 years LA continues to spend money on cars, we could build out, at Westside Subway Extension pricing, 1,800 miles of subway. This is the equivalent of building a subway under every freeway in LA County (527 miles), The NYC Subway (223 miles), The London Tube (250 miles), The Tokyo Subway (121 miles), Shanghai Metro (287 miles), and Seoul Metropolitan (327 miles) combined. By comparison, that’s probably not enough scale as most have not been to all those cities (myself included). So, imagine building a subway under every freeway, and under Beverly, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sunset, Hollywood, Wilshire, Olympic, Pico, Venice, Broadway, Grand, Brand, Eagle Rock, York, Ventura, Glendale, Verdugo, La Cienega, Fairfax, La Brea, Highland, Vine, Larchmont, Western, Normandy, Vermont, Hoover, Alvarado, Silverlake, Alameda, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Exposition, Vernon, Slauson, Colorado, Los Feliz, San Fernando, Lankershim, Magnolia, Sepulveda, Westwood, Overland, Mulholland, Robertson, Rodeo, Culver, Pacific Coast Highway, Century, El Segundo, Rosecrans, Aviation, Artesia, Del Amo, Figueroa, Crenshaw, San Vicente, Crescent Heights, and have literally hundreds of miles left to place (might as well put some express trains in)—and be able to do it all over again from scratch every 30 years. We would have a subway system nearly three time more extensive than this:
- Scale for speed: If it costs 4 times more to build an Expo Line Phase II equivalent light rail in 1/4th the time, at $40B/yr, it would take nine years to pay for, but we could build a light rail above every freeway in LA County in 2.5 years. If it was a staggered build, we would have the largest rail network in the world by the 18th month of construction.
- Scale accounting for conversion: We obviously can’t go cold turkey, so, if only 25% of car drivers in LA went Metro (1.25M people), that’s an additional $1B/yr for Metro. If Metro was required to invest that into Capitol Improvements (which I doubt they are), over the course of 30 years, they could build 30 Expo Phase II equivalent light rails (180 miles), nearly matching the entire Madrid Subway (182 miles). If we add our present 87 miles of rail to that we would have the 4th largest subway system in the world. The same is roughly true if 10% convert, and Metro doubles the fair.
Self evident. Just as LA quickly dismantled its massive street car system in the ‘30s and ‘40s, it is completely capable of quickly building a more robust one today. The point here, though, is not to build out a massive LA subway, for then we would run into the same issue we presently have: spending too much money on transportation. But it is to show how transportation systems can serve the people who use them instead of the other way around.
All we need to do is stop using the car.
We don’t even have to instigate a new tax or goofy marketing plan. But even if we did, and, for instance, put a 100% tax on the $40B/yr, we could easily build out the 1,800 miles of subway. 100% is too high? Singapore has been implementing a forward thinking new car tax upwards of 180% for the past 20 years. With the extra 80% we might as well directly connect all the major hubs in LA with a Hyperloop.
I have intentionally rounded these numbers against my argument because with orders of magnitude it hardly matters: there isn’t a single person who read that list of roads and whose eyes didn’t glaze over; the amount of money Angelenos individually and collectively spend on the extraordinarily popular car is delusional and a bubble is about to burst.
Average Greg (21, Male) moved to LA after graduating from Average Suburban College, North America, to pursue his life long ambition to write for film. He hasn’t made it yet, so, in the mean time, he landed a 50 hour a week, $20K/yr, day job to pay the bills and writes on the weekends. His schedule generally looks like this:
His primary expense is his car, which he needed to move to LA, and loves like an old friend because it has saved his life (he recently named it “Greg 2”). Unfortunately, his job is far away and he has high-priced insurance for a bad driving history. Despite it being half his income, to Greg, Greg 2's cost is justified at $10,000 a year.
Presently, Greg writes for about 10 hours a week. At this pace Greg will reach his 10,000 hours in 1,000 weeks, or 20 years.
Greg just learned this fact.
Reanalyzing his life, he quickly realizes his job takes up most of his time, and it primarily supports his car. But if he loses his old friend, he will spend at least twice as long in his commute and it will be on filthy public transit. However, he concludes the only way to become an expert screenwriter faster is to do something about his car.
Being young and not averse to risk, he tries public transit for a week. During the experiment he finds he is able to watch movies, and get some badly needed thinking in. At it’s conclusion, Greg comes home tired from the lack of extra time, but having spent $20 on his commute instead of $200, he sees his car as holding his dreams hostage:
Despite the possibility of an indefinite job search he sells his car.
While sitting on the bus for two months, he searches for and finds a new job, quitting his old one. It’s the same distance away, but it pays marginally better and he gets to work part time. He now makes enough to meet his expenses and has four completely empty days to write:
Time Saved. Some argue that a car “saves time.” Greg’s car was saving him 10 hours a week of commute time, but costing him 30 hours a week of writing time. By dropping his car, and assuming he is completely unproductive during his commute, Greg netted ((13 hours x 3 days)-(2 hours x 2 days)) = 35 hours a week.
