6.09.2007

Pomp and Unfortunate Circumstance

Three years ago next week, I graduated from the world's top film school with an MFA in Screenwriting. Since that time I have exhausted two unemployment claims, sold off family heirlooms at the Fairfax Flea Market, worked in the subscriptions department of The Hollywood Reporter as the world's most overqualified temp, and landed a highly overpaid studio writing assignment at the behest of a major movie star. To know what kind of mood I'm in on any given day, I have to check my calendar and get back to you.

The good news is screenplays are either worth nothing at all or a whole lot of coin, and I made enough selling one recently to support myself grandly over the next four years. That is as long as I downgrade my Netflix subscription, cancel Showtime and HBO, and knock off the Starbucks except when I happen to be there on a blind date that's not going well. I may also have to read The National Enquirer in line at the grocery store while cool people point and stare rather than surreptitiously sneaking it into my cart. I did clear the guild minimum to qualify for medical benefits over the next two calendar years, although my Fancy Pants Beverly Hills Lawyer had to call the studio and beg for an extra eight hundred and fourteen bucks, which is coincidentally the amount of his tab at Mr. Chow's when he takes his real clients out to lunch.

As for my creative achievements, I've met with several hundred producers, two of them Best Picture Oscar winners. One invited me to touch his. The other proposed I write a little talking dog movie for him off the clock, which he and I would take out together in the event he liked it. He didn't and we didn't, which was okay by me because Lord knows I didn't. Besides, by the time I was finished with the third free draft he was really busy producing a critically acclaimed box office blockbuster that won the Golden Globe that year. I plan to go back and touch that any day, except in the event that I don't finish my second buzzworthy spec feature in time for the writers strike and have to head back to the flea market with my dwindling box of heirlooms.

I've completed the aforementioned big budget R-rated comedy, which went into turnaround at the studio before the ink was even dry on my contract. I've written three unsold screenplays, this blog, a book proposal based on this blog, and a sitcom pilot about a blogging screenwriter whose life begins to change when she moves into a legendary bungalow village peopled with crazy Hollywood types. This was just picked up as a series at CBS, although it was written by somebody else--and the fledgling filmmaker in question, in a nod to authenticity given the industry's unapologetic gender bias, is a dude. It stars Jeffrey Tambor, who definitely would have played
Opera Boy in my version; and Raquel Welch, who could have been the lonely music magazine editor with the bum leg across across my courtyard who has her beer trucked in from Albertson's once a month and stacked in cases in her living room. I propose a new college drinking game where every time somebody steals my life and sells it to Hollywood for big bucks, another starry-eyed film student must knock back a fifth of drugstore brand gin and change majors.

I remember looking at the merry-making undergrads during commencement ceremonies--a particularly loud and showy bunch, given their status as newly pedigreed theater and film freaks--and thinking, wow, this is the last happy day of your life. Talent is a curse I'd learned to live under all those years I denied mine, and it was hard to watch it preying upon the innocent. The showbiz bug is something akin to a vampire bite promising a swift death followed by an endless quest for fresh blood and the paradoxical promise of immortality. Even with the occasional trickles of success--the thrills of victory, the agonies of defeat--it isn't any kind of life, just a possibility of one that never quite seems to deliver. And I wouldn't trade a day of it for a truckload of drugstore gin and a lifetime of free beer at Albertson's.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Oh. So you went to USC.

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  2. Bite your tongue, Anon. Julie doesn't name names for fear of retribution by the Googling alumni she rails on for sport. However, you may identify her alma mater by rearranging things over at the ACLU.

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  3. this post would depress me terribly...if I didn't already know exactly what you were talking about.

    MFA. Ha. MFA in constantly doubting myself.


    I'm linking you BACK!

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  4. Wow. Who knew?

    Hey, nice not reading the same posts over and over and over... LOL.

    Welcome back!

    Unk

    P.S. Would have left a comment before but you didn't have the "Other" option available.

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  5. That last paragraph says a lot about a lot of talent driven endeavors.

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  6. Ah, she sells her sitcom! Me, I can't decide whether to attempt to sell mine, now that producing it myself is out of the question, turn it into a feature or a novel, or just burn the sucker and cook marshmallows. Something tells me I need to start begging you to get me an agent...

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  7. The Graduate is my alltime #1 movie, just wanted to say that... I am off to Vegas 18-21 to hopefully unwind and work out some rewrite issues I am having... um, shit, sometimes I just blab

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  8. Yeah what is up with the damn unapologetic gender bias?

    I recently applied for a high profile personal assistant job. I had a friend recommend me and everything, but my friend says they "aren't even interviewing women."

    In what world is that okay?

    Oh, right. The film industry.

    Keep being fabulous.

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  9. You never know, it might have had something to do with the last assistant being a whore and the wife putting her foot down. But it's still not okay. The thing about class action suits that have been so effective in cleaning up employment discrimination in other highly paid industries is you have to be all washed up to get involved, and nobody ever believes that about themselves in Hollywood. You come in screaming and go out kicking. At least I will. Can anyone say Long Dong Silver?

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  10. "I propose a new college drinking game where every time somebody steals my life and sells it to Hollywood for big bucks, another starry-eyed film student must knock back a fifth of drugstore brand gin and change majors."

    I don't know, California is already neck-deep in lawyers...

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  11. Well, I go to movies once or twice a year and enjoy every post on this blog. That and a $5 bill will get you a cup of coffee but you do have fans.

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