Julie Goes Indie

Having recently submitted a project for possible independent financing at Juntobox Films, I've been thinking more about not making a movie, as opposed to not writing one -- and really these are two different things, requiring two separate sets of delusions. Just when I thought I'd run out of ways to disappoint myself and others around a script that didn't come together, wasn't worth re-working and had to be permanently shelved, this time an actual movie would have to fail before all that happens.

So far most of my creative energy has gone to how I would post the happy news on Facebook. Right now I'm going with "Greenlight, bitches!," beside an old still I found of a topless go-go girl shooting a movie, in the woods for some reason. I figure if she could get off the pole and pursue an even more dubious second career, why not me?

Where screenwriting amounts to getting up and dressed in time for another big game of rocks, paper, scissors, filmmaking means being on set at dawn to plug important things into other important things because you have something important to say. I'm not very mechanical by nature, but I am jotting down mental notes for the trade press on my improbable triumph over sexism, ageism and cronyism. Oh and lazyassyism, perhaps the best explanation why we avowed recluses don't tend to roll up our sleeves and collaborate of all things.

So far my favorite part of being an independent filmmaker is the high quality procrastination it offers. Honestly, I can't think of a better excuse for ignoring my silly little pages than thinking really hard about making a Serious Piece of Breakthrough Cinema. Okay, so it's a quirky little funeral comedy with elements of a feel good sex romp climaxing with an action-packed heist, but still.
I'm not the first writer to grapple with the jump from the page to the stage. "One deceptive appeal of being out there with other people is that it gets you away from the job of writing," Woody Allen told The Paris Review. "I’ve always felt that if they told me tomorrow I couldn’t make any more films, that they wouldn’t give me any more money, I would be happy writing for the theater; and if they wouldn’t produce my plays, I’d be happy just writing prose; and if they wouldn’t publish me, I’d still be happy writing and leaving it for future generations."

It's probably easier to believe your unproduced work will have lasting merit when you are Woody Allen -- who doesn't even show up to accept his Oscars because it interferes with band practice.

Now that I'm going to be a multi-hyphenate, maybe I should get mentally prepared for awards season, which has gotten so out of control between Cannes and Taormina and I mean, BAFTA? Really? I'm not sure how the Brits got to be in charge of everything again, but should Kate Middleton show at my after party, I really need to start reducing now. Even pregnant those princess types make the actresses look like tubs of lard -- who in turn make us writers seem especially ginormous and awkward at these events.

Then again the whole point of bypassing the studio system is avoiding the judgement to step out of the shadows and grab what's due me. Somehow this never occurred to me before, despite all my yakking here over the years about how awesome I am.

I guess my big priority should be becoming a living legend already, because, really, what fun is it to be a dead one? "Not that immortality via art is any big deal," summed up Allen. "Truffaut died and we all felt awful about it, and there were the appropriate eulogies, and his wonderful films live on. But it’s not much help to Truffaut."

Maybe one day some idiot blogger will be sitting alone in a Toluca Lake coffee bar quoting me on death, comedy and grabbing the spotlight while there's still time. Like I said, brand new skillset, same old delusions.

Warning: This Blog is a Work of Fiction

Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. 

According to my careful research, meaning I found it on Wikipedia, this verbiage originated in response to a lawsuit against the producers of a 1932 movie called Rasputin and the Empress. Though it's obviously a drama, since it stars all of the Barrymores except Drew, an incredibly self-involved, no-name Russian princess wrongly believed it was all about her.

It's come to my attention that certain individuals traveling in my circles don't care for the way they perceive themselves to be depicted in these pages. Since this is not a commercial enterprise but rather an extremely obscure online diary, I honestly can't imagine why all the fuss.

Is it the simple act or putting words to paper that gives them such unwarranted power? Skewering his gal pals in Answered Prayers, Truman Capote's roman à clef about New York's elite, got the author unceremoniously ejected from their ranks. Gone were the trunk shows with Babe Paley and Slim Keith; the private luncheons of shrimp salad-stuffed tomatoes Jackie Kennedy was known to excuse herself and go throw up. Okay, so I might have made up that last part. My point is that writers serve little purpose in this world other than to fill in its blanks.

