Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reel Life: Finding The Door

As an avid, yet amateur writer, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of my own inspiring reverie. However, I deem my efforts to inspire people in the business quite trying. Professors, students and even a homeless man on the corner offered a sense of optimism. The homeless man, a beacon of a worst case scenario, kept his wisdom concealed but wore his regret on his face. He was and is a simple yet complex form of inspiration. I don't know him, but I would bet all of my grandmother's wisdom that he in fact has a story to tell. If "published" work and recognition are forms of currency then consider me the homeless guy on the corner. Because my grandmother's imparted wisdom and a bunch of untold stories are all I have left. This is in no way a "woe is me" tale of battered ambition, but a realistic scope of the industry from where I stand--the heart of South Jersey.
               College offered a great deal of empowerment. Professors instilled in me the proper faith needed to keep a dream alive, but also encouraged the fortitude to keep a thick hide for those bitter seasons of cold rejection. They served up a glass half full of aged aspirations. And believe you me--I drank it down because college students love free things that free their inhibitions. Soon I was drinking straight from the bottle. Once I finished the pilot to my sitcom, I took the proper steps to get it out there. The steps entailed writing query letters and proposing them to literary agencies in the hopes of finding representation. I sent out at least 25 query letters to agencies ranging from the cream of the crop to agencies that had lesser cliental. I patiently awaited a response, anything to show that I touched base with someone or something. Overall I received two responses. One came in the form of a courtesy email which basically stated that they didn't deal with screenplays and things of that nature. The other response came four months later in the form of a professional letter on a company letterhead. It stated that, because of copyright issues, they were unable to view my proposal. And if I happened to see anything on television similar to my idea, it would be just a coincidence. In a delusional state of mind I took comfort in knowing that my query didn't get lost in the mail and I'd be so lucky if this agency stole my idea. I haven't written a query since. After researching the formalities of such proposals on the internet, I became inundated with the realities of the business. It turns out one should acquire a manager before proposing anything to agencies. Whether my findings were fact or fiction, I was left baffled like the first time I discovered a catch-22. By the time graduation came, I felt like I had so much to learn. I guess that's why so many people go to graduate school. But, for someone who was already sixty grand in the hole, I wasn't about to ante up into the American dream pot. So, I took my B.A. and called it a day.
               Moving forward, I put my work on a shelf both literally and figuratively. This was my stage of trying to get my foot in the proverbial door--somewhere, anywhere that involved television or film. I've always been on the path of learning. And once I learned that there was a new film studio in Pennsylvania called Sun Center Studios, I knew I had to find the door. I contacted the president of the company to inquire about employment. I sort of figured that he wouldn't get back to me. It turns out, I figured right. So, I browsed the Sun Center Studios web site and made a stunning revelation--like most studios, this studio offers tours. I contacted the president, inquiring about tours this time. Surprisingly, he replied, quickly I might add. He asked me to state the purpose of the tour. I told him that I am a writer, director and I would love to use the facility in the future. Well, I guess he'll get back to me when the future arrives. Until then maybe I'll sneak into Sun Center Studios, pose as a custodian, find a dry erase board, write out a script and wait for someone to discover my genius (Mostly joking, partially sarcastic).
               People always talk about finding that one connection, that one in. I thought Curt was going to be my connection. A co-worker of mine, a title searcher, happened to golf with this man named Curt who is a writer/director/producer. Next thing you know I had a meeting scheduled with Curt at his office in New Jersey. He also has an office in L.A., but no big deal. I knew going into it that this wasn't a business meeting, however a sit down with a seasoned mover and shaker of the industry. Therefore, I needed to conjure up some intelligent and important questions like, “What are the intelligent and important moves I need to be making?” However, he answered all of my questions in one sentence that tortures me every time I hear it which was, “You need to move out to L.A.” Unlike most like-minded people, I don't have the luxury of making that move. Adulthood and local responsibility take top priority. From what I'm told, the chances of me getting into the film industry if I move out to L.A. are pretty good. But, I feel like there are a lot of opportunities in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Well, there was at least one.
               I had a chance to work as a P.A. on a local feature film. I would have had the opportunity to rub elbows with the likes of Cory Monteith and David Morse. Talk about stellar acquaintances, especially for my first feature length film. Unfortunately, I made one huge mistake, perhaps the most invaluable lesson yet. When the director's assistant called me and asked if I was available to work on the film, I hesitated. First of all I was flabbergasted by the fact that I was even called upon. My responsibility instincts kicked in and I tried bargaining with the woman, proposing something like, “Would I be able to work half of the shooting schedule?” This was a big no-no. The reason I suggested half of the shooting schedule was because I already had a full time job (clerk typist, mind you) and I'd have to clear it with my employer. I could have used two weeks' vacation. However, the entire shoot was four weeks. The woman seemed to be receptive to the idea and said she would get back to me. Translation: We'll find someone else who will work the entire shoot (someone less complicated). If there is anything that I learned from this experience it is to just say yes and adjust your schedule accordingly. Make it happen. There's no time for maybes. Next time my answer will be, “Yes, yes, a million times yes.”
               I picked up my first issue of IndieSlate about ten years ago--before I started film school. An article about story structure caught my eye and I've held onto it ever since. I thought about that article recently and it has inspired me to change my aspiration lens from a phantasmal dream to a celluloid reality. My focus now is on a short independent film which I'm currently writing. Like the essence of story structure, I will see it through from start to finish, hoping to bring it to full fruition. This is the direction that I'm going in right now. Perhaps it's the direction I should have been going all along.

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