One of the myriad screenwriting blogs or websites I read or stumble upon recently fielded a question from someone asking how not to be nervous when going into a pitch situation. In his answer, the responder referred to Samurai warriors, who before going into battle, imagined themselves already dead. They would visualize the sword coming down and slicing them in two. In this way, they would lose their fear of taking risks in battle, because, in their minds, they were already dead. Being already dead made them fearless.
Few things put me in a worse mood than filling in the forms at withoutabox.com. The whole process, answering page after page of questions about “my project” that don’t need to be answered for the contest at hand (in this case, for others who are interested, the Final Draft Big Break competition), and, of course, entering my credit card number at the end of it, just makes me grumpy and irate.
On the battlefield beneath the Hollywood sign, it is easy to imagine myself already dead–professionally speaking. But I’m not sure it makes me fearless so much as depressed.
I guess it makes me able to “take risks.” If taking risks means filling out a bunch of forms and throwing another fifty bucks on my credit card. The choreography of the battle isn’t thrilling, but I think I have the attitude down. I truly send these things off with no hope. The only thing that keeps me doing it is obligation. On a day that I was more hopeful and optimistic, I promised myself that this year I would submit to all the big contests…that I would go all out until I ran out of money. Right now. me-that-is-already-dead is just fulfilling the contract to me-who-still-had-hope, even though she’s not here right now. This is how it works. She makes the plans, I follow through. She thinks we make a good team. I find it hard to believe that it even matters, but I’d hate to have her come around and find out I bailed on our commitments. She’s such a lovely optimistic person who visits so rarely, I’d hate to fuck up her day when she does.
A few more updates on the topic of Hollywoodland. A friend recently asked about the outcome of First Pitch. The evening went well, it was even sort of fun. I pitched to agencies, production companies and management companies. I received a number of requests, either that night, or via email after the fact. I was very pleased to be able to send scripts to eight production companies and management companies. (I didn’t hear from either agency that I pitched to, but I wasn’t really interested in them either.)
I sent out scripts two weeks ago as of last Thursday. So far I have heard back from ONE production company, and no one else. Next week, I have been told, is the week I should do a round of emails gently nudging them to find my script in the pile and give it a read, assuming they have not yet done so. At least, I’m hoping they have not yet read, because certainly if they have and haven’t responded, the response will be lackluster.
The company who did respond was positive, and invited me to my first Beverly Hills lunch meeting, where the person told me that he didn’t think the script was right for his company, but that he liked the writing and was “a fan.” This is a phrase I’m starting to hear more often, but I’m not really sure what it means. I used to hear “I liked it, wanted to love it,” and thought that meant the person actually did like it, even if they didn’t love it. It doesn’t really mean that. “I’m a fan,” sounds better than this–but the phrase slides off the tongue in that same practiced way that makes me think it means something not quite as good as it sounds. But in any case, the person offered to send the script to some other companies, and later wrote to tell me he had done so, so this was very nice of him. I guess I’m a fan of him, too, for doing that.
And here is a final announcement–it has to do with Paul. He recently found out he is a finalist for the HBO/DGA Fellowship. This would be a big deal. DGA, for my civilian friends, stands for Director’s Guild of America. Getting into TV directing is insanely difficult for many reasons, but this fellowship is a great side-door in. It would PAY him $50,000 for the year to work on a show, he’d get to observe and be mentored by directors on a show. The application process isn’t easy–in addition to the normal forms and essays, and a reel, you also have to have recommendations from two working directors. That in itself narrows to the competition to folks who have connections–a film school, friends or family background, or enough time in the business to have met two working directors. There were 750 applicants this year, and Paul is in the top 18. In a few weeks they will let him know if he is in the top five, and if he is, he will get to interview for one of the three available positions.
This is cause for some positivity, except in cases like this, hope can lead to such disappointment…he hoped so hard each year for the Coca-Cola Contest, and thesis, and the music video contest, and in each case fell in the final round. Last year he made it to the interview stage for Film Independent’s Project Involve, but didn’t get a slot. He jokes that he’s a “professional finalist.” Maybe it’s better to imagine you are already dead.