“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
Henry David Thoreau
HOLLYWOOD UNDERGROUND is the TRUE STORY about how James lived inside two major Hollywood Studios: Paramount Studios and Sunset Gower Studios for close to THREE YEARS in pursuit of a show business dream.
After getting kicked out of California State University, Long Beach as a film and journalism student and losing financial aid, James kept his dream alive by buying a one way metro blue line train ticket from Long Beach to Hollywood. He would leave his life behind for the dream and everything he owned was stuffed inside an old college backpack. Inside the backpack were: the short film he had written and directed, as well as extra clothes and two full length screenplays he had written recently. After a few long days of being on the streets of Hollywood, James would simply walk into Sunset Gower Studios through an opened door off Gower Street, where they were filming the TV show Moesha. Undeterred by security, he would end up living inside Sunset Gower Studios for the next couple months – in a cable cubbyhole atop the catwalks of STAGE 1, where Who’s The Boss? and From Here To Eternity were filmed (among others.) Inside Sunset Gower Studios, he acted his way into a cold read with Keith Wolfe, a professional casting agent on the lot, got an audition for a commercial and placed one of his screenplays on the desk of a production company, while trying to make further connections for work. After a couple months living inside Sunset Gower Studios, James was found out by electricians and gaffers and after being chased off the lot by armed guards, he was at a great crossroads. On a bus stop bench at the corner of Melrose and Gower he looked up to see Paramount Pictures Studios as big as life itself. So James waited until around 2:00 a.m. and jumped the fence of Paramount Studios. He would then live inside the historic movie lot for the next THREE YEARS, while surviving and trying to make his dream a reality.
Inside Paramount Studios, James A. Rice slept in an elevated outdoor catwalk attached to Star Trek: Voyager and ate from the craft service tables of various TV shows like: Becker, Roswell, Judging Amy, The Amanda Show, Frasier, Roswell, Angel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and various pilots and movies. A stray in the world of the rich and famous, he would talk his way into pulling cable on a TV show, he would bill himself as an intern and work as a production assistant for the pilot of The Amanda Show, he would be a perceived reporter for Newsweek on the set of Fifteen Minutes, he was thought to be an up and coming young screenwriter, as well as a Paramount promotions office employee, a court room juror on Judging Amy, a vampire of the underworld on the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, an assistant editor for Judge Judy to name just a few of his prospective jobs. James would work diligently, very early every morning at a Paramount Office Building on an employee’s computer and work on his screenplays before any real employees came in for the day. When they were edited and polished he would drop his screenplays off on the desks of Hollywood’s biggest players. This passionate and intense journey would also become a juggling act for James who struggled to keep these perceived “roles” in the air, especially for security. James would soon realize that he was acting for survival in a world of actors, but wasn’t paid a dime. Instead he was acting merely to keep his real lifelong dream alive in a world of make believe.
BRIEF EXCERPT – CHAPTER ONE
A ONE WAY TICKET TO LIPSTICK CITY
At this very moment, the small shoe box studio apartment that I rented while attending college is completely barren. Everything worth anything has been pawned or sold to the highest bidder for means of mere survival, for just enough scratch to see another day. Stuffed inside a hunter green Jan Sport College backpack are all my worldly possessions, everything in which is left to my name and everything that I value the most in this life. In a word, I’ve seen better days. The rundown of my current situation reads like a Greek Tragedy: The telephone has been shut off for weeks now. In an attempt to circumvent this lack of telecommunications I had written a payphone number on numerous job applications and would sit ad nausea on the corner of Broadway Street here in Long Beach waiting for a call from some minimum wage manager for some minimum wage job. When the phone did ring, it was always for one of the women hanging around the liquor store, the women in short skirts and baggy eyes looking “to party.” And that was fine by me. The electricity was also shut off, but where I am going I won’t need either of those amenities. A candle flickers on a cheap pine table, which is my only source of light. This is the lowest rent in town, on the outskirts of downtown with a bathroom so tiny one can barely turn around in, dingy carpet that is likely older than The Roosevelt Administration and walls shellacked in so many coats of old cracked paint they seem to ooze with stale history. It is just before the sun and in five minutes I am leaving all this behind for a dream. Somehow deep down I know I will either get there or die trying. Right now there seems no other option.
To dig at the root of this, two months ago I was a film and journalism student at California State University Long Beach, writing for the campus newspaper and editing a short film in which I wrote and directed. It was the obsessive editing to finish that film in which predicated the grim distinction of neglecting one assignment for one Film Audio Class. Due to this serious faux pas, I failed the class and financial aid cut me off faster than a drunk at last call. The worst part, aside from the sheer failure of it all is knowing that I will never live that life I’d planned on living and knowing that I will never see that vision become a reality is a sinking feeling that words cannot express and a wretched weight that can’t be measured in pounds. In every way this is the great crossroad where textbooks give way to reality and young men set out to make a name for them self, no matter the cost. Inside the stuffed green backpack is an Apple laptop computer, extra clothes, hair clippers, Sony Walkman headphones, a copy of the short film I’d made at California State University, Long Beach called IDTV, and two full length screenplays I had written recently in a furious outburst to avoid that 9 to 5 march of misery existence never asked for. There’d be no notes left in my wake and no phone calls to anyone, not even loved ones. No. This is on me now and no cap and gown, diploma or internship matters anymore.
So, it is on a Friday, at the tag end of summer, this year of Our Lord 1997 when I look over this hell hole one last time. This place where friends and I wrote scenes and talked wildly about the future, this place of many get-together’s and writing sessions, of staying up all night in the throes of 80 Proof philosophy and high-spirited talk about the future that over the course of the night finally succumbed to a new day’s reality and dawn. But ah, such is life. My name is James Rice and this is a true story of chasing a dream, because there is nothing left to lose. The birds are just starting to sing when I head out before the landlord gets here.