A couple of months ago, a friend of mine optioned a very funny screenplay to a producer with whom I’ve also been dealing for months. Over this past weekend, he forwarded me a press release the producer’s company wrote about the deal.
It’s flattering overall and, like most Hollywood press releases, overhypes the deal by referring to “selling” and “buying” even though what’s actually happening is “leasing” and “renting.” There are a few nice quotes from Clint, one of which includes a veiled reference to me. That creeped me out, but it also made me feel good in a stupid way. According to him, I was the impetus for him pursuing the producer, which led to the option. If my scripts go nowhere, at least I can hang my hat on that much.
However, I took issue with one quote, this from the producer, in which he totally condescends to Clint and his abilities. Maybe I should chalk this up to a producer touting his ability to recognize an unmolded talent within the doughy, shapeless body of a screenwriter, but first he mentions that Clint “didn’t think he was a comedy writer.” This is patently untrue, considering—among other things—he spent several years in classes and workshops at the Second City and even, at one point, made it into the cast…for about three months, at which point half the cast ended up on Saturday Night Live and the other half was fired.
It was at this time that he originally conceived the script, with an unfunny comedian who went on to become unfunny on national television, to be a vehicle for said unfunny comedian and his even less funny friend. But when they both got the call from SNL, they jetted off to New York and left Clint in the dust, with nothing but an idea and a half-finished script. He kept on it, freed by his ability to not write a star vehicle for two others, and the version I read—probably three years after his first draft—was pretty damn funny. Because Clint is pretty damn funny.
But here’s why the producer doesn’t think Clint knew he was a comedy writer: “He [originally] pitched me some giant-epic-action-biblical-save the universe from a flood type thing (or something like that).” I’m not sure if it’s the parenthetical that makes it seem extremely condescending, or the fact that he’s essentially thumbing his nose at a very vague (and inaccurate) description of a script he wouldn’t even bother to read. Maybe it’s because I read it in one sitting, jaw on the floor, stunned at how fucking good it is. Baffled by the fact that this guy, whose other scripts were mostly comedies, had written the best action-adventure script I’ve ever read, professional or otherwise. And then he goes and pitches it to a guy who tells him to fuck off and, nearly a year later, mocks him for his efforts.
That really incensed me, but what incensed me even more is: I’m a giant whore. We all have known this for a very long time, but I’m sitting there getting pissed off at this man’s lack of any kind of integrity, artistic or otherwise, belittling a “first-time scribe” nobody whom he’s not even paying (not yet, anyway…), but rather than saying something, I’m hanging back. Because I don’t want to blow a potential deal for my scripts.
This makes me the worst kind of whore. Because some whores have some kind of values. Say there are two of them, standing over there on Cicero, and a guy pulls up and wants both of them. So they go back to his moldy, potential-serial-killer dwelling, and he says, “One at a time. I like it when one of you watches.” For the sake of this metaphor, the one watching is me, the one doing is Clint, and the producer is the john. And he proceeds to do all manner of vile things to the poor girl, most of them involving defecation, urination, maybe even a little finger-down-the-throat forced-vomiting, while the other girl leans up against the peeling wallpaper, aghast.
And now she has a choice: refuse and run the fuck away, or allow the john to do these same horrible things to her. My choice is: bring on your bodily waste…
…and speaking of bodily waste. To add insult to injury, a little more than a week ago I hauled my fat ass over to Lincoln Park to see the very last showing of this producer’s brand spanking new film. Opening and closing in two weeks, it played at 17 theatres during its peak. I went to see it because I thought I could kiss some ass. I read a lot of middling reviews, most indicating it was pretty mediocre but had a few redeeming moments. I thought, based on my previous Hollywood experience mining terrible material for little nuggets of gold that could be fostered into large hunks of gold (the gold in this instance is magic leprechaun gold that can grow like a vegetable), that I could find its redeeming qualities and acknowlege the good points while ignoring the bad.
The problem, I discovered as I left the theatre, was that it had no good points. Okay, two good points: I laughed at one very small joke, and I really enjoyed a “dramatic” scene near the end. Here’s a note to comedy writers out there: if the best scene in your comedy is the dramatic scene, you’re in trouble.
I ended up writing an incredibly vague but complimentary note to the producer. It did elicit a rapid response (and an implication that things will actually get moving on my scripts, which may seem nice but is probably more accurately described as “bullshit”), but I didn’t even have to go and see the movie to write what I did. I suppose it might be nice in case he ever attempts to cross-examine me on the film’s strengths and weaknesses. I have seen it, I won’t go in blind, but hell, what I wouldn’t give to get back the $20 and five hours I spent on that movie (yes, I’m including commute time and transit fare).
In other news, I might or might not have a nice little crap (but paying!) job in Los Angeles coming up. If I get it, and here’s hoping I do, I’ll have to hustle my fat ass across the country (again) posthaste, and it’ll last through August.
And I’ve been reading obsessively because, frankly, I have nothing else to do. Here are this month’s recommendations: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.