Life After NU: The End of the Beginning

I’ve been out in perpetually sunny LA for nine weeks now. The time has certainly flown by! Now that I’ve passed the two-month mark—I think I got an A+ for this quarter (oh wait, I’ve graduated, no more grades!)—I can stop counting. Because I’m here to stay. And I haven’t taken a math course in five years, so I’m a little rusty…

In the past month since my last post, nothing has radically changed. Work is consistently great, the sun is dependably out (except when it reluctantly retreats for nighttime), and the ground hasn’t shifted yet (i.e., I still haven’t experienced my first earthquake). Everything has continued to settle down as I’ve settled in. And that’s a good thing. Although there will always be more things to see and do, and my list is still growing, I’m becoming increasingly comfortable in this new city that I can now call home.

My job as a Post PA at Abominable Pictures has continued to be fantastic! Several episodes of Childrens Hospital are approaching picture lock, and multiple other shows are in the delivery pipeline. For the approaching second season of Newsreaders, I’ve been able to sit in on, and take rapid-fire notes for, a few ADR and voiceover sessions. It was a great learning opportunity to see how a professional sound mixer works (with an impressive setup) and listen to the executive producer’s detailed feedback. Plus, I got to meet some big-name actors!

Hanging with my cousin at the beautiful Getty Villa.
Hanging with my cousin at the beautiful Getty Villa.

In addition to my main PA work, I’ve been given new tasks that have utilized my tech skills. I’m still hard at work on that poster, though I’m afraid I’m slowly killing my computer with the humongous file size…I’ve also been using Photoshop to make DVD cases. I’ve enjoyed having the creative freedom to come up with my own ideas while also receiving notes to refine each image. It’s important to be able to collaborate to create a final product, and it almost always turns out better for it!

Even more exciting, I’ve had a lead role in researching and making proposals for a complete post production upgrade. We do all of our editing in-house, which means we have to keep on top of the current technology. It’s been my job to decide which computers and peripherals to purchase, how to upgrade Avid, and to help orchestrate the whole operation. Between this and the multiple shows we’re juggling, work has continued to be perfectly busy. So busy, in fact, that I’ll be staying on at Abominable! I couldn’t be more enthusiastic to continue working at such a phenomenal company!

In my first post, I made some initial observations after just a few days here, so to conclude this blogging series, here are some additional stray observations made over the past two months:

Valet parking companies, not the films studios, run the city.

There are countless donut shops here. Not the fancy artisan donut shops that have invaded Chicago, but shops that are neighborhood institutions. Interestingly, there are several that also serve Chinese food. Whatever floats people’s taste buds!

Ikea is a frightening place.

Lots of movie theaters have assigned seating. I can’t decide what I think about this practice. You have to plan in advance to reserve prime middle seats, but this method means you don’t have to show up to the theater inhumanely early. LA certainly is a city that revolves around movies.

Everywhere is “far.” In this sentence, “far” means twenty minutes away.

After two months of real world experience, I surely must have some overarching bit of wisdom to impart on those still in college, right? I’ve racked my brain for the best thing you can do to prepare for a long-hour job in the entertainment industry, and I’ve settled on one final piece of advice: Eat Your Vegetables.

Robbie Stern is a recent graduate of the School of Communication and majored in RTVF. He now works for Abominable Pictures.

Life After NU: I’m an Angeleno Now.

Last week, I watched SNL’s hilarious “The Californians” sketches for the first time. I don’t know how I missed them. While no one I’ve met is obsessed with his or her own reflection, the inescapable compulsion to discuss directions and brag about your private shortcuts is absolutely true. I’ve even fallen into the habit myself. Didn’t take long! I guess that means that after a fast month, I’m officially a Los Angeles resident.

Aside from driving—and getting used to the not-so-patient drivers that cruise the LA streets—my transition to post-grad, full-time working life has been going smoothly, with nary a hiccup. Though that may be due to the fact that I haven’t hiccupped in years, as opposed to me growing accustomed to this new stage of life. Let’s put bodily musings on pause for a moment (for the rest of the post, don’t worry) to get to the thing that occupies most of my time: work!

The excitement that exclamation point conveys is absolutely true. My job working at Abominable Pictures has definitely been fun. I’m kept busy, my coworkers are great, and the shows are hilarious, so what more can I ask for? As a Post Production Assistant my tasks vary, but they usually include: making and managing hundreds (only a slight exaggeration) of Google docs to handle everything from post production budgets to producers’ notes on episodes, organizing dailies for producer and director viewing, backing up precious footage, transcribing cuts (allowing me to vicariously live as a TV writer), and searching for stock footage (why is everything a time-lapse when you never need it to be?).

On the set (in the production office area) of Childrens Hospital.
On the set (in the production office area) of Childrens Hospital.

