Archive for December, 2008

Ah, Los Angeles 8

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

“I can show you that when it starts to rain…”

As with all things LA, rain isn’t just an act of nature, it is a potential catastrophe. People living near recently burned hillsides know that to be true. New transplants to the Land of No get terrifying reports from the media. It doesn’t suit you to sit back and enjoy the much needed rain.

You work a booth at the Writers’ Expo at the LA Convention Center. The place is enormous. Describing it requires more time and space than you can afford. You park underground and the cement gleams its promise of something wonderful going on upstairs. It just goes to show you can’t even trust cement. Imagine hundreds of writers milling around, looking at all the writing things they can spend money on while they await their appointed time to pitch their perfect, wonderful, million dollar story to a bunch of ┬ábored-out-of-their-minds junior production execs (the ones too low down on the food chain to say no). Five minutes is what you’re given to sell the exec on your story. Because you’re trying to sell them something at your booth, your friendly demeanor is misunderstood as being someone who cares. They trust you. They practice their pitches on you.

After a few rushed and desperate minutes, you tell them that all they really want to do–since the people they’re pitching too can’t even come close to giving a go-ahead–is get a second date. Imagine that you’re at a speed dating event, you tell them. You have five minutes to convince a person across the table that they want to spend a lot of money and time with you. Do you really want to spend the whole five minutes talking about yourself, you ask them? You suggest that instead they need to have a one or two sentence catchy as hell pitch and spend the rest of the time unglazing their dates’ eyes so they can see what as an interesting person you are.

They look at you like your crazy because their teacher in Des Moines told them to summarize the whole story in four minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Were you ever this bad, you ask yourself? Worse but that’s another story.

The next three days after the Expo, you spend listening to big studio executives, the ones who can say yes and mean it, tell you that they hate writers with their hearts and souls. No matter how good you are, they tell you, they’ll never hire you because they hate you. It’s enough to make one look for the nearest hardware store because, in the words of Neil Simon, “if it had been open, I would have bought a knife and killed myself.” You tell yourself it’s good to hear the point of view of the other side of the table but, in the words of Hermione Granger, “Honestly.”

Back to the real world of the Land of No. You wait for an elevator with two women. One, dressed to kill in the business world the other dressed to kill men in general. Business is peeling the skin off an subordinate. Sexy is explaining to her significant other that he has crossed the line for the last time. Your presence seems to have gone unnoticed. The elevator arrives. The three of you get on and suddenly your presence is no longer tolerated. You are imposing yourself on their space. The elevator stops at the next floor. A disturbingly happy, young man comes on carrying on a lively and cheery conversation in Spanish. The four of you remove yourselves to your corners and you try very hard not to laugh at the situation. You do pretty well until the elevator passes into a dead zone.

“Hello?” “Hola?” “Did you hang up on me, you…?” They tap their phones and look at them like they were personally undermined by the phones themselves. They look at you like you might be behind it because laughter has escaped and won’t come back into the coral.

You find someone who is willing to talk to you like you might actually be a writer. It’s not much but table scraps look good after a while. Fate, such as it is, makes the connection with this person as tentative as phone reception on an elevator. It makes one look heavenward and say, “what?”

Once again, you have found a way to ignore the obvious path. Surrounded by age, lack of connections and uncertain talent, you bump your way from false start to wrong turn. Every direction looks as filled with murky promise as the next. You stand motionless hoping that some kind person will take your hand and light the path ahead.

All in all, life is good.