2.19.2006

Sausage Baskets and Statuettes

I’m having trouble getting excited about the Oscars this year. Jake Gyllenhaal hasn’t called yet to make sure I’ve saved the date so I can only assume he’ll be taking Kirsten Dunst’s bony ass. I liked it better when he was Donnie Darko and nobody but me and Drew Barrymore could even pronounce his name. Anyway, it was lots more fun watching him give it to Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl than take it from Heath Ledger in a pup tent. God forgive me, I just didn’t get that movie.

The rest of them, I didn’t see. I’d be hard-pressed to name a single song by Johnny Cash so a whole movie about the guy seems like overkill. Reese Witherspoon isn’t even the prettiest little housewife on the block, if you ask me, and here she gets a Golden Globe and an Oscar nod on top of a way hotter husband she doesn't seem to know what to do with. I haven’t seen Capote or the weird George Clooney movies, especially not the one where he's fat and has a scraggly terrorist beard. This is about as appealing to me as Felicity Huffman with a wee-wee.

I almost won an Oscar, sort of, within months of arriving in Hollywood. My first screenplay was named one of ten finalists in the Academy's Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, which I'd entered after seeing a classified ad in the back of Premiere Magazine. I received hundreds of congratulatory phone calls, awaiting the requisite gift basket from my gushing newfound agents. Orchids were over and Poppycock wasn’t allowed on Atkins. Any assistant in town could tell you that year was all about sausage. Accepting delivery of an impressive assortment of smoked meats and cheeses, I was in.

Then came the announcement on the front page of Daily Variety that there were five winners, and I was number six. The only official prize for that was a two-pound box of See’s Candy I bought myself to ingest in a single sitting while sitting home watching Sissy Spacek exact revenge on the other promgoers. This might have been a sign that I was forever destined to be number six in a town full of folks who can’t count that high. The agency dropped me, claiming I’d “lost focus.” My agent said she felt undermined by the partners’ decision, but I don’t recall her pulling a Jerry Maguire and quitting in protest. As a matter of fact, she’d been promoted by the time I polished off my last package of turkey jerky and she stopped returning my calls. It was starting to occur to me that Hollywood was anything but a meritocracy. Here I’d been singled out from the pack, only to walk away stinking of hickory and rejection.

This happened yet again when I submitted a winning script and got into the Warner Brothers Sitcom Writer’s Program. My father told me this particular competition must be some kind of scam, since the prize was paying them to attend their scary boot camp. I remember describing certain teammates to friends—the stand-up comic with the demanding runway model wife, the avante-garde playwright who didn’t seem quite right in the head—as those likeliest to knife me for standing between them and a lucrative future in network comedy. One steely lady delivered a baby after a particularly grueling Wednesday session, but reappeared the following week with a brand new Dharma & Greg script ready for tabling.

"Make a list of these freaks, in order of psychosis,” I’d tell my sister. “Give it to the police should I end up dead in some Burbank back alley, clutching a contract from Friends.” No such luck. Completing ten punishing weeks of unpaid apprenticeship, I didn’t do so well after inadvertently insulting one of the sluttier executives. Who knew you weren’t supposed to question their forgetting to put on a bra under a nice Chanel blouse?

With screenwriting contest season upon us, I don’t think I’ll be entering any of them this spring. They can keep their big deal producer meetings, their wine and cheeses with low level agents, their fawning blurbs in the trades. I'm really hoping to get paid in cash this year, not a free critique from my friends at Writer's Digest and last year's version of Final Draft. It might be a good thing, come to think of it, having finally had just about all the sausage I can swallow.

10 comments:

  1. I have this new thing where I love reading scripts written by my 'pals' (heck yeah you're one of 'em) so if you have a pdf laying around of your #6 Nicholl Winning screenplay, please email it along, I'd love to read it...

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  2. When I first moved to New York, I asked a native how long it would be before I was a real New Yorker. He said, "When you start complaining about wanting to move somewhere else, but don't, because nowhere else could possibly match up."

    As tired as you are of sausage, it actually sounds like you're about to make some kind of break-through in LA.

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  3. mmm...sausage.

    Hang in there, kiddo.

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  4. Ok, I'll ask, did blogger just eat the last two weeks of your posts?

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  5. odocoileus12:08 PM

    Braless execs in nice Chanel blouses? Better get my application in early.

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  6. See this is why I'll never amount to anything and you're a talent to watch: I'd have been happy with the sausage basket so long as it wasn't metaphorical.

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  7. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Another great post, Julie!

    Keep your chin up.

    -- Sascha

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  8. I have to admit that I will be entering all of the contests this year (the first time I have done so). Been awhile since I've been to the site here Julie, glad to see you still make me laugh.

    JDC

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  9. Thanks for writing all. I do so appreciate the meatless support.

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  10. All this talk of sausage baskets and swallowing sausage... did you really need to lead this post with a discussion of Brokeback Mountain?

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