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Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
 
As I pull into the parking garage, I look at my clock. 3:56 p.m. I'm one hour early. Should I wait in the lobby for an hour? Will it look desperate if I'm too early? The last thing I want to be is desperate. But the thing is, I AM desperate. This is a huge opportunity for me, a chance to get out of working an office job for the rest of my life and making a name for myself before I hit 25. Of all days, why did THIS one have to be the one where there's no traffic on the freeways (Santa Ana to West Hollywood in 90 minutes, including a bathroom break in Montebello. A personal record)?

But don't think about that, Jeremy. Don't think about the stakes. Just go in and do it. Brush the hair one more time. Make it look good...okay, well, at least decent. I should wear the tie. No, I shouldn't, semi-casual is best. No, make a good first impression. Always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Remember that you're in a town full of rich, judgmental people. Maybe if I stay in the lobby for an hour, then I can go up at 5:00, as if I just happened to show up right on time. Wearing a tie. Not wearing a tie. No, wearing a tie. I put the tie on. Remember to get the new White Stripes CD after I'm done. If this goes well, it will be a celebration present. If it doesn't go well, it will be a way of cheering me up.

In the elevator, I press the button marked "L", hoping it stands for "luxury". The doors open, I step out and realize that there is no "lobby" in the sense of a big open area with floor listings, a fountain and people walking to and from the building. There are just elevators and a desk with three security guards in suits nicer than any I own, the kind of guards that have perfected that charmingly abrasive look of someone who is going to throw your ass on the street in the nicest manner possible.

Trying to look indiscreet (which I realize later is the worst possible way to act around a security guard), I get back into the elevator. Okay, Suite 520. Is this is a legitimate company if they're in a suite in a building? Shouldn't they have their own, like, studio or something? Okay, Jeremy, don't be a backwoods idiot. They set up the projects and then give them to studios. As I press "5", two people walk in (an older man and a beautiful woman, an oft-seen pairing in this neck of the woods) and press "2". They say the following in a somber tone:

SHE: So how are you feeling?
HE: I...You know, I still don't think it's quite set in yet.
SHE: I know. It's really sad. Really tragic.
HE: He was a great guy.
SHE: Yeah, and the thing is, I had lunch with him a couple of days ago, and we were saying that we needed to--
HE: You look great, by the way.
SHE (suddenly happy and appreciative): Oh, thank you very much! So do you!

Bing! goes the elevator doors and they step out. Is that all it takes to cheer those people up? "You look great"? If someone close to me had died, I wouldn't give a shit if I changed into Rudolph Valentino. Ooh, remember to reference a lot of movies and movie stars at the meeting. Show them that you know what you're talking about.

I step off the elevator (after the doors opened, of course, because that's much easier) and find plastic spread out on the floor. Are they cleaning? Renovating? I need to go to the bathroom. Do I really? Kind of, but not enough to go. Then why am I walking in that direction. Because, Jeremy, you want to buy time. Oh, yeah, that's right. Is that Paul Rodriguez washing his hands? No, just some random guy. Wouldn't that be weird if I saw a celebrity? Probably not going to happen.

I step into the...Oh my god, this office is really, really nice. There are various novels and posters of book covers adorning the walls. Not like how I pictured a production company being. But then I remember that this is a story-oriented company that loves adapting books. They want Michael Connelly to walk in, see a copy of his book on the receptionist's desk and feel good about himself.

I check in with the receptionist and take a seat. I have a copy of my screenplay and a notebook with me in case she really wanted to give me notes, like she said in the e-mail. I start pretending to read my script. No, Jeremy, don't sit like that. Frat boys and slackers sit like that. I sit back in my chair, left leg resting on right knee. Think sophisticated, mature and confident. The receptionist turns the corner and I quietly hear him say, "Jeremy is here to see you," which is met with a very quiet (yet still audible) reply of "Oh, shit!" My first day as a Hollywood screenwriter, and already I'm the cause of expletives. I return to my script, convincing myself that I simply caught her off-guard with my astounding punctuality.

Someone walks by, and I look to see if I recognize them. A second person walks by and I look to see if I recognize them. Stop looking to see if you recognize people. Remember, mature and sophisticated. You don't give a shit if they're famous. They should be looking at YOU to see if they recognize you. A third person walks by and I look to see if I recognize them.

I overhear one half of a phone conversation: "Well, I guess he's not that young...Yeah, he's 32...Well, what about Tobey Maguire?...Yeah, with 'Spiderman', he showed that he could do that inner angst...No, that's still up in the air...Tell her we're looking at either Michael Bay or Brian Helgeland...Well, doesn't she have a relationship with Brian Helgeland?"

What am I doing here? They're talking about Tobey Maguire, Brian Helgeland and Michael Bay. I'm an awkward, uneducated, unknown kid from Idaho who has delusions of being a good writer. I'm not a Hollywood guy. I don't belong here. Can I deal with the bullshit? Because there will be bullshit. You know this. People will be rude to you. I have little tolerance for rude people. Will I drive people away? Worse yet, will I be desensitized by the Hollywood system into becoming a pretentious dick? Should I just leave right now?

