Wednesday, July 25, 2007

10: The Executive

Recently, I had lunch with a network executive (from one of the big three) who is a friend of a friend of an aquaintance.

It was not a long lunch, though it was clear that he'd read some of my blog and was very nice about it.

"What's it like to have done work that's been inducted into the NY Museum of Modern Art?" he asked.

I gave him my standard line: the best part about it is that if any of my kids (or my kid - who really knows) get in to Harvard I can always say, "So what? Until you're in MOMA, that's nothing." It was a quintessentially Irish answer and very, very Walsh. (I can hear my Dad in that quip.)

He confessed that while he'd received my play, my screenplay and my spec TV script, he hadn't read any of them. Which was cool with me because these days, I've yet to find anyone who really has the time to read. And that he was meeting me at all was a total fluke and more than generous on his part.

It was indeed a favor.

Then he asked what television I was watching. DEXTER, THE SOPRANOS (eventhough it's over), FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. I said I'd enjoyed the first third of HEROES but that I'd fallen behind somewhere and that when I got back to it, it was so convoluted with so many stories I couldn't follow it. I said I had been peeking at the new JOHN FROM CINCINATTI which had been intriguing but that I was also having trouble following along. Finally, I noted the show DAMAGES which at the time was to start soon with Glenn Close. (I missed it, by the way, but am hoping to catch it on the rebroadcast this Sunday.) Finally, I mentioned THE TUDORS which for some reason hasn't hooked me the way it promised to.

He commented that at least some of the shows I was watching were still on and that he was tired of meeting writers who gushed about DEADWOOD.

I volunteered that I understood why people would mention it and that it certainly was a gushworthy show.

He asked why I'd written a MEDIUM spec. I told him why the DuBois family interested me - the focus on her job eventhough he's a Rocket Scientist, the way Allison's girls affected the flavor of the show, the way the whole family seemed to be a pretty good metaphor for the way most Americans are making ends meet. I made my way back to the beginning by saying that while I wasn't sure I loved the way the show was produced (they're always whispering), the scripts at the WGA were great reads from start to end.

I asked him what he looked for in new writers. He said, "I look for people who are interesting. People who don't just watch TV. When you come into my office, don't have the same conversation that everyone has. Talk about something different."

I knew what he meant, but since our conversatiion was already the same as everyone else's I didn't know what he meant at all.

Then he told me that writing quality would not be the factor in my finding a staff job. He said my biggest obstacle to getting into televsion would be that I'm a white male. Apparently, they already have a lot of those and then some.

This, I've heard before.

We chit-chatted a little more and then the check came. We split the bill and went our separate ways.

Nice guy. Though, when I reflect on the meeting, well, I have to say, I somehow don't think I'll be hearing from him again. But all in all, that's all right.

It was a nice thing for him to do - meeting me - a writer with a handful of plays, screenplays and more, looking for a break.


Dan said...

Wow - that seems a quintessential LA story. So, my question is: what do you do with that, Malachy? I don't mean that in a snarky way. I guess I'm wondering: what did you think/hope might happen going in? Is that a huge let down? I know you're philosophical about the experience and realities of Production Executive-dom, but I find myself constantly struggling with the idea of the Gatekeeper in this business. In Chicago, the idea of a Gatekeeper is a little ridiculous - there's no one here who has enough power or resources to "make you" - but in LA there are such things as breaks, it seems. And here you were, talking to a Gatekeeper, it seems like, and you "went your separate ways." I would find that immensely frustrating, I think. So, what do you do with that?

Malachy Walsh said...

He knows why I'm there. I'm looking for a job.

I know why he's there. It's his job to know who's looking for jobs and he may someday have a job to give me.

But that doesn't mean today is the day.

So you take it at face value. A nice meeting with a decent person.

I've found that when I have expectations, I'm not thinking about what's happening, but instead, what's supposed to happen.

Then nothing can happen. Because only half of you showed up. The physical half.

So, like an improv scene, I simply do what's next. And look for what's next.

And write a thank you note to boot.

Dan said...

That's kind of what I thought. Happily, that head-space is where I find myself more and more often. Nice to know that it's working for somebody else, too!