California surprised me. And not necessarily with its people, its natural beauty, or its different lifestyle- rather, the fact that it was even able to surprise me was surprising. It’s not an off-the-wall, hidey-hole state like a North Dakota or a Vermont. Everyone knows about California- ‘you know, there’s beaches, and some mountains, and uh, yeah.’ That’s not the whole story. Not even close.
I was forewarned before embarking on this summer journey that people in Los Angeles can be hard to deal with. Everybody’s trying to be somebody. Cutthroat, ambitious, and driven were all adjectives tossed around by Vandy California natives and staff who had worked in Hollywood. Thankfully, the people I work with and many that I’ve met are anything but cutthroat. Busy and overworked, perhaps, but always willing to lend a helping hand. I’m interning for eleven weeks with AEFH Talent in Hollywood and I’m loving every minute of it. I act as quasi-mediator between the agents and the casting directors, and I’ve helped submit clients on projects like Better Call Saul, Arrow, True Detective, Fear the Walking Dead, X-Men: Apocalypse, and even a classified HBO project. Sometimes the agents will take time out of their day to go over client contracts with me because they know I’m an actor and I should understand the ins and outs of the business. That acting background has eventually led to me being trusted to watch audition videos for the agents and evaluate them to see if they’re worthy of being viewed by casting directors. I even attended a Jimmy Kimmel live session and met the superbly talented Danny Trejo, who’s one of our clients! Everyone at AEFH is incredibly giving, and in turn I try to give them back my all as an intern because it’s more fun and rewarding than I could have ever imagined.
Since I don’t work the entire week, I’ve taken it upon myself to make a California bucket list and attempt to complete as much of it as possible. I’ve made good on the list thus far; the fish tacos in Santa Monica are to die for, the bars up on Hollywood Boulevard are rockin’ (Sassafras is by far the coolest place to grab a drink), and Runyon Canyon is a great area to run a few miles and watch a golden sunset. I’ve even met up with a few friends, like some high school buddies who attend UCLA and USC and a lot of fellow Vandy undergrads who live nearby. Los Angeles is a HUGE city, and there are endless opportunities here, both for work and leisure.
That being said, Los Angeles is the tip of the iceberg, with the rest of the state lurking just beneath the surface. Actually, that’s not a half bad analogy, since 90% of icebergs are said to be submerged. California is absolutely massive and consequently one of the most diverse places I’ve ever explored- socially, politically, and geographically. There’s the coast with its many cities, the Central Valley, the High Sierra and the mountainous forests, and the entirety of Northern California (which essentially consists of anything that doesn’t fall into the three aforementioned categories). Each carries with it its own splendors, burdens, high peaks and low plains, and people from all walks of life. I had the good fortune of acquiring a cheap rental car and a free July 4th weekend, and I took off for three days to check some major stops off my bucketlist. Traveling the entirety of the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Palo Alto was a huge treat with some fantastic detours along the way. Between exploring the hidden redwoods in Los Padres National Forest, visiting the sea lions, hiking to McWay Falls, and climbing six hours to the top of 5,000-foot Cone Peak in Big Sur, I slept quite well each night. I then cut up to Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks, which seemed an ideal alternative to the sure-to-be-crowded Yosemite. Turns out ‘ideal alternative’ is a poor choice of words, as both parks were remarkably beautiful in their own right. The massive General Sherman Redwood and the King’s Canyon Scenic Byway were highlights well worth the hours-long trek up into the High Sierra.
I actually just returned from that road trip, and I’m nothing short of exhausted (but in the best way possible). I’ll leave you with a few photos as I look forward to the second half of my summer in the City of Angels. Thanks again to Vanderbilt and Curb for making the impossible possible!