I be a good righter.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Smiles everyone, smiles!

I just returned from paradise. When we got off the plane and began our long drive north, to the region of the Island where we'd be spending the bulk of our time and money, I began to wonder about the various TV shows that had filmed there. I knew Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum PI were set there, and obviously filmed there. But the show I'd wondered most about was Fantasy Island. I still have no idea whether it was or not. All I know is that this thought was fairly prophetic.

On June 23rd Aaron Spelling died. I'm sure there are those out there (probably you folks who still call the TV an Idiot Box) who don't care about the mogul's death. I, for one, am devastated.

Now, I'm not the type to dwell on celebrity deaths. I only watched Princess Di's funeral because I happened to be coked out and couldn't sleep. Being high was a great way to watch it. I guess, till now, the only celebrity death that impacted me in any way was Jerry Orbach. I'd spent 12 good years with him, while I watched Law & Order. My L&O spec (written so that I could write witty Briscoe lines) was the first spec to garner me attention as a writer. Previous to that, I'd enjoyed watching him in many other shows, most notably his recurring role as Jessica Fletcher's PI friend on Murder, She Wrote.

I suppose I should now enter the disclaimer that you will be privy to my extremely bad taste in television. Don't worry, I've got some critically acclaimed favorites, too. But that's not why we're here today. We're here because the only person I'd ever truly wanted to meet was Aaron Spelling. Every one of his hit shows coincides with memories for me. Some great, some not so great. But, this man, through his producing, his acting, and finally his writing has impacted my life. His death leaves me cold inside.

I was sitting at Ted's Bakery on the North Shore when I read the news. This was two days into my five day vacation of wonderment and beauty. It cast a pall. I've been thinking about how best to write this post, my heart heavy for the loss of this great figure. And, I guess, if I'd known the man personally, this would be his eulogy.

When I was young, I was allowed to watch one hour of TV a week. The rest of the time, I guess I was supposed to be doing other educational things or something. I was never quite clear on this parental ruling. And, I manipulated the rule as best I could.

The one hour I chose was always The Love Boat. I have no idea why, at that age, I was so desperate to watch it. But, every week, I'd sing along with the theme song and would wait, with bated breath, to see who'd guest star this week. I couldn't wait to see them, doing wacky poses in their superimposed port holes. I couldn't wait to see if they would dock at Acapulco, or whichever exotic location they were going. I always wondered if the couples on board, who would predictably fight halfway through the show, would find their way back together. What crazy antics would Gopher and Isaac get up to?

Fantasy Island

After that hour, I remember Fantasy Island being on. I have no idea how I watched it. Or if it was even on after TLB. I just know that I never missed it. Fantasy Island had much deeper meaning for me. You may be wondering how a child could find deep meaning in a show like Fantasy Island. Or why a child would have any sort of fantasy fit for the Island.

Here's the thing. Nine months before I was born, my older sister died at the age of four. Obviously, I never got to meet her, but (and I have no proof that this is even possible), if you do the math, you'll realize that my mother was mourning the death of her only child at the time, while I was incubating. Here's the possibly impossible part: I believe that I, in utero, felt every emotion my mother did. So, I mourned the death of a sister I'd never known. I know her now, a bit, through stories told by my mother, photographs taken by my father. Fantasy Island, brought forth that hidden mourning. It made me guilty for being alive, when my parent's first daughter was dead. And, I decided, at age nine, that if I were able to go to Fantasy Island, my wish would be to meet my sister. And, you know how at the end, something amazingly fantastic would happen? Something Mr. Roarke would magically whip up? Well, I decided that after I'd met my sister, I'd give her the chance to live again. In exchange for my life. After all, I'd thought, I'd gotten to live nine full years, and she'd only gotten four. I was pretty certain that Mr. Roarke would let us both live. But, if he couldn't, I was fine with dying so that she could live.

Hart to Hart

It was my tween years, and in the later part of the series. I'd finally manipulated some extra TV watching time. Based on using the guilt factor that my parents had rudely uprooted me to go live in Salt Lake City. So, Hart to Hart it was. I SO desperately wanted to be Jennifer Hart. She was sexy, she had this great relationship, she had fabulous cars (I want a Mercedes station wagon like you wouldn't believe) -- and, she solved mysteries! As well as not being allowed to watch a lot of TV, I wasn't really allowed to see a lot of modern movies. I grew up on Nick and Nora, Bogie and BcCall (she was my idol), Grant, Hepburn (Audrey and Kate)... Hart to Hart, to me, was the TV version of Nick and Nora. In a recent viewing of the first season of H2H, I listened to the commentary. You guessed it, it's based on Nick and Nora. Probably everyone but me knew that.

