I’ve known what I’ve wanted to do with my life since I was fifteen years old. I want to make movies. Good movies. Real movies, like L’avventura or Even Dwarves Started Small. When I visited LA after college, my father put me in touch with a colleague’s son: “Bob Peterson’s son works in film. Have lunch with him.” It turned out that Bob Peterson’s son was a recent CalArts grad who was doing promo editing for network television. I met him at the Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank, he paid for lunch, and he told me that, while he was financially better off than he’d been when he was working at Trader Joe’s, his job was “soul-crushing.” And he didn’t even work in reality tv.
At the time I assumed Bob Peterson’s son was speaking in hyperbole. But after I got out of the MFA program at a really good and really expensive LA film school, I came to understand that he was actually being completely literal.
I got my first job in reality while I was in pre-production for my thesis film. I worked nights as an assistant editor on a dating show that’s not on the air anymore. Sometimes the daters would get really fucked up, take off their clothes, and make out with each other. This was considered good television. I saw so many boobs and asses and people doing insane things in front of a camera in my first week of work that I became completely desensitized. Everything seemed normal to me. I remember once a friend of mine walked into my bay and saw me knitting a scarf while digitizing hard-core porn. I wasn’t even paying attention. It was a geeky thirteen-year-old boy’s dream job. The problem was that I wasn’t geeky. Or thirteen. Or a boy.
By the time my thesis was finished, I was working as an editor. It was horrible. But I was broke and it paid really well. And, of course, it was just temporary, just my day job while I was getting my shit together to write and direct my first feature. Cut to four years later: I have carpal tunnel, I can’t see at night anymore, and a masseuse told me that if I don’t make some changes I’ll be a hunchback by the time I’m forty. And I haven’t directed my first feature. That’s what reality tv does to you—it sucks out your creativity and life force, crushes your soul, leaves you for dead (without any health insurance), and moves on to the next poor sap.
I watch reality tv. I think Intervention is one of the best shows out there, and, I’m not gonna lie, I spent six hours one Sunday watching a Jersey Shore marathon and loved every second of it. I know plenty of people who work in reality and love it. And I think that’s great, I really do. It’s just not my dream. The hard part is getting out, but I’m working on it. I know that I’m not going to be happy until I’m directing the films I want to direct. I have to do it; for me there is no other option.