When I was an undergrad, I scored an internship working for producer Lynda Obst. It was a volatile film set (I was later told by an old pro that it was one of the most difficult he’d ever been on), but I fought my way through it–odd hours, weird requests and all. Some of the other interns had money and connections; it was clear they’d been given their jobs via networking. (One of them drove a Lexus.) I was just little, lowly ol’ me, keeping my head down and doing my best.
One intern got booted. I heard a lot of different “reasons” and stories about why and what happened. In fact, I heard a lot of interesting stories about a lot of things–and experienced a few firsthand–none of which I’d repeat for fear of being sued for libel. But ask me out for a drink sometime . . .
I had a lot of bizarre tasks, including long phone calls with someone in the L.A. office while, between us, we tried to draft an afterwords to a book. I remember the topic being primarily about alpha males in the industry or something. One thing I did enjoy was reading scripts that had been submitted. Most were not great, a few were okay but nothing I’d personally be interested in going to see, and one or two were really good. As someone getting her degree in Radio-Television-Film with an emphasis in screenwriting, it was good experience.
Now one day on set, things fell apart. Actually, I think they’d probably been well on their way by the time I arrived on set for my shift. I was in the trailer checking Lynda’s e-mail while another intern (and it only occurred to me years later that this guy might’ve had a crush on me, poor thing, but I’m the kind of person to be kind of oblivious unless hit over the head with it) went to bring me some lunch. I distinctly remember it was chicken fried steak, my favorite. And I remember the associate producer storming in and being dumbfounded that I had someone bringing me my lunch. I guess maybe I’d overstepped? I don’t know. To this day I don’t entirely understand her reaction.
But then the AP disappeared. She’d walked off (some said she’d quit). And Lynda came in with Mary McLaglen and whoever else was producing, all women, and I don’t know if it was that I just happened to be sitting there, but Lynda said, “You’re associate producer for today.”
Because I had no fucking idea what that meant. What was I supposed to do exactly? I’d never watched our AP do much of anything because I’d always been too busy with whatever she’d given me to do.
I spent the rest of that day following Lynda and the other producers around. I attended rehearsals. I answered Lynda’s cell phone when she was too busy (it was usually her son calling). At one point that afternoon we all went back to the trailer and looked at tabloids and industry rags. Mary said to the others as I settled down with some magazine, “Look at her. She’s taken right to it.”
I guess. But I felt like a kid dressing up in her mother’s clothes.
The AP came back later that evening. She thanked me for covering for her, which I suppose was her way of relieving me of duty. I remember when we wrapped, she wrote me a nice note about my “can-do attitude.” I recently heard that one of the most important things to have in the industry is a willingness to step up to the plate, so I guess this was a great compliment in a way.
Lynda suggested I go to L.A., maybe work in her office there, and to this day I sometimes wish I had. But I was so close to my degree, and I couldn’t see leaving my education unfinished. Formal education, that is. My working education came from that internship, and especially from my day as understudy.