I fell in love on HollywoodTrek. No, not with Paramount or Warner Brothers, with a woman. I was sitting at Sky Bar at the Mondrian Hotel with Imran Amed, Aman Kapadia, Renata Dionello, Ted Cho, and Stephan Morais when I met her. Seated around a candlelit table on a palm frond-decorated deck with a stunning view of the LA skyline, we were soaking in the atmosphere, hoping Randy Gerber’s goons wouldn’t summarily toss us over the edge. She appeared moments after our arrival, wearing a blue sarong and flashing a big smile. “What will you guys be having tonight?” she said. We went around the table, each ordering. When she got to me, I felt like quoting Fast Times at Ridgemont High, “I’ll have a Kettle One and tonic, a mesclun salad, and…your phone number.” Didn’t happen. When she got to Stephan, he ordered an Arnold Palmer. Sounded interesting. “What’s in that?” Renata asked. “Lemonade and iced tea, fifty-fifty,” he replied. My hopes were dashed. Who orders an Arnold Palmer? Geez, Stephan, why didn’t you just order a Shirley Temple?
So now it is clear where my priorities lie. Maybe this is why I haven’t gotten any interviews for the February hell week. Is this a bad thing? But we did meet with some fascinating companies while in LA-movie studios, music companies, and new media distribution efforts. Of course, there are no jobs for us MBAs-unless, of course, we want to work in accounting just to get a glimpse of the occasional second tier actor. (Jim Carrey has an agent.) Roland Pan and I had a blast walking around the Fox film lot following our presentation-and a wonderful conversation with a security guard guarding the entrance to the X Files set. In fact, we learned more from the security guard than we did from the suits discussing the value of Bruce Willis on an NPV basis. Next year, I say we line up a panel of security guards, dig up gossip on the stars, and sell it to the tabloids.
Paramount was a great experience. They wheeled out some very impressive executives to speak with us, with some from the creative side as well as the business side. Of course, the most interesting part was the lot tour, during which Cris Setuain stole one of those golf carts they ride around in, and, unable to drive it, crashed into Jeri Ryan of Star Trek fame, giving her a bad limp. Don’t look for her on upcoming episodes of The Next Generation.
Hollywood does present a fun atmosphere to work in. Unlike the utilitarian halls of Goldman Sachs, the House of Blues’ office was like an amusement park. It was dark, with colored lights, creatures carved of wood on the walls and constant music. It was even a little scary, and I felt like I should be carted through in one of those Disney World haunted house vehicles. The people in LA also have a very different outlook on the work/life balance. It was very refreshing to hear from many of the executives about the importance of living a balanced life and pursuing one’s dreams. Miramax TV was among the most steadfast in this belief; I just don’t know if I’m ready to spend two years fetching quarter-pounders for Harvey Weinstein for 20K a year to make it happen.
The moral of the Hollywood story is that the most important thing in life is to be true to oneself, follow your dreams, and live a balanced life. While LA gets a bad rap for being plastic and superficial, I do have to give them a lot of credit for their unique attitude. You just don’t find that in New York. And while opportunities are hard to come by, they are there for those willing to work for them. This in mind, I’m seriously considering spending a summer as a script reader or prop guy, for free, of course -when else could we afford to experiment like this? Plus it frees up my hell week to go pursue that waitress at Sky Bar-although with H Bomb immunity, I doubt I’ll get anywhere. Time to call Goldman.