As hard as it is to wake up at 4am after nearly 26 years of 4am wakeups, the difficulty often melts away when I recognize the amazing world I get to witness as a result. This past Friday, that world was witnessed from the 30th floor of the AT&T building in downtown Los Angeles as we shot a sunrise scene for a Mercedes commercial. L.A.’s record-breaking 113 degree temperature a few days before had given way to some interesting cloud formations and afternoon thundershowers, a rarity in this desert climate of eternal sunshine.
These days, I often lose site of where I am in my career as the longing to sit at the kitchen table and write (like I am doing right now!) pulls hard on me and sometimes tricks me into thinking that I am stuck where I am. But where I am is an amazing place with amazing opportunities. Watching the sun rise from that space on the 30th floor and knowing that I get to leave there in a few hours to film a scene on a baseball field above Dodger Stadium reminds me that I am not stuck at a desk everyday, that I get to see and experience so many things that others never do.
Saturday brings another “O-Dark-Hundred” call time (as my friend Angela refers to any call before sunrise). Standing in the street on Upper Grand near the Disney Concert Hall and eating a breakfast burrito, I watch the camera crew rigging a camera on the Ultimate Arm camera car in the parking lot below me and coordinate the details of our shoot day. I’ve lost that feeling of gratitude I had just yesterday and instead feel frustrated that I have to work on a Saturday and miss coaching my daughter Hanna’s soccer game. Her mother sends me text messages at the end of each quarter, exciting me because we are winning, but at the same time digging me deeper into the hole I’m in because I am somewhere I don’t want to be. I’m irritable as a result and our shoot day is reflecting that right back to me.
We break for lunch two hours late and I eat in the motorhome with the director and producer formulating a plan for how we’re going to make it out of this day without total destruction. I would prefer to sit with some friends and talk about anything other than work, but this is my job and I have done this countless times before. We move the futuristic looking L.A. Central High School #9 and somehow, motivated by a new plan and the fading sun, we manage to catch up, cutting five hours work in half.
Energized by our sense of accomplishment, we all kick it into high gear and race back into downtown for some beauty shots of the Mercedes in the fading light of the day. The director takes off in a suburban and I jump into his spot in the back of the Ultimate Arm camera car for the ride over to First and Main near City Hall. This is the seat I want to be in, the seat I am beyond ready for, the job that is closer to my heart’s desire after all these years. I breathe a sigh of relief and realize that I am there, in the director’s seat, that the final piece of the puzzle is a heartbeat away.
Miraculously, we catch up and complete every shot the director wanted, but like any good director, he wants one more. I ask the police to lock up the traffic and call in the water truck for one final wetdown. The Director of Photography keeps holding out his light meter as we move back and forth across the street, trying to decide which angle is best. Finally, the DP announces that we are out of light and I call a wrap.
Standing alone on Main Street between CalTrans and the new LA Police Department building, the struggle of my day melts away as once again I recognize the amazing opportunities I get to experience and realize in this moment an important truth: As I move toward my dream, my dream moves toward me. As a 21st Century Man, I don’t have to settle for anything less.