There’s this myth about Hollywood and the entertainment industry wherein a vast mass of people, aspiring to some professional role, wait and strive for their big break. With a lot of effort, talent and luck, a chosen few succeed and the world is forever their oyster. Of course, the reality of it all is that the journey is forever ongoing. As my high school art teacher would consistently point out to me when I’d get down on a project, art is always a work-in-progess. So too is the life of a Hollywood professional, and Ana Barredo’s documentary, The Table, shows that life in Hollywood isn’t as black-and-white as the myth would suggest. Success is relative and mercurial.
The Table gives us a glimpse into a year of experiences for members of a support group in Hollywood called, appropriately enough, the Table. Brought together by Writer/Producer/Directors Marc and Elaine Zicree, participants of the group meet at whichever restaurant will have them (the first restaurant they started at closed down, and others have given the lively group the boot) and discuss what they’re currently doing professionally, and ask for help should they need it. Everyone gets their minute to speak, and the group routinely winds up being that necessary helping hand for whoever needs it.
Now, if this were a bunch of outsiders meeting to whine and moan about their professional plight, it would be one thing (and hardly worth watching a documentary about). The unique aspect of the Table is that many of the participants are successful professionals in their own right, and they can actually get things done. Marc Scott Zicree, for example, has been involved with a number of sci-fi shows, like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5, in addition to the fantasy book series Magic Time. Playwright, photographer, theater critic and independent filmmaker Jim Metropole offers to shoot group members’ headshots in exchange for a martini. Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro works with members of the group. These are people who know the business, and want to help others find their way.
Of course, offering help in the group is usually hand-in-hand with needing help as well, but at least everyone knows the group exists for that purpose. As one subject states during the film, with the agenda upfront, you skip the whole distrust and uneasiness that usually accompanies Hollywood events that harbor the “what can you do for me” vibe. It is heartening to see that so many professionals are willing to help others out, but also slightly sad that they so often need help themselves. Again, many of the group members have had success writing movies or for TV; the type of success many people in Hollywood crave. And yet… they’re still meeting, offering and ultimately needing help. The journey, again, is ongoing, and it goes up and down, for as long as you stay engaged.
Whether or not you see this film, if you live in Los Angeles or work in the entertainment industry and are looking for a quality support group, at least you now know that this group exists. I may not have had any reason to get together with this group when I lived out West, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have loved to know about them. If nothing else, The Table paints a seldom seen picture of a group of people in Hollywood that strive to help each other excel rather than just work to climb above and over anyone around them.
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