I am The Finder of Impossible Things
(The ups and downs of 30+ years in the Entertainment Business)
Julie O’Malley migrated from Colorado to Los Angeles in a 1973 VW Superbeetle in July of 1988, after spending a year from 1986-1987 traveling the country in a borrowed pickup truck, carting along a giant shoeshine chair shining cowboy boots on the PRCA Rodeo circuit, and then nine months as lead bartender at a ‘posh’ Denver strip club.
Upon arriving in L.A., she almost immediately landed a job as the House Pianist at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, where she played for three years. During that time, she also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, studying stage management, makeup design, stage combat and acting.
One fateful evening behind the piano, she met Jim Mandell, owner of Interlok Recording Studios and author of The Studio Business Book. There was an opening for receptionist/recordist at his studio, and for Julie, that position opened up the wild, crazy and sometimes exasperating world of film, television and voiceover production.
An opportunity for work at Hollywood Center Studios (now Sunset Las Palmas Studios) moved Julie from the recording studio to the movie studio, where she managed the expendables sales department. She also worked as PA and set crew on films such as “Misery”, “The Addams Family”, “Lawnmower Man”, “Cool World” and “Body Parts” as well as countless commercials, music videos and TV shows.
Working in film and TV production enabled Julie to learn and expand her knowledge of film equipment as well as the business, and she worked for several years as a dolly grip, transportation manager, production manager, craft services manager and even as an actor. However another opportunity arose to manage the grip and set Lighting Department at Raleigh Film and Television Studios in Hollywood, and she occupied that position for eight years.
But the excitement of film and TV production beckoned, so she took a job with Kandoo Films as Production Manager for a new kind of TV documentary called “Play 16×9“, which was the first TV production to shoot entirely in high-definition to take advantage of the new flat-screen TV technology, using local crews worldwide. Julie was responsible for all logistical aspects of the documentary-style production on five shoots simultaneously, in five different countries. She arranged all camera rentals, domestic and international shipping, executive travel arrangements, domestic and international camera crew hires, managed production budgets, all production costs, as well as researched potential subject matter on unique sporting events worldwide, including elephant polo in Africa, goat-head soccer in Argentina (using soccer balls, although historically they used goat’s heads), wakeboarding in Hawaii, bog-snorkeling in Ireland and La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain.
It was this guerilla-style research that spawned Julie’s ability for locating odd items and information. Realizing that she had developed a very unique and marketable skill, she took her talents to PRG Los Angeles, where she mastered the position of Senior Purchasing Manager and was given the official title that she holds to this day as The Finder of Impossible Things. She also discovered a capacity for extreme multi-tasking – mostly out of necessity – as PRG routinely worked on upwards of 30 different productions at the same time.
She created a process that enabled her to facilitate and triangulate a pallet of fog juice to a moving concert tour — while simultaneously managing office, shipping and janitorial supplies for a staff of 200+ people, obtaining obsolete Wybron scroller parts for a theme park tech department, maintaining the gel, tape and parts inventory for all of the ongoing productions as well as PRG’s repair department, and ordering a drop-ship custom gobo for the Oscar’s green room on the day before the event.
That was a “typical” day at PRG.
But the one thing that is a constant in Hollywood is change.
Julie left PRG in November of 2018 due to restructuring within the company. After twelve weeks of panic during the 2018 Holiday season, she landed at Sourcemaker LED in North Hollywood, an up-and-coming film & TV lighting company in the throes of new growth. She spent the first several weeks alone as the sole Los Angeles full time employee and learned the ins and outs of their new lighting technology by trial and error. On her second day on the job, she had to figure out how to prep and test a city-bus sized, helium filled lighting balloon and wrestle six 300-lb tanks of helium into the company delivery van… nothing like a baptism by fire.
After a year as GM of West Coast Operations at Sourcemaker, Julie managed the LA operation to a $500K rental house and has negotiated contracts with HBO, Apple TV+, Netflix, Disneyland and Showtime, as well as maintained a productive working relationship with the Warner Brothers family of prime time television programs. No longer alone in the office, the LA shop has doubled in size to two employees!
But as always, change is constant. The unexpected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic ended Julie’s tenure at Sourcemaker abruptly after only 15 months, as it did for many people in the entertainment industry.
As of March 2020, Julie was back on the market and hopes to be finding Impossible Things again soon. Stay tuned.
The world continued its uncertainty in the face of the global pandemic. More businesses folded, more workers lost their jobs and the unemployment rate skyrocketed. The entertainment production industry shut down.
This was the longest Julie had been out of work since her first paying job busing tables at her dad’s American Legion hall at the age of nine.
In May 2020, she accepted a freelance video/audio closed-caption transcribing opportunity from VZP Digital in Colorado, which is a company owned by an old friend from high school. Networking can be a lifesaver! She also signed up on Upwork.com to seek independent contract proofreading and copywriting jobs, and she did find some moderate success, the 20% fee the service charges freelancers notwithstanding.
As of July, 2020, Julie was still among the ranks of the COVID unemployed, and this forced her to branch out into unfamiliar territory… she volunteered to edit a Zoom video panel for San Diego ComicCon @ Home 2020 (all-virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic) despite not having one second of video editing experience. Ignoring the nagging feeling that she’d gotten herself in over her head, she found a free open-source video editing application and dove in. After battling the learning curve of the software, she got the hang of it, and her first video editing attempt was very well-received.
In October 2020, the pandemic went into a third wave of high infection rates across the country. Julie remains at home. She is taking Spanish lessons, as well as continuing to seek work. She has enrolled in a marketing copywriting class series, and continues transcribing and video editing.