This post might be a little long. :)
It was love at first sight. I didn't expect it but since my first trip to Rome, nothing has been the same.
I arrived in Rome a mess. No job (the company I worked for shut down suddenly right before Christmas), depressed, angry, confused about how my life ended up in such a state and no idea where I was headed. I worked in such a competitive business, there was no chance that I would find a job any time sooon. I found myself staring down the barrel of a big birthday with no husband or children, no mortgage, no savings and the icing on the cake... my parents sold the house we grew up in and moved back to the Caribbean.
That Christmas was interesting. People would ask me, are you going home? I wasn't sure where home was any more. I would no longer be spending the holidays in Verona, New Jersey, where we had spent the last 30 ones. At that point I had lived in Los Angeles for 6 years and it def. wasn't home. I had never lived in St. Martin but had visited there since I was a baby, but I felt at that time I couldn't say it was my home.
At the last minute, after hearing from an agent that the last producer I met with thought I was over-qualified for a VP job, I booked a trip to Rome. I would be in the city two weeks later. I was planning on taking a longer trip later in the year but put a pin in it due to, you know, not having a job. March of 2005 I really felt like I was on the verge of being in serious trouble. I had always been a glass is half full type of person and suddendly I felt like the damn glass was empty.
I started to think moving to Los Angeles to work in film was one of the biggest mistakes I made in my life and the damage was beyond repair. I took such a big pay cut when I first started it set me back years (and I am still paying the price i.e. no retirement funds to speak of). The day I called my travel agent, I had a meeting with an exec at one of the studios. I stopped by to see a friend on the lot and she told me she was worried about my future in the industry because I had limited myself by not working with mainstream (i.e. white) talent. It wasn't like I set out not to work for "mainstream" companies. One of the first places I interviewed when I moved to Los Angeles, was to be Jerry Bruckheimer's first assistant (he has four). They liked my political experience (Bill Bradley, Ann Richards, etc.)but needed someone with film experience. I thought the filmmaker and the actor I had worked for were talented and was proud to work for them. My friend said it was going to be harder for me to find a job because I "only" worked for Spike Lee and Forest Whitaker. She went on and on about how I needed studio experience etc. I walked across the lot in tears. I was an "older" (anything above 29) black woman working in Hollywood. I was screwed.
The Pope died right before my trip. People including some who had never been to Rome told me to cancel my trip. They said Rome was a crazy city even without millions coming in to say good-bye to the popular Pope. I had booked everything already so I went anyway. I had two names to look up, both friends of friends.
I wasn't thinking "oh my God I can't wait to get to Italy". I had traveled to other countries so I was just relieved to get a break from L.A. for a minute. I didn't know anyone in Rome and I was traveling solo. I could take my time and do what I wanted. To the best of my knowlegde there is no one in my family of Italian descent. I didn't speak the language (I had taken a course at Berlitz and knew how to say hello, good-bye, and my name). I had never step foot in Italy, yet by the end of the week I knew I was home. I felt it to the core of my being.
I wondered if it was the timing, maybe because of everything that was going (or not going on) in my life. May 2006 I went back and rented an apartment in Trastevere (I had my blog by then so I did write about that trip) for almost three weeks. Timing had nothing to do with it.
On that first trip I realized I was focusing on the wrong things and my values had been completely corrupted. I was getting too caught up in shallow Hollywood bullshit. I am not a film snob (hello, I think Pootie Tang is hilarious) but with marketing departments deciding which movies get made, art gets thrown out the window. Movies dumbed down to appeal to everyone and made by committee usually suck. In Rome I remembered why I wanted to work in film in the first place and it had nothing to do with making money, leasing a beemer or having a house in the Hills. It was about telling stories and being creative and maybe every so often you worked on something that might move people. In Rome surrouded by all the art, history and culture, something was telling me there was more to life than reading about who was shopping at Kitson in Us magazine.
Post Rome I got back on track. I did get another job, again working with talent as the Senior VP of his production company. He actually does work on some big commerical movies along with independent films and anyone who says he's not "mainstream" because of the color of his skin is ignorant and needs to spend more time away from the studio lots and out in the real world. I started writing again and hope to finish my first novel in a few months. I started a blog. I have my E.U. citizenship and speak another lauguage (somewhat poorly, ha). I refuse to lie about my age anymore and think Hollywood's obession with youth is fucking stupid. Heads up people, all the plastic surgery isn't going to stop time. Guess what? All of us will die. Deal with it.
Rome changed my life for the better. I was talking my friend Giampiero the last night of my latest trip a few weeks ago. We met during my first trip to Rome. He is a friend of a friend's friend. He said he hoped I would move to Rome soon, that I had such a great energy and was so positive. I found my journal from that year. I re-read the entries before my trip. I have no idea who that miserable person was.