Entertainment After Entertainment

Charlie, with Charlie Chaplin. — courtesy Cary Kandel

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. Until mid-March, he lived in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he worked in the film and television industry and performed stand up comedy. He’s just relocated to New York City, where he will continue to muse about his life on and off Martha’s Vineyard in his weekly “From Afar” column.

It took almost eight years of administrative jobs in the film and television industry to reach my tipping point of clarity. Low pay on high profile projects. Long hours for people with short fuses. A fly on the wall experience where the wall felt like a giant fly swatter.

I blame the industry more than the individual. The supply and demand of these jobs is horribly stacked against the peons. There are hundreds of people dying to do the job that is currently killing someone else. Once you get a good job the road to success appears convoluted, unique, and often unfair; for every person who “moves up the ladder” in entertainment, there are ten others who never learned how use a ladder or appreciate the person who steadies it from the bottom. Dealing with these individuals can be challenging, but it’s empowering to learn that you too can make it as an entertainer without having to be a cog in the rusty tinseltown wheel.

My first brutal Hollywood lesson was on my maiden gig out of college as a production assistant on a film. I went to lift a heavy piece of equipment when a wise, middle-aged crew guy stopped me. “Don’t hurt yourself, kid, cause nobody will care. Nobody will be like hey everyone stop what you’re doing. There’ll just be a new you here tomorrow.” I picked up a lighter object and moved on carefully.

My last brutal Hollywood lesson occurred on day one of my last entertainment job – the one I quit after day two. My boss called up and said, “What’s going on?” in a colloquial tone. I shot the breeze for a second or two. When he came in later, he told me, “By the way, when I ask what’s going on, I don’t want to know what’s going on; I want you to tell me any business that has come up for me and things of that nature.” Luckily at that very moment he picked up a heavy object and I never saw him again. Just kidding. I wish him all the best.

I learned a ton about film and television and am thankful for the handful of great jobs and bosses that blessed me along the way, but making a conscience decision to avoid another assistant job in entertainment is the best choice I have ever made as an aspiring entertainer. The time gained and stress lost makes my brain feel warm and fuzzy again.

The hardest part about my new non-industry 9-5 office job is learning how to be a normal, compassionate, conversational human being again. I have had to reteach myself to be warm on the phone because I had acclimated to people who shortened every interaction to the essence of its essence, people who never said hello because they probably calculated some formula in their head where if they added up all of the skipped hellos to assistants they could make .4 more movies over their career.

Today I have a boss that buys me lunch, encourages my creative endeavors, and takes an interest in my personal life. It is amazing. The fact that it is amazing is sad. But I am far too free to be sad.