Making It Happen In Hollywood by Matthew Prater

 

 

MATTHEW PRATER

FILMMAKER/ACTOR

 

It was New Year’s Day in the year 2000, and it was by far the most miserable time ever experienced in my life.  While most people were caught up in the grandiose celebration of a new millennium and expressing eternal gratitude for having survived Y2K, I had just welcomed my 21st birthday not by getting tipsy at the local bars and night clubs with my friends, but rather laid up in bed battling a nasty flu-bug.

The song “1999” by the artist formerly known as “the artist formerly known as Prince” had bombarded the radio stations and dominated the television networks for months, and I had made a solemn promise to myself that when I finally made it to Hollywood and crossed paths with the music legend, I would smack him for writing that tune.

Little did I know at the time that Prince lived merely two states to the west of me in Minnesota.  Looking back, a trip to visit him would have been a much simpler excursion had I not already set my sights on a much bigger adventure…  Hollywood.

One torrential blizzard after another pounded my hometown in Northern Michigan during the first week of the new millennium and I resided with the daily chore of clearing snow from the driveway before my mother arrived home from the office in the evening.

 

The task of suiting up in thick wool socks, a long sleeve thermal top and matching thermal bottoms (known together as “long johns”) was daunting in and of itself, yet that merely represented the first layer.  The second layer consists of bulky “snowmobile pants,” an even bulkier parka with a fleece liner, and is topped off by a cotton ski-mask reminiscent of those used in bank robberies.  The outfit is completed with thick wool mittens buried inside soft leather shells “choppers” and large snow-boots that we Michiganders fondly refer to by their brand name, “Sorels.”

 

Standing behind the roaring, exhaust spewing snow-blower as the automatic garage-opener slowly hoisted the heavy door to reveal an intimidating sight of snow three feet in height was downright appalling to say the least.  The sudden realization that the wall of snow covered an expanse approximately 50 feet long by 15 feet wide literally brought tears to my eyes.

I stood there shivering from the bone-chilling sweat that plagued my flu-ridden body underneath multiple layers of winter gear and I realized in that moment just how much disdain I had bottled up inside after 21 years of merely surviving in such an extreme environment.  I tried to hold back the tears accompanying the seemingly endless self-pity that was weighing down my spirit, but I was altogether unsuccessful, and as I stepped haphazardly into the abysmal wall of snow, the tears quickly froze against my cheeks and eye lids and I was blinded.

 

The time for a life-altering change was decided in that moment, and three weeks later, after fully recovering from the flu, I was filled with anticipation and a sense of happiness that I had never felt before.  I had made the decision that January 20th, 2000 was the day my life would change forever.  I packed the Delta ‘88 Oldsmobile my mother had graciously bestowed upon me as a gift with every last material necessity I could think of, double-checked the money in my bank account (a total of $1,800 to my name), hugged my mother, my girlfriend, and two of my closest friends goodbye and set my sights on Hollywood.

Like the hoards of Hollywood wanna-be’s before me, I arrived in Los Angeles for the very first time with sheer, utter bewilderment.  It was literally everything and nothing I had dreamed of all at the same time.  Hollywood Blvd. was grungy and packed with tourists and entertainers of every race and creed alike, and yet somehow reassured me that I had made the right decision at that moment in my life.

I took my time perusing the various stars along the “walk of fame” and found many of my idols both past and present.  I even photographed a blank star and had a friend photoshop my name on it to provide continual encouragement for that special day in the distant future when I too would be honored for having contributed to the entertainment industry in some way, shape or form.

I’ll never forget the day I actually laid eyes on the Hollywood sign for the very first time.  I was employed as a non-union “background actor” on a popular prime-time television show for an entire day’s wage of $46 dollars.  During a short lunch break, I stepped outside the sound stage for a fresh breath of Hollywood smog, and that’s when I saw it…

The tears swelled in my eyes as I took in the beautiful sight of the elusive Hollywood sign nestled high above the city where my dreams were slowly manifesting towards reality, and I was immediately transported back to that day when I stood shivering in my garage under layers of winter gear with tears streaming down my cheeks behind the roaring, exhaust-spewing snowblower.

I smiled at the distant memory and quickly dialed my mother on my bulky Qualcom cell phone simply to tell her about my experience with the Hollywood sign, and to tell her how much I loved her and was grateful for her unconditional support during this life-changing adventure.  She responded with the very same words then as she does now when I speak to her…

“I’m proud of you, son.  You’re making it happen.”

Eleven years later, it’s humbling to admit that I’ve since lost touch with the level of wonderment and excitement I once had for “making it happen” in Hollywood.  The passion is still there, but it no longer overwhelms me like that of a child visiting Disney Land for the first time.  I suppose eleven years in the shark infested waters of the entertainment industry will undoubtedly have that affect on a person.

Yet even as I lay in bed for the third week in a row nursing a fractured ankle and wrist after a motorcycle accident (a whole other story), I find myself looking back at that time when I truly disliked everything about my life, and I realize just how much there is in which to be thankful.

As cliche’ as it sounds, I realize now more than ever the idea of “making it happen” doesn’t have nearly so much to do with the end result as it has to do with the journey of life itself.  For everything “good and bad” that we are blessed to experience along the path, I remain hopeful that we can all recognize the presence of gratitude within and remind ourselves that for every day that passes, regardless of where we are or what we’re doing, it’s another day that we are blessed to be alive, and another glorious opportunity to keep “making it happen.”

Matthew Prater is an accomplished actor and producer with a career spanning more than a decade in Hollywood. He’s earned several roles in internationally distributed motion pictures and he’s currently starring in two films which recently released on dvd and vod platforms, a suspense-thriller titled “Shooting April” and a buddy-comedy titled “Pushing Thirty.” Matthew’s next project, a psychological thriller titled “The Funny Man,” is scheduled to begin production in the fall of 2011 with writer/director Jake Barsha at the helm. Connect with Matthew online via Facebook and Twitter using the following links.

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