By AJ Llewellyn
As I prepare to fly to Hawaii tomorrow in the first step of planning a new life there as a book store owner and erotic fiction author, it struck me how hard I worked to achieve my life as I know it…how I have craved security and certainty…and a place in the entertainment industry. From the time I was a small kid I was obsessed with Hollywood. I loved movies. I loved old movies, new movies…I was the know-it-all that drove my family crazy with detailed knowledge of background, scripts, producers, directors…I learned everything I could.
When I finally got to move here 25 years ago to go to school, I began my up and down relationship with Hollywood as I went about the business of trying to make it as a writer.
And then I got my first studio job. I was in heaven. I worked at Odyssey Pictures (RIP) doing screenplay coverage which in turn got me work at Paramount and other companies…in the meantime I was a prolific journalist working as a bureau chief for a group of Australian newspapers. A chance meeting landed me my favorite gig reading screenplays for an independent production company at Universal Studios. I loved it. I loved the studio, loved the work, I loved the people. I took the studio tour many times a week, a nod to the little boy in me who first took the tour aged 10, screaming at the special effects.
I still do.
I was laid off a year ago along with many others thanks to the WGA strike and again two months ago owing to the pending SAG strike. I didn’t take it too hard. I thought I’d get some freelance work and I have, but man, I miss that place. A few days ago my former boss called and said the studio needed some one to read a couple of projects and I dutifully drove over there the following evening.
I have not missed the car inspections, the scrutinizing of my driver’s license now I no longer have my own pass…but once I was on the lot, the joy came flooding back.
The Technicolor Building looked exactly the same and I love that building…I think because in Australia it took us so long to get color TV that I am obsessed with it today. I remember exactly where I was when I first saw a TV program in color. I was skiing with my family in Perisher Valley in Mount Kosiusko and the owner of our ski cabin turned on the TV when we came in and proudly showed us…the infamous “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” episode of The Brady Bunch…
But I digress. I forgot how much I missed this little city within a city. I’ve missed high-fiving the security guards who patrol the lot’s cross walks give you for making it across James Stewart Way safely. I took the path to the building I was meeting at…I had a few seconds…I ran around the corner and stopped in my tracks.
The building where we’d worked was gone…a monolith was being erected in its place. I couldn’t believe how far and fast this work had gone. I found out it’s the new Tonight Show building and will be ready for lift-off when Conan O’Brien takes over the reins.
I checked on my favorite places. The Psycho house is still there, Mama waiting in the window. The Bates Motel set just below it waits…the village square so famous for the Back to the Future movies is being restored in painstaking detail thanks to a fire last year. Most people don’t know this square has been used for countless productions, most recently the TV series The Ghost Whisperer.
The sets from The Princess Diaries are gone, replaced with lavish store fronts that could be Dubai…could be London.
I took an appreciative sniff of the balmy evening air. I if I could snag this freelance position, I would still belong to Hollywood…via email, which is largely how my work has been the last couple of years anyway. I prayed to my mother in heaven for a little good luck and ran to my meeting. I called my lit agent who made a joke when I said that the offices were all the same down to framed movie posters, shelves of screenplays and the odd touch of whimsy…this particular executive favors lunch boxes.
I have no idea why they are so popular but many creative types love them…anyway, I left fairly confident of getting some work and in the fading warmth of this heady California evening, I reminded myself I haven’t strayed far from my dreams. I remain entranced. And I am still here. And so is the Technicolor Building.
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,