8.14.2005

Lucky Number Three

I’m intrigued by the word “decimation,” which I understand dates back to the Holy Roman Empire, when conquering armies lined up the losers and picked off every tenth soldier. While your chances of being decimated weren’t all that good, it can’t have been much fun standing there furtively counting off the pals on either side of you. Either your number is up and the lights go out, or you’re left to bury a clan member and face a future of enslavement and degradation at the hands of the enemy.

What an apropos paradigm for Hollywood. My Very Supportive Manager just called to tell me my chances of getting an adaptation I pitched are down to one in three. I’m one of only a handful to survive The Big Cheese Producer’s scrutiny and am to report to the Mini-Major Studio Suit to deliver my take anew. Better yet, he “loved, loved, loved” my Hilarious Funeral Comedy, offered as a writing sample, and can’t wait to meet me so we can chat about why they’d never make such a charming project while drinking bottled water and complaining about the heat.

I no longer get too excited by this kind of news; I’ve been this close before, only to be edged out by The Girlfriend, The Daughter or Nora and Delia Ephron. At this point I’m always left wondering why Supportive set me up for all this, let me work so hard on developing my pitch only to sweat it out over a foregone conclusion.

Getting out there is good, she’ll tell me, no matter what the outcome. I’m Honing My Stuff, and People Are Saying Very Good Things About Me. Onward and upward. Next. Sometimes she talks like she’s ticking off chapter names in a self-help book for dispirited writers, recovering alcoholics on a bender and other habitual losers who are only a life tip away from seizing control of our destinies.

This time it’s different, even I can see that. All three writers who made the final cut are unknown and uncredited, just like me. We are all recent graduates of Big Deal Film Schools, some bigger deals than others, in my humble opinion. I’m supposed to walk in like the assignment is already mine and just take it, according to Supportive. The trouble is, I know with absolute certainty I would have been that tenth soldier—would have happened every time, no matter how many do-overs you gave me to reconfigure the whole motley line up. But when it’s a good thing, a lifelong dream teetering on a razor’s edge of actually coming true, one in three odds don’t seem all that friendly. Not even as reliable as flipping a coin, after all.

Does everyone feel this way? That they're far more likely to drop from the sky in a fiery plane crash than win the multi-state lottery—even though the real odds there are probably even. Maybe you have to have put it all on the line and watched it come tumbling down to conclude you are somehow cursed by the numbers gods, doomed never to pierce that ever thinning tissue separating ordinary despair from everything you ever wanted.

Which is why I’ve decided to turn to religion, for a limited time only. Yup, a week or so of good old fashioned faith ought to do me some good. I was baptized a Roman Catholic, after all, and I have a good bet that the guy who first came up with all that hocus pocus was a Grateful Number Nine.

Alright already, you saints and angels, let’s hear it for Lucky Number Three, so I can start blogging about all the good things they do tell you in film school—where I came to believe that all things are possible with a little luck and timing. You don’t even need talent, end of the day, nor an aunt and uncle named Candy and Aaron Spelling—nor even a honey of an ass, a great rack and a killer smile. Some days what you do is put aside your desperation so you're absolutely sure it won't show. Then take a roll of the dice, say a little prayer...and breathe.

5 comments:

  1. I wish you nothing but the best in your meeting. Have you ever thought of writing something really cheap that can realistically be shot independently, and by independently I mean for damn near nothing? Is this even something that interests you or your "supportive"?

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  2. Did you notice the time of day "Lucky Number Three" posted yesterday? I am going to take it as a sign from above rather than a half-baked attempt at humor from the guy in the other direction.

    As for your question, I'm not a filmmaker, I'm a writer. I've been one for a really long time, and I'm not sure I'm ready to go guerilla, which would feel more like an act of desperation than inspiration for me. But I do admire what you are doing, and who knows, maybe some day.

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  3. Well, I'm not really talking about "going guerilla" as a replacement to what you're doing, more as something that would run parallel to what you're doing.

    David Mamet has said that collaboration in Hollywood is easy to define: "Bend over!" This is what you're facing. You going into a industry that famously treats writers like shit. Of course I'm bias, but I don't see how it would be an act of desperation to have something you write produced. In the end, it's about the work, and quality does rise no matter if that was made for 50 thousand or 50 million. Howard Hawks said that if it ain't on the page you can't put it on the screen. You can put it on the page [at least I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt based on this blog], but what good is it if it never reaches that audience?

    Jesus, you touched a nerve. I don't mean to sermonize. I'm sorry about that.

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  4. I don't know if it's true or not, but my old catechism teacher said that the sign of the devil is biblically not 6 but 3. So 666 is really 6 threes, which is the ulitmate evil. In this light, I don't what it would say about your orginal post. Perhaps you're about to make your Faustian bargin.

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  5. No, sermonize. Please. Haven't had any of that since film school. Anyway, what writer isn't after touching a few nerves?

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