Since I've never considered myself much of a reporter, even when I was doing it for a living,  I don't present the tidbits here under the guise of reportage. Like most humorists, I offer up composite characters plucked from various scenarios, real or imagined, to comment on a very specific place and time in the universe, mine in particular. All of this comes pretty close to the dictionary definition of "satire."

While I could limit access to approved subscribersor even block the random disappointed visitorgoing on full lockdown seems a bit drastic. At the risk of sounding like a little girl warding a kid brother away with a "Keep Out" sign, those unamused by the content of my personal space might consider avoiding it.

On the plus side, I rarely name names, most certainly not my own. I'm not selling advertising, actively marketing a memoir, or focusing on developing this material for the screen.
I suspect some folks out there dreaming of who might play the key role of you in the forthcoming story of me might actually find that last bit of news a tad disappointing. In the words of Truman Capote, or else Dorothy Parker, depending on whose frequent attribution you buy, "I don't care what anybody says about me, as long as it isn't true."

Big Meeting on Dopey Drive

There’s a fruiting orange tree on the Disney lot I always wonder about. Did Walt plant it himself for his morning juice at the commissary? Was his personally home-made marmalade once available at the gift shop? Would it be cool if I grabbed an orange to snack on while slinking back to my car after another disappointing studio meeting?

I should have known things wouldn’t go well when the dim-witted gate guard didn’t have my name again. He asked if I ever use another one. “Bin Laden,” I wanted to say. “But only because Mrs. Jake Gyllenhaal feels so formal.”

Eyeballing my low level screenwriter uniform from the clearance rack at the Gap and the scuffed Chuckies my sister hates, he told me to go ahead and pull over. This way relevant people in Town Cars with blackened windows could point and laugh. Not until I passed further muster with Barney Fife, back in his guard hut hammering on some newfangled computer, would I be issued a nametag and directed to Dopey Drive.

What delicious irony to find so many big Hollywood producers working at the intersection of Dopey and Pluto. The Old Animation Building situated here was once the heart of the facility built by Walt Disney and his brother Roy in 1937 off the proceeds from their first hit feature, Snow White. A network of tunnels allowed for underground ferrying of hand-drawn artwork to the Inking, Painting, Camera, and Cutting buildings—all rendered obsolete by CG technology. Long before this was also known as sexual harassment, hot secretaries hired to pull double duty as nude models for the male-only live drawing classes lolled around the lawn on lunch break. Today, Walt’s third floor corner office sits empty in his honor—or so the rumor goes.
I navigated a corridor overwhelmed with early photographs and classic animation cels before stumbling upon my destination and being shown to my latest couch.

“Your hallway feels like a museum,” I told the Fiji-swilling producers during the required designer water and false compliments portion of the feature film pitch session. “We should all probably lower our voices now so Pinocchio’s nose won’t grow,” I began. While you’re expected to open these things with a joke, it’s always best if somebody laughs.

This was yet another meeting initiated by an admirer of my hilarious little funeral comedy inviting me to pitch something just as funny only far less meaningful. “They'll only want to hear your authentic voice so they'll best know how to mute it,” a film school mentor once warned me.  “The theory is that once you’ve mastered originality, you’re ready to write Scream 4." We students had dubbed this teacher “The Re-Write King of Little Korea,” since he reaps millions as a script doctor from the isolation of his offices in the Wiltern Building.

My Very Supportive Manager called this morning to report the assignment went to somebody else. “They felt you pitched a quirky character piece when they want a high concept popcorn comedy with poster moments,” she said in Supportivespeak, a language I should understand by now.

“That's the kind of crap I originally had in mind!" I cried. "You took me to lunch and said it lacked depth!" Translation: "I sold myself down the river for a plate of pan-Asian cuisine."

"Maybe you were better than this one," she sighed. Translation: "I still believe in you, sort of, but my trainer is on the other line."

"You always know just what to say." Translation: "Control freak."

"The good news is they just loved you," she said. "They want to do lunch next month and toss around some ideas." Translation: "Let someone else pick up your pan-fried noodle tab for a change."

I hung up and ripped into the Disney orange I snatched yesterday on my way off the lot. We'd grown thick-skinned and bitter, though still not ready for squeezing.

Note: Since this post was originally published on January 6, 2006, I went out on strike against Disney, went to work inside Disney, was laid off from Disney three years later and am once again a Disney vendor.  The orange tree was removed to build a gym where I was refused re-admittance after being mysteriously profiled as a disgruntled former live model.