Monthly Archives: February 2009

Little Big Man

I got a call a few weeks ago about an old script of mine, The Big Break. I get calls about it every once in awhile. I wrote it after my first pitch trip to LA. It’s about a hack writer from Boston (he writes things like kung fu fighting mimes) who becomes the biggest writer in the industry when all the other writers die in an earthquake. Haven’t, obviously, sold it but I’ll never fail to take a meeting.

Maybe I should rethink that.

I’ve had meetings in opulent office and oppressive rooms; top flight restaurants and greasy burger shacks; the upper most floors in hotels and motels where I feared touching the floor.

I’ve dealt with fawning and blustering people; ones who were in it to cast their mistress; others who had the money but not the brains of an athletic sock.

So, as you can see, I’m ready for anything.

I meet this guy in a mid-range restaurant, not a chain but not far afield. I could tell almost immediately that this guy was a wanna be writer. I know that because he must have had more pages of notes on the script than actual script pages. He wanted to change so much I asked why he was interested.

“Why don’t you just write one of your own?”

“I’m not a writer. I’m an idea man. That’s why I’m a producer.”

Oh, I understand now. He has a large bowl of affliction alphabet soup and can’t squeeze out the concentration it would take to pound out ninety or a hundred pages.

It didn’t take long to figure out that he was also an ‘amaducer’. That’s what I call amateurs who don’t have what it takes to be a producer.

We chat for a while and, while I offer to sell him the script so he can do whatever he’d like with it, that’s not what he wants. I’m sure he doesn’t know exactly what it is he wants so he starts to toss a fit. Not a big one, he’d be too embarrassed for that, but one that proved all he wanted to do was toss some money at his ego.

I’d had enough so told him so. I told him maybe he should take some of his money and hire someone with production experience because,

“You shouldn’t put a little dick in the big chair.”

Advertisements

Movies!

Amazingly, you don’t find many films with curling or table tennis storylines but when you put them together they make a funky, bad ass movie night.

Men with Brooms

The cartoon ‘The Wild’ had a scene where there was curling that was pretty funny but I didn’t see anything but that clip.

Balls Of Fury

Odd Day

Not my oddest, I’ll admit, but pretty damn odd even for me.

It started with my having to deal with a stupid person. Not average, ‘oh, they may have trouble understanding how water can be hard AND soft’ person. I’m talking ‘playing fetch with a dog, faking the throw, hiding the ball behind your back which confuses and astounds the animal’ dumbfounded.

You know that look dogs give you when you pull this trick? For the eighth time in three minutes? That confused, startled, asphalt dull, six degrees lower than room temperature look? Yeah, that stupid.

After such a joyous start what else would you expect of my day? Oddness as I’ve previously stated.

We’re pitching TV show ideas. Pitching is tedious, odious, atrabilious work to me. Which is why I’m not rich. I can’t wrap my head around talking about something which the person I’m speaking to has read or at least had someone draw pictures of so they could understand.

It’s a good thing I’m not the lead on pitching. Mainly I’m left alone to do re-writes and things of that ilk. Not that that often makes sense (I was once asked if I could make a character a black nun. The character they wanted to change was a Mexican drug lord) but it’s a task I am capable of.

But today’s request was odd even for this industry.

“Chris,” is how trouble often begins. “We need you to flesh out an idea.”

“K’. What?”

Turns out I was requested to write an entire thirty minute script. Okay. By the end of the day. Yeah, okay. For a reality show. Yeah, okay, huh?

Ummm, am I missing something here? The show we pitched wasn’t one of those scripted reality shows. It’s why we like the idea. Very little writing involved (“Hi, I’m Flaubert Von Estersmoten, welcome to Idiots Who Can’t Live Off Camera!”). We’re lazy but we want money.

“A script? Dialog and scenes? For a reality show we summed up in less than twenty five words?”

“By Five.”

Odd.

I did it though. I figure if I’m allowed to bitch about pitching I have to bite the bullet on something.

Later I walked into a TV studio to do a shoot. The crew was there, I was walking in with the producers, our name was on the scheduling board, it’s a simple procedure done often.

“What are you doing here, Chris?” Asked someone who, obviously, knows me. Although it may not sound like a stupid question it is. He is also quite friendly with the producers of said show standing right next to me. So, I look this guy, who runs the place, by the way, and say,

“I’m here to do the commentary track for the DVD release of my colonoscopy.”

I love when their eyes vibrate due to brain shift.