"Jeremy, hi!" I stand up and get a good look at the woman who I met before. She looks different. Or maybe I was just too tired the last time we talked. She looks nice. Of course she does. Anybody with any power in Hollywood looks attractive. That's how they persuade you to do anything they want. She escorts me into an office with a poster for "Vertigo" on the wall. I ask the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock to watch over me.

The conversation goes surprisingly well. I remember to ask questions. I remember to fill in any pauses or silences with an observation or subject change. I slip in several movie references without making them seem arbitrary or out-of-place. I talk about the mechanics of screenwriting versus the mechanics of playwriting (as I'm pretty sure she thought I didn't really know the difference). I remember to mention the projects all of the projects I'm working on. "Orange Alert". "American Way". An adaptation of "The Land Southward". An adaptation of "Maus". All the while, she is really sweet and supportive, and seems very sincere and low bullshit.

"American Way" sparks her interest, and she tells me about how I should also try writing graphic novels. Um...okay. That'd actually be really cool. I never thought about that before. I'll have to ask Jason about that. He'd know about it better than I would, I'm sure. The rest of the ideas are great ideas, but not marketable as movies, she tells me. For a first-time screenwriter with no college education or real Hollywood connections, I need something that can be easily sold.

So I succomb and say, "Well, I do have a screenplay that I currently don't like but am doing rewrites on about teenage girls who make money while in high school by doing con jobs." She points at me and says, "There you go. That's what I'm talking about." I know where she's coming from. Granted, her studio would not make a movie like that. They're into dramatic adaptations of novels. But how else am I going to get noticed unless I give the big studios something that they want to see? Still, there's no other way? I have to write mediocre screenplays before I can write good ones?

She reveals to me that she wants to be a sort of mentor to me. I send her my scripts, she helps me fine tune them, telling me what the studios will want to see, and then she can help me pass them on to people who would actually make them. Which is a fantastic to-die-for opportunity. I'd be a fool to say "no", right? Right?

I get walked around the office, meeting various people whose names I most likely will not remember. I really have to work on my skills at remembering people's names. Faces I'm good with, but when it comes to names and dates I always draw a blank. She introduces me to someone who I assume has some sort of pull in the industry since he has his own office. She mentions "American Way" to him and he likes the idea, chuckling mildly at the thought of a retired superhero who still goes everywhere wearing his costume.

Then she says, "Tell him about your screenplay." "Oh, yeah," I say, trying to sound eager and passionate about my lame idea, "It's about teenage girls who make money in high school by pulling con jobs." "Okay," he replies, "this is a screenplay?" I feel like a fraud. Goodbye to artistic integrity. Now I'm pitching High Concept screenplays to guys who look at me with only moderate interest.

I'm led out of his office and am offered lemon cake. Not wanting to refuse, I pick up a piece and take a bite. This is a bad idea for two reasons. One, I'm not that hungry. Two, there are no napkins around and I'm holding it with my bare hands. I quickly shift the piece from my right hand to my left. If I'm to shake any more hands on my way out, I don't want to give them any frosting.

And so here I am. Jeremy Gable from Post Falls, Idaho. Walking out of a Hollywood production company with a screenplay that I didn't open, a notebook that I didn't write in, a validated parking garage ticket, and a once-bitten piece of lemon cake.

The door closes behind me. I quickly retreat to the bathroom, throwing away the piece of lemon cake and washing my hands. I shouldn't be so weird about my hands. They're just hands. Yeah, you're a pianist and a typist, but Jesus, man, they're just hands. Get a grip on yourself.

I check my watch. 4:55 p.m. Now I'm going to go back to Anaheim, change into my crappy clothes, hang out with my girlfriend and probably play a little "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City". Wow. Was that me in there? That didn't seem like a guy who would go back to O.C. to play video games and hang out with his girlfriend. Who was I in there? Anybody worth noting? Anybody worth remembering? Somebody who is going to still continue to tell challenging, thought-provoking stories?

I start the ignition on my $15,000 car and Air America Radio comes on, broadcasting the voices of people who truly want to change the world to an audience of millions. Perhaps popularity and social change can be hand in hand. Maybe I can help fuel a change in society's standards through movies. Like that woman said (after calling me an "intellectual"), "A screenplay about teenage girls doing con jobs can still be smart."

I decide how best to word the experience that I just had and decide that the words "exciting opportunity" fit best. I pull out my cell phone and begin to dial...

Comments:
... and dialed me! I was so glad you did. What a great day. One of those random moments where you think "how did I get here"?

She's right, of course. There are plenty of movies out there - like the teenage girl script - where I've gone into the theater thinking it would be fluff and went home to tell people "It was actually REALLY good!"

Go for it!

LONG LIVE PAGE 104!
 
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