Kelsey Amelia Snelling has worked numerous jobs in the film industry for the past seven years. This is a true account of her experience.
Prepare to be extremely jealous.
I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago to pursue my very original dream of becoming a Hollywood director. I was quickly absorbed into my first industry position as an intern on the ninth season of a nationally-syndicated talk show, the host of which was a tall, pale man with a luxurious mustache and mild southern twang. A white guy doling advice to desperate and downtrodden guests is precisely the type of exploitation I’ve always felt this country needed, so I was totally stoked when I received my badge and officially became a part of the progressive and ethical world of daytime television.
It wasn’t always easy. The office was completely windowless. I wasn’t allowed to leave my chair or interact with other interns. The light above my desk was broken and for twelve hours a day, I had to squint at a computer manufactured in 1998 (it was 2011). But the community in the office was astounding. Mentorship from my practiced female peers was interminable.
My aging producers ached desperately for their long-passed 20s, and they would regularly approach my desk to take my youthful enthusiasm down a peg. My bubbly phone voice was inappropriate, my (knee-length) pencil skirt was too slutty, and I was really too chubby to be wearing a blouse tucked in. When I reported a sleazy male intern’s inappropriate instant-messages, I was told to stop “inviting” the attention (The pencil skirts! Irresistible!). I reveled in the femme camaraderie, and when the season wrapped, I was heartbroken to leave.
I transitioned into low-budget filmmaking. I booked a gig as a production assistant on a Lifetime movie, and unlike my previous set, the men greatly outnumbered me. The male PAs were required to go on runs or help set up for lunch. I was #blessed with three jobs for the same pay! I was the art assistant and the craft service in addition to my production duties. I worked sixteen hours a day for 112 bucks, but I was doing what I loved — cleaning up gas spills and fetching coffee for 20-year-old camera bros.
I was so entrenched in my role(s) that toward the third week of production, I went into diabetic shock from being overworked and underfed. During this episode, I made the oopsie of sitting down on a cooler as the room spun wildly around me. A producer passing by caught me in the act, and a healthy tongue-lashing followed. I wasn’t working hard enough! I was blowing this opportunity! I had only brewed coffee three times that day and by now I should have done it a fourth! As I edged toward a hypoglycemic coma, I felt with palpability that I was, with guidance, becoming my best self.
My next job was in the world of reality casting. I was hired alongside three gentlemen and another woman for my first project. Within about thirty days, the boys were all promoted with raises. My lady-cohort got fired over a rumor that she’d slept with a cast member (which was never confirmed or even investigated), and I worked there for another three years at my entry-level position, presumably because I had that effervescent phone voice my former employers so adored. Despite doing some hiring, some coordinating, and saving face for the company on multiple occasions, I continued to make minimum wage and command minimal respect. I was the epitome of a struggling artist. A charmed life it was!
I then moved on to a myriad of odd jobs — misting plastic grapes with a water bottle so they shone in their close-up, ordering $500 worth of El Pollo Loco for the G&E department and then trying to stuff it all in my Honda Accord, casting singles willing to appear completely nude on a dating show — things we’ve probably all had to do for some cash here and there. And through it all, I collected special moments that I continue to treasure.
I once was reprimanded for “distracting” and “engaging” a chatty coworker. He was 57 years old and a senior producer. He would initiate lengthy, unwanted dialogues, and when I failed to cut the conversation as it exceeded professional necessity, I was of course to blame. LOL!
I once had a sound mixer throw a tantrum on a shoot that I was directing. In lieu of listening to me, he would defer to our (penis-clad) cinematographer. He even stood up at our premiere in a crowded theater and screamed “CUNT!” when he realized I had overruled a directorial suggestion he had unsolicitedly made. Memories for a lifetime!
I once received a rape threat on social media for asking an innocuous question about rentals on a filmmaker forum. The men who harassed me are still employed, despite having their real names and photos associated with their delightful and encouraging comments! SoCal, so-fun!
I once had a man trash my résumé and tell me that he needed “physically strong hires.” I later found out that said hires were only ever required to demonstrate their brawn as they stacked a few boxes of paper onto a cart. I’m a rock climber and a trained dancer, but I can’t deny that he was utterly correct! I can lift my own body weight up a vertical incline, but there’s NO WAY I could have stacked paper onto a dolly and then executed a flawless chaines-cartwheel-split-jump to celebrate!
But wait… there’s more! When you work in my field, you also have access to the enchanting trend of industry dinner parties and the fellows who attend them. They are always discussing complicated technical terms like “frame rate” and “anamorphic lens” and things that silly young women like myself simply can’t comprehend. It’s really quite kind of them to exclude me from those exchanges to spare me inevitable embarrassment. I know I’m only useful as eye candy, which despite my varicose veins and charming patch of forehead acne, is where my potential truly lies.
This calling of mine is reinforced endlessly. I’ve had my boobs fondled and my ass grabbed. I’ve been referred to lewdly over walkie by a nickname I wasn’t aware of. I’ve had a guy try to finger me in passing (questionable logistics) as I carried a flat of water down the hallway. I’ve had an assistant director solicit me to perform in his adult film, and when I politely declined, he threatened to blacklist me. I’ve had a crew member relay to me the explicit details of a sexual assault he had committed, then lift my phone number from the call sheet and text me tampon jokes all day. With each encounter, I felt valued and fulfilled.
The best part of it all is that the “La La Land” machine enforces zero gender-equality regulations! There is no HR! There are no consequences! How lucky am I, to thrive in such a relaxed and unmonitored environment that literally anything goes! It opens up creative possibility and gets all kinds of juices flowing (ALL kinds)!
But I would never publicly disclose any of my aforementioned trade secrets. Can you imagine the envy I would spark? Besides, if I share too many details, it’s MY career that’s jeopardized. If I piss off the wrong person, it’s MY future that’s at risk. This business is all about who you know, and often, it’s just not worth severing those connections that I’ve worked so hard to build.
Because at the end of the day, what we all crave deeply is a LinkedIn network of bald guys in their 40s who are constantly crowdfunding to shoot a vampire porn.
Can you believe I get to live this life?