I staggered to the mirror, with a wee bit of blood dripping from my nose.  My eyebrows spiked in a zig zag formation. I threw some cold water onto my face, but my face hadn’t see sun in days, and my pale, irritated skin rejected the coldness. I turned my head, and saw an alarming amount of whiskey bottles along the floor.  Half smoked cigarettes stranded along the window seals. I browsed my phone to remind myself of the date, and winced when I saw the date. It was Friday, and in a Days Inn near Pasadena, CA, rent was due.  How could I, Jacob, a man on a mission: “Change The Face of Hollywood”, graduate of film school, award-winning filmmaker, center of attention in High School, be locked away in a bunker they called a Motel in paradise?

 illustration of filmmaker

It was my second attempt at Hollywood. And my earnings didn’t allow me to put a down payment on an apartment. So my only option was an Indian-owned Motel, where the original white sheets were now being pawned off, advertised as forest-brown linens. I scrambled through my e-mails, hoping that someone, somewhere would bring me in for an interview. I almost missed it, but I saw the “re” in the e-mail, and I knew it had to be a response. A job!  Not some on-set job where creativity is stifled by brewing hot coffee in the blistering heat. But a writing job.  But not any writing job, but a commercial.  The job was paid.  Holy Mother of God, I’m rich. The job paid 30…. $30 flat.  And she wanted to meet me at Starbucks, ASAP!  I shaved and put on my best blazer. I hopped in my car, not looking behind me, as it was cluttered with clothes and trash bags. I dodged oncoming traffic, not hesitating to run a red light.  I held my head up high when I greeted her. Jacob, a creative genius, a paid writer, a professional. After hours of meaningless convo, she paid me half up front. $15 dollars. Do I use it for gas or booze? Booze without a doubt.

As small as the job was, it evoked a sense of pride and satisfaction in me. A creative-type can get paid to create. It may be a small amount, but as soon as you are paid to be creative, you are now a professional. No more was I taking no paying jobs.  And luckily, my luck changed, finding small odd jobs to larger writing jobs, some with very little pay and some with enough pay to pay 2 months rent in advance.

But me and my film school friends often wonder if we are in the wrong business. $50,000-plus in debt, with Sallie Mae at our door steps, threatening to take our paper diploma away.  Should we have been cops, accountants, or salesmen? Should we have a steady paycheck, and take our wives out to eat every Friday night at a 4 star restaurant? But where is the joy in a consistent life? Where is the joy of walking in a straight line, following after our father’s footsteps, taking over the smalltown hardware store?

I often like to think of God as a creative-type. He created a world, using his finger as a paintbrush. He worked for 6 days, and rested for one. He then wrote a book, but not any book, but the best selling book of all times, with adaptations made to film.  And did He get paid for it? Well, He is the ruler of the world, so you decide…

With the job market the way it is, and minimum-wage raising, making the worth of a plain hamburger at BurgerKing worth $7… where does a creative genius find work? We can’t be held down. We can’t be thrown in a small room, answering phone calls, using the ‘Seasonal Effective Disorder’ “rays” as our source of light. We must be free, and any real artist would choose poverty over being a slave at some Forbes 500 Company.

But in my opinion, one does not have to choose between creativity and money.  A true creative, a good one as well, will find a way to make money doing what they do best. I have. But it comes with a price. I may never be able to buy house, flooded by debt.  I may have a small police record, and a problem putting down the bottle. But every morning I do want I want. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

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[camera illustration via Gray Hood, filmaker illustration via White Zine ]