22 March 2007

A Small Hollywood Adventure: Day 5 (LAX)

Wednesday I wake earlier than I’d expected, so I plod down to the “continental breakfast”, grab some coffee, yogurt, and a muffin, and come back to the room not long past sunrise to go over some more notes, add some thoughts and reflections to the commentary about the meetings and what was said and suggested, and also jot some outline notes for one of the projects I hope to bang out for the Paramount guy.

My flight isn’t scheduled to leave til mid-afternoon, but knowing the way LA traffic can snarl, I’m reluctant to try and schedule very much that last morning for fear that I’ll find myself screaming in a mad dash to get the rental car returned, shuttled to the airport, and checked in at LAX. I try to scare up a coffee date with a few different LA pals, but the half I can get in touch with are swamped at work, and the other half all seem MIA, out of town on personal or professional business.

Of course, that’s when I get in touch with Mr. Big Time Writer Pal via phone, and he groans when it becomes clear that I’ll not be able to hook up for a face to face on this trip—he now lives out in the hills an hour away from Hollywood, so a trek there would likely not be worth the time to get there given the crunch it would leave me in for the departure flight. We chat for ten or so minutes as he wants the details of the meetings, how it went, what good news if any I got. He seems happy enough and says “so, when do you come back?”

“Well, as soon as there’s undeniable reason, or this summer, whichever comes first.”

“Excellent. Well, let’s find a way to work it out when you come back.”

At that point I decide it’s too cool a day to spend it sitting in the hotel room, so I load up, check out, and head back through Hollywood to Larchmont Village, a cool little shopping district lined with cafes and coffeeshops. I throw the rental into a lot, find a window table at Peet’s Coffee, and set up to scribble notes and ideas.

I have to smile as I check my neighbors: to my right a middle-aged woman has a printed screenplay and is marking it up madly. To my left a guy on a cool white Powerbook G4 works on the summary to a new writing project. Through the window in front of me I can see over the shoulder of another guy in a silver MacBook Pro has Movie Magic open and is hammering away at a treatment for what I can clearly see titled “UNTITLED COLD FUSION PROJECT”.

LA, baybee.

I scribble ideas for the two Paramount projects, and I hear snippets of conversations from other tables: “… agent loved the new pages…” “ have a deadline tonight, so I need to get this treatment done…” “…yeah, her COLD CASE script aired last night—it was OK…”.

Suddenly I am reminded that all the whiny fuckers back home sitting at their keyboards lamenting the difficulty of getting something read or produced in H’wood really have little clue about the quantity and quality of the competition already on the ground locally out here. Ever third person you encounter seems either a writer or connected to one somehow, and everywhere there is the manic slightly desperate electric crackle of People Chasing The Dream.

On the one hand it’s humbling to consider just how many damned scripts and ideas are splashing against the cliffs of Island Hollywood, but on the other, I have to smile and take some comfort in the fact that I’m here, now, rolling thee same dice these guys are, and there’s nothing I’ve yet seen that makes me think I am any less likely or less qualified to claim some lucky break than is anyone else I encounter in this chase.

“Survival is victory. Let the other guy quit, and let tireless endurance be your strength…”

I spend a little more than an hour writing and watching, and then I decide to start wandering south toward LAX. Down to Wilshire. Over to La Cienega. Down past the 405 to drop off the rental, then a quick shuttle bus ride to LAX and the counter for Continental. Somehow I catch every light, and encounter none of the traffic I expect, and I wind up at LAX almost a full hour ahead of my anticipated ETA. When I check in I find my flight delayed by an hour, meaning I now have a three hour wait in the terminal.

I hear from one or two LA friends saying sayonara and wishing me well. It’s good to hear their voices, as these are friends whom I love dearly but get to see maybe twice a year—when I travel to LA or they come to Austin for the screenwriter’s conference. We stay in touch online via email and chat, but somehow that often only makes the dull ache of missing them that much worse: to know that they are that close, and that far.

When I try to explain these odd feelings to my wife or my other ‘real world” friends, I’m not sure they truly understand what I mean, what this feeling is. I have other friends that I seldom see—old college roommates, former neighbors, relatives—but those are not people who are fighting this same odd dragons. Writing and screenwriting most especially—is often a lonely business.

Freelancing locally is one thing, but at least there the clients and the peers are within sight and understanding. In screenwriting, if you’re not in LA, you’re largely out of mind for many purposes and events. Swinging through LA for 3 or 4 days is both exhilarating and depressing, as I am momentarily am riding the beast itself, part off the same whirlwind of possibility, but I also have to live with the understanding that at the end of these cool wild exciting days, there is that moment when I will wake up, and I will be back in the real world, where Hollywood—that oddly surreal world where everyone is playing that same game, where everyone totes around an Apple laptop and understands what it means to wrestle with second act difficulties, and every café might put you next to Quentin Tarantino or some other movie make believe character.

Here it the entire world believes in the same impossible magic every hour of every day. Here the sky remains eternally blue, and every jasmine breeze hints of dreams half a hair's breadth from turning real.

”Continental flight 594 offering non-stop service to Houston now boarding at gate 23A...”

And once again the clock strikes midnight, and Cinderella heads for home.
somewhere ‘tween Hollywood and H-town B


wcmartell said...

I had a friend in town who commented on how everyone seemed to be writing a script - and there waqs this little kid sitting in Starbucks with a laptop, and I joked that they were stuck on Act 2, knowing they were probably playing some video game...

Nope. The kid was working on a script!

- Bill

Anonymous said...

but don't forget 90% of those scripts are shit or will be treated as shit, so that is a lot of ka-ka to wade through... let's just hope our stuff floats

Harry Connolly said...

Good luck, Brett.

Have you ever brought your wife and kids with you on one of these trips?

aggiebrett said...

Martell-- every time I am in LA, I keep waiting to hear some pre-teens talking about some development deal they have with Sony.

Quill-- oh, I know that the majority of the competition is laughably bad, but given a near infinite supply of keyboard banging monkeys, it only takes a small percentage to really put a crimp in your chances.

HC-- hell, no! I may be dumb, but I ain't STOOPID!

(Wife has no interest in toursiting Hollywood, and my oldest son did in fact trek with me last summer-- he loves it).