Training Days

By Jessica Abrams

Even though numerous astrologers predicted otherwise, last Spring was not a good time for me. It felt like the footprints of my path had become etched in the kind of material that no ocean wave could erase and make new again. Certain areas seemed stuck — the minor ones like money, career, and relationships.  I wasn’t sure how to unstick them. So when I saw a notice in a theatre Yahoo group seeking actors to work as field interviewers for a social science study, I immediately responded.  Compared to Craigslist with its calls for egg donors and depression sufferers, this sounded downright promising.

After two phone interviews, I was told I had the job.  Did I mind going to Washington, DC to train on the company’s dime for two weeks?  No, I certainly did not.  There were a lot of letters in the company’s name.  There were also a lot of companies: one did payroll, one worked with the company doing payroll, another was the one I would actually be reporting to.  To this freelancer, it felt like I was entering a corporate morass from which I might never emerge.

So, when I arrived in Washington, DC and checked into a hotel room the size of my entire Hollywood bungalow, anticipation had built to a fever pitch.  Did I mention I was also broke, scared, and prone to moments of existential angst that would force me under the covers for long periods at a time?  The resounding question that kept repeating itself was, Is this really what my life has come to?  A Hilton Hotel in a DC suburb and a company with a weird name?

The answer to that is, of course, no.  It started with a no when I forced myself — yes, it was an act of sheer will  — to let go of any ideas I had about who I was, ideas I’d been carrying around with me like a knapsack loaded with rocks.  I did this by praying — yes, praying — to be released from the clutches these ideas had on me, to truly believe that I might not be who I thought I was.  It didn’t hurt that I met some really nice people, many of which were also creative types looking for flexible work, and that the managers were caring, maternal women wanting us to succeed (how often does one find that?).  Ever so slowly I began to give in to the job, to the work, to passing the various certifications necessary to do the work.  I also began to make friends.

One such friend was also an actress from LA.  We talked, we shared stories, we discussed ways to combine our talents so that maybe, one day, we could make money doing what we love.  Fast forward to being back on LA soil.  She introduced me to her life coach.  Said life coach encouraged us to shoot something to get into the Screen Actors Guild.  One morning while meditating, an idea came to me: we would do a web series based on the work we just trained to do.

Our web series, KNOCKING ON DOORS, was born.

The rest is the stuff you hear about but often (I did!) cast a jaundiced eye over: cast and crew came together in this miraculous way, everyone agreeing to work for free.  A Director of Photography and an editor just got it.  In fact, everyone just got it.  It was also the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.  We shot five episodes and will shoot more.  This little venture turned into something life-changing.

I can’t presume to offer a moral to this story.  What I will say is that, at least for me, change happened in a way I would never have predicted it; and so from now I won’t pretend to know when something might be good for me.

Or when that suburban hotel room might offer something besides expensive bottles of wine in its minibar.

KNOCKING ON DOORS is up and running: