Following your dream… all the way to LA

ARTS HUB AUSTRALIA — Creative worker Heather Forbes was invited by a friend to go to LA for an all expenses paid three day trip, so she seized the career opportunity and went.
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ARTS HUB AUSTRALIA — Creative worker Heather Forbes was invited by a friend to go to LA for an all expenses paid three day trip, so she seized the career opportunity and went. She shares some of her adventures with Arts Hub.

Monday the 9th of April
On my first day in LA I had arranged to meet an expatriate young Australian film and television producer, Allon Furstenburg who works full-time at New Wave entertainment in Burbank, Los Angeles. Another friend, who knows that I have an interest in film producing, had put me in touch with Allon some months before I left for my brief stint in LA.

Allon very kindly offered to have lunch with me and show me through New Wave Entertainment’s very impressive and modern premises. New Wave do everything imaginable in relation to TV & Film production at this site in Burbank; from brainstorming ideas to drawing up contracts with their full-time lawyers, to recording, filming, editing and post production applications, including poster production and marketing. They also produce special features on DVDs for major Hollywood film studios.

What a fantastic and stimulating environment to work in! An architecturally modern and large, impressive, one level building at 2660 West Olive Ave, Burbank, New Wave Entertainment buzzes with positive creative vibrations, with every creative support and non-creative support on tap.

New Wave claims to be one of USA’s largest entertainment marketing and creative services agencies and I believe it must be the ideal working environment for a young producer or any film and TV creative or non-creative for that matter Allon introduced me to (it seemed like everybody). With noone I met being over 30 I felt a bit like I was in a show called ‘Hey mom’s here – all the way from Australia!’

One of Allon’s ‘big bosses’ enthusiastically shook my hand and thanked me and all Australians for providing the satellite dish in order for the Americans to be able to see the first moon-landing. Surely he would not have been even a glint in his father’s eye during the first moon-landing? Maybe they weren’t so young after all – Hollywood’s obsession with youth had hit them hard and they had all been visited by botox specialists as part of their work contracts?

Let’s do lunch…
Allon, his boss Melanie, also a Producer and I headed out for lunch at a cafe across the street. This was a great opportunity for me to interview these two successful young film and TV producers. Allon’s advice to any hopeful in the film and TV industry is “follow your dream” and Melanie’s advice was “be prepared to do everything; from making coffee to cleaning up mess, and also to be willing to and able to do directing as well as producing”.

Melanie has a degree in Media-Journalism and worked her way to her job as a producer by starting as the lowliest of the low, (in her book), as an assistant’s-assistant in TV. Allon, on the other hand, is a qualified electrician! He had, however, assisted his Drama teacher at school in lighting shows and in his teacher’s film making hobby. His Drama teacher, Charles Slucki, who had originally taught Allon at Mount Scopus College recommended Allon for an internship, when another of Charles’ ex students, who also works for New Wave, had told Charles that the company were looking for a new intern recruit. So success may well be a mix of who you know as well as sheer hard work and determination!

Staying in Beverly Hills…
Beverly Hills was surreal – it felt like we were staying in a plastic dome – largely protected from any unpleasantness that apparently is very visible in many other places in L.A. I really enjoyed eating well at Factors Deli on Pico Boulevard most days and overhearing lots of writers, producer types talking creative-project-talk.

I attempted to see a play on the Monday night at Santa Monica but when I got there they were rehearsing and the play had been wrongly advertised, so I went shopping at Westfield Century walk instead and found out from one of the shop assistants that noone puts on plays in the US on a Monday night as Lincoln was killed in a theatre on a Monday night! Sheesh – I missed out something in my drama training.

Tuesday 10th of April
On Tuesday I did the Hollywood movie stars homes and trolley tour. What a cringe-worthy, embarrassing experience! It felt like I had been sucked into a trashy magazine portal. The movie star home tour was operated by an obsessive movie-star predator who drove us past the Hollywood walk of fame and pointed out the paparazzi and crowd that were gathering.

