— By Matthew Sawczyn —
The highway dark gives way to the glowing headlights, and floral scents drift through the window on the cool, crisp air. The digital numbers on the dashboard read “5:36 am”. I already know I’m cutting it close. And I’m not the only one.
By 7:00 am, traffic has halted to a standstill, as the sea of commuters jam into the freeways and side streets, fighting inch by inch to reach their work or child’s school. Brake lights stretch into the horizon. People say Hollywood is nonreligious, but I don’t think so. I think every morning the city prays to God to part the “red sea”.
No one’s immune. Tesla, Mercedes, 1980s minivans – no privileges for the well-to-do on the road. Everyone fights just the same.
That is the grandeur of “Hollywood”. Though I have only just started my internship at Skydance Media, this realization roots more and more firmly in my mind. The phrases that sound cliché, until you realize their truth. Hard work. Persistence. “The Grind”. There may be something magical about the movies, but there’s nothing magical about the industry. Those who work at it, and keep working at it, are the ones who rise.
And not just the names on the title cards. Not the tabloid headlines. They worked hard too, but they’re not the backbone of Hollywood. The people you don’t know, the names you haven’t heard: these are the ones who really run the show. It is a surreal experience at first, chatting with an executive in the company kitchen, then seeing them in a red carpet photo the next week. But they’re normal people, too. They put cream in their coffee like the rest of us. Sure, maybe they “knew somebody who knew somebody.” Or got that fateful internship right out of USC. But they survived—they thrived—in their company, because they put in the long hours and the extra effort. They’re in the office from 8:00am to 8:00pm. They hold meetings and take calls all day. They go home and read their homework (scripts, notes, budget sheets, etc.) until late into the night. And the next morning, they’re at it again.
These have been my thoughts this month of transition, having just finished the on-campus portion of the MBA program and started my internship, while preparing to physically move to LA in October. I see my fellow MBA cohort doing the same; wearing themselves out to be there, because they want to work in Hollywood so badly. Driving three hours from Escondido to LA and three hours back, because their internship started before they’ve moved up there. Finding babysitters and working side jobs and filling out visa papers and sleeping in campers and pinching pennies and all sorts of crazy stories: whatever it takes to work in our beloved field. It fills me with pride to know what the latest JPCatholic class sacrifices, each individual in their own way, in order to “make it”. And this knowledge serves as a constant reminder of what it takes to even be in the building; to arrive everyday at the place where movies and TV shows are imagined and developed, bought and sold, green-lit or rejected.
So for any student starting, or any dreamer dreaming; for all looking to LA, know this. And be encouraged by it: It’s hard work. It really is. No two ways about it. But that also means your dreams are possible. Hollywood is possible. It’s not some magical land ‘out there’. It’s the concrete and computer screens and reams of paper and cups of coffee and real streets walked by regular people. It really is within your reach. Save the glitz and the glam for the cameras. From down here, from a lowly intern in the great Hollywood scheme, success looks a lot like hard work. Like a lot of perseverance. Like a lot of doing things when you don’t want to. Be patient. Work humbly. Give it a decade. Don’t give up. You’ll be happy you didn’t. Great things await…
Tomorrow, I hit the highway again, with the rest of LA. All livin’ the dream. We’ll see you there.
This reflection continues with Part 2 here.
About the Author
Matthew Sawczyn is an MBA in Film Producing student at John Paul the Great Catholic University.