Just when I think my day is winding down I get a frantic call from a friend. He’s doing some project and wants me to see a guy he’s auditioning. Why am I involved if he’s auditioning him? It seems the guy lives here so wants someone he trusts (funny how often last minute favors hinge on trust, huh?) to see the guy read.

Be still my heart! I don’t think the old ticker can handle it!

I ask, because I’m trusted, who and where. Turns out the guy will be at a restaurant down the street. Fuck. I figure I’m going to be dealing with a waiter who’s going to squeeze me in between delivering the appetizer and entree.

I ask who the guy is and he says, “Bob.” I ask what he looks like and he says, “Big.” Oh yeah, I know him.

Odd.

But, this time it’s odd with beer.

“Chris.” A guy pats me on the shoulder. It takes a second for me to realize I knew this guy twenty years ago. He wouldn’t remember me because, what I’m sure of is, he wouldn’t remember much from that time in his life.

I’m sure if you’ve a fan of a certain very famous TV show you’d recognize him. He wasn’t a major character but had some pretty memorable scenes.

After bitching about the copy of the script his manager gave him (if he said “Why didn’t they just give me sides? All I need was sides. They gave me a full script but I wanted my sides.” one more time I’d wished he was a waiter just so he had to go to the kitchen to get sides and I could catch a break) we get to the part where the reading was to commence.

We got to that point because I took his script (which I’d never seen nor knew anything about) and pointed out where in the script his character had to speak.

Somewhat calmed, he told me he only had about twenty minutes before he had his set. Turns out he was doing two shows tonight. He asked if I wanted to stay, I asked how much his set had changed in twenty years.

I’m not sure but I had a feeling my invitation was withdrawn.

He started reading and, holy fucking shit. Don’t get me wrong, I have dyslexia but this guy’s reading ability was not very good.

It wasn’t that he was doing a cold reading, it was the fact he was having trouble pronouncing almost every word. I could feel him struggle but he finally got through it.

When he looked up I didn’t know how I was going to report this. I could tell he knew what I was thinking and smiled.

“Don’t worry, I can do the part. I’ll have someone read it on tape and I’ll learn it that way.”

A work around! I know all about them.

Then, after asking, again, if I wanted to stay for his set, he had a question for me.

“Was the script as bad as I think?”

“Worse. But then you’re talking to a guy who had to write a script for a reality show today.”

“That’s odd.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying all day!”

Less Chatter Please

When it comes to getting payment from customers the first thing my boss said to me was,

“Take money from anyone who wants to give it to you.”

Good off the blocks advice really.

That said, I don’t care why you want to pay. All I need is the account you want the money to go to. That’s all I ask. Not too much actually. But, you know what? They always want to share more.

Please, to all those who want to share when in a transaction with a stranger, don’t. We don’t care. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. I wish we were nicer people. But, sadly for you and your verbal diarrhea, it’s the truth. You tell us what you need, stop talking, we tell you what we need from you to get you what you need, you give us that information and, this is important so, please, pay attention: stop talking!

We don’t need to know anything else. Let’s go back to the old days when it was name, rank, and serial number. When did it become name, rank, serial number, and childhood trauma which caused your life to spiral so out of control you are in a situation where you feel the need to unburden to someone who only wants to get you away from them? Don’t you have family? Therapists? Invisible friends?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not only saying this to get to my end. This is for your benefit also. You see, we want to like you. I’m not kidding. It makes our lives better if we do. But, you make it almost impossible. So, please, just name, rank, and serial number because the more you speak the more the chance things will go wrong and we are left with no alternative but to think less of you.

I bet right about now you’d like an example, huh? Good thing I have one, huh?

Woman: “I’m taking care of my sons stuff because he’s away. What does he owe?”

It is very admirable that you are taking care of your child’s business while he’s away. I know you want everyone to see that you are a wonderful woman. Yes, although your ‘son’ is over fifty years old, it’s so very nice of you to pick up his slack while he’s away. But that is not helping me do my job.

Me: “What’s the name on the account?”

I know better than to ask for an account number so I go to the one thing I’m sure she’ll have to know.

Woman: “Hold on.” She turns her head from the phone and calls. “Phil! What’s the name on the account?”

See how quickly good feelings go away? Just three seconds ago I was holding her aloft in admiration. Now, it turns out she’s been leading me on oh these many seconds. Can you see, dear customer, that I’m doing this for you? We don’t want to hold you in disdain, you force it upon us.

