Monday, November 05, 2007

Bullshit Bright Lights In Suck City

This is a continuation of The Reeler's Totally Unrelated Blog-A-Thon. The rules remain:

1) Authors should either be publishers of or contributors to a regularly updated film blog (In other words: You should have something to want a break from);

2) Entries must not address subjects related to filmgoing, filmmaking, film criticism, film news or anything else film-related (television is OK);

3) Everything else is fair game.

And it is so rare I have an excuse to use one "classic" hipster-lit title with another.


Being a struggling, fresh-out-of-undergrad writer is tough. It gets tougher when one considers resumes sent, three months for a response and working jobs that pay sub-sub minimum wage. After all, isn't this how David Carr started out?

Then again, when David Carr was young, he fought communism, drank bourbon made from snake blood and smoked 30 black-tar cigarettes every day before he bedded barns filled with nubile young women. Or not. Whatever. I prefer my Journalists with a bit of mystery around them.

But just how the hell do you break into this business? I normally leave this sort of self-referential bullshit to my friend "Howard Kurtz Jr." Today, however, it's impossible not to wake up and get hit with soul-crushing depression.

Am I really a part of this "creative underclass" that is damned to online start-ups that exploit us for $.15 more than minimum wage? Why didn't the NYU J-Dept ever tell me that being a freelancer means filing quarterly taxes? Why didn't they warn me that no one hires unless your last name is Wenner-Wintour-Hearst-Graham?

I once applied to The Washington Post Internship back when I still lived near D.C. It was 2005 and I got everything in prior to deadline. My rejection was post-marked 12/23/2005. Thank goodness I was in L.A. at the time climbing backyard fences and fighting friends for a random girl.

A week or so later, I receive an e-mail stating that a WaPo Vice-President was forwarded my application and would like to help me with career planning. Personally, I thought this meant I was getting back into consideration for their internship program. As for that planning, the basic conversation went something like this:

Me: Uh, you know, thanks a lot Ms. [LADY] for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate it.
WaPo VP: No problem, John. Now, you work for the NYU student paper?
Me:Yes, I'm a writer and editor.
WaPo VP: Wonderful. But you know, working at a monthly paper and a daily paper are very different.
Me:Uh, it is a daily. My section comes out two to three times a week.
WaPo VP: Right, right. So, you like to do film?
Me: Yeah, you know, it's better than politics.
WaPo VP: Hm. Well, I wouldn't say that. In fact, you should think about doing something else. Like not film.

It only got better. The basic response a lot of old media types have for us young'ins is to get out of the "Big City" and go out West--Alabama, Ohio, South Dakota. We should explore the world! Cut our teeth in the country! Then, when we're aged and leathery, return to the big city and fuck over a new group of twentysomethings.

Oh and definitely go to graduate school. If you don't go to graduate school for Journalism, you're going to be a failure at life and no one will hire you since you're clearly retarded for wanting to work.

(btw, total disclosure: I am clearly retarded for wanting to work.)

Then Ms. WaPo VP brought up Jon Meacham, who had just become Newsweek's managing editor earlier that week. She told me the story about how Meacham got a lucky break, etc, etc. Unfortunately, she hadn't read the part of my resume where I said I worked with him on a Supreme Court special for MSNBC and helped to form the show bible.

But hey, why bother to read someone's application when you're giving career council?

This all comes to head over the weekend while my associate Roger Korman* and I were outside of Odessa on Avenue A. He was enjoying a smoke and I was enjoying a stomach ache. Off to the side I could hear a loud group of men chiding Chuck Klosterman, one remarking, "what a fucking douche. Look at me, I write about culture! Oooh. Fucker."

For those that see me, on a bad day with a light beard I sort of resemble the Klos-man. So for a paranoid and clearly sycophantic second, I told Roger that they probably thought I was Klosterman.

"HEY CHUCK," Roger said, "TELL ME ABOUT YOUR NEW THINK PIECE ON SUFJAN."

Roger likes to be an instigator and got us kicked out of a bar earlier when he started screaming the bartender was a whore or cunt or something quite awful when she played that theme from The Sopranos.

I finally figured that they didn't think I was Chuck, but saw they were hitting on a girl. At this point, one of them started proclaiming they were the future of journalism.

Not one to let the title of myself and my haphazard friends go unchallenged, I convinced Roger to follow me over.

"Hey, excuse me," I said. "If you guys are the future, who are you?"

Well, guy #1 pointed out. They were comprised of:

-An associate editor from Vanity Fair

-An associate editor from Harper's/contributor to N+1

-A contributor(?) to Time Out New York

-Unknown member of The New Yorker


"And the editor of N+1 is inside in the bathroom," the associate ed from Harper's said.

"Doing editor-y things," the AE from Vanity Fair replied with a sniff.

To their credit, the guys were nice. Roger and I asked about the whole Chuck Klosterman thing and them being the greatest journalists when it was revealed that they were just like us unknown, good-for-nothing writers!

They were trying to get laid. And impress someone.

Luckily, I stopped that once I found out my Nintendo DS doesn't nag me about things like distance, love or "we're sorry but we regret to inform you that you are not a fit for our publication because your name isn't Wenner-Wintour-Hearst-Graham."

Then the AE from Vanity Fair asked, "Are you guys in school?"

Roger said so, while I told them I freelanced.

"You freelance? Dude, you should work for a paper or a magazine," said the AE from Vanity Fair.

I know, but it's hard to work.

"Hey, tell you what. Hey, give him a card," AE from Vanity Fair asked the AE from Harper's.

"You should intern or see if you can intern for him."

And then, I casually lost it.

"I don't need to intern, man, I need a fucking job," I said. "Give me work."

Clearly, this rubbed the guys the wrong way.

"I've already been an intern at MSNBC, Rolling Stone and CRACKED. I need work."

"Oh, I know Jonathan Ringen. Nice guy, you know him?" the AE from Harper's said.

Sigh.

Then, out of nowhere, the "Editor from N+1" walked outside. Was told we wanted to meet him. Walked up to Roger and put his arm around him. Looked at Roger, realized he had no fucking clue who he was, and grabbed a cab.

Aside from being mocked by the established editors and writers and Roger being extremely displeased once he realized what had happened, I learned another important lesson that night. A lesson that can translate for all future journalists and writers and media elite:

I'm not your fucking intern anymore and I want to be paid a fair wage for my work, which is a higher quality than a number of your other employees. Also, to other writers: please stop agreeing to work sub-standard wages. The rest of us get fucked. If you'd like to have me write for you, my email is on the right side of this page.

But because I haven't worked in Alabama or down South or in a coal mine, I understand I have to wait until you die or stop being such a prick to get a job with your organization. I completely understand.

Thanks.


*note: Roger Korman is not his real name. If you thought so, you're lamer than a Harper's Magazine intern.

2nd note: In case you weren't aware, an internship at Harper's Magazine is unpaid.

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