Thursday, June 21, 2007

My First Job In Hollywood: The 2002 BET Awards

Tuesday, July 26th, will be my 5th anniversary of working the BET Awards. Funny, how time flies. My relationship with the show actually began in 2002 while I was still a North Carolina resident. So how did I manage to transition from Carolina's delicious chopped pork B-B-Q to trendy California Pizza Kitchen in a matter of weeks. Simply, I asked.

Truly, getting work on the 2002 show was a perfect example of "ask and it shall be given." However, knowing the right people to ask was key. From North Carolina I called the network looking for a job as an associate producer. After studying BET's website, I asked for the producers of the shows that interested me most. That, combined with a list of names I had acquired from an associate during a previous LA trip, provided me a short list of people to call.

Nervously, yet determined, I probably talked to four different people in various positions and left several messages. After about the third, "we've already filled that position", I honestly became a little frustrated. Two things I didn't know then that I know well now: 1. It's very difficult to be taken seriously by Hollywood employers if you don't live here; and 2. It ain't about who YOU know, it's about WHO knows you and trusts you to work with them.

Knowing that all the paid positions were taken, I asked a producer if there were any volunteer opportunities on the upcoming BET Awards. She paused. "That's not my show, but I can give you a name to call." "Thank you that's just what I needed--another faceless name to call," was my thinking. Wisely, I kept the sarcasm to myself, and dialed the new number on my list.

The male voice on the other end of the phone was friendly but a little incredulous. Why would a professional work for free? Did I truly understand what I was asking to do? I informed the show producer I understood exactly and was thinking of relocating to Los Angeles for work. What better way to get my feet wet than by working on one of the biggest shows in Hollywood. I also informed him I would be in town for the show because I would be attending LA Film Festival. Still unsure, he asked me to fax my resume and cover letter. Of course I sent them the following day, but not until I had prayed, fasted, tithed, and anointed them with oil. Everything I learned in Bible School was sent with that fax. However, the fasting part didn't last long. There's nothing like fried fish, cole slaw, french fries, crispy hush puppies, and sweet tea to ease your tension while waiting for a job offer. Did I forget the lemon cake for dessert? I digress.

A day and a half later the decision had been made. Mr. Friendly Voice informed me, "You are to arrive at the Renaissance Hotel, Monday, at 8am, to begin work on the BET Awards." And after a sincere "thank you", I ended the call, and danced. Not that pretty liturgical stuff you see on Sunday. Nah! I was in my bedroom crunking to Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams before the film Rize made it popular.

First day, I finally met "the voice" and was without delay put to work. Not only did I get my feet wet, but also put to the fire. The girl I was suppose to assist, excused herself to go to the bathroom. It was the longest pee in the world! For several hours I handled the constantly ringing production office phones, walkee distribution, and whatever else thrown my way alone. No training, no demonstration, no moment to reflect on my decision. Big Mama words, "be careful what you asked for", were steadily scrolling across the bottom of my mind's screen.

Stressful it was, but you know that "what doesn't kill you..." adage. Not to mention, several years before I had worked in live television news as editor. That was a thousand times more intensive. What really made that first day challenging was knowing my every move was being watched. How I handled every call, every request, every task influenced whether I would be invited back to the party.

That was five years ago. Since then I have worked the show as a PA and as talent assist. No not glamorous and high paying jobs, but well worth my efforts. Everything in life can't be about the bling or the money, some things you do for the experience, just for the moment. Being able to meet or just shake hands with your favorite celebrity is priceless. And walking the red carpet is still one of my favorite parts of the show. Not to mention, backstage is the best show in town and where most of the networking is done! Trust, the show y'all don't see is often better than the one you do.

The 2007 BET Awards airs this Tuesday. The Main Event starts live at 8pm with one of my favorite people in Hollywood, Mo'Nique. And once I get through partying, oh...I mean working, I promise to share some of my experiences. However, errrthang ain't meant to be shared over the Internet. *wink*

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