He arrived in Hollywood in the summer of 1971 and quickly found out he couldn’t afford to live there. So he settled for a tiny barely-furnished room on Alvarado just off Beverly for $100 a month. He existed on bologna sandwiches, canned beans, and the occasional taco or hot dog from the nearby outdoor stands. He searched fruitlessly for any kind of film work, making the rounds of the major and then the not-so-major studios weekly while he watched his savings dwindle.
After two months he was nearly out of money and in despair. He was just about to throw in the towel and wire his parents for a ticket home when fortune finally smiled upon him. A small independent film company where he had left his name weeks before called him on the hall phone of his apartment building. They were desperate, the man admitted. They were scheduled to begin shooting a nature documentary in a few days, and their director had suddenly taken ill. Would Gilbert be interested? the man asked. It would be easy work, the man explained—just shoot the animals from varying distances and angles. The voiceover narration would be done post-production. Naturally Gilbert jumped at the chance and agreed to be at the man’s office the next day, even after finding out the pay would be only a few hundred dollars.
As promised, he met the producer, a Señor Enriquez, in his office at Vermont and Sunset. Señor Enriquez’s office was nearly as small as Gilbert’s room on Alvarado. Gil was a little dubious, but the contract looked all right. So he signed, and the following Monday they were off to the San Diego Zoo’s Wildlife Preserve to shoot some animal footage. They drove down in an old army surplus truck loaded with cameras, other moviemaking equipment and two cameramen, Jose and Bob, who sat on benches in the back while Señor Enriquez drove with Gilbert beside him.
The shoot went well, and at the end of two weeks, Gilbert had a genuine (if small) Hollywood directing credit and three hundred dollars in his pocket.
Things looked up for him after that. He found more documentary work here and there, not enough for him to be really well off, but enough to keep the wolf from his door.