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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life Lesson #741

I went out to Playback's Innovators Forum today; Took