by Anthony Vasko
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Cameron was close to giving up. He had given his best effort, but he wasn’t quite made out for the bright lights of Hollywood. He was a midwestern boy, having grown up on a farm in Western Iowa, plowing and tilling fields of wheat and corn. He was supposed to be the heir to a couple hundred acres of soil and livestock, once his high school football glory days came to a close. He did not have the money to go to college, nor did he want to. Cameron wanted to make movies.
His earliest attempts of theatre came in the rafters of the Dennison family barn—putting on one-man acts for his two younger sisters whenever they could find a few minutes away from their daily work. He had a natural talent and he could sense that from his audience—although it was small and biased. Most of all, Cameron had a dream, a burning desire inside, to pursue a life under the bright lights.
So, against his parents’ wishes, he packed everything he owned into two suitcases and hopped a train westward at the age of 18. He did not have much money, but enough to get started. When he arrived in Los Angeles, though, he lacked the necessary skills and trades to survive, and he had to learn on the fly. He got a job bagging groceries at a small market in East L.A., found a studio apartment he could afford, and set out on a dream.
He was in over his head. He did not have headshots, a resume, even a car. But every morning he would wake up and write. He did not know the proper way to write a screenplay, so he walked to the nearby library, and took out every book he could find on the craft. He read them cover to cover—only taking time away for sleep and his shifts at the market. With every penny he could save, and they were few and far between, he bought paper and ink cartridges for his very out-of-date typewriter. He wrote and wrote, script after script, and hand delivered them to the various studios in town. Not a single one made it past the secretary’s trash can.
After five years of this routine, Cameron was finally feeling defeated. He had tried every imaginable thing to break his way into the business—none reaped any reward. The closest he had come to making it was his move to the West Hollywood Ralph’s as an assistant manager. Then, one day, he was ready to give it all up—move back to Iowa, and continue doing the work he was destined for. He packed his two suitcases again, walked down to the bus stop, and was en route to the train station for a one-way ticket home. As he was sitting, waiting for the bus to arrive, a man sat down next to him. The man appeared to be homeless—wearing very ragged clothing, hair clumped and greasy, and a stench prevailed off of him that vaguely reminded Cameron of his days cleaning out the pig’s pen back in Des Moines.
“What do you have there?” the man asked, referring to Cameron’s final screenplay, which rested face down on his lap.
“Oh nothing…just a screenplay I wrote,” he said.
“Really?” the man responded, “I’m a writer myself.”
Most people would not have spoken a word to this homeless man. Not in West Hollywood, not in South Central L.A.
“What’s your name?” Cameron asked.
“Patrick,” the man said but did not ask for Cameron’s in return.
Patrick began rambling on and on about the children’s book he was desperately trying to finish. As he did so he began pulling out random scraps of paper—restaurant receipts, unwanted credit card envelopes, anything Patrick could have dug out of the nearby trashcans.
“The bigger problem is finding a pen or a pencil in those dumpsters,” Patrick replied.
Without thinking twice, Cameron removed two pens from his pocket and handed them to Patrick.
“Have mine,” Cameron said.
“No,” Patrick refused, “I can’t take those…you’re an artist and those are your tools.”
“I’m meant to be a farmer,” Cameron replied.
“What do you mean?” Patrick asked.
“I’m not cut out for this town. I’ve tried. I chased this dream with all my heart, but you can’t force luck.”
“It’s not about luck,” Patrick replied.
“Well, I don’t know what it’s about, but I do know what farming is about, and I can be good at that.”
Then a man and woman walked up to the bus stop, hand in hand, looked at Patrick and the man said, “Get out of here, bum…this bench is for people who are waiting for the bus.”
“Wait a minute,” Cameron intervened. “His name is Patrick, and he’s my friend…if he wants to sit here, he’ll sit here.”
“It’s okay,” Patrick said. “I have to go somewhere for a moment, would you mind watching my bag?” he asked, referring to a brown grocery bag full of folded up newspapers.
“Sure thing,” Cameron replied.
“I won’t be long,” Patrick insisted.
Then Patrick walked down the street and out of sight. The next bus pulled up and Cameron faced a dilemma. If he did not get on that bus he surely would not make it to the train station in time. But he did tell Patrick he would watch his bag until he got back. He decided to let the bus go. It was not his nature to put himself before others—whether it was a queen or a homeless man. It might cost him a small fee but he was sure he could trade in his ticket for a later one.
A few minutes later Patrick returned.
“Thank you for watching my bag,” he said. “Most people will not even talk to me. I owe you…I really do,” he said.
“It’s okay,” Cameron replied, “I told you that I would.”
“Well, I have to go,” Patrick said, lifting his brown bag off of the sidewalk.
“It was nice meeting you, Patrick,” Cameron said while shaking his hand.
“Yes it was…you will do very well, Cameron. You will do well.”
One of the small note cards Patrick carried fell from his pocket to the sidewalk. Cameron bent down and grabbed it. When he arose, however, Patrick was not there. Cameron rapidly scoured everything around him, but there was no sign of Patrick.
He looked at the card and it said, “Give it one more shot, Cameron: Your Guardian Angel, Patrick.
Cameron realized he had never given Patrick his name, and when he looked down at his screenplay he confirmed it was face down.
So Cameron gave it one more shot. He took the next bus to the nearest studio, walked in, told the secretary he had a meeting with the vice president of production—his name was miraculously on the schedule—and he went in and pitched his script. Two years later, Cameron’s first movie was on every Cineplex screen across the country. Three years later he directed his first movie. Just three months before turning 30 he sat anxiously at the Kodak Theatre awaiting the results from the stunningly beautiful actress’s mouth, “Best Picture goes to…Cameron Dennison for Empty as a Pocket.”
Cameron walked up the steps, took the Oscar in his hands, and removed a small note card from the inside pocket of his tuxedo coat. It was old and weathered, but he could still make out the words.
He said, “I want to thank God, first. I want to thank my parents. And I want to thank my best friend Patrick, if it wasn’t for his words to me one day many years ago, I would never be on this stage.”
Before Cameron put the card back into his pocket he looked at it one more time. Right before his eyes, he watched the words change to, “You did well, Cameron: Your best friend, Patrick.”
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