With this new schedule, Greg is now pursuing his dreams like a job instead of a hobby and figures he will reach his 10,000 screenwriting hours in five years instead of 20.
After living without a car in Los Angeles for a few months, Greg begins to see how owning his car was being irresponsible. He realizes his car was an unnecessary item, popping, in a small way, the last great lingering bubble of the 1920s. Now, average Greg is trying to move downtown to add even more time to his schedule.
Without cars, individual artists like Greg will suddenly find all the resources they could ever need to quickly become experts. The question is simple:
Reading, movie watching, picture taking, filming, youtube browsing, subway dancing, writing, biking, TV bingeing, DJing, walking, composing, exercising, thinking, drawing, exploring, texting, Instagramming, Vining, Snapchatting, gaming, Facebooking, and general adventuring for $900 a year…
Being popular, cursing all of mankind, and getting there in half the time for $8,000
Car-free filmmaking. In a recent Variety article, Eric Garcetti, the newly elected Mayor of Los Angeles declared a state of “Emergency” regarding entertainment because film is leaving LA. That national TV show I assistant directed moved back to New York. But what if every filmmaker in LA dropped their car?
If Filmmaker Francesca sells her car, which was costing her $8,000/yr, she can afford a $1,000 bike, and a metro pass. Now, with recent advancements in filmmaking technology, and crowdsourcing options like Kickstarter she can afford a $6,000 proof of concept short. She has everything needed to secure funding to direct an ultra low budget independent feature, bringing her one step closer to her dream.
Sure, a car is needed to go on runs, and transport people or increasingly lightweight equipment to filming locations, but using that as justification for ownership is shortsighted. If everyone involved with film (say 2.5% of LA) stopped spending so much money on underutilized transportation and instead spent it, either directly or indirectly, on film, the amount invested in film would skyrocket by one billion dollars a year.
It’s not just film though, it’s every artistic industry in LA. They are all, in a sense, kidnapped by the car. And after two years working in film in LA without a car, and with the corroborated support of a handful of other writers, film makers, and musicians without cars, the potential to reach an artistic revolution worthy critical mass is palpable.
The question really isn’t, “How can you work in film in LA without a car?” but is “How can you be an artist in LA with one?”
“The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” ~ William Gibson, 1993
Denial. There is still wide spread denial about the technological revolution because it is not fully understood. We are just like the girl in Midnight in Paris who didn’t know how important the ‘20s were, instead, only seeing Belle Époque. Perhaps that’s why culture today is so fascinated with the ‘20s; they are as far back and as simple as the modern world can relate to. And just like the ‘20s, we too are in a world on the verge of putting the past away forever.
For example, the car and the cell phone are not yet seen as direct competitors. Coincidentally, a similar thing happened with the railroads in the 1920s. Railroad titans of the day thought they were in the railroad business when in fact they were in the transportation business. When the car and airplane came along, the titans didn’t see them as competition because they weren’t railroads. But they were competition, and they put the railroads out of business.
My cell phone lets me communicate information to anywhere, from anywhere, instantly. A car has the same functionality of communicating the same information, and was widely used as such over the last 100 years, but it does so by physically transporting the information storage unit—our brain. And it takes, by comparison, infinitely longer to do. When software is eating the car, that makes cars obsolete economic waste or extravagant luxuries.
New wine does not fit into old wine skins, for the old wineskins break and the wine is ruined. And just as it’s dangerous to cross railroad tracks in a car, mixing cars and text messages is dangerous. Instead, new wine skins are needed. But this isn’t just about cars, it’s about the way we process our world.
Greg knows. I failed to dwell on one key thing the Lost Generation had that also fueled the 1920s revolution. Being a recent college grad, Greg’s student loans were in deferment when we left him. When they exit deferment, he will have an additional $400 a month in expenses ($4,800/yr). His loans come out of deferment three months after landing his new job, and he has to take up a third day at work to pay for them. Putting him on pace to become an expert screenwriter in 6.7 years instead of five.
But what’s important here is not what happened to Greg, but what would have happened had Greg never sold his car: when the first loan payment was due, Hypothetical Greg would have either had to take up a weekend job and drop writing altogether, or sell his car. Hypothetical Greg decided to sell his car and search for a new job. He finds the same new job in the same two months (month eight), and works the same three days a week, on pace to be an expert in the same 6.7 years. No real difference, right?
But to the trained eye the difference is profound. Its importance is best described by J.K. Rowling in The Half Blood Prince:
“It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew — and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents — that there was all the difference in the world.”
Honor. In both cases Greg knew he was headed into the arena because of the student loans, but in the first case, he walks with his head held high, and the second, he is dragged. After eight months, one amasses 240 hours writing and the other 760 hours, a full three times more.
This difference is the definition of honor. That isn’t to say ditching your car is the honorable, moral thing to do, for each person it will be different. But it is to say, as anyone who is familiar with the story of Harry Potter knows, nothing is bestowed on those who aren’t courageous, and honor is bestowed on those who are.
