Wednesday, November 15, 2006

7: The Director

One of my biggest fears about LA is that I'm not cool enough.

I mean, you watch the movies and there are plenty of depictions of agents, actors, directors, production assistants and hangers-on with so much cool, well, southern California begins to feel cold. (For me, it got so I started worrying that even the parking valets sit at the unattainable lunch table of hipness.)

The next biggest fear about LA is that cool is all that counts.

When these two things are combined with a third fear, cool never has any substance, well, I have a pretty potent cocktail in my head: I start thinking that I need to have a more Vince Vaughn delivery and need to pitch movies about Nazi zombies and the action stars who blow them up.

But I don't have Vince Vaughn's patter (and certainly not his looks) and I have no passion for Nazi zombie movies (which, by the way, I actually overheard someone pitch to someone else at the Farmer's Market on Fairfax one evening).

If anything, I am sincere to a fault.

This truth about myself occasionaly sends me into a depression. I despair that there's no one like me out there on the LA highways, that they've all come here and gone back to the midwest where they were raised, that substance is incidental, that seriousness is unimportant and that sensitivity is an obstacle to be overcome.

Then I meet the Director - a guy who I'll call, Steve - and I realize I am way way way wrong. In fact, I'm wallowing in foolishness and fear.

Not that Steve isn't cool. He is. In fact, very.

But when I meet him at a Starbucks in Westwood, I also find him to be kind, warm, funny and accessible. He has worked in commercials as well as features and tv. In the 80s he invented an interesting cyber icon right out of art school. There's been some luck in his life, but I know too there's been a lot of talent backed up by hard work. This is reassuring.

He definitely knows the world (advertising) that I'm coming from. And the world I'm trying to get to.

His advice echos that which I got from the agent a month earlier.

"If you haven't been produced, it's very very hard. When people find that out they back away. It's very hard. So I reccommend that you try to make something. It doesn't have to be very long, but it has to be good. It should also be something that's part of something else that you want to make. That way you can show people what you want to do and they can see it. They'll say, Oh, I see. And you can get financing that way. Once you have a project done, it will be much much easier."

He asks what kind of movies I like. I go through a list of 70s films I love (5 Easy Pieces, Last Picture Show, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) and then name a few more recent features (Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine, Little Miss Sunshine) I'm crazy about.

He also asks about my plays and my screenplays. I summarize them for him.

"This is good. All good good," he says. "I see."

Then he suggests something I can do in addition to - perhaps in lieu of - shooting something.

"There is a television channel that makes 40 movies a year with budgets of less than $1 million each. You don't have to write the whole script to sell an idea to them. You could write a really great logline and if they show interest, you could get in that way. It's something someone like you, from advertising, should be able to do. It's what people in advertising are good at. You should develop 10 or 12 loglines. Really work on them. Polish them. That's another way."

What is great about this advice is not just its directness, but also the feeling I get from Steve as he offers it. He clearly seems interested in helping. Of sending me in the right direction. He's floating ideas based on what I've told him. It makes me want to work for him in just about any capacity.

He presses me about my commercial reel. (To see it, click on the MY TV WORK link off to the right - the file's big, so you'll have to wait, but it's all there; or go to IDEAS BY A PLATYPUS - it's all there too.) Again, echos of the agent.

"That could be a big thing. It's a kind of production. Especially if there's comedy. People can see that you did that and they'll feel that they might be able to trust you."

Naturally, I love hearing this, but as our meeting ends, I know I can't rely on it alone.

"Send me your screenplay and if I respond to it, then, well, maybe we can talk some more," Steve says. "In the meantime, I'll look at your TV commercials online, too."

I get in my Mini-Cooper and drive home feeling upbeat, feeling that while being cool may be important, being good is important too.

Then I get out a pad of paper and start working up loglines in case Steve likes my script and calls me. As I start, I feel grateful that no logline I write will have to include anything about Nazi zombies.

Maybe someday, of course. Just not today.


Anonymous said...

What about American zombies. The zombies that plod through the world looking out somewhere in the distance instead of the life in front of them.

Malachy Walsh said...

Wasn't that the point of one (or all) of the Romero movies?

By the way, I actually enjoy watching Zombie movies.... and have since learned that there is some 70s movie about Nazi zombies "living" on a remote Carribean island where genetic experiments took place. Apparently they were killed in a submarine offshore and occasionally wander up through the surf every once in a while. Or something.