Selling My Winter Tires
I just got home from my storage unit where I packed up four more bins of makeup. Sometimes I do this thing called “not giving the universe another option.”
The most memorable instance brings me back years ago, when I was still early in my career and working on CTV Cardinal.
I had set my sights on what I wanted my next career milestone to be. I wanted to be the key makeup artist on the biggest show to come to North Ontario yet. It was a tier A, NBC Universal series to be shot in beautiful Parry Sound for four months.
How better to spend your summer at the age of 22? No kids, no partner... nothing keeping me anywhere. Just a summer at a resort in the Muskokas, working on a crime thriller.
It would be my very first IATSE 873 show (that’s the Toronto branch of Hollywood’s film and television union), and it was going to be directed by the same director as Twilight. I'd spend my weekends running by the pier. That was what I wanted. It would have brought my career into new territory.
My options at that time were:
Wait and pray that I might be asked to get onto the big show even though I had never worked for those producers before, and they normally hired their own makeup team.
Take the job that was offered to me, on the familiar show filmed in my hometown that had become a national sensation. I'd be the head of department on an award-winning series with the most amazing cast, crew, producers, director, craft services, and puppers you could ever want to be around.
My second option wasn’t a bad option, clearly, and it was a real option. I asked my boss at the time, bless him, experienced in the industry and a wonderful person, what he thought I should do next. He said he thought I should take the sure thing.
When I sent my resume and expressed my interest to my dream show, they took their time getting back. I started to worry that the opportunity on my hometown show might slip away as the days passed. I declined the offer.
Eventually I heard that the producers had passed my name to the makeup department head from Toronto that would be hiring me. She had been working nights, so she needed some time to review my portfolio.
In the meantime, I bought a bottle of champagne and celebrated with my friends. We celebrated me getting the job. My future job. That's what I meant by not giving the universe another option.
A few days later she got back to me, and she wanted me on the job. And it’s a good thing, because there would have been no Plan B for me.
Her and I ended up hitting it off and had a wonderful working relationship for shows to come. After that show ended, I moved to Toronto and continued to work for her. One year later I became a member of IATSE 873.
I'm not sure how differently my life would have played out if I didn't take that leap. That show that I held out for ended up being a catalyst to my career.
I go to LA for what I know deep down is a trip to decide whether or not I want to move there.
I get there, and I can see that it's where I want to be. It's where it all began, movie magic, Hollywood, my industry, my craft... This is what I’ve worked so hard to be a part of.
The places to go running and hiking are endless. The weather - I’ll be honest, was freezing, which made me think that that was about as cold as I ever wanted to be.
If I moved there I'd never have to dig my car out from the snow again, or have my socks soak through from the slush. I'd never have to stay locked up inside for another winter, spending weeks in the sullen, dark December. It was meant for me. Maktub. It’s an Arabic word I read in The Alchemist that stands for, “it was written.”
So what now?
Now I know for sure what I want. But what stands between me and getting there? Work. Lots of work. I discovered what the process entailed for obtaining a work visa. $10,000 for an immigration lawyer, 6-8 articles written about me in major media, work lined up, letters of recognition from industry leaders to support my extraordinary ability, and someone to sponsor me.
When I got home from my trip, depression set in.
Every morning I'd open my eyes to my bedroom, and then remember what I had decided on. Everything around me would have to go. My bedroom, the hallway I walked through as I got up to make coffee, my couch in the living room where I sat to drink it. My network. My friends. My neighbourhood. The city I’ve become so accustomed to. The spots I went running. The television shows I worked on. My life.
In LA I’d have to start anew. There’s no such thing as a transfer into the IATSE 706 union. I’d have to work my way up again.
Why was I doing this? I thought about all of the things I’d have to take care of logistically, start a new credit score, close down my Canadian corporation, get out of my car lease, find a place, find a way to transport twenty bins of makeup that I kept in my storage unit.
As the end of winter drew nearer the thought loomed in my head, if I’m going to leave by next winter, I should sell my winter tires.
I didn’t want to store them. I didn’t want to leave open the possibility that I’d have to stay in Toronto. I was living through the coldest, longest winter in Canadian history, it seemed. But yet the thought of getting rid of those tires was like pulling the trigger on my life. Everything around me would slowly start to vanish. Quick sand below me, my dreams ahead of me... And I’d have to climb a mountain to get there.
Sell them or admit to yourself that you're unsure you can pull this off by next snowfall.
I stored them. Out of sight in my storage unit, at least until fall. I hate carrying around mental baggage, things left undone. But by then I’d have a better idea of my plans and people would be on the market for winter tires, anyway.
I dropped the door down, slid the bolt across, locked them up.
I kept working. I spoke to lawyers. I stayed up after 15 hour days on set to respond to queries from the media that said “Seeking makeup advice from experts”.
I thoughtfully typed up responses instead of sleeping. I had no idea if any of them would amount to anything, if they’d ever be responded to. And they weren't, for a couple of weeks. Months for some. Eventually every single query that I submitted a response to ended up publishing me in their articles.
I was featured in Bustle twice, The Sudbury Star, The Toronto Star, Reader’s Digest, The Daily Mail, and The National Post. Before I set out to get the visa I had none. That is what a couple months of late nights with stars in your eyes can get you.
I hired a lawyer and we started putting a case together. I reached out to every producer I’d ever worked for for letters. It started to to look like this all really could come together. People were delighted and excited to help me, all I had to do was ask.
I Marie Kondo’d anything that didn’t spark joy in my apartment, to make the move easier. It felt good, which was also the downside. Getting rid of all of that visual clutter made me love my place even more.
The show that I was working on came to an end, and the visa was being wrapped up. The lawyers had everything they needed from me and they began compiling 650 pages of evidence to make my case.
I looked forward to finally having a break. Relief.
As it all got wrapped up, the phone rang. Here’s an opportunity: You work on the next Adam Sandler movie. You’ll have no days off before it starts, but we’ll treat you well and we’ll have some fun.
The summer break that I looked forward to went away. Working in film can be relentless sometimes. I was coming to the end of a hard five months and saw the light at the end of the tunnel, a time to rest, recover, and get inspiration.
Just 6 more weeks, they said.
Sacred, precious, fleeting summer. The best times of your life, when you walk outside as you are, t-shirt and sandals, and you blink and it’s over. I was sad to work through it.
But then I remembered; Summer. When the summer ends I’m leaving, for an eternal summer.
I took the show and they kept their word, about treating me well and having fun. It was one of the most special projects I’ve been a part of. I grew on that show, I overcame fears and levelled up. I met the best people. I got to work with some of the most highly regarded artists in the industry, some that I’ll work with again when I move.
And now it’s over. The jobs are over and I’m left only with myself, my apartment full of things, everything I know, and two months remaining to get it all packed up.
The visa hasn’t been approved yet but I know I have a strong case.
Nothing’s certain except for me. Today I went to my storage unit and cleared out the rest of my makeup. I took apart the guest bedroom that I decorated last year, and I’m selling my winter tires.
Per Aspera Ad Astra
Through adversity to the stars