Monday was cool. I slept late. And by late I mean “past 8 AM.” I woke, showered, then worked some email and did some light writing on the laptop in the room -- nothing major, but it’s an old tradition for me that when I am on any sort of writing related road trip, by God I WILL do some sort of writing every day.
After 90 or so minutes of screwing around on a keyboard, it’s time to walk the four or five blocks to meet my agent, Brant Rose, for the first time in meatspace (real world, for you non-hip folks). Now, the fact that I have any agent remains a giggle-inducing fact for me, but that this agent is one whom I have long known about and respected and admired and had numerous peers lust after unsuccessfully... well, it is yet one more amazing point in all this Nicholl-related craziness.
Brant Rose Agency is located in Crossroads Of The World, this oddly LA-ish enclave of buildings from the 1930s that is described as America’s first try at a shopping mall. Over the decades the odd little village of cottages and storefronts and Bavarian chalets has been a center for retail, for songwriters, for rock music folks, for porn producers, and now seems to be mounting a baby renaissance for agents and managers and other small-shop movie folks.
I meet Sally, the cool-talking English assistant/receptionist whom I’ve spoken to a dozen times and somehow she doesn’t look exactly as I imagined, but to be honest I have no idea what I imagined. She escorts me down the hall to the small lounge area meeting room where I plop down on a sofa and stare up at a huge vintage poster for the 1968 Jane Fonda wacko classic, BARBARELLA.
As I sit and stare up at Jane’s spectacular boobs, I nod approvingly and think "Yup, I signed with the right agent.”
A moment or two later Toochis Morin, Brant’s partner in the firm, comes in and we meet for the first time. Now, Toochis and I have played and goofed on the phone enough that we have something like a playfully flirtatious proto-friendship going already, so we immediately drop into the same old very silly bantering that we’ve already come to expect. I piss and moan and grumble about the strike, and she does her best to buoy my playfully black mood, and at some point we start drifting toward actual serious client-rep talk as she explains "well, our job is to read your stuff and get you the right meetings based off what we read.”
I take that as a perfect moment to pull a completed spec from my bag and drop it on the small coffeetable separating us. "Well, with that happy thought in mind..."
Toochis looks at the script, looks at me. I smile, as I have a vague understanding of her confusion: when brant’s office first approached me, they of course requested my Nicholl finalists script, QUEEN OF THE SKY, and when they started getting more serious/curious about taking me on, we talked about some other scripts in my bag, and they seemed to spark to some ideas and actually requested some comedy scripts (which they say were a big part of their decision to bring me on as a client), but unbeknownst to them I held back one cool idea which was already a completed script.
Why? Oh, I dunno. Mostly because I’m a goofy wingnut who likes to surprise people and keep them off-balance. This “secret script” is a goofy campy low budget creature feature comedy I came up with first as a stupid joke and then realized was a great concept for a low budget movie idea, so I’ve been quietly banging away on it for the past few months as a sort of sideline to more serious stuff. The title is great, and the tagline is absolutely killer (and no I am not publicly divulging either right now, so deal with it, sucker...). My pkan was to walk in and surprise Brant and Toochis with a great affordable commercial genre comedy that could be converted into an “easy” (heh) sale.
Toochis blinks, looks at the script, picks it up, reads the title, smiles widely. I hit her with the tagline. She looks at me with shock, then starts to howl with laughter.
”Brant! Get in here!”
Brant wraps up a call and comes in quickly, waves a greeting and takes the script from Toochis.
”Read the title, then hit him with the tagline, Brett.”
He reads, I hit, he looks up and starts laughing loudly. They look at each other and start chattering and laughing. Sally comes running into see what the fuss is about. Brant hands her the script.
"Read the title.”
She reads it aloud and smiles.
Brant points at me as a signal. I again drop the painfully sophomoric tagline. Sally looks up like someone goosed her ass. She starts to scream in laughter.
”Is it any good?” Toochis asks. I explain that it is, and that it’s somewhere between TREMORS and PREDATOR in the goofy campy scale.
Things go well from there.
We spend the next two hours talking about this new thing, which then leads me to ask ”so what made you guys offer to rep me so quickly? Other folks from our Nicholl class are having meetings but I’ve not heard anyone being offered a deal. What the hell did I do differently? I’d love to know so that maybe I can try to keep doing it.”
”You came in with a clear entrepreneurial sense of drive and purpose,” Brant explains. ”Great ideas are pretty much a dime a dozen in this town, but it’s exciting when you run into someone who can execute them and who understands how to monetize and market them. You won us over in that first conversation. You get it.” he lifts the new spec as some sort of evidence to support that claim.
”Well, OK. Whatever. So what next?”
We talk about QUEEN OF THE SKY and immediately the discussion turns to casting the lead role of Lilya. Given the WGA strike, there’s no point in even talking about sending the material to studios or producers, but it might be possible and useful to try and attract the strong support of a solid young “name” actress: if we can get some top-drawer 20-something cutie to fall in love with the piece, that might give us enough added momentum to then (eventually) snag the attention and interest of a director or producer of commercial relevance.
We brainstorm ideas for casting the lead roles, and I start to get a strange feeling when it hits me that every name I mention gets scribbled into notes, and often Brant and Toochis swap a comment or two about the reps for these actresses. It hits me that they are talking about sending my pile of pages to actual, you know, actresses. the kind who are in movies.
”Uh... you guys are seriously talking about sending my stuff to these people?”
They both look at me like I farted.
”Uh, yeah, Brett. That’s kinda what we do.”
Suddenly it hits me even harder: this is all becoming freaky real.
We then go on to talk about some of the other ideas and specs I’ve mentioned and shown them, and we agree that we can and should use this strike time to go over some of these to ensure that when the white flag again gets waved to resume racing, that we are all fully ready to hit with full force and effect. We talk about how the process will eventually (hopefully) play out, and what I need to stand ready to do when the call finally comes in, and I say ”just get me in the fuckin’ room so I can make money for us all.”
Brant gets a call and says he’ll be back. Toochis and I chatter on. We touch upon the new script again, and it turns out that she and I share some goofy favorite movies in our past. Eventually I toss up my ahnds and ask ”So what do I do next? Gimme a task. A project. A chore. Something.”
”Did I give you the ‘Twenty Ideas In A Week’ assignment yet?”
I glower and shake ‘no.’
”We like all our new clients to go home and give us twenty ideas for movies within one week. We like to see them flex their creativity muscles on a timetable.”
I pull a thumbdrive from around my neck, slide it across the table.
”The Word file is titled ‘SCRIPT IDEAS.’ I think it’s up to 42 entries right now, but it’s always in flux so I might be low or high by one or two.”
Toochis looks at the drive, then shoots me a smile.
”You know how to make your agents very very happy -- you know that?”
We giggle and play around for a few more minutes, then Sally comes in and ruins the fun by reminding all that we each have various other things going at 1 pm, so we say our goodbyes and continue the giggling nonsense until I finally wander off into the midday glare, wandering down flower-draped back alleys toward the gleaming tower of my hotel just a few blocks away.
(to be continued....)