Tonight we went to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (yes, that academy) for a low-key yet inspiring party for this years crop of bright-eyed Tar Heels trying to make it in Lalaland through the UNC Hollywood Internship Program. I wish everyone could see how much fun these folks were having, exactly the sort of thing we would have LOVED if it had existed in 1990 when some of us tried coming out here the first time.
Of the things UNC has now (but didn’t when I was there): air conditioning, drop/add by phone, THE INTERNET, and this Hollywood Internship Program. First off, the internet. Can you imagine how much easier everything is with Google? I was one of the last classes to graduate before the internet came to Carolina, and I remember actually having to go to the frickin’ library to research something. The book would inevitably be gone, and I’d be stuck on the sixth floor of Davis wondering what the fuck I was going to do about my paper due in eight hours.
I don’t say this like other old farts say stuff about “kids today.” When old people kvetch about kids’ manners, or their dress, or their technology, they’re usually complaining about something that had evolved differently over the decades. The internet, however, exploded onto UNC in the course of about two years and I just missed it by a matter of eighteen months or so. Unbelievable.
Anyway, this internship is awesome – lots of these UNC grads get internships with other Carolina alumni, gigs in major movie production houses, TV studios and whatever else we can rustle up for them. They have that wide-eyed excitement of being in Hollywood, and as one of them said, “escaping from the boondocks” (she was from Salisbury, NC).
This is my old fart rant, and it is 100% true: when I came to LA in 1990 and looked for a job, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and drove gas prices out of my reach. Not being able to find employment, I subsisted on a brick of cheddar cheese and Branola wheat bread for two weeks (I know I’ve said that before, but it feels good to type). Finally, through my angel of mercy John Altschuler (who was also there tonight), I got a gig at New Line Cinema as their first intern. Three weeks into the job, I got rear-ended by a reggae drummer in a white truck that gave me whiplash and totaled my car. Weeks later I was back in Chapel Hill, wondering what the fuck went wrong.
These UNC program interns will be spared that fate, and from the looks of a few of them, they’ll be producing some of your favorite movies and TV shows in 2012. But I don’t begrudge them a centimeter; it’s right for each successive generation to have a slightly easier time, and while my adventures in Hollywood have been occasionally horrific, I wouldn’t trade one second of the Wild Teacup Ride that got me where I am.
at Mallory May’s house just before leaving, May 1990