Charlie's Angels

My first viewings of the show were after Farrah'd been replaced. It was always seen at friend's houses. Being that my one hour was already allotted for something else (if not the Love Boat, then NBC's Tuesday Night Line up). These girls were tough, hot, and smart. Sabrina was my favorite. Her raspy voice, her intelligence, her penchant for turtlenecks (I was in MN and forced to wear turtlenecks, so, I found any way to make them cool). My friends and I would play Charlie's Angels when we were bored. We'd make poor Bradon, next door, be Bosley. My second viewings of Charlie's Angels would be while I was in college, back in MN. I was working at Starbucks in the morning, classes in early afternoons, and the closing shifts at a furniture store. I didn't have much time to myself, so I began a morning ritual of waking up two hours before every Starbucks shift (at four AM) and have an hour of drinking coffee and eating breakfast. During that hour on WGN or some other station, they reran eps of Charlie's Angels. It was awesome. I felt, by starting the morning with the gals, I could face my day. Later, when interviewing for a contest, it would be these reruns I'd reference, and somehow, they loved that answer, and I won the contest.


I wasn't allowed to watch this. But my mom was hooked. So, I'd sneak into her doorway to her bedroom, and watch from there (I watched a lot of TV this way, actually). I was fascinated by Joan Collins. I thought her the most evil most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. I adored Crystal, too. But she looked so much like my step-monster that I couldn't love her the way I did Alexis. And, Blake. Sigh.

Beverly Hills 90210

This show began while I was still in Salt Lake. That the Walsh's were from my hometown is why I started watching it. Little did I know then how prophetic it would be. That I'd move back to MN for school, and ultimately end up in Beverly Hills (well, a mile away). I stopped watching after Doherty left. It wasn't any sort of loyalty to Doherty. It was more that I'd gotten bored with it. However, my younger sister, living with my dad in MN was busy taping every single episode. So that when I moved back to MN, and my dad and step-mom (no longer a step-monster) decided to divorce after 15 years of marriage, I had a marathon of this show. To console me. To escape. It helped a lot.


Julia Roberts first starring role, I believe. Apparently her publicist, when she became The Julia Roberts, wasn't too pleased with the name "Satisfaction" and Julia being linked to it. I believe that this title's been changed. However, this was viewed while living in DC for a spell. In the best Summer of my life. My dad couldn't keep track of me, I had a job (paid under the table, working at a movie theater), and my friend Shannon and I watched this movie eight million times. We were convinced we were going to start a band. We did a demo tape (really it was just a tape from a karaoke booth at Myrtle Beach), convinced we'd be discovered immediately. Till we listened to it. Let's just say: I'm a writer for a reason.


Say what you will. I don't care. I was living in London, and couldn't find a lot of US TV over there. Charmed was something I could find. And I watched it. Homesick as hell. I know it's not the best show on earth. But, somehow, when I realized I wanted to write for TV, I kind of thought my first job would be on Charmed. I'm not entirely sure why. Not because it was bad, I think deep down I just wanted to write for an Aaron Spelling show.

And finally...

Split Decision

I've referred to a pilot that I loved this season. One that I waited and waited and waited to hear whether it would be picked up. It didn't. And, this is that show. I read the pilot, and I adored it. I love anything that plays with the two paths of life and the metaphoric John Hannah at the end of the tunnel. This was the embodiment of that theme. I loved it so much that I tracked the writer of the pilot down and asked if she would be so kind as to read my script. She was incredibly gracious and told me to have my agent send it right over. Between it being my favorite pilot of the year and it being a Spelling production, this would have been my dream job. And there's no way it can happen now.

So, while in paradise, all these memories came flooding to me, as I read his obituary. This man who holds the Guinness Book record of the most produced TV series, ever. This man who from 1990 to 2006 always had at least 2 shows on the air. This man who came from nothing, who was teased for being different, who overcame all this and ended up with a lifetime of success.

My best friend's cat died a year ago. This cat was her child. It was a huge blow to her. But, out of that bad moment, she realized life was short and faced a life-long fear head on. I was inspired as I watched her go through this transformation.

While in paradise, my life-long fear of the ocean faced me head on. After reading about Aaron Spelling's death, and realizing that the opportunity to meet the man died along with him, I remembered my friend's fear, and how she dealt with it. How she realized that life's too short to be afraid. On my last day in paradise, I braved the ocean. I swam out as far as I could. My feet nowhere near the ocean's bottom.

Though I was never a part of Aaron Spelling's life, he was a huge part of mine. And, I hope wherever he is now, somehow he knows that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Networking is your friend.

Okay, so staffing season is at a close. I feel like the leaves on the trees should be changing colors or some other physical evidence that the season's come to a bitter end. That there should be some sign indicating that the long nights ahead will leave us unstaffed writers huddled around the fire, ceremoniously burning our old scripts for warmth. Except it's summer and it's hot as hell. Thankfully our scripts will be spared!

So, apparently, what's happening now is that the big wig writers who have deals at studios are now prepping their pitches for next season. An exciting time, to say the least. From where, I believe, the more exciting pilots stem. Because these people aren't waiting for the season premieres of 2006. They're not chasing The Next Big Thing. They're not thinking of ABC's version of Heroes or NBC's version of Justice or... they're just digging deep into their genius brains and coming up with original material.

