In The Waste Land Between a Day Job and Dream Job

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Wasteland

I work in the wasteland. Not T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land but a literal wasteland: My office is sandwiched between a dump transfer site and a wastewater treatment plant. So, yeah, I’m a writer, whose work manifests somewhere between garbage and shit.

And that’s just the day job — where I’ve been writing about school and prison design, which have more overlap than can be contained in a single joke, so I won’t even try.

Then there’s what I’ll call the Life of Brian-situation, you know, like the Monty Python bit with the warring “Judean People’s Front” and the “People’s Front of Judea.” I’m down the street from the Marin Sanitary Service and the Central Marin Sanitation Agency. Two different entities — and one poor little mail carrier. Someday, someone is gonna complain one too many times about getting the wrong shit mail and the carrier is totally going to go postal, to invoke the term of art.

Now, if this went down in a school or a prison, you could take cover behind a bufflehead, which is architectural parlance for a short, protective wall. It’s also a species of duck — and there’s some architectural wit in action — “bufflehead,” a duck, as in “duck and cover.”

Cheap humor, right? Nah. I just made that up. Or did I? Come back after going down that Wikipedia wormhole and we’ll compare notes.

So, just across the freeway from my wasteland is Kerner Blvd., which is meaningless unless you’re a nth-level Star Wars fan. Then you would know that it’s the thoroughfare where George Lucas moved his Industrial Light & Magic special effects studio — you know, where they pioneered the effects for the latter movies of the original trilogy.

The former, discrete location of ILM on Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael, CA (from The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler. The former, discrete location of ILM on Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael, CA (from The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler.

And it’s thinking about that crappy old office park, not unlike the one I do my day job in, that keeps the dream alive for me. Actually, the Kerner Blvd. location isn’t that crappy anymore, it’s been reborn as 32Ten Studios, whose new owner is a Lumavillain like me. And there it is, the hope of Hollywood North just across the eternal traffic of the 580. I think about crossing it everyday, like some existential, mental game of Frogger. Not that I want to work on Kerner but I dig what it represents — all the magic and mayhem of making movies.

But here’s my salvation, in three weeks, we begin production on Pill Head, my first feature film as a writer-director.

And you may ask yourself, well, “How did I get here?”

Nine months ago, I was out of a job, fricasseed by my own wee media market, and generally peeking down the double barrel of “destiny, interrupted.” I was at the lowest point I’d ever been, which is saying something since I was a teenage telemarketer. I was lower than Dante’s Inferno, I was Dante’s Intern, I was his mid-40s intern, filing broken dreams and lost self esteem in Hell’s circular file.

After one of my bipolar bottom outs, my partner and collaborator Karen Hell asked me what I really wanted to do. What did I really want to do? What did I really wanna do? And what did that really mean? I took it at face value…

Well, what I really want to do is direct, I said.

“Let’s do it,” she said. Let’s do it — those are the three, second best words your partner can say to you.

And now we’re doing it.

From “Fade In” to “Fade Out,” this was an act of self-preservation as I wrote myself out of the hole, handhold by handhold, word by word.

Like a cathartic spin on the old proverb, “Physician heal thyself,” as creative people, we already know how to do this, but sometimes we need a friend to come up with a prescription. I gave myself a 95 page dose of Pill Head. (Incidentally, in the movie, Karen plays a pharmacist).
Now we’re making the movie — me, Karen, and our 24 trusty collaborators. And maybe you, if you get behind our Indiegogo campaign, which you can reach via PillHeadMovie.com.

We’re not asking for much, but if you too are somewhere between the garbage and the shit, if you’re playing psychic Frogger, or in need of an imaginary bufflehead to hide behind, or you’ve been demoted to Dante’s Intern and need a leg up to what you really want to do — you’re one of us, you’re our people, my people. Come on down, throw us a few bucks at PillHeadMovie.com, and join the fray.

Because even if you’re in The Waste Land, mixing memory and desire, stirs more than dull roots, and maybe, just maybe with us, you might remember what you really want to do…

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