He informed us that Halle Berry’s star of fame ceremony was about to take place in the next hour so promptly drove us to her house, in Bel Air (approximately 10 mins away) in time to see (what looked like her parents) waiting in a typical movie star’s car (black range-rover 4WD) in her driveway for her to be escorted to the walk of fame. We were in a big easily identifiable van and kept getting ‘honked’ to move by the steady flow of traffic so he happily drove us around the block several times in order to increase our likelihood of Halle spotting. I was dying of embarrassment! ‘Movie–Star-Predator’ knew who owned every second house in Bel Air and now that I look back on the photos I took, I realise why everyone in the van (except for me) was madly taking down notes, so that they could identify which house belonged to whom!

MSP knew more than just where movie stars lived, of course he knew their cars and where they hung out. He told us how to spot a movie star’s car – usually a black Range-Rover 4WD or sports Mercedes and just as he was telling us this he spotted one of his prey. Suddenly we were on a mission – weaving frantically in and out of Beverly Hills traffic chasing a young starlet stereotype in a tiny red MG convertible, with its top down. Starlet’s long blonde hair seemed to be beckoning to MSP over the back of the driver’s seat, while he cussed and drove erratically. Now that I think about it, this could have a been a complete set up! I’m sure this was designed to make us all feel like we were a bus full of Paparazzi and not mostly middle-aged, fat, middle-class white international tourists on a perve mission.

Oh well, it was an enlightening experienc. Not in the least bit subdued by my question to him, ‘Did he believe in Karma?’ Well it was on for young and old. MSP: “Well if they (movie stars) didn’t want it [exposure] they are in a business where they are public property etc, etc…”

Well he was in the entertainment business and this argument was all very entertaining, however, after another trashy experience, ‘The trolley Tour of Hollywood’, which includes five minute viewings of the Hollywood sign, Paramount’s enormous Studio allotment, the Hollywood Bowl, and so on… I’d had enough and craved some integrity.

I stepped out of trash portal and took myself to the LA County Museum of Art, which for $9 entry was a hell of a lot cheaper in cost than the parasitic tours. An Impressionist tour in the European section taken by a very knowledgeable and vibrant 60+ French woman and gave me my much needed authenticity fix.

Tuesday Evening – Malibu for Dinner
Moonshadows, a restaurant on the ocean front at Malibu, was a real highlight. A dreamy atmosphere is largely created by the view and sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks beneath the restaurant, and the twinkling of the fairy lights on the decking surrounding double bed sun-lounges where lovers lie entwined under gas heaters, beneath the moon and star spangled sky. The romantic and magical mood is matched by impeccable cuisine and attentive service.

Wednesday 11th of April
On the Wednesday we headed out to Universal Studios and theme park. I had invested in VIP tickets, actually ‘Front of the Line Passes’ through my travel agent in Australia which was well worth the extra dollars. We went on nearly every ride and wondered if this was just a theme park with pretend studios as you see very little of any film production activity. (The glimpses could well be set up jobs as well; yes I know it’s my conspiracy theory radar working overtime!)

Besides the fun to be had there, the view of LA is pretty spectacular and Universal Studios is 10 times more fun than Queensland’s Movie World.

We left in the early hours of the evening for our drive back to the airport and back to our beautiful land down under, where the air is fresh and in any given suburb or town we have wide open green spaces.

Heather Forbes
About the Author
Heather Forbes is a writer, sailor, theatre teacher and yoga devotee from the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. She has had numerous articles published by Drama Victoria’s periodical Mask over the years and has had her mother’s biography published in a collection of women’s biographies entitled; Ordinary Women. Her sailing stories have been published in Peninsula Alternative and various sailing publications. Heather works as a Drama teacher at a large Melbourne secondary school part-time. If she wasn’t writing, teaching and soaking in the arts she would be sailing around the world.