LA is facing a radically different path than the last 100 years. Student loan debt is crushing America’s youth, and one of the few ways to relieve it is to adopt a car-free lifestyle. But student loans are only a drop in the bucket. What about the astonishing cost of getting into an accident, getting married, or having kids? If $40B is spent on cars in LA, and cars aren’t used 90% of the time, all of life and industry will be clamoring for a bit of that wasted $36B. Ride sharing is already claiming a stake, LA only has a short time to act before that waste is entirely exploited.
If LA does not courageously ditch the car, Measure R will create more under-serviced transit, artists will be stifled by their cars, and LA will continue to have a very hard time creating entertainment. At best, LA will maintain its sad state while other more modern cities surpass it.
But Los Angeles is full of more Gregs and Francescas than any other city at any time in the history of civilization. Pursuing art is never without risk, it is one of the most courageous endeavors anyone can undertake—it’s not art otherwise.
If LA acts out of this courageous fabric now, honor it will receive. Measure R is pithy in comparison to what can be done. If we can take advantage of this $40B/yr now, it is possible to build out the world’s largest metro system in four years, just like New York City did in 1900-1904, radically reducing ultimate transportation costs, and setting LA as the center of the artistic world for the indefinite future. And that’s not even counting honor, which promises three times more—
Perhaps LA could turn the LA river into the worlds longest city park, covered by dozens of beautiful bridges, start crazy new businesses, or do thousands of other things. About 5% of LA’s GDP, which is roughly the 5th largest market in the world, is essentially up for grabs each year. It’s hard to imagine any industry (excluding cars) that wouldn’t want a piece. What would you do with $7,000 extra a year?
This isn’t just conjecture either, with record setting ridership on the Metro, massively successful car-free movements like Art Walk or CicLAvia, and increasing amounts of people flocking to downtown, there is every reason to believe this movement has already begun.
Brave new world. I don’t know what the artistic revolution will look like. Whether we have seen pieces of it yet, or none of it at all. But I do know a few things about it: it has a higher likelihood of being centered in Downtown LA than anywhere else, and it will be entirely new.
The popular has one primary weapon against the new: criticism. Not all critics are artists, but all artists are critics. And there are, therefore, more critics in LA than anywhere. Just like the Flappers were seen as whores by the artists who came before them, this new, no-car LA is radically against the establishment.
An artistic revolution is no different than any revolution: a costly, merciless fight. Even as I write this, I want to put the whole idea away. It forces me to come to terms with the legitimate risk that because of this article, I may have to surrender my career; who knows whether or not people in LA will overcome their dependency on cars, and if not, no one will hire an Assistant Director who doesn’t have one. But, given the little hope of a pro-car future in LA, that is exactly what this is about—walking into the arena with my head held high.
Revolutions take courage and I have no intention of hiding my car-free life. I think for myself despite whatever is popular, for I understand, to the depths of my core, a great truth wonderfully stated in the film Ratatouille by the frigid food critic Anton Ego:
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
I am an Assistant Director. Not a Director. I don’t even want to be a director. For me, it’s not about being a great artist, it’s about assisting those artists who are courageous enough to one day be great.
Assistant Directors are in charge of time on set and when every second on set can cost $1 ($43,200/day), there is little time to waste. AD’s learn very fast to bring time saving information to the attention of others quickly, and not to waste time on information that doesn’t save time. In that regard, Assistant Directors and Ents are no different. Treebeard, an Ent in Peter Jackson’s, “The Two Towers,” said, and all ADs—painfully knowing a second to be a very long time—agree with:
“We never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say”
This article is unashamedly long because I can’t imagine a struggling artist in LA who would not be able to save a lifetime by it. But it is also long to sift out those not worthy of it. Artistic Revolutions are only for those who can look at five years and say, “HA! Once more!” —wanting to become an expert, despite the potential for failure, in a dozen things over thier lifetime instead of just one. Because, most important of all, revolutions are for the courageous, and no one else.
Where we go from here is a choice I leave to you.
My choice. Struggling to wake up at 10am on Tuesday in my eighth story apartment, I looked down the street though my bay windows at the tallest sky-scrapers on the west coast. I used my phone to check my app developers in India and the morning’s Facebook news: all was good. My beautiful girlfriend came over at noon and we decided on a day in a coffee shop.
Like Owen Wilson in “Midnight in Paris” we walked the 15 minutes to my favorite spot. On the walk there, I got a text from a beloved friend, actress, and writer. She had been yearning to see a musical at The Ahmanson Theatre. At three, I took a break from work and walked through a breezy Grand Park to the box office.
In the evening, scotch in hand, we three watched the sun set over the Hollywood Sign from my balcony. My friend exclaimed, “I‘m moving here next.”
The show was fantastic.
When I am not on set, this is a day in my life. Some AD’s make a ton of money; I’m not one of them. I’m just an average car-less guy. I live Downtown, and today, I fought for a revolution.
On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées