never been a bitch so I don't act bitchy

Monday, September 08, 2003

The "So Where The Fuck You Been?" Entry

Okay. So about two years ago I wrote my last entry. Somewhere after 9/11. You can blame it on the terrorists if you like, but for a while I'd grown weary of writing in the journal. It mostly came out of the fact that I was no longer sitting in my Herman Miller chair in my cubicle-by-the-IT-room at Disney, where I worked for the duration of my journal experience. But you knew I was at Disney, right? I think I told you all as much.

Well, yeah. I worked for the Disney Catalogue. The paper catalogue that maybe they mail to your house. The thing that allows you to buy Mickey PJ's and Mulan plates and Tigger Flip-Flops (stubbornly/ignorantly called "thongs" until at least 2000 -- boy did we have fun with that one) over the phone. I had the Chandler Bing job; none of my friends understood what I did. And I kid not when I tell you: I'm not exactly sure what I did either. I was in the ITEM SET-UP department, which had something to do with data entry and maintaining the databases that allowed the call center in Indiana to see the correct product on their computer when they got a phone call and typed in the ITEM NUMBER for the Toddler "Sleeping Beauty" Thong. Also, I think we did the forecasting software that helped to predict future sales based on past zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Yeah. The job was great. Great. So great, in fact, that I could not leave it. There was no reason to. Unless I got a job acting or writing, there would/could be no job that paid me as well and allowed me basically to do nothing. That's right. I did nothing. Like, really nothing. Like, most days I did 45 minutes of actual Disney work and 8 hours of email and writing and web surfing and popcorn making and song downloading and co-worker flirting and script Xeroxing. I had the greatest group of coworkers -- people that helped me to fly under the radar and exist in that wonderful temp limbo for over three years. These are people I still consider friends. These are people whose weddings I go to and whose babies I see. One of them has become the defacto music composer for me and other filmmaker friends. One has gone on to costume for The West Wing. One has become Mr. Mom, which suits him very well. One, who I dated for a while, she is now in grad school on the East Coast. One still works at the very Disney Catalogue from which I was fired in April of 2001.

Yeah. They canned me. (A long story. None of which involves me doing anything more wrong than usual. Only normal Human Resources yawnery. I talked about it here.) And so I slung the 5-foot tall Mickey Mouse plush that sat in my cube gathering recycled North Hollywood-air dust over my shoulder like a fallen comrade (which in a way he was; in another way, he was the figurehead of the company who'd fired me) and walked out of there for good.

Then I went on unemployment.

And so the journal became a casualty of my life changing. Sorry for that. It sucks when something you like goes away, and I thank everyone for expressing to me that they missed reading me daily. It meant a lot. The great, wonderful thing about the journal is that it did for me everything I wanted it to do, and so much more. The number one thing it let me do is something ephemeral but true: It made me hone my "voice." Being forced to write every day or so, allowed me to find what I found funny. It made me unafraid of writing, which, in truth, I was. And it gave me confidence that I could do this. Maybe for real. Maybe for a living. It also very tangibly lead to my career. I met my first agent through the site – she was a reader. And that lead to my manager. And that lead to stuff you know about from reading the final entries.

And then…

So with unemployment running out and my credit cards getting their swipe on, I kept writing and writing screenplays. And then one day in November of 2001, I decided to go to an NYU event held at the DGA. It was a Job Fair for Hollywood folk. But I didn't have that in mind -- I just wanted to go for the free drinks and maybe to see some people I went to school with in New York and lost touch with. Also, it was within walking distance of my girlfriend's house.

I got free drinks. I got reacquainted with some people I'd lost. I saw some people I didn't really ever need to see again. But also. Also, I waited in some lines at tables and talked to some producers and execs and agents. And I went up and talked to an agent from a great agency -- an agency I'd long dreamed of being with, sitting in my cube downloading the entire Beck album and collating my illegally-Xeroxed scripts. And I told them who I was and that I'd won X award and have relationships with Y,Z producers. (Seriously, "Y,Z Producers" are a great company. Meet with them if you can. They do fantastic work.) He asked me to send in some screenplays. I did. They asked to see more. And some plays. I brought them down there. The Big Agent read me and they called me and my manager in for a meeting -- which resulted in them signing me.

And that was beyond great. The agency I'd been with had never really committed to me, and so despite the young agent's utter devotion and hard work, I moved on. (But let me not underemphasize that. This town runs on "Evidence." No one will give you a second look unless they have corroborating evidence that you're worthy. [Sales, reviews, recommendations from their colleagues. Evidence.] In other words, even if someone likes your work, they won't trust that judgment. They think it's suspect until others have already made the leap and declared you "Worthy." It's a fucking deep chasm to traverse. [One that I fell into daily for almost four years.] And so to find someone like said Young Agent who said, "I believe in your stuff. I want to work with you," before anyone else did, is rare and wonderful indeed.)

And so right after I signed, I decided to try to justify their signing me, and I dilligently wrote a new script. It took me just 10 days (never again) and it was based on an idea my manager had. So I wrote it during Christmas break. And my new agents sent it out, and everyone rejected it. They all loved the shit out of it, but no one bought it.

But then two weeks later, a studio that had already passed, changed their minds and bought it. Whee!

So I sold a script! Yeah. It wasn't the millions that people seem to think scripts sell for; the lottery mentality that screenwriting has become for so many people. (Hell, it's what I used to think -- you sell a screenplay and move straight into the mansion and the hookers and coke descend from the recessed Bose speakers. Uh-uh.) But it was enough to not make me have to go back to temping for a bit. And for my career -- well, it gave me one, I guess.

(The tale of what happened to that script once I sold it, is for another time, my friends.)

And so the sale lead to meetings which lead to a producer suggesting I try adapting this short story that they liked. Which lead to pitch meetings which lead to us selling the pitch. So I got to write a football movie for a big studio. Yeah. Rock.

(The tale of what happened to that script it still being decided. I just handed in my second draft on Friday. So from here, it either gets shelved forever. Or made. Or they fire me and put a new writer on to rewrite me. Or any other myriad things. We shall see...)

So that was a year ago. In that last year I've moved into a house. Moved in with a girl. For the first time ever. (I didn't feel shackled or crowded! I didn't lose my sense of self! Neat-o!) I have a piano. I still don't have a dog, but someday.

And so in getting what I wanted, I felt (and still feel) like, "Okay, kid. You got out of the cubicle. Now you fucking use it." So I've spent the last year in a flurry of activity. I wrote an action script. An action-comedy. A sitcom. I landed a book agent and wrote a novel. I pitched a script. I pitched another TV show. (All of which, so far, no one has wanted.) I directed a play. I made two short films. I recapped my fool ass off. I edited a book that was published. I went on millions of meetings. I did tons of free work only to be ultimately rejected for many rewriting jobs. I spoke at Austin Film Festival. The movie I was in opened a film festival. And I co-wrote an indie sex comedy that we're trying to make (which I would be acting in). So yeah, I basically worked and worked and worked. And played a lot of Vice City, which I'm still not done with. Fucking game.

I'm trying to find a balance, but I feel okay about working really hard. When I feel overworked, I always think of coal miners. Now that's a hard job. Writing, not so hard, comparatively.

But still, there's the money thing. And after a year of writing and no one wanting what I was writing, I ran out of money. And I thought I might have to yet again go back to temping...

And then I sold a TV pilot. An hour long. To a network. So yeah, there's that. Now I get to write said TV pilot. I'm not sure how it happened. I got lucky. I have great agents. I had the right idea at the right time. And when I found out, I bought some champagne. Some Guinness. And went out with a big group of friends to see Freddy Vs. Jason. It's really all you can do when something like that happens.


That's where I've been these two years. There's the update some of you have been asking for. The cranky guy got what he wanted. I supposed I should go thank that HR lady for booting me and forcing me to take that last leap. But I'm afraid that if I enter the building, they'll arrest me for the theft of the big Mickey.

I thank you for yelling and me and bitching that I don't write anymore. I'm going to try to keep y'all abreast of what happens, without getting myself in trouble. I know that a few years ago I would have loved to read the stories of some jackass who'd been able to make a living doing what he loves. I guess it would have made me feel like it was possible. And believe me, if I can do it...


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