Recently, I've been privy to this process. It's really fucking cool. Well, to me, that is. See, a long time ago, I had the fortune to meet my writing idol. I've nurtured and cultivated this relationship. I've been patient. I've bestowed thoughtful gifts for the times she's helped me with various issues (how to break a story effectively, etc.) Thankfully, she's really fucking nice. After that first phone call -- yes, I called her out of the blue to ask her a question. She'd gotten her start in the same way I'd hoped to get my start: winning a contest. So, when I got a phone call from a contest, I called her up and asked (very politely) what her interview was like, and if she had any advice for me.

(Okay, I think this is going to be a long post -- apologies to my two readers out there!)

Idol chick gave me some advice, but it'd been a long time since she'd been in the contest world, so it was (understandably) hard to remember the exact details. Ultimately, I didn't get into the program. But, because she'd been as helpful as she could be, I wanted to send her a gift. I found out, in reading some random interview with her, that she had a favorite author from the 19th century. I immediately began a search for this author on eBay. I found an an auction for an extremely old copy of one of the author's books and checked the bidding. I was relieved to find that it was still in low double digits. I "bought it now." And sent it off to her. I recieved an email from her as soon as she got it, and we've exchanged emails ever since. When I finally won a contest (a few years later), I let her know. She had this to say: "Welcome to the seamy underbelly!" And, she invited me out to lunch! Since that invitation, we've been out to dinners and lunches and coffees. And, last week, we had dinner.

At this dinner, the most amazing thing happened. See, she's one of these big wigs with an overall deal. She's prepping her pitches for pilot season. And, get this: She asked for my advice! She let me give her notes. The next day she emailed me, as she was about to head off to vacation, and asked me more questions! I replied with my [uninformed] opinions. She replied with: "I'm printing this email out and bringing it with me so that I can work on the pitch on vacation!"

Oh. My. God. She printed out my notes on her pitch. Me. Little ole me. Sigh.

(Ugh, BooM get to the point).

So, I kind of do this a lot. Networking. When I got into that program, I called up a former winner, who coincidentally had written the script that inspired my winning script (she had a hateful character in her script that she completely redeemed by the end of the episode). I just didn't know it was her at the time. I told her about the coincidence. I told her I'd gotten into the program. I asked her if she had any advice for me (notice a theme here?). She and I have been exchanging emails for over two years now, she's helped some friends of mine out, she's generally a great person. Thing is, when I first called her, she was a producer on the show. Now she's an EP. And she's also my friend. Mainly because she knows I'm not going to ask her for anything other than advice. I'm not going to put her out. This is key when cultivating your network-y friendships. My Idol has never read anything of mine. She knows I have a blog, and I refuse to give her the URL. I literally don't want anything from these people other than stories about how they got to where they are and if I'm on the right path. So, guidance, if you will.

I also did this at a WGA event. I was incredibly moved by a panelist's story. He's been down on his luck for forever. And suddenly, he's at the top of his game. I guess this isn't an unusual story out here. But, after that panel, after a couple of glasses of champagne, I noticed that the crowd around him had thinned. So, I went up and said:

ME: "Hi. I'm BooM. You are an incredible inspiration to us aspirings -- and, I'm going to work for you one day.

He pauses. Contemplating whether I'm completely insane or not. See, everyone wants to get in his pants these days. I guess he figured I was harmless because he replied:

BIG WIG WRITER: Ha ha ha. You know... this is going to make a fantastic story one day when you're working for me and we're interviewed!

ME: YES! (ahem) Yes, it's going to be a fabulous story.

Later that night, he remembered my name as I was leaving,

BIG WIG WRITER: Great meeting you BooM -- I can't wait to tell our story!


The next day, I sent him flowers (trust me, it was big wig appropriate, though my friends all thought me insane). The note attached was: "I hope orchids are appropriate for our story?" That night, he called me to thank me for the flowers. Unfortunately, I missed the call. He left a message (apparently orchids WERE appropriate for the story). Cut to: nearly a year later: I get to go to his studio and meet with him. No, not for a job. Just a meet and greet. I asked him a bunch of advice. He gave me a bunch of advice. He also told me to call a few people, using his name -- to get through the gate -- to get advice from them... seriously. Oh, and apparently, I'll be working for him in four years.

Patience is the name of the networking game.

So, here's the thing: You have to seize the day. But, you also have to know your audience. Say Big Wig Writer were Dick Wolf, orchids would not have been appropriate. Say Idol was Tom Fontana, a 19th century book would probably not be appropriate. The point is, when you're networking (and you should be) know these people and make yourself memorable. Sometimes a gift might not be appropriate. Say, if you're not a gift-giving type. For me, it's totally within character to give grandiose gifts. It's just me. So, you have to figure out what your *thing* is, and do it.

Get thee out there to every panel, every networking opportunity, every anything! Go forth and network!