Childrens Hospital wrapped two weeks ago, so we’re now fully in the throes of post. After a fun wrap party, work transitioned from preparing dailies to readying cuts for the higher-ups. I get to watch the incremental edits of each episode; reading the producers’ comments, then seeing how the subsequent versions reflect their compromises, is a fascinating process. Abominable juggles an impressive number of shows, so while four shows are in various stages of post and finishing, we’re gearing up for two more productions. Everyone’s hands are always full, hopefully with comedy gold.

I also often get little random tasks thrown my way. For example, one of my most amusing jobs was ensuring every curse word for a show was fully bleeped out. I found myself playing the bleeps on repeat, making sure every “f” and “t” and “k” and “sh,” not necessarily in that order, was covered. Needless to say, these were the most risqué—and potentially offensive—notes and emails I’ve ever written. Another project I’m in the middle of is creating a poster for an old web series. If it gets approved, my work will adorn the office walls!

At home, I’m now fully moved in to my apartment. The best part: having a parking space. That thing is priceless. Another best part: there’s a Ralph’s (much better than Chicago’s Jewel-Osco) at the end of the street. Plus the apartment itself is great! It still hasn’t rained here, apart from a few raindrops that got lost and accidentally fell over LA, and it looks like that won’t be changing anytime soon. Unfortunate for the drought conditions, but fortunate for…no, the place really needs some rain.

To conclude the post, here’s today’s parting wisdom: Explore! I definitely want to get to know the area I’ll be calling home. Also, you need to have stories when coworkers ask how you like LA. My list of accomplishments includes going to the Pacific (very different than my home Atlantic), visiting the Getty Center, seeing the Walk of Fame, and general exploring. In other words, a lot more to do! Which is fine, because I’m here, and an Angeleno, now.

Robbie Stern is a recent graduate of the School of Communication and majored in RTVF. He now works for Abominable Pictures.

Life After NU: On the Ground Running

Los Angeles. The City of Angels. Which would only be true if heaven’s clouds were actually smog.

All pollution jokes aside, my first week in LA—and being part of the real world (that is, post-graduation)—has been fantastic! Insane, but fantastic. Two days after convocation, after squeezing in the last of my goodbyes, I packed up my final suitcases and moved out of Evanston. I had a job lined up to start the following week—as a Post Production Assistant at Abominable Pictures—so the quick cross-country move was necessary. But before I could eagerly start my first full-time, paying job…

The next four days were spent searching for apartments, with help from my dad. Even though I had spent several weeks in Chicago trying to find an abode before moving, the search could not fully begin until I was actually on the ground. I used several online housing aggregator sites, but the winner (and fortunately, there was a winner by Friday) was found by a fortuitous drive-by. So this week I’ll be moving into an apartment in the heart of West Hollywood!

Meanwhile, I’ve now worked two days in my new job. Which has been great! As a PA for the editing department, my tasks range widely. I’ve done runs to the set of Childrens Hospital to pick up precious cargo (i.e., hard drives with just-shot footage). I’ve chatted with editors about what it’s like to edit for TV. I’ve dismantled and reset up an editing workstation. And of course, I’ve learned how to take lunch orders. This has been within a mere 48 hours, so I’m excited to see what I’ll be doing in the near future.

One of the first things I was struck by, as I shook a few dozen hands and tried to commit the corresponding names to memory, was how enthusiastic everyone was. From post supervisor to production coordinator, every person at the office cares about the projects and their personal involvement in them. I’m excited to be a part of this positive culture as I take the first step towards my goal of being an editor.

A stylish and fuel-efficient way to get around a spread out city.

I’ll end this post with some of my initial impressions and musings. Before last week, I had only been to LA for 4 days (not counting the wedding I went to when I was a toddler), so everything at every turn was completely novel. I thought my Spanish would improve after moving here, but I’ve quickly learned that every word of Spanish origin has been horrendously mangled in its anglicization. The immediate next thing I noticed was the immense number of businesses, tourist traps, highway billboards, and overall culture that are related in some way to the film industry. Third were the mountains: even if some are really just glorified hills, they rattled (hopefully not like any earthquakes I may experience) my Floridian reliance on flat ground. All three were perceived as I crawled along the 101, the first time of many. But since I have a new Prius C as my mode of transportation, my inevitable gas guzzling habits should be kept in check.

But wait, there’s more! I’d like to leave you with my parting wisdom of the day. Every connection matters. No matter where the person is in the industry hierarchy, he or she has the potential to help you. If someone offers assistance, advice, or just a coffee meetup, take advantage of the opportunity. You’ll also be surprised how small a world it is, even in a giant city. You’ll meet fellow Northwestern alumni or people from your faraway hometown. LA isn’t as scary as it’s made out to be. Based on my first week and a half here, I’ll even venture to call it fun.

Robbie Stern is a recent graduate of the School of Communication and majored in RTVF. He now works for Abominable Pictures.