Laura Keitlinger Stole My Life

There's a new series on IFC about a girl screenwriter ten years out of film school still waiting for her break in Hollywood. Nope, it's not Julie Goes To Hollywood, starring me, but The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman, starring Laura Kightlinger.

Jackie has a best friend who's an upwardly mobile slut. Julie has an upwardly mobile stripper next door. Jackie has a day job at a second rate indie film rag. Julie had a day job at a second rate Hollywood trade rag. Jackie has a really stupid film school nemesis who becomes a smug overpaid screenwriter. Julie has a really stupid brother-in-law who became a smug overpaid sitcom weenie. Jackie even looks a little like me, if I were eight feet tall and thin and only had one chin and all. Either way, I am starting to feel like Steeley Dan with the whole Cousin Dupree debacle.

I have always liked Laura Kightlinger. I liked her on Saturday Night Live, where they never let her do much other than be brief and sarcastic while vaguely resembling Geena Davis. I liked her on Will & Grace, where she was a writer who also appeared as real life boyfriend Jack Black's nurse when he guested as a doctor. I sided with her in sisterhood when Jack dumped her after seven years to elope with some hot rocker chick he knew in high school. What do you guess the new Mrs. Black wouldn't even talk to him back then, when he was just another fat guy sniffing after her. Poor, loyal Laura was further humiliated with the requisite instant Hollywood love child who was undoubtedly named for a popular fruit.

Still, I can't forgive the identity thieving. Or the whole getting there first and doing it better thing, if that is indeed the case, which would somehow feel even worse. Laura Kightlinger may not have gotten the guy, but she did get the sitcom with an eight-episode order. Laura, if you happen to visit this blog with any frequency, and I suspect you do, please be advised that I'd be more than happy to give up my imaginary boyfriend for a staff job, or even a sweet little consulting gig. The rest of it will be our little secret. Really it will.

Movie Moment

Being a film lover since early childhood only set me up for a lifetime of disappointment as the big movie moments of my own life played themselves out with scant cinematic flair. I can only describe my first sexual encounter, for example, as poorly staged. It was badly lit and the blocking was awkward. Why didn't the music swell? Why no elegantly timed dissolve to a nice soft focus? Why was Robert Redford not there? If only I'd cleared the set and called for a re-write, not to mention a little chat with that boob of a casting director who'd neglected to secure A-list talent.

An invitation to join the Writers Guild of America after ten long years of trying felt equally underwhelming. When the membership card arrived in the mail, I expected it to be gold or even platinum, embedded with a glittering hologram, the mother of all "credit" cards, pardon the pun. Maybe it would be key-shaped and ancient looking, like a prop from The Davinci Code, when Tom Hanks and that skinny French chick who turns out to be little miss Jesus arrive at the Swiss bank, demanding their rightful admittance.

It was cardboard. The flimsy kind, not even laminated for gloss and durabilty. Here I'd agreed to pay a $2,500 initiation fee and a nice chunk of my lifelong earnings and all I got so far was a welcome letter, a twenty buck subscription to Written By magazine, and an invitation to an upcoming dinner meeting for new members. Damn if I wasn't going to that shindig, if only to claim my rightful plate of sushi and jug wine. I would watch their badly produced video from the eighties about the history of the union--hosted by an older woman in a kooky wig whose most recent credit was a Doris Day movie--and I would like it!

Imagine my surprise when this actually happened. Considering all it took just to become a working screenwriter, I might not have survived being labeled a communist to boot. I never gave much thought to the studios' support of McCarthyism against early screenwriters attempting to organize. I'd only been after the health insurance, and of course the pretty card, knowing full well that my chances of securing either grew painfully longer with each passing year.

Looking around the reception room at the mostly young, mostly male new membership, I experienced a genuine movie moment. I'm not a white guy and I hardly remember my twenties, but there I stood anyway. Having beaten some shamefully long odds, I nonetheless found myself shoulder to shoulder among this closed club's famously fair-haired demographic.

On the way out, I was handed a very nice, boxed silver pen emblazoned with the WGA emblem. It's no Mont Blanc, mind you, but more likely another logo item purchased in bulk from a business gifts catalogue. And yet, I shall treasure it always. If life were indeed a movie, it would fall out of my hand as I wrote my last word, which in my case is unlikely to be "Rosebud," but rather, "Redford."

Blogaversary Party

A year ago I started this blog because I was a writer nobody wanted to read. I'd had enough of opening the trades to news of another record spec sale I hadn't made. When blogs I hadn't created were optioned for books, sitcoms and three-picture deals I hadn't landed, I became even more annoyed. Eventually it became clear that if I didn't have a blog I'd surely never be tapped to adapt a blog into a New York Times bestseller and the feel good movie of the year. If also else failed, I would at least have created a repository for my work, forcing myself on a daily basis to chronicle the tail end of my ten-year struggle from successful journalist to failed screenwriter. The truth is, I wasn't at all sure I had a full year of struggle left in me.

Looking back through my early postings, I see that it took awhile to find my bloggerly groove. There is comedy in misery, I soon discovered, especially here in Hollywood, where the world's class clowns and homecoming kings and queens share the dubious goal of wanting in. What I hadn't counted on, of course, was getting in. What's fun about that? While selling my first script has opened all kinds of doors I spent so many years kicking in, the immutable truth is that success isn't nearly as funny as failure.

I used to record my thoughts here every day because I didn't have anything else to do with them. Now I have all kinds of things, and lo and behold, they're not all that fascinating. Today, for example, I have the shades drawn and the A/C on. I'll be in my pajamas all afternoon, working on a revised outline for my producers at Universal. Should my literary agent call to inquire into the latest re-write of my book proposal, I will either screen the call or pick it up and lie. At some point, I will make an egg salad sandwich and watch back to back episodes of Judge Judy. While I may tell myself I'm too busy to blog, the reality is I no longer have the requisite desperation to be heard.

Over the last year, my readership has grown from a single visitor, my sister, to many thousands of you every week who seem to pop by in equal numbers regardless of how long it's been since my last post. I can't promise I'll post more frequently now that I'm not as miserable or hilarious a girl as I once was. I do, however, urge the mysterious throngs who missed my early missives to get your fix in my archives. You might find, as I did, that success isn't so different than failure after all.