Working In My Personal Disneyland

AKA: I get to work on one of my happy places right now, and it’s the best. Look for me on TV! ;)

I was so giddy the first time I arrived at a TV news station. It was April 1, 2011. I remember because I posted an epic April Fools Joke saying I got a job as a reporter, even though, in reality, I interviewed for an internship. Which, I got, but it was amazing how many people thought I could be a reporter before graduating college and with no experience. XD

However, I remember walking in, feeling like I was walking on sunshine (cue the music).

“This is my Disneyland,” I remember saying as my future supervisor gave me the tour. Something in my body was so excited to be there. The sense of being home, or where I was supposed to be, was so immediate. I knew I was going to be back at that station before my interview began.

I loved that internship, and was stoked when they brought me on as a PA (production assistant) after my crash course in TV news that summer.

Even though I didn’t stay past a year (TV hours don’t really work well when theatre rehearses in the evening–being on the stage beat out being behind the camera at the time), I was so grateful to learn the ropes of a set and to have a helping hand in producing the nightly news of my hometown.

This last summer, when one of my “survival” jobs went buh-bye, I had to go back to the drawing board on how I was going to make a living in this expensive city.

The question at hand:

What can I do that will actually pay me and that I’d have fun doing? 

I’m a firm believer that you should enjoy what you do. Settling for a job in the service industry wasn’t going to cut it for me, and I have been dead-set against ending up behind a desk in a 9-5 job again.

If you don’t like what you do or where you are,
it’s up to you to change it. 

Immediately, an idea came to mind. And that idea would bring me back to a set much like the one that gave me the Disneyland feels.

Last year, I did background acting (an extra, if you’re not aware of the industry lingo) for the first time (Mysteries of Laura, if you’re curious–either episode 8/9 in season two). It had an early call time, but being on set got me excited again.

My first time doing background in New York was also my first experience in a New York club with fake drinks, music that only played for eight beats before we had to dance without music at all. And it was a blast!

When that memory resurfaced, I knew I had found a fun and very valid option that fit the bill for the kind of job I wanted to be doing. And it’s a lot more than I expected.

It’s in an industry I want to be a part of. I meet wonderful people, in both other background people and the crew. I know I’ll get paid a decent amount. I can pick how many days I work essentially, leaving me open enough to do my standing writing/editing gigs. It is pretty cool to see the principle actors (not allowed to approach though) who have been in the industry a while and have made names for themselves. And even though I often have to get up at the butt crack of dawn for some gigs, I’ve had hair and makeup people tell me it doesn’t look like I even need coffee since I’m always so excited to be on set–in whatever capacity. It is nice, as someone who doesn’t have the patience to actually get made up on a daily basis, to have a good excuse to have makeup on and look pretty for the day.

Another thing I like to do as background is create my own little story within the story. This keeps me on my toes as an actor and gives intention to what I do. And that’s incredibly fun for me. It’s like my little girl dreams and playing pretend have become my job, haha.

As a background actor, it’s my job to make the environment of the scene feel authentic and real. Otherwise, the shows you love to watch on television wouldn’t feel as relatable. 

Some people I meet on set aren’t as excited as I am to be there, or are there just because it’s their day off and a paycheck, and sigh in relief when they get released.

I’m the girl who’s begging to stay if only a chunk of the background is leaving. I actually want to be there. The pay isn’t amazing, but it’s still a reliable paycheck (after not getting paid–or having huge delays in getting paid–for past jobs, this is a big thing for me). Plus, I feel like I get so much out of it that it’s worth it to me.

That’s the kind of work I want to do. The kind that makes me excited to get up and go to work in the morning. Work that feels like I’m a part of creating something, creating magic and stories. Work that helps me improve my own craft as I go.

And one day I will be that star actor on TV. Right now, I’m just thrilled to be on set, learning the ropes, while I work toward that place.

Why be anywhere else when my own version of Disneyland is so accessible? Where’s your personal Disneyland and how can you be there more often? Chime in below in the comments! Would love to know where your happy place is. :)