Sunday, September 21, 2008

15 SECONDS OF FAME

I need to take this time to congratulate some of my friends. Although I’m still struggling to find my way through Hollywood, my friends are starting to “make it.” I’m seeing their names in the newspaper, on the internet, on movie posters, and on buses and billboards! A former co-worker/friend recently directed a John Cusack movie. My old roommate, who squeezed in 4 hours a day to play Halo and NBA Live, also managed to write and sell a few scripts. I’d like to take credit for helping him, but I think I only served as a distraction. His first movie came out this weekend. One of my basketball buddies/acquaintances now writes for the Office and will be penning the new Ghostbusters movie.

The list goes on.

So what does it take to make it in the entertainment industry?

I’ve argued that making it in the biz is like being popular in high school. If you’re really good looking, really rich, or really weird, then you’re all set. Unfortunately, I am only moderate in each of these categories. That just does not suffice in Hollywood.

I figured the next best way to “make it” was to live each day like it was the E! True Hollywood story: do a lot of drugs, go to jail, become a born again religious fanatic, etc. All these people become famous. Their life spiraled out of control before they finally “made it.” Or they “made it” and then their life fell apart. But my life is actually kind’ve mundane. You couldn’t make an E! True Hollywood story based on my life; what would they say? “All was fine in his life until the infamous 7th grade bike trip. He fell down three times and had to take the van home. He cried that day. Little did he know that soon he would propel himself into a star!”

I even moved to Hollywood to try to “make it” the old fashioned way. I wrote screenplays. I was so proud of my work. My family and friends were too. Everyone was so encouraging! Then Hollywood sharks read my screenplays. They, mostly 22 year-old agent’s assistants, shredded my hopes and dreams with rejection letters and “soft passes.” Those that were supportive offered this brilliant advice: “Keep writing.”

I ignored them.

I stopped writing for a while. Instead, I worked as a production assistant, casting assistant, editing assistant, assistant assistant, but still nothing. I did improv comedy, stand-up comedy, and although it’s embarrassing to admit, I even worked on the show Touched By An Angel for four days.

I spun the wheel on the Price is Right, made people eat worms on Fear Factor, and kicked Tobey Maguire’s butt in basketball on the set of Spider-Man. But I still felt empty. Although I was having fun and gathering memorable experiences, I still hadn’t progressed in the entertainment industry.

After a long hiatus from my computer and Final Draft, I began writing again. I revised a college comedy script, and submitted it to a number of people. I was confident in my work. And I changed my attitude. I ignored criticism and didn't take anything personally. Nothing was going to slow me down this time. And I changed my mindset too. All I had to do was convince one big shot to believe in me. I was going to “make it” no matter what.

I got “the call” in the late Summer of 2007. Most people don’t know this, including most of my friends, but I was famous for about fifteen seconds. I was the talk of the town. I was the hottest writer in Hollywood. I had finally “made it.”

Here are my fifteen seconds of fame:

August, 2007

(To protect my anonymity, I’ll be known as PAUL SHERMAN.)


My friends and I were driving from Boston to Montreal for yet another bachelor party. The music blasted as we debated over Montreal’s best strip club (I said Karma Sutra.) My phone vibrated in my pocket and I casually picked it up. I looked at the number; it was a 310 (Hollywood) and I didn’t recognize it.

I asked my friends to quiet down and lower the music. On the other end of the line was a woman who sounded hot.

WOMAN: Paul, I have Doug Johnson on the line for you.

In Hollywood, IMPORTANT people never make the call. That’s why they have assistants. Important people are above making phone calls, checking e-mails, ordering food. One may also conjecture that important people have assistants because they may not know how to use the phone or type an e-mail (see John McCain.)

My heart skipped a beat when I heard the name Doug Johnson. Doug is a pretty successful manager who recently produced my friend’s movie. We met a few times over the years, and he even tried to sell one of my screenplays. Once he became important, he started ignoring me.

I sent Doug my latest script eight times. He lost it. His assistant lost it. He lost it again. You get the point. I was a nobody so he didn’t have time for me.

UNTIL NOW!

He was psyched to get me on the line.

DOUG JOHNSON: Sherman, what’s up dude?! Your script is killing, man.

I could barely muster up a word. I had been waiting for this call my entire life.

DOUG JOHNSON: Everyone wants to be attached to this thing. How was the meeting with Jack Black and those producers?

My heart dropped. Holy shit! Nobody ever called me. I’m an hour away from Montreal. Maybe I can go straight to the airport and fly out. Jack Black! This is crazy.

ME: Nobody ever told me about the meeting. Don’t worry. I’ll do whatever it takes.

DOUG JOHNSON: Sherman…stop joking around.

ME: Doug, nobody told me. But I’m sure we can work something out.

