I’m just too anxious for a lot of things. And one of the ways this anxiety manifests itself is a constant paranoia that other people think I’m not good enough. But the messed up part is I’m also super narcissistic. So, while I’ll be positive everyone at the open mic thought I preformed horrible, I’ll also be positive I did an amazing job. And while there’s no chance anyone thinks I’m funny, I know for a fact I’m incredibly quick witted and clever. This dichotomy has proven to be problematic in a couple ways. For one, I rarely ever push myself because I am already so goddamn fantastic, two, I’m always showing contempt to people for no discernable reason, and three, I can rarely ever accurately assess a situation for what it is.
When I first began looking for job opportunities at the end of my second quarter I immediately discounted the Antioch Jobs List because unless you want to be a farmer or a teacher there’s not a whole lot for you. Left to my own devices I began to panic because, while I was an awesome, innovative employee with a killer work ethic, I feared other people wouldn’t see that in me. I’d like to say I took a quality-over-quantity approach to my application process, but I think I was probably just too lazy to rewrite my resume for more than three jobs.
Ironically, I really wanted to be a writer. Which honestly just made everything that much worse. Writers can generally be one of two things: self-employed and homeless, or an English teacher and still probably homeless. Inasmuch, I decided I would be fruitless in my endeavor if I actually tried to follow my passion, so instead I decided to do whatever it took to make it out to LA or New York. This was an attempt to get my foot in the door and network rather than do something I’d genuinely enjoy. I would I would wipe down tables, hell, I’d even wipe asses if it meant someone who could help my career took interest in me.
I never heard back from either of the places I legitimately applied to, but I was more concerned with finding something word-of-mouth and thanks to the boss of the wife of a former coworker of my dad’s, I was now part of an email chain including several producers, stage hands, writers and actors all asking around for work for me. The most common thing I was told was no one would hire me for three months in this industry. The second most common thing I heard was that no one would hire me as an unpaid intern because recently a group of unpaid interns brought a class action lawsuit against NBC for not paying them. Not a single company was about to take that chance. But I was undeterred. Well, I was actually really deterred. I called my dad that night freaking out that I wouldn’t find a co-op. But I had no other choice so I waited it out.
A man named Kevin said if worse comes to worse he could get me some lowbrow PA work, but to my surprise something better showed up the following day. A24 Films, a film distribution company based in New York, just opened another branch in LA to work on TV, and they needed interns. It was paid work and it was located right by West Hollywood. I was ecstatic.
However, not even A24 could find it in their pockets to hire a full time intern, so I was handed 16 hours a week. I was fine with this, except the co-op department made it clear I had to be working full time. Well, ever since high school I’ve been working on a book. I wasn’t too serious about it, but over the years I’ve racked up a couple dozen pages and had a very clear idea of the character I was trying to paint. So, in an attempt to kill two birds with one stoner, I asked if I could work on the novel to supplement the rest of my hours.
Now I love working for myself. That doesn’t mean I’m good at it, I have some real problems with self-motivation, but when I edit a movie or write a story I get to reap all the benefits of my egocentrism with none of the repercussions of thinking everyone is judging me. The same did not go for A24.
When I spoke with Nathan Reinhart, the man in charge of hiring interns for A24, he told me I’d mostly be reading scripts. And that’s what I did. My job consisted namely of reading writing samples, scripts and, occasionally, entire novels so I could write a synopsis on them so my boss could pretend he read them when meeting with the writers.
Along with a synopsis, I also often had to write a paragraph or two on my opinion of the piece. Whether or not I liked it, problems I found, typos, continuity errors, etc. I’d send these to Nathan and, well, who knows what he’d do with it. Nathan and I rarely actually spoke. We didn’t sit far from each other in the office, but some unspoken anxiety convinced me I should mostly communicate through email. Now, the thing about adult life and adult jobs is you don’t receive that constant validation from your superiors like in elementary school. My parents weren’t hanging my drawings on the fridge, my teachers didn’t congratulate me on how well I could spell the word ocean (I only forgot the ‘A’), and my boss never spoke with me about how I was performing at work.
I understand that receiving feedback and criticism is mostly my responsibility, but still. It’d be nice if Nathan bothered to say, “Good job,” every now and then. I was again in a predicament where I thought I was doing fantastic – my summaries were specific and detailed and my opinion pieces were verbose and circumspect – but I was certain Nathan thought my work was subpar.
Outside the prospect of scrutiny, my book was going a lot better. It’s called Sure Stars Shining and it’s about a girl with an anxiety disorder. Writing creatively was the only time I really felt like I could express myself because I could decide if and who I wanted to share it with. So I was jumping on the opportunity. Journaling my progress, trying to beat my daily word count, finally editing past transcripts. It was all very professional and fullfilling.
After a few weeks though, the daily grind of simply getting by started wearing me out. I had never lived alone, and having to buy groceries, pay rent, and juggle class and work was tiring me out. My eating habits got worse, mostly In ‘N Out and pizza rolls, my room was a constant mess, I was exercising less and my writing was less frequent.
A couple weeks went by where I couldn’t find and motivation to sit down and work. But at A24 I was soaring. I realized it can be fun to plug into a system bigger than you, especially when you can’t motivate yourself on your own. The office was small, with few employees, and I really felt like I was part of a team. My co-worker, Dan, used to work at Fox Searchlight and has a ton of crazy stories to tell me. Lindsey gets me into private screenings and interviews. Nathan takes me on set every now and then. I really enjoy being part of A24.
I’ve been with the company long enough now to feel like I belonged. I was still very nervous about whether they liked me as an employee, but thanks to those anxieties I was outputting some exceptional work. I had gotten use to the environment that I developed a kind of flow that allowed me to organize my time efficiently. I also had grown comfortable enough with my co-workers to ask questions if I was confused, and for help if I needed it.
Soon after, as the end of co-op grew nearer, I was reminded what I came out here to do. My mom, who was a home care nurse, called me. She had just finished a visit with an elderly man whose entire family attended Antioch. On top of that, his brother was in LA and fairly notable in the film industry. My mom gave me his contact information, and it wasn’t until after I had breakfast with Jonathan Zimmerman that I understood how few connections I have made.
He was very nice, and offered sage advice, much of which involved meeting people and networking. Of which, I’d done none. I knew it was time to start working or I would always feel my time out here was wasted.
I made a vow to take my writing more seriously. In lieu of actual writing, I had taken to mapping out the general story so I would have a template to follow, but the time had come to actually follow it. I split the plot into three parts and began work on all of them.
Currently, I’ve finished a decent chunk and have a fairly admirable section of book to take back to Ohio with me, though it’s not as far as I wished I had gotten. My work with A24 doesn’t end for three more weeks, and I still fear I was a subpar intern, but my anxieties have diminished with time. As a whole, co-op was an exceptional experience in that it taught me how hard I needed to work and how ambitious I needed to be, but it also taught me how to operate as a team and how to make my weaknesses work for me.