Pretty Little Soldiers

Dash and I went to junior high together but we went to separate high schools. We flew in similar circles, went to all the same parties and had lots of friends in common but we weren't all that close. Fifteen years on, though, he's one of only two childhood pals that ended up in the movie industry and our two lives, while superficially similar, could hardly be more different.

First, I planned for this to be my life since my earliest days. Once I got over those half dozen when-I-grow-ups that all little boys have: astronaut, fireman, paleontologist, president, I knew that I wanted to make movies. Dash, on the other hand, wanted to be a stage actor, to be a Broadway triple threat.

We spent fifteen years wandering our respective early adulthoods. He did a spate as part of a roaming troupe that did educational theater all across the country. He was a stage hand and then a PA. I did the rounds as a bartender, customer service rep and then a boom operator. Ultimately, I landed in the production department and he found himself an East Coast AD.

Owing to the different roads we've taken, we have huge differences of opinion as to the nature of each other's careers. He works in indie world, helming small shows destined for the festival circuit and second-tier DVD release. He manages edgy, original, artistically daring films made by aspiring auteurs and small crews that are lauded by critics, coo'd over by kinophiles and ignored by the world at large.

I'm at the other end of the spectrum. I work on mult-million dollar studio pictures. Behemoth movies created largely by committee that are often forced to side-step grit and gumption in favor of spectacle and profit. But, the food is always good, the accommodations always comfortable and the checks always clear.

The cultures of these two worlds are different. His colleagues are mostly young and eager idealists, people who are looking to do what has not been done before. One perpetuates a career through enthusiasm and willingness to suffer, in the form of long days and low pay, for the artistry of the endeavor. My compatriots are slightly older, deeply jaded, fantastically ambitious, mercenaries who covet the number one slot at the box office. One keeps working in the studio world through one part luck, one part schmooze, one part grit and three parts professional flawlessness.

We've never worked together and we probably never will. On the rare occasion that we see one another, there's always a bit of tension, a complex tension built of posture, opposing experience and perhaps just a touch of envy. He ranks higher than I do but I make more money. I get to rub elbows with celebrities but he's integral to his productions in a way that I am not. On some level, he thinks that I'm a sell-out and, on that same level, I think that he swims in the shallow end.

In a way, though, we sometimes look at each other with eyes for what is greener. Dash's work will never have the prestige or recognition that mine has and mine will never have the legitimacy of his. I wonder what it would be like to make a movie without having to kiss above-the-line ass and I bet he wonders what it would be like to know that you're going to get paid on time and that the catering isn't going to suck.

It's of no consequence, though. We've each carved out our niche and, despite some puffing of chests to one another, we're making the careers that we want and we're both doing better than most at it. It's just funny how careers turn out, how our intentions brush with and sometimes push against reality, how our opinions of our work evolve as we learn and mature in our fields. It's strange how we end up in places we never thought we'd be and places we always knew we belonged and it's even stranger that sometimes they're the same place.

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