Name.

Rank.

Serial number.

The President

If I haven’t mentioned it before it’s probably because I didn’t mention it, but, I truly don’t care about your political affiliation. I don’t care about your theories or sexual peccadilloes either but none of those things seem to deter people from getting on their pews to spew.

The door opens and a guy comes in. As you’ve no doubt found, that usually signals the start of a bad moment in my life. Not that this was notoriously bad, he’s a nice guy, but he’s so laser dot specific in his denouement as to render him effectively boring.

He is not a liker of the current president. He wasn’t a liker of him when he was a senator of a state he’s not from either. I’m sure if he knew he lived in Somerville when he went to college around here he wouldn’t be a liker of that either.

After his usual rant about congressman Barney Frank (who, I never bother explaining, isn’t even his congressman) I settle in to the damage Obama has done to this country in his first twenty six days.

“Can you believe how far the stock market has dropped since he got in?”

“Do you know how many jobs have been lost since he got in?”

“Have you noticed gas has gone up since he got in?”

I’m sure he had something to say about it being Obama’s fault for the shitty super bowl commercials this year but, as you’ve no doubt noticed if you’ve been hanging around here for any length of time, I’d lost the ability to listen quite some time ago.

“I’m telling ya, he’s the worst president I’ve ever seen.”

I’m too well trained to bite as the badinage grows ingravescent but I also know I can’t allow it to go much further (due to my fear of actually being bored to death). I smile and try to assuage his frazzled mind.

“Relax,” I implore him. “You’ve just got a touch of baracknophobia.”

Crazies

For lack of a better term, that’s what we call certain people who partake in our services. We had to come up with a simple, easily remembered term instead of saying,

“The guy with his fly always down who smells like tuna.”

Or,

“The lady who hates me because I look like her ex-husband.”

To get a crazy tag, you can be the guy who sings, loudly, when he’s in the building; the woman who talks, loudly, from the time she opens the door until she leaves without ever making sense; or the guy who called the cops because he said I was stalking him (I’m not sure if he did it loudly but I assume there was a modicum of volume). The reason? He saw me in the city he resides in and every time he visits the company.

I’ll give you a clue to tell if someone is a crazy. They have an immense distrust of the post office. So if you’re ever wondering if someone’s a crazy, mention the post office. That’ll put any doubts to rest.

The reason for this dissertation is to guide you through dealing with a crazy. No matter what their problem, you deal with them all similarly. Sure, the woman who calls me a different name each time is different than the guy who asks me to look out the window before he leaves to make sure a guy in a blue cap isn’t out there, but, you must remain sane. . .I mean the same.

Never disengage. Once they have your attention I don’t care if they’re giving away grilled cheese sandwiches and HD TV’s behind you, stay focused. If you disengage you will have to start all over because the canary in the coal mine of their mind just thought of a solution to global warming (weird, but it always has something to do with soup). Maintain eye contact, forge ahead, and never let them see you reach for a weapon (that just angers them).

When they interrupt, with pertinent or, most likely, non-pertinent babble stand firm and use hand gestures. No, not that one. That one sends them into a vortex of biblical proportions. Just a quick hands up, hands down will suffice. All you’re doing is attempting to keep their attention. Like Hannibal Lecter conducting after gutting the cop. NEVER make a fist when gesturing because, depending on their medication, they may poop.

Also, be ready for the long haul. They have time yet have no concept of it so settle in. Be prepared to repeat yourself without letting it frustrate you. Pretend you’re the drummer in a Ramones cover band. Count off, one, two, three, four, pound out the 4/4 beat and repeat.

I know you can perfect these tasks. I have faith in you. But, if you ever find yourself faltering, you are only human after all, remember that, unlike your crazy, most people are happy when you arrive not when you leave.

Change

A guy walks in in a fairly agitated state. I’m so used to people walking in in a variety of states I pay no attention to his stammering. All I notice is a hundred dollar bill shaking around the air.

As I contemplate the butterfly effect as it would relate to a flapping hundred dollar bill (a hundred dollar bill flapping in Boston causes financial institutions country wide to collapse) his voice breaks through the din in my head,

“. . .and then she asked if I was looking for a date!”

Huh?

I quickly deduce that somewhere around the front of the building someone is plying her trade. Once I assure him she was a freelancer with no connection to our establishment I tried to get to the cause of the agitation.

“What’s the problem? Do you need change for the hundred?”