Miles away but close to home

From Cov­ing­ton to Hol­ly­wood, a New­ton High grad­u­ate tells of her jour­ney to fol­low her dream

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­news.com

Jennifer McCann was des­tined to be in Hol­ly­wood. So when she was of­fered a job as an as­sis­tant in Los Angeles, she knew her mo­ment had come. But there was just one catch. She was of­fered the job from Athens on Fri­day and was told to be in the LA of­fice by 9 a.m. Mon­day.

“I packed up ev­ery­thing I could fit in my car and left,” McCann said.

The New­ton High School grad­u­ate had been in­tern­ing for a pro­duc­tion com­pany in Athens dur­ing her last se­mes­ter at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia in 2008. As the com­pany pro­duced a show that be­came BET’s first scripted seg­ment, McCann moved up the ranks from in­tern to post-pro­duc­tion co­or­di­na­tor, a po­si­tion she de­scribed as the per­son in charge of all of the ground work for pro­duc­tion af­ter film­ing is com­pleted.

“It’s a pretty big jump from an in­tern, which is free, to a job where you get paid,” McCann said. “I was just so ob­sessed with be­ing there I would do any­thing and ev­ery­thing they asked of me. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be in TV.”

She had to drop her last class at UGA to take the job, so she post­poned grad­u­at­ing. Af­ter the job was fin­ished, she said, she didn’t feel the need to stay in Athens for an­other se­mes­ter. She was ready for LA.

So when she was of­fered the trans­fer to LA, she “drove like a mad­woman.”

When McCann reached Kansas, a screw in the U-Haul she was tow­ing came loose, im­me­di­ately mak­ing the trailer drag be­hind.

“All I thought was I’m not go­ing to make it (to LA),” McCann said.

She was in the mid­dle of the state, where ex­its were sparse. McCann looked to the side of the road and saw a Wal­mart just off the ramp, so she bought the part needed to fix the trailer.

“In one hour it went from the drive be­ing this chaotic

mess to be­ing back on the road,” McCann said.

Once she reached Cal­i­for­nia, she crashed on the com­pany’s con­sul­tant’s couch be­cause she hadn’t had time to book a ho­tel or find an apart­ment. She ar­rived at 9 p.m. Sun­day. Shortly af­ter, her ve­hi­cle over­heated. She had to be at the of­fice at 9 a.m. the next day. She was 30 min­utes early. “The pro­duc­ers said they didn’t think I would ac­tu­ally make it,” McCann said.

McCann said that first job was hard but hum­bling.

“They thought my thick ac­cent, which was much worse, was en­dear­ing,” McCann said. “I was this lit­tle coun­try bump­kin who had no idea what she was do­ing. I had to learn to do all these things. I had to call agencies. But I was al­ways down for do­ing it. Nor­mally some­one with five years of ex­pe­ri­ence would be qual­i­fied for my job.”

Af­ter work­ing at her first LA job for 18 months, a friend called her and said there may be a job at TNT/TBS. The as­sis­tant to the se­nior vice pres­i­dent of cur­rent pro­gram­ming was leav­ing, and the po­si­tion needed to be filled im­me­di­ately. She worked for a temp for three months be­fore be­com­ing an of­fi­cial as­sis­tant. Af­ter an­other 18 months, she was pro­moted to her cur­rent po­si­tion as se­nior co­or­di­na­tor of cur­rent pro­gram­ming.

“The cur­rent po­si­tion I’m at is the sec­ond to the bot­tom on the totem pole as far as rank is con­cerned, but it’s not a large totem pole. There’s six lev­els from the bot­tom to pres­i­dent,” McCann said.

Al­though McCann has gone from the bot­tom to where she is now, she said she never for­gets where she came from.

“My fam­ily al­ways jokes with me that I moved 3,000 miles away and they’re mak­ing movies here,” McCann said. “As a kid, they would film ‘In the Heat of the Night’ all over town. My mom would take me to shoots. Once I got a taste of it, I was ad­dicted. Even­tu­ally, the per­sis­tence just kind of be­came in­evitable. I was go­ing to do it no mat­ter what.”

In her six years in LA, she has also started a women’s so­ci­ety called Pur­ple Heels So­ci­ety. About 100 women all over the coun­try par­tic­i­pate in char­ity events and non-prof­its around their com­mu­ni­ties.

“We try to do­nate our time more than we do­nate our money. Money is easy. Un­der­stand­ing what is go­ing on in your com­mu­nity is bet­ter. I try to teach them you don’t al­ways have to open your check­book. You have to open your heart,” McCann said.

She said Hol­ly­wood re­minds her of her home town even when most people may not make the con­nec­tion.

“Hol­ly­wood is like a big small town. Ev­ery­one has an opin­ion about you no mat­ter what, ev­ery­one knows your busi­ness be­fore you tell them. When you get past the façade, it’s the same people do­ing the same things, it’s just a dif­fer­ent busi- ness. It’s com­fort­ing to be hon­est. It’s still real people just do­ing their job.”

And if she ends up hav­ing to throw in the towel and move back to this side of the Mis­sis­sippi, she said she’ll be com­ing back to a place she still calls home.

“It’s com­fort­ing to know if I wanted to come back home to­mor­row, it would still be a safe place and a good place to be.”

Ad­vice for any­one look­ing to pack their bags and drive across the coun­try for a job? Or fol­low any dream? Do just that.

“If you want to be a mu­si­cian, just go play gigs,” McCann said. “Suc­cess is not sell­ing out a 50,000-per­son sta­dium. It’s the fact that you’re do­ing what you love ev­ery day. And I can say I do that.”

Sub­mit­ted photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

Jennifer McCann said LA is just like her small home­town of Cov­ing­ton but on a larger scale and that she will never for­get where she came from.

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