DOUG JOHNSON: You missed the Jack Black meeting? Are you serious?

ME: It’s OK. I’ll fly out today. Anything you want.

DOUG JOHNSON: Come on DAN…stop being an idiot.

DAN??? My heart froze. My jaw dropped. I felt nauseous.

ME: Dan? This is PAUL.

DOUG JOHNSON: Oh, shit.

Doug shouted at his assistant.

DOUG JOHNSON: GLORIA! You called the WRONG Sherman.

Doug turned his attention back to me. He was casual in his tone not realizing he had just ruined my life.

DOUG JOHNSON: Sorry about that Paul…how are you?

I wanted to yell and scream at him, but I was in shock. I mustered up a few harmless words.

ME: I’m ok. Did you ever read MY script?

DOUG JOHNSON: Gotta go. Keep writing. See ya.

Click!

I’ve been horribly rejected before, but this has to be the worst feeling I’ve ever felt. Add up the Sox choke jobs in 86 and 2003, the Patriots loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, my first serious girlfriend dumping me, finding out my good college buddy was hooking up with my first big crush, my 5th grade girlfriend crying after I kissed her on the cheek, getting sick from drinking for the first time, breaking my collar bone in 3 places, and getting kneed hard in the groin, and then multiply it by a 100. That’s how I felt. It was painful.

THIRTEEN MONTHS LATER: Present Day

I still haven’t sold a screenplay. I still haven’t “made it.” And I still get nauseous when I tell this story. But the good news is that I’m still writing. I write my blog for me, my friends, and whoever else wants to read it. And I actually enjoy writing again. Part of me hopes someone important reads my blog and offers me a big money deal. But I’m not sitting around and waiting for it. And if I ever do get “the call,” I’ll definitely make sure that they have the right person on the phone.

I have sent my blog to Doug Johnson. I never heard from him. But something tells me if this gets passed along to him, he would probably check it out. Of course, I’m sure he’d probably confuse me with someone else anyway.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hated that bike trip to Borderland. Keep writing!

Michael Taylor said...

What a great -- if mortifying -- story. I've been victimized by similar name confusion, but never in such a brutally cruel, God-must-hate-me manner.

Thanks for sharing it.

And dude, keep writing...

Pasifik said...

Great article!

Keep posting,


WEDDING RINGS

Anonymous said...

ESPN2 Broke My Heart.

They showed the Patriots snow game.

Oh, the snow game. When we got excited when our kid backup QB made a 6 yard completion to J.R. Redmond. When we didn't know exactly what was coming together in Foxborough and we were just happy to finally be playing an important game again. When we were the underdog. When Tom Brady was just a kid with a bad haircut and a stiff motion. When Troy Brown was everywhere on the field and Tebucky Jones and Lawyer Milloy punished anyone who came over the middle.

When you could only tell where the ball was based on the plowed 5 yard markers. When we played in a stadium that had been around since the 70s. A stadium with hard metal benches that froze your ass but kept you on edge. Where you could get a seat under $150 and didn't have to suffer through fireworks, obnoxious music, and 17 advertisements that had nothing to do with football.

When we were glorious underdogs who scrapped out 17-13 victories. When we were young, single, clueless, drunk, and expected nothing from our football team.

When we thought the game was over, when we were SURE the game was over. But wasn't. When our kicker kicked a frozen ball 40 yards to improbably tie the game. And then only to do it again from 47 yards to seal the win.

When we celebrated by making snow angels and tackling each other like 3 year olds.

I miss that day.

Marcy said...

great post! keep 'em coming. i love reading your blog!!!

SWM said...

Great story, check out my blog it may even give you an idea for a screenplay. Keep writing man, its good for the soul.

http://salesmans-antics.blogspot.com/

Lady Violet said...

I'm pretty sure I would be totally weird in hollywood but not in a way that would make me famous. I should make friends with Suzanne Summers. We could rant about the hazards of American food.

The Brain Twinkey said...

I was so psyched for you...for a second. Keep it up and hopefully everything will work out. If you're looking for something a little off center to distract you check out my blog. Postings are short and a little bizaar.

http://braintwinkey.blogspot.com

Argentum Vulgaris said...

I read the original post, it doesn't lose a thing in the retelling.

AV
http://netherregionoftheearthii.blogspot.com/
http://tomusarcanum.blogspot.com/

Randall Bobbitt said...

Great Post...

christophervalin said...

I've been here trying to "make it" for ten years and haven't had anything as bad as either this or your Larry David story. I did have the assistant to the president of a production company call and say that everyone there was talking about my script (from the readers to the development exec) and she couldn't put it down herself, and the president was going to read it that weekend. After not hearing from her for a couple weeks, I called back and discovered she was no longer there, and there had been a major turnover in all the staff. And my script had been "lost."

Hang in there.