Monday, October 25, 2010

My Life is a Phase

On one special Sunday night in the 4th grade, you went over to your next door neighbors house to watch ET. OK, my memory might be failing me, but it definitely was a Spielberg movie, probably, maybe. Well, after the film had concluded, the cute little girl next door told you that she wanted to be a film maker. You didn't really know why at the time, but your 11 year old self proceeded to take up her cause as your own.

In high school she got popular and you, not so much. You had became a true Renaissance man, well versed in the intricacies of Dungeons and Dragons, and a viewer of all things Joss Whedon. Hailing from a certain west coast city, she dated various members of the lacrosse team, while you were frequently asked if you lived with your life partner in the Castro. She went to prom with a bro. You took a friend of a friend.

Many people went through the film stage. Hell, most people are still going through the film stage. A myriad number of people approach you on a daily basis telling you they have an idea for a film. Yet, what they don't realize is while they have one, you have an infinite, and there are not enough hours in your life to get them all down onto paper. Creativity may be dead in Hollywood, but not in your mind. Oh, no.

You started college, and ignoring the desperate pleas of your parents to major in something practical like business, you went to film school and majored in screen writing. For the first time in your life, you enjoyed something intellectual which wasn't associated with This American Life. Also, you got layed due to your vast knowledge of the Klingon language. That was pretty cool.

Graduation day has finally arrived. Your family, your friends, all here to wave you on, cheer you into the next stage of your life. Yet, to somehow validate your four years at an expensive liberal arts college, you need to find a job and quickly. Preferably somehow related to your major. You can't do this.

Now four years in and fully committed to the graduate school path, you are slowly coming to the sad conclusion that having a doctoral degree in film is about as helpful as burning $50,000. Now facing your impending graduation (for a second time), you quickly come to the stark realization that you need to find a job in an industry which is notoriously difficult to break into. Perspective job opportunities slowly broke down into.

1. Teachers assistant for some kids vaguely interested in film at Santa Monica City College.
2. Junior marketing associate at some office building (a writer of short sentences)
3. High school English teacher.
4. Night manager at an auto repair show (your friend's dad owns the place)
5. Gardener
6. Pool Cleaner
7. Part time model / part time gigolo
8. "That guy" that still hangs around his high school talking about the big game, and is eventually hired as a PE teacher. Only later to be fired for touching some kids. Allegedly.
9. Your dad's assistant / office whipping boy.
10. Starving screenwriter waiting to change the world.

Having come to terms with being forced out of parentally funded academia, you realize you were born into a world were there are only about 15 writers for each show, and out of those shows, only five are currently hiring. Three out of those five will get cancelled in their first season. You graduated film school with 34 other screenwriters, many far more talented than yourself. For the first time in your life you realize you are indeed doomed. You also just turned 25. Happy birthday.

So you embrace the unmitigated disaster that is your life, quit your day job, and become a full time screenwriter. You share a small loft with another struggling screenwriter, his brother, and two midgets who were extras in Leprechaun 2. You envy their success. After months of searching for work and your asshole agent not returning your calls, your friend at Universal phones you about a potential job offer. You venture over to the studio, hoping for the best, failing at convincing yourself of the worst. Walking into the meeting the suits are very brief, they probably have an important lunch with someone who's name stars with B and ends with rad Pitt. The executives say they love the writing on your website, they use phrases like "very interesting", "creative", and "brilliantly adequate." Not the words you would use, but whatever, you'll take it. You also don't have a website; details. The studio executives want you to write a romantic comedy about two dolphins who meet at Sea World, fall in love, but then due to dastardly environmentalists are released into two separate oceans, the Pacific and Lake Michigan. The film would then chronicle their journey back to one another, so the dolphins could inevitably live happily ever after. Without thinking, you sign some papers, shake hands, and call your parents, hoping to validate your very existence.

Well, the movie doesn't go well. Your nerd sensibilities get the better of you and by page 5, one of the dolphins is a vampire, the other a transformer. Also, due to Google Earth telling you the plot was impossible, you move the second ocean from Lake Michigan to The Red Sea. Far more plausible, it even has sea in the title.

Inevitably the studio executives didn't like the liberties you took with their concept. It wasn't that they minded the vampire dolphin or the licensing fees inevitably associated with featuring a transformer dolphin. No, they cared about changing the second ocean to The Red Sea, solely because it was impossible to recreate the Middle East in Canada. Dam tax breaks.

So you find yourself without a job, essentially blacklisted from Hollywood studios. Also, your bike got stolen. Bad week.

It turns out that the girl who you stole this dream from gave up on her film dreams a long time ago and went to medical school. She became a doctor and spent two years after college traveling around Africa during villages of AIDS. Did you hear that? She was helping to cure AIDS, what were you doing? Oh, that's right, writing sad poetry and listening to Neutral Milk Hotel. I almost forgot.

Well, when that same girl returned to that States, she got some investors together, and founded a company that takes the seamen of sea slugs, magically alters the fluid, and then sells it to women as an age reversal cream. An age reversal cream. Genius. This company then needed a talented writer to head their new add campaign. You were up for the job, but you were a little too "indie" for the Board Of Directors, so they chose to hire the guy that wore a suit to the interview. After they went public, that same douche bag went to a fancy Hollywood party, met Stephen Spielberg, and became his personal part time model / part time gigolo.

Apparently they make great tips.

So, needing to pay rent, you took a job at the local elementary school, trying to teach snotty noised kids about subject and predicate while they ramble off Halo strategies. During your lunch break your parents call, asking how the job search is going. You lie, say your writing for the latest Orson Wells show, and it's on Fridays at 11. This serves a twofold purpose, your parents may Google Orson Wells, see critical acclaim and never realize he has been dead for 25 years. Second, despite their best attempts at lying, your parents bedtime is 9:30, they will never watch your fictitious programing. So you go home at night, defeated, depressed, and write. You write about the tragedy of the world, how it is unfair, and how your great genius will never be fully appreciated.

One day you go on a hike to the Hollywood sign. You climb the giant H, douse yourself in gasoline, light a match, and jump off. Silently burning beneath your very dream.

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