It was one year ago today that I started this blog and made the very public announcement that I had decided to sell my soul to comedy, that I was off to Los Angeles for a couple months to plant myself inside the church of Second City, paste a for sale sign to my head and refuse to leave until someone agreed to pay me the big bucks for all my silliness.
What followed was a journey more life changing than I could have ever expected. I ended up selling my house, settling in to a new place and life in LA, finding just the right coaches to push in just the right ways at just the right times, becoming a proud member of The Second City Conservatory, and finding my confidence as a comedienne, but, as it turns out, I now believe that the single most life changing thing I did all year was actually finding the courage to share every little detail of the journey with all of you right here on this blog.
Before this blog, I really was that “Turtle in a Party Dress” I spoke of last month, a shy little hoarder of big ideas, a storyteller hiding in her shell, and there was so much stuff packed in there that I didn’t have a clue where to begin in sharing, I knew I wanted to because I was really lonely in there, I just didn’t know how to get it started. I know it sounds really melodramatic but I honestly was afraid life would pass me by and that I would never figure out how to share all the stories I had it in me to tell.
But it hit me this week, on the anniversary of this blog, that I actually have figured it out and that I am already doing it. The answer to my sharing challenge literally is this blog. Little by little, one day at a time, I have been sharing with all of you and I have realized that that is all there is. I’ll just keep on sharing right here with you, doing what I do and if I do my job right, then maybe just maybe this will become the job that pays me the “big bucks.”
So for fun this week, in honor of our Anniverary, I decided to get you up to speed by sharing with you the list of all of my favorite career moments up till now. It’s filled with a lot of things many of you didn’t know that you didn’t know about me. For some of you it might even make you say “Turtle says what? How did I not know that about you?” And the answer will be “I used to be really bad at sharing.” But no more! This will get you all caught up.
My Top Twelve Favorite Career Achievements Thus Far
1. Dancing profesionally at Walt Disney World.
I was 12 years old when I auditioned for the Sparkling Christmas Spectacular show, a show which ended up being performed annually on the Castle stage at the Magic Kingdom. I was one of 12 kids chosen out of hundreds for this honor and I will never forget the year that followed. Dancing was already the love of my life, but to get to perform at Disney along side so many other amazing performers and to get paid for it on top of that? Didn’t they know I would pay them just for the chance? It was all just too amazing for me. By the end of that year I had had the opportunity to perform in many of their main stage shows and parades and loved every single second of it. It was heartbreaking but slightly funny when I was told they could no longer ask me to come back because I had, well, I had grown in ways that didn’t make me look so much like a kid anymore. Ah well, all good things must come to an end.
2. Being a Gakmeister for Nickelodeon.
I am quite proud to say that as an adult I actually got paid good money to mix together large batches of slime and booger gak and dump it on unsuspecting kids heads. Yet again I have to say getting paid to play really just does not suck. During my time as a Gakmeister I worked on the show Figure It Out and also in the kitchen making jokes and giving samples to the tours coming through the studios. My most favorite experience, however, was when they flew me and my fellow Gakmeister mentor Ron Hemke to a Philly’s game for family night. We had so much fun being interviewed, talking to fans and running around the city with the infamous Nick Rubber Chicken (which was a tradition only the Nick Florida peeps know about).
3. Art Directing the feature film Hoover starring Ernest Borgnine.
Not only was this a milestone in my career because I finally made the leap from Production Assistant into something more exciting like Art Direction, but I will always consider this one of my favorite moments in life because I had the distinct honor of getting to work closely with some truly amazing men. Ernest Borgnine, who made me call him Ernie and insisted on opening doors for me even though I had been instructed by my Producer that I was supposed to open doors for him. Harry Flynn, Ernie’s publicist, who had also been publicist to the likes of Bob Hope and Michael Landon and had a personality similar to George Burns and kept me laughing all the time. And then Cartha Deke Deloach, a man who was 3rd in command under Hoover in the FBI. Spending time with him was like literally meeting history. At first I didn’t know how to behave because he was a very proper, formal man and he made me a little nervous but one day he leaned over to me and says “Holly? You know who you remind me of?” I shook my head no and he says “You ever see the Bad News Bears?” Not what I was expecting from him and then for the first time ever I see a little grin light up his face and he says “Tatum. You remind me of Tatum from the Bad News Bears.” For the rest of the time we shared a little giggle about that. What an experience. What a privelege.
