July 10, 2012 by jamesessj
To repeat, given the haphazard nature of these recollections — I’ve been just sitting down and writing them, without any overarching scheme — it was bound to happen that I’d forget one or two big/little points of interest. Ordinarily, since this is the last post, I’d just skip them and move on, but I did promise, in an earlier post, to provide what I took to be, at the time, conclusive evidence that the fifty of us who were in that attic room in the Los Angeles Center Studios were it — in other words, that we weren’t chosen from “thousands” of entrants, but rather were the entrants, in toto. Those who were able, at least, to make it to L.A. for the competition. Here’s what went down and what convinced me that something strange was afoot…
In the afternoon of the second day, during our interviews with Ryan and Christine, a contestant named Joey Held suddenly burst back into the room, frantic, explaining that his video had been corrupted in the upload process and that the judges hadn’t been able to see much of it, just a bit at the beginning, and then — I forget how he described it, this all happened rather quickly — something like TV static, or a black screen. Unwatchable, at any rate. But, he said, they’d given him another chance to show them his entire video. He scrambled to fire up his laptop, then ran back through the door to the green room. The rest of us looked at each other with expressions that are best described as wtf?
This incident was included in the aired episodes. What was not included was (painfully, adorably cute) contestant Marlin Chan’s exact same experience. His occurred later that second day — and was exactly the same. Rushed out, said his video hadn’t uploaded properly, and that he needed his laptop to show the judges the uncorrupted version.
Now, after Joey’s incident, there was much discussion in the room to the effect of, The producers are trumping up drama for the sake of the show. Which, of course, no one in their right mind would put past the producers of a Hollywood reality show. After Marlin returned for the same reason, however, these comments died down, because everyone thought, Well, why would they trump up drama in the same way a second time? Apparently no one had ever heard the term “Plan B.” Or the filmmaking term “coverage.”
But that’s as may be — the real point is, How the hell did these guys get accepted onto the show with such (evidently) crappy videos? And I don’t mean content-wise (they were both very clever, funny efforts), but quality-wise…I mean, if you can’t even see most of the video, on what are you basing their acceptance into the competition? The short bits you can see? Those short bits, in both cases — according to the testimony of both Joey and Marlin, to the rest of us in the attic room — were so indecipherably incoherent that Ryan and Christine had placed Joey’s and Marlin’s videos at the bottom of their lists…until Ryan and Christine saw the full, uncorrupted versions, at which time their videos shot to the top of Ryan’s and Christine’s lists and, in fact, got both Joey and Marlin accepted into the Top Ten.
A result which argues that the producers were just trumping up drama for the sake of the show. Because there are only — only — two possibilities here: either the videos were corruptedly unwatchable and these two guys were accepted onto the show even so, which supports my theory that they were taking anyone/everyone who sent in a video; or, the producers, by whatever methods, dicked around with their videos and set up the whole Oh-my-god-my-video-is-screwed-up-but-they’re-going-let-me-replay-it-for-them melodrama.
Actually there’s a third possibility, which is that both of the above possibilities are, to one degree or another, true.
* * *
And now, the lessons learned. As stated before, Hollywood has been, from a very young age, a dream of mine. I have always loved the mystique of the place, the history, the old-time glamor and glitz, the promise it holds, or seems to hold, as if a microcosm of America itself: city of opportunity in the land of opportunity. I always wanted to write movies — and, more recently, wanted to make movies. I always wanted to be a part of Hollywood.
And of course, speaking of microcosms, Internet Icon was, at best, a microcosm of a microcosm of Hollywood. It’s only one show, and a Youtube-only show, at that. But I recognized, in its workings, in its production, the everyday realities of life in Hollywood…the way the stars were treated (Zeus on his throne is not more catered to)…the pecking order of the crew…how everyone seemed continually on-edge, the undercurrent of tension, a sort of tacit acknowledgement that there were ten million other people in a square-mile radius who’d take your job in a heartbeat…the shallowness and silliness of, as I’ve commented before, playing to the Least Common Denominator.
It was no more than, on some level, I already knew and understood about Hollywood. It’s a tough place. It’s a shallow place. It’s all about image, all about flash. And yet, for some ridiculous reason, it never occurred to me that I might not fit in there. I always thought I’d simply march in and storm the gates — my talent (whatever talent I have, assuming it’s > 0) opening doors, smashing barriers, forging new frontiers. I am, as I believe I’ve also commented before, an idiot.
Orson Welles is a great hero of mine. He was, as well, far from being the World’s Greatest Human Being. But artistically, he was uncompromising — perhaps to his detriment, in the long run, because who knows how many great films he might have made had he only been willing to work within the studio system; or, had the studio system been even slightly more willing to work with him. But one must admire his devotion to his own vision. His own passion to see, as I keep saying about my own (incredibly small-potatoed, compared to Orson’s work) videos, on the screen what was in his head. The opposite, the sort of compromise that gets eighteen people’s vision on the screen — and therefore no one’s vision on the screen — is an everyday thing, in Hollywood. It can’t be escaped, except by the most powerful of directors and producers; and in order to reach that lofty plateau one must…well, one must compromise. And not minorly, but majorly, on a daily basis, until I imagine it must just become second nature. How else to explain modern studio television and film?
So — not that Hollywood cares — I doubt I’ll be packing my bags and moving to L.A. anytime soon. I’d love to make films — it’s still a dream — but the Hollywood component of that dream — what most people consider an indispensable component of that dream — is more or less a gone concern. If I ever do make a film it’ll be on my terms. To quote that greatest of all Hollywood studio products (they’ve had seventy-one, and counting, years to better it, but haven’t), Citizen Kane: “Those are the only terms anybody ever knows — his own.”