“Who went on the roof?!” I screamed.
We were just a couple hours into our 12-hour day of shooting my boyfriend’s music video at a warehouse east of downtown Los Angeles. I had used all of my connections to get the best people onboard, and it was a $30,000 project that I was getting done for $3,000.
At the time, I thought he and his pop band had a tiny chance of making it but just needed help with exposure. With my press and production connections in the entertainment world, I thought I had a good shot at helping them out and offered to produce their music video.
It was a win-win: I help my boyfriend’s band get one step closer to legitimacy, which in turn looks good on my résumé, and he gets a music video on the cheap — the way cheap.
I had been producing short films and Web series at the beginning of my writing career, thinking I might want to get into film production. I’d also met a wannabe musician at South by Southwest and we began dating quite seriously, quite fast. After just a couple weeks, his promises of safety and undying love really hooked me. (Note to self: red flag.)
In the stairwell of the warehouse, the property manager lectured me about someone going onto the roof. He’d explicitly told me when I signed the contract that not going up there was the only really strict rule he had — insurance reasons and all that — and I understood. I gave my cast and crew the same speech during our safety meeting, which happens upon arrival at all location shoots.
Two hours later, when the manager was threatening to shut down production because I didn’t obey his rule, one can imagine my fury. I apologized profusely and calmed him with assuring words.
Not a dissimilar tone to the one I used to plead with my boyfriend when things started going south the month following all of this. Before, he’d been insatiable and would pillow talk with me for hours about “our kids” or where we’d get married or how he’d never let anyone hurt me ever again.
I melted at these notions, tired of always having been my own protector and champion. But once I began organizing the shoot, he began to pull back on his words.
I’d been working nonstop on this music video for a month — unpaid — and pulling every favor I could all over La La Land. The warehouse was a goldmine of a find, and I’d bargained a two-day shoot there for the cost of one. Losing it would have tanked the entire video.
That morning I’d risen at 5 a.m., kissed my boyfriend, excited we were going to create something spectacular together. I made sure the band was prepped and dressed and ready to go, drove them to the location and put my producer face on. Her face is brave; she’s meticulous, responsible and loud; she can get stressed, but she’ll also jump in front of a (metaphorical) train for her cast and crew and will never eat until everyone else has.
So when I heard that someone was putting themselves and the production in danger, I went up to each person and sternly said no one could, under any circumstances, go on the roof again. I still didn’t know who had done it, but I needed to make sure my bases were covered. That included my boyfriend.
Up to this point, I hadn’t dated anyone for any serious length of time in L.A. since moving here five years previously. One guy didn’t like it when I requested he bring me to a Dodgers game after telling me he held season tickets but didn’t follow up with an invite; another nearly spit out his drink at Jones on Santa Monica when I insisted there was gender disparity in the Hollywood filmmaking industry.
And here was my current beau — an actual relationship prospect, so I thought — sitting in the dressing room chatting happily with the model we’d hired to be his stage girlfriend. I busted in on the two of them getting their hair and makeup touched up and, hands on hips, scolded them: “Do not go up on the roof. It is not safe, it is not legal and if I hear about anyone doing it again, our production is shut down.”
The stare I got back was blank. I wasn’t sure if he’d registered it, or perhaps that was the moment he realized he didn’t actually want to be with a woman who could be that forthright.
For the rest of the day, it was me versus them. I needed to keep the pace of the shoot up and keep everyone in line, and he needed to look pretty and sing energetically; we drifted further apart. I didn’t think that our dynamic as a couple would change because our roles on set became a source of friction — I’d thought of myself as an assertive and confident woman on a daily basis, but clearly, I’d been keeping my true voice hidden from this person.
Much later down the road, after our breakup a mere month after that day, I found out that he married a girl after six months of dating her. Through the grapevine it was said that she didn’t have much to say and rarely espoused an opinion on anything. It made perfect sense.
Our relationship ended not entirely because I yelled at him in the dressing room that day, but it was a big part of it. The true essence of who I am had come out when I was in producer mode — that take-charge, organized, multitasking boss.
I began to come to terms with the type of woman I was, and it became exhausting to pretend I was something else for him, something he wasn’t capable of understanding in a woman, despite it being the very reason I’d gotten to a place in my career where I was able to pull off the production in the first place.
He never did get famous.
The author is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles who has written for Vanity Fair, Vice and Variety. She is on Instagram at @tiniv11
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.