You Oughta Be In Pictures: Invading Nirvana's Guide to Finding Gold in Them Thar Hollywood Hills
In Invading Nirvana, Kevin Theis documents his adventures over three months in the fantasy realm of Hollywood, where, nearly a century after the sagebrush desert north of Los Angeles became the center of the newfangled "moving pictures," literally thousands of pilgrims converge daily to seek their fortunes on the screens of big films and tiny televisions.
His three goals are to secure big-bucks artistic employment enabling him to give up his day job, assess his prospects for a career in standup comedy and finish writing his play. At the end of his allotted time, what he has accomplished is a role in a student-generated film, the discovery of non-movie artistic employment enabling him to give up his day job—oh, and this book.
What distinguishes Theis' reconnaissance report from the usual portraits of the city dating back to the Spanish conquistadors is its rejection of the stereotypal narratives intent on maintaining the myth of Southern California as the American Eden and La-La-Land as Babylon Incarnate. Our author is no cardboard suitcase-toting bumpkin stepping off the bus, after all, but a seasoned trouper arriving armed with an extensive dossier of acting, directing and voiceover credits. This backstory also endows him with friends and colleagues to aid him in his mission within the network of Chicago expats settled along the West Coast. Winters in SoCal being a gentle season of moderate temperatures and low precipitation, even the weather favors wilderness expeditions.
Our author's letters-to-home voice is evident in his "translations" for Chicago readers—the proximity of his temporary quarters in Tarzana to metropolitan Los Angeles is described as equivalent to that of Schaumburg, and the drive therefrom to Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory Theater as "O'Hare airport to South Bend, Indiana." Indeed, the top priority in his scouting mission is the instruction of other artists who may follow in his steps through the often perplexing array of choices confronting newcomers to our country's largest entertainment market. He offers tips on acquiring agents (you will need more than one), listing film credits (as opposed to theater credits) on resumes, and avoiding exploitive—sometimes outright fraudulent—scams aimed at the desperate and dazzled.
His observations are not restricted to those of "the trade," however, but cover a wide range of interests encompassing visits to tourist attractions like Griffith Observatory and the Walk of Fame, along with names of restaurants where friends feed him. The blogspeak origins of his first-person accounts are unmistakable, but Theis' midwestern modesty prohibits self-indulgent editorializing. Even during an investigative foray into the Church of Scientology (which he clearly loathes), his appraisal, while candid, strives to remain fair and unprejudiced.
Whether you're a professional actor, a vacationing film buff, or just wonder whatever happened to those storefront-circuit Huckleberry Finns who struck out for "the territories," Invading Nirvana delivers valuable information for planning your excursion, savvy advice on circumventing traps for snaring unwary greenhorns and, always, encouraging words for the adventurous.
Further information on Invading Nirvana can be found at
Fort Raphael Publishing Company
Mary Shen Barnidge
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