The sound of the email in my in box was a bit ominous. I knew instantly that it was related to the film. I am sure that it is another rejection email (thanks, but no thanks) nicely written and encouraging me to send them money next year. I could fuckin’ care less. I mean for real; like I care that you are rejecting me. I’ve had women legally restrain me from visiting their places of work and that didn’t stop me; you think your New York attorneys are going slow me down?. These interns must be new. I am a filmmaker, I have no shame. I’d bungee jump in my boxers if I thought it’d get me an executive producer.
I packed a bowl and ate about 30 gummy colas before I opened it. It can only be one of three things; a notice to appear (oh how I love those), the review on my short that I have been eagerly expecting to be published or a fuckin’ rejection letter. I like to be faded when I do this because when it is bad news I can pretend like I never saw it, never read it…and continue along with this delusion called filmmaking.
I open the email and I am actually surprised. It’s an invitation to apply to a “possible funding program”…that’s an awesome phrase isn’t it. A possible funding program, at a festival that should happen in April, that may attract serious money people, who might want to talk about possibly investing in my film. I mean how do you not get excited about that shit? That’s right up their with finding out you just won 3 blowjobs a day for life from the local sluts in your neighborhood.
But it’s an opportunity to get this motherfucker made…so I am in . I fill out the application online and send in my RSVP. They hit me right back, oh and it just gets better; the Q & A information session is being held at CAA. Well this ought to be fun.
I guess that it is possible that you regularly read this blog and have no idea what CAA is, or for that matter ICG or WMA; well they are agencies, big agencies that make big films with big stars. Not exactly my kind of party, but fuck it…I need to get out more so, I washed my balls and put on a fresh marijuana T-shirt and began to practice my steeze (stylo…my style).
Less than 18 hrs pass before I am on my way to this meeting. It’s on Wilshire, in Beverly which is not exactly the friendliest place on earth for brothers as dark as me, but I believe in the dream (and I have no prior convictions). I am of course packin’ 5 DVD’s, a business plan, 5 EPK’s, and my PSP. I am ready to party.
The drive into Beverly Hills is always interesting. People look at me like I am lost, or that I am a member of a sleeper cell as I sit in traffic next to people who rarely drive and don’t work. It’s a fuckin’ hoot let me tell you. I mean they don’ know if I am a millionaire fuckin’ rapper or an escaped felon (which in several cases has been one in the same). My loud exhaust and need of a paint job is making me hella conspicuous…but I could care fuckin’ less. I am on a mission.
I park the Z and load up the meter with quarters…I’m gettin’ like 12min’s per quarter which has to break some of the rules of fair lending practices, but whatever. As I walk towards the entrance I realize that there is about 6 people walkin’ in the same direction as me. All with bags on their shoulders and all practicing their pitches…yeah like we are going to pitch; you’ll be lucky if they allow you to take a piss up in this motherfucker.
I hit the door and the receptionist staff (and the security staff) both take keen notice of me without lookin’ up. I don’t know how they do they shit…but I know the do it. I walk right up to them with my ID in hand (cause I hear homeland security can shoot you if you take too long to show your ID) and they don’t even ask to see it (what is this…nice white people...I’m a bit confused??) I tell them why I am here and they point to the corner with a sigh and roll of the eyes…yeah it was like that. I was about to hit a motherfucker but I thought maybe I was channeling my “black rage” so I let it go and made a B-line for the theater. As I cross the lobby I realize that there’s a lot of people on the couches and chairs. It seemed odd but I didn’t know why.
I get to the registration table and it’s yet another hot chick (I mean what is the deal with the hot chicks? It’s not like they are going to fuck you if you get financed…enough already!) telling me to sign in next to my name and if my name isn’t on the sheet – to just write it in. Gee, I thought the whole email confirmation, RSVP and all that bullshit mean this was exclusive. See, everything is a fucking lie in this town…remember that.
I get into the theater and it’s mostly empty. I mean maybe 6 motherfuckers in this piece. That’s odd. I mean we all want money so where the fuck is everybody. I duck out of the theater and try to find the restroom; and yes, I could just walk around till I find it – assuming I don’t get arrested – but there’s enough frontin’ going on already in here – so I decide to play it straight..
The first guy I approach is this black dude in a suit. He doesn’t look happy that I am approaching him. I don’t know if he fears being identified as the homey of a million dollar rapper or is worried that I’ll violate the number of blacks guys allowed per square foot in Beverly Hills and get us both arrested. I wanted to be like “damn dog…one love” , but for all I know he’s on some Denzel Washington undercover-type shit, so I leave him be and just ask my question..
“Hey man….do you know where the pisser is”
“Gee, I’m not really sure”…and he walks off.
….what? I mean first of all what is with the whiteboy speak, yo? I’m comin’ at cha’ like a straight up G! Yamine! (that’s pronounced yah-meen = you know what it mean) Do I stink or some shit?
Now I should probably point out that I am dressed So cal. Which means jeans and a t-shirt. You see the people that are really paid – the ones that can eat, shop and fuck when ever they want…they dress the same way. Now as a filmmaker I’m on this whole – I’m a minimalist till I make a few million look - that is best described as kinda dirty jeans (I didn’t major in detergent so fuck off) and a shirt that is not new. If you squint and look at me from a car passing at a high rate of speed I almost look like I have money. And that’s how you get financed up in this piece.
Anyway…so I approach the desk of friendliness and ask where the pisser is. It is during this little conversation that I realized that all these people in the lobby are filmmakers. I assume they are thinking that they will bump into some million dollar agent and have a chance conversation that will result in a greenlight for their project.
Yeah well, that’s not how the deals get done. You can’t bum rush it; it’s not possible. The game is not set up that way and they ain’t gonna let your janky-ass change it. Having received my bathroom directions I chuckle to myself as I head to the head.
The goddamn bathroom is larger than my apartment – that’s just fuckin’ rude. I take a quick piss and dry my hands on paper towels that are thicker than my bed spread and I’m back to the theater.
It’s a regular technology expo in here. Treo’s, sidekicks and 3G phones. Curiously, no one is lookin’ around and checkin’ out the competiton…that’s very strange. I break out my PSP and shut everyone the fuck up. I’m not having fake conversations on my cell like the chick in front of me (hooka… I invented that shit)…nor am I checking my calendar (what calendar? ..I have a publicist motherfucker!)…oh and who is having the serious conversation with their fiancée (now calling your loan shark or your bookie is acceptable… but not “baby I’m going to get this money so we can build the nursery”)…I am unimpressed with all of them. Because I’m caught up on Tony Hawk on my PSP and at this rate, I wouldn’t notice if the ground opened up in front of me.
There is suddenly a loud commotion as a few persons come in toting suitcases and briefcases followed by all the filmmakers that were kickin’ it in the lobby. Ok kids if you haven’t seen Swingers then you need to rent it and learn this rule : “You got to act like you don’t need this shit, and then they give you this shit for free” – I mean c’mon people we are artists. You’re supposed to be high or depressed or jaded and misanthropic; you have an image to protect.
As soon as the place fills up I realize that I am in the minority. People are scanning, memorizing the little information brochure – as if it contains any real information; please…you must be new here. The only way to play this is to assume that there is a hidden agenda. It’s not a popularity contest, I don’t fuckin’ care what Filmmaker magazine told you.
So the thing begins and right off the bat I am like “what the fuck?” This is being run as a peer-to-peer session meaning that you can interject a question at anytime which would normally be fine, when financing is not at stake. Now I have to endure screen pimp after screen pimp as I try to get information about this program (a screen pimp is when a writer (or improve actor) poses rhetorical questions so that they can introduce information into the scene.) Things like “If your film has been shown at Sundance are you still eligible to apply”…I mean c’mon dog. If you really got it like that , would you be sittin’ here at the info session? And I really can’t be surprised. I mean you just have to get a few filmmakers together and you’ll hear all about industry connections and A-list actors that are in the mix; now why these films never get made is a mystery to me.
So anyway I’m holed up in the audience, listening to another episode of “I’m about to be a famous filmmaker” when my Blackcherry buzzes really loudly. I play it off like it’s no big deal… I peek at the message while listening to the opening remarks. It’s my review, it’s been written…he says he loved the thing. That’s what I am talkin’ about! I little professional respect…take that you fucking rookies.
Suddenly the conversation has switched to the release form. They are having a debate about it, well trying to have a debate about it. I mean what the fuck is there really to debate, either you sign it and you are in the running, or you don’t and you aren’t in the running, ever… for the rest of your professional fucking career.
You have to sign the release form….it’s non-negotiable. But wait, now they are asking if they can have their attorneys look over the document prior to submission. I mean who really has an attorney here? (well I have three, but I’m better than you – get over it.) And who knows that no matter where you go, or whom you submit to, you will have to sign a release form. So why is this being discussed?
Unable to take it anymore I raise my hand…and ask the first real question “Do you distinguish between screenwriters, writer/directors and filmmakers?” I swear to God the whole fuckin’ theater turned around to look at me (I’m sorry I thought there was a bunch of FILMMAKERS in here?)
She answers no, that we are all lumped into the narrative category but that they used to do it that way. I follow up by asking if they differentiate between the needs of writers and of filmmakers. I am really driving at the fact that I don’t pitch. I don’t have time to talk to latte drinkin’ creative types who don’t write and don’t shoot. I’m not trying to have meeting about high concepts, I am trying to have meetings about which camera houses we want to use and which locations we need.
My question is followed up by the most general and ridiculous question I have ever heard. “So what’s it like, being in the program” (there were former attendees in attendance)….like I fuckin’ care about someone else’s meet and greet. I mean does it really matter what it’s like? You aren’t going for the sites or the weather…we are here for the money. But my sentiment is not shared and we segue into a diatribe about what it’s like to take meetings in New York…whoopee! After which the filmmakers that have previously attended all introduced themselves. I hate this part. I mean we are the hopefuls in the audience, they are filmmakers that are really establishing themselves in the industry. It’s adversarial even if you are not competitive. My peers in the hopefuls section want to know what they all did to get into the program; I want to know what they have done since then. I mean either you have fire or you don’t….it’s that simple. It is during the introduction that one of the filmmakers mentions that she shot a feature a long time ago called “Closet Land”.
The title of her film hit me like a snowball in the face. Not only did I know the film, but it was really influential to me – indirectly. See back before I was a writer, before I was a filmmaker, before I was a college student… my father (who wasn’t exactly thrilled about the whole “I want to make films” thing) had an insatiable video rental habit and “Closet Land” was one of the films he rented.
This might sound geekish but hear me out – “Closet Land” (assuming that her film is the film I remember) is a film about a woman who is held against her will and tortured by “the state”. The piece impressed me for two reasons, first of all it’s not really genre specific and it meanders and straddles a few possible genres forcing you to pay attention to the narrative; and that it’s ultimately an anti-torture film financed by Amnesty International.
It was the unconscious archetype of Big Hit Productions and Sex, Love & Z-Parts. Has my art come full circle?
Luckily my beautiful moment of reminiscing is trampled by yet another stupid ass question. The scowl on my face is attracting too much attention so I decide to chill and ride out the conversation. I really try to participate and be a good guy and not hate. But that’s fuckin’ impossible, the “filmmakers” that I am sitting next to seem to have no real first hand knowledge of filmmaking. How is this possible? Do you just read a book and you’re in? I mean during the assorted discussions in this theater it becomes obvious that few in the room have command over the jargon of filmmaking. Take for example the reaction I received when I asked if the budget could just be a top sheet or did the need line-item detail. You would have thought I stuck my cock up my own ass and started rhyming in Chinese the way these people looked at me.
Our presenter continues on this journey that has become a search for information. I mean I feel bad for her. Other than me and this doc shooter down in front, the rest of these cats are totally clueless. She is very patient as she explains that you have to have shot something to apply, that an essay and some stills just ain’t going to cut it. The audience immediately counters with “what if you are really talented”…are they for real? First of all talent is relative. I’ve got friends who are talented if you consider the ability to roll a blunt while driving as “talent”. I mean I’m as arrogant as they come, but who is this motherfucker? I mean you are really going to try to talk your way into the prestigious program with no reel and last years stand-up material. Do you really think you are that good? I mean dog you are Evil Knievel in a big way (that means you have lost your better judgment( and I think you gots to chill.
I’m feeling confident now, because these people are amateurs. They are more concerned with finding an in into the film industry, that completing a particular film. They don’t have endlessly sleepless nights wondering where their next weed hook-up is coming from or how the fuck they are going to light a taxi cab at sundown.
The conversation has switched to production values…yeah, shocked the fuck out of me too. She states that production values carry a lot of weight with them. I swear it made my cock hard. Now you’re talkin’ sister! I ask a screen pimp of my own just to see what happens…
“So if you have two films that are for all intents and purposes identical and only one has high production values…”
She cuts me off and answers that “films with high production values are much more sought after those with lower values.” It was at that very moment that I realized that we were in the running. I mean we’ve got car stunts, fight sequences and a consistent color palette…gimme the fuckin’ money!
I am shot dirty looks from several filmmakers and I immediately remembered a GZA lyric “you break the mirror that reminds you of your ugliness”. I mean if you don’t have a finished piece that looks good, and you don’t have a hot script, and you don’t have a vision of what it is you are trying to do and body of work that you eagerly wish to complete…then what are you really pissed about? It’s not your turn to burn baby like disco inferno (props to Biggie).
The thing is over in a flash and everyone rushes the speakers to schmooze. I decide against this strategy, I mean what does it really get you other than sore knees and cum on your chin? I make small talk with the filmmaker that was sitting to my left. She’s doc shooter looking for $175K. Please…I am going to spend that on gummy candy.
We of course get around to talkin’ about my film and she’s taken aback by my $3M budget…but I tell her that we want to use a professional crew and that we want to feed people.
She then gives me a hell of a compliment. She says I seem to have it all planned out and that I am on my way…
Now I feel bad for clowning her doc. I guess I need to get into the holiday spirit.
...yeah that’ll fuckin’ happen.