4. Being Lisa Kudrow’s Personal Assistant.
Surreal is really all I can say about this experience. It was one of those times in my life that all I could do was stay present and enjoy, often times wondering how did this happen that this is my life? Am I hallucinating? Or am I really sitting here hanging with the FRIENDS. One day I was a normal person just trying to make it in the biz and the next day I am hiring security just to go to the airport and trying to protect my boss from paparazzi and somewhat creepy professional autograph seekers. The stream of famous faces I encountered was endless. The private jets, private cars, private sets, fancy hotel rooms was continuous. I never knew where I would end up next and nothing surprised me anymore. But the greatest thing about being Lisa Kudrow’s assistant was getting the chance to sit alongside Lisa. Even though I was the one that was supposed to be helping her, she helped me forever in ways she doesn’t even know. Her strength, her fairness, integrity, confidence and seeming fearlessness when it came to business are attributes I still aspire to daily. She lead by example and I am forever grateful for all the amazing lessons she taught me. If I ever become wildly rich and famous and I handle it with grace it will be because she taught me how.
5. Sitting next to Harold Ramis while he Directed Analyze This.
Oh lord! I have to unabashedly admit that this man is my living hero. I am sure he would be embarrassed to hear me say this but it’s true. I have looked up to him as one of my comedy superheroes since I was a kid and his movies have been more than movies to me, they have been my friends. So to be welcomed so warmly to sit beside him while he Directs and to get to join him and his friends and family for dinner multiple evenings after working all day on the film Analyze This was just pure heaven for me. What made it all the better was to discover that not only is he the comedic genius I expected but that he is also a really nice man who runs a set the way that I like to see a set run (peaceful and happy). I asked him how he does it and he said “my friends and I made a promise a long time ago that we didn’t want to do it if it wasn’t fun.” And fun it was. Thank you so much for the memory of a lifetime Harold. He doesn’t know it but it is one of my goals in life to work with him again but this time as a writer/actress and I intend to earn it (part of the reason I was inspired to study at Second City). If that happens I will definitely have to add another favorite memory to this list.
6. Working on the feature film Hanging Up.
If you would have told me that one day I would get to come to work every day and that the people I would be working along side would be the Ephron sisters, Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, and Lisa Kudrow I would have told you to quit toying with me like that because it’s too ridiculously good to be true. But alas, that is exactly what happened and again I loved every minute of it. Through that experience I got the chance to talk to Nora Ephron about writing, got to have girl chat with Meg Ryan (another hero) and got to watch Diane Keaton Direct which I have to say is possibly even more fun than watching the movie itself. She would call action and then get so engrossed in what was happening on her little screen that I swear if she could climb into the monitor I am pretty sure she would have and then she wouldn’t so much as call cut as she would just scream out “Oh my god!!! That was fabulous!!! Cut!! Cut!!”
7. The first time I got paid to write.
After no less than 10 years faithfully plugging away as an unknown and unpaid writer, I got the fateful call one morning from my new Producer boss at the time saying “Holly, do you have a passport?” This kicked off a hilarious series of events that ended with me on a plane to Luxembourg that afternoon with no return ticket home in order to do on-set rewrites for a boss I had never actually met in person on a Horror film I had read once and was definitely not in my genre of choice. It was a bit of a crazy move on my part but hey, if you get a break, I say you take it. Unexpectedly, this trip turned into so much more than an amazing writing experience for me, it was an incredible cultural experience. I was one of only a handful of Americans working on that film, the rest of the crew spanned so many different nationalities I lost track, but yet we all came together and did our parts to make this film as if we had known and been working together our whole lives. To me, that is the real magic of filmmaking; we filmmakers share a culture and a language that goes way beyond borders. In the end, I didn’t get credit for my work on that film (incentive requirements prohibitted it) and it didn’t turn into any sort of launch pad for my writing career but the experience was still absolutely priceless.
