How I Broke Into Hollywood

Tony Kandah, my story: Making it in the business

It all started in 1987 when I met a producer who worked for Dexter, Dryer and Lai a commercial production company in Hollywood. I just finished attending the Los Angeles City College Film School and he asked me if I wanted a job on a Buick car commercial, delivering the exposed film from the set and taking it to the lab, I said yes I will do it.

The set was in the Mojave Desert and the lab was in Hollywood where I lived at the time, so for seven days I drove over 200 miles each way to pick the exposed film and take it to the lab where they processed it overnight. In the morning I will pick up the dailies and drive back to the set so they can watch them.

The pay was $125/day plus meals and gas expenses. On the last day my car’s engine blew up.  I guess it couldn’t handle the desert heat. I had to buy a different used car and that cost me $3000, so in a way I lost money on that job, but the best part was, I met the owners of the company Ron and Jill Dexter who took a liking to me and they were extremely nice.

After the commercial was done, I went back to see if they have work for me, but they did not, so I offered to work for them for free. I started emptying trash cans, go pick up their lunch orders, help with whatever they needed at the office, I was always there and happy to help and did not ask for anything in return for a whole month, after that, they ended up hiring me full time as a production assistant, and I worked on many national and international spots, including Cathay Pacific Airlines, Jiffy Lube, Payless Shoes, Buick, Kraft Foods and many more.

Ron Dexter who was also a film director took me under his wing and on his free time started teaching me everything about production, literally everything.  I wish I met him early on, I would have saved myself 2 years going to film school. I kept learning and growing at the company but I wanted to follow my dream and make movies, so after 2 1/2 years I decided to leave.

Ron suggested that I do a documentary, so I bought all the right equipment needed for the job, traveled to Jerusalem where I was from and started interviewing Palestinians and Israelis as I wanted to do a documentary about the Palestinian – Israeli conflict. 

One day I visited Dheisheh, a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem and I decided to stay there, so I lived with the people for a whole month leaving only on Christmas Eve to go celebrate Christmas with my mom, dad, brothers and their families, by the way they dressed me up in a Santa suit.

When I came back, Ron allowed me to use his facilities to complete my film, I also met Casey Kasem the creator and host of the radio and TV show “American top 40.” May he rest in peace. Casey helped me by narrating and hosting my film, so 6 months later it was ready.

Below is the link to my first film, the documentary Stolen Freedom: Occupied Palestine, which I filmed, edited, produced and directed. With this film I just wanted to show a side of the Palestinian people that not so many have seen before.

Click the link below to watch the full documentary free on FlixHouse our streaming platform.

Stolen Freedom: Occupied Palestine

Accepting an award from world known Syrian actor Duraid Lahham after the screening of Stolen Freedom: Occupied Palestine in Hollywood in 1990.

If someone new wants to get into the business and asks me for an advice and based on what worked for me i will tell them the following:
  1. When someone offers you an opportunity take it you will never know where it leads to or whom you will meet that can change your life
  2. While at work, always smile, be happy and show your appreciation that someone gave you a job, because if you do not, there are 40-50 other people around the corner who would
  3. Do whatever they tell you to do even if you have to sweep floors, and make sure that floor, is the best swept floor in the world – someone will take notice
  4. Always ask questions, better safe than sorry
  5. Be humble and nice, nice guys do not finish last

Tony Kandah