Tomorrow will mark a decade for me of living in California, so I thought it be appropriate to look back on my struggles & successes which brought me to where I am today. On occasion I have been known to write in a journal, and when I first moved out here I did not have many people to talk to. I ended up writing in my journal every night, and I read over it to help in writing this post. I’m really glad that I wrote down what I was going through, since it was an eventful part of my life. I don’t write in my journal as much as I used to, but this blog has taken the place of documenting my life’s journeys.
My California adventure began in Ohio on Monday, July 25th, 2005 as I drove away from my childhood home to head out to the west coast. I packed my car with everything I could fit in it, and took a 5 day sight seeing trip across the country. On Friday, July 29, 2005 I crossed into California from Nevada, and I remember thinking to myself that I finally made it. Little did I know how challenging the next few years would be. I drove to Redondo Beach where a high school classmate was living. Ryan Smith agreed to letting me stay a month at his place until I was able to find my own place. It was only a corner in his room, but that is all I needed. It was thanks to him that I actually left Ohio to come to California. I had been wanting to move out here, but had no idea how I was going to do it. I was trying to find an apartment to rent from Ohio, but without seeing them it made it almost impossible. There was also the fact that they were so expensive that I would need to find a roommate. By him offering me a place to stay it gave me a destination, and a home base to operate from. This gave me the opportunity I needed, and I took it.
Working at Apple with Thomas Orona
I only ended up staying with Ryan through the weekend, since on Monday I moved in to an extra bedroom a friend’s sister had in her apartment up in Newhall. This gave me my own room, and inexpensive rent, so I upgraded my living situation. While living there I was able to get a part time job as a sales specialist working at an Apple Store in Northridge, which is not far from where I’m living now. This apartment was a great stepping stone, but I felt more like a guest then an equal roommate. I also knew I needed to move closer to Los Angeles, but was not making enough money to pay the higher LA rents. Instead of playing it safe I made the move anyways.
On October 30th, about 3 months after moving into the place in Newhall, I moved to an apartment in Sherman Oaks. It was a 3 bedroom apartment that I got with a guy named John whom I met on roommate.com. He was originally from Ohio, and also went to the same college as I did. I did not know him, but knew he must be a good guy(at least I hoped) since he was from Ohio. It also worked out that Ben, a friend of mine from college, was planning on moving out here, so we asked him if he wanted to be our 3rd roommate.
We had everything in place, and this was a much better living situation for me then the previous apartment. In 3 months, I have moved 3 times, and each time was an improvement. The only problem was the ticking time bomb(aka my bank account), since I was now spending more money then I was making. Based on my calculations I had enough money to make it until Christmas.
As the holiday approached, and my savings were almost completely gone I feared I would have to move back to Ohio in defeat. It was in mid December when Thomas Orona, one of my co-workers at Apple, got me an interview at B1 Media. It was a DVD menu design company, and the opportunity came at exactly the right time. The interview went well, and I got the job which started when I returned from my holiday in Ohio. I don’t know if Thomas knew what he did saved me from having to leave California, but it was an act of kindness I will never forget. He now is a partner of a Technology consulting company called Band of Techs. I highly recommend him and his company if you are looking for Technology consulting services.
I started my job at B1 Media in January, and this also ended that thing called “a day off”, since I worked my days off at Apple. I had very little free time, but all the working helped get some savings back into my bank account. My position at B1 Media was for DVD menu quality control. I spent hours going through all the menus on a DVD looking for errors. I would also QC tape transfers, and would watch hours of footage from shows like Amazing Race and the Girls Next Door. The latter being a bit embarrassing to be watching in a work environment. I found myself constantly explaining to people walking by that it was for work that I was watching these completely uncensored shows about the playmates living in the Playboy mansion. Luckily I worked the late shift(3pm-midnight) so after the first couple hours everyone in the office went home except me.
By mid June that freelance job ended, and I was once again without work living on my savings. I could have picked up more hours at Apple, but felt embarrassed to do so, and kept working there on the weekends only. I started to go on some interviews, but was not as motivated as I should have been. I went on 3 interviews for AAA selling insurance, but after being offered the position I decided it was not the best fit for me. I had an interview at Bunim/Murray Productions who did Real World, but it was for a tape logger. At that time I had no idea what a tape logger did, but soon found out. A tape logger is someone that watches hours of uncut footage from the reality show, and type what is going on every second with a description of the shot, and cataloging everything for the editor to be able to find what they are looking for when assembling an episode. The interview process was them sitting me at a monitor with a keyboard, and headphones and actually logging shots for 15 minutes. After a minute I took my headphones off, and told them “No thank you”.
I went on a lot of interviews, but was not having any luck with anything. I was once again getting desperate, and was getting low on my savings. I knew I had to start being less picky, and by September I was working as an assistant store manager at Walgreens. This may have been one of the worst jobs I ever had, and less then 2 months later I quit. The good news was that I made a decent amount of money in those two months, but was once again on the job hunt.
A few weeks later I had another job cold-calling people and trying and persuade them to refinance their mortgage with the company I was working for. If it is in your control try not to do a job that people hate you for doing it. Yes, there was a lot of people(not including me) in that office that made a ton of money, but people hated us. I was hung up on, screamed at, and called some really nasty names. I knew I did not want to stay there long, so I started working with a temp agency that worked exclusively in the entertainment industry. Through that company I was able to get some interesting temp jobs. At this time in my life I was working at 3 different companies at the same time. I was still at Apple on the weekends, World Trade Lending(the mortgage sales company), and now at Friedman Temp agency.
Through the temp agency I got several different jobs, but some of the more interesting ones were Porchlight Entertainment, and Innovative Artist Agency. Porchlight was a neat little animation company that made shows like Jay Jay the Jet Plane, and Tutenstein. It was mostly direct to DVD, or episodic TV shows that they worked on. Innovative Artist I was in the mailroom of a talent agency for Christmas help to cover people on holiday. It was one of the most cut-throat places I have ever worked at. The people in the mailroom would wait for an assistant to mess up, and do their best to get them fired. When an assistant got fired they would promote someone from the mailroom. I was glad I was only there for the holiday, and did not get caught up in the politics of that place.
DreamWorks Studios Co-workers at LA Dodgers Game
I went home again for Christmas, and when I returned I was not hearing anything from the temp agency. I was getting nervous, because before leaving on holiday I requested the temp agency to only give me temp jobs that paid a higher rate. I was scared that this might be the reason I was not getting any new jobs. Finally a call from the agency came in, and I was given a temp assignment at DreamWorks Studios. I instantly fell in love with the job, and wanted them to hire me on full time. If DWS wanted to hire me on full time they had to pay a large penalty to the temp agency for a finders fee, and it was not clear to me if DWS would be willing to do that. I eventually received the good news that DWS was hiring me on as a full time production assistant. I feel this was a turning point for my career, and the instability of the last couple years was behind me.
I still was working at Apple on the weekends, and DreamWorks Studios full time during the week. After working as a PA for around 3 months I was promoted to head PA, and was taken out of the field, and put behind a desk. I worked at DWS until the end of September, and on October 1st I started my career at DreamWorks Animation. I was at DreamWorks for almost 7 years until I left last July to start my own company. If you don’t already know the rest of the story, and interested to find out I suggest you go back to the beginning of this blog.
Some of the more noteworthy milestones that happened during my time at DWA are meeting my wife Karen, buying a house, and having our son Kelton. My time at DWA brought all kinds of great things into my life, and would not trade my time there for anything. Looking back at how far I have come I’m very proud of my accomplishments. There has been a lot of struggle in these last 10 years, but a great deal more success.
I have noticed two reoccurring themes in my adventures this last decade. The first is that there has been so many people willing to help others, which kept me from failing to severely. I owe a great debt of gratitude to so many people who reached out a hand to offer me support when I needed it the most. The other theme is that I tend to leap into situations before I feel that I’m ready. It is important to point out that things are not always going to line up perfectly, and sometimes you have to get as close as you can, take a leap of faith, and hope for the best. Chances are you will find a way to make it all work out.
“When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
― Edward Teller
If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog. If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.