8. Directing a Documentary about 4 very special Vietnam Vets.
This was yet another time when I jumped in feet first into a project, clueless as to how special it would be. I had always known that I wanted to write a movie about my Step Dad and his friends from Vietnam but I needed to get their story first. Since these were not the type of men who were going to be easy to control I devised a clever plan. I figured I would need to get them locked in somewhere so they were captive. Ooh a Houseboat would be good! And then I thought, I’ll just rig my crew with as many cute females as possible, that will help keep their attention. So off we went 4 Vets and my crew of 4 30 something’s on a Houseboat for a week. We knew their stories were going to be good but we had no idea how much they would affect us all. We developed an entirely new level of love and respect for those willing to sacrifice their lives in order to give us all the freedom we enjoy. I truly hope someday I do justice to the stories they have entrusted me with.
9. Two Door Productions or how I accidentally became a Producer.
If it wasn’t for my husband Diego wanting to expand his Visual Effects career I am certain I would have never ever become a partner in a Visual Effects Company but he did, so I did, and it was one of the single most important things I have ever done in my entertainment career. Before Two Door I was an employee, not just literally, but mentally, meaning, I had the mindset of an employee. But owning my own company forced me to accept my power, to use every thing I had previously learned through out my years of assisting, and to step into the shoes of the leader I was meant to be. I resisted – ALOT!!! It was not always pretty, but in the end I learned that I could do it, that I could pretty much do whatever I set my mind to and the knowledge of that changed me forever. I have been working for myself ever since and not a lot scares me anymore. For me its just a question of “how hard am I willing to work? Is it really the direction I want to go?”
10. Writing and Producing the feature film The Guardians.
The Guardians marks the first time I ever got to Produce a feature script that I had written. Like all my opportunities it came from out of the blue. The Executive Producer of the film, Steve Ruff, had come to Two Door for Visual Effects but I had to tell him that there was no way he was going to be able to produce his current script for the budget he had. I gave him my notes on how I thought he could make this movie happen, ironically by writing out nearly all the VFX and making it a character driven film, and to my surprise he said he liked my notes and would I mind rewriting the script based on my ideas. I used every ounce of everything I had ever known or learned in order to write and produce this film in the tight window of time that I was given to do it, and again accomplished more than I thought was possible but the greatest thing about this experience, the thing I will never forget is the incredible cast and crew. I fell head over heels in love with each and every one of them (especially Ron Pallilo, James Foley, Jaime Velez-Soto and Stephen Campbell whom I couldnt have survived without). To this day I still miss getting to walk on set and see their wonderful faces.
11. Writing, Producing and Starring in The Sex Trade.
This project was born out of a love for my writing partner John Connon. He is my brother from another mother and neither one of us can really remember how it all happened it just seemed like we met and started writing. No need for any big fanfare or the usual getting to know each other rigamarole, somehow we already knew what we needed to know and that was that. We decided a web series would be a great way to get started and the next thing you know The Sex Trade was born and before we knew it we were shooting it with our producing partners Lauren O’Quinn, Chris Burns and Paul Petrus. Yet again I fell head over heels in love with the cast and crew. The way everybody came together, the generosity, the love of the craft, the teamwork towards something bigger than ourselves, I was blown away by it all and am forever grateful. This project was particularly special for me as well because it marked my first ever starring role. This was the project where I learned “I can do this acting thing and I love it” Special thanks to my co-star Tim Rerucha, another brother from another mother. I am so grateful it was you I got to share this first experience with.
12. Studying at the Conservatory at Second City.
Yet another dream come true. As I said when I first started this blog, comedians have always been my Superheroes, and it seems that most of my favorite Superheroes have wandered the halls of Second City during their formative years, so for me, studying and training at Second City is treading on sacred ground. I am in Superhero training. I have been there for almost a year now and what I have learned is huge, my writing and acting abilities have strengthened ten fold thanks to their special brand of nurturing and guidance. And I have laughed, good lord have I laughed. I have decided I am going to be sticking around those halls for a long long time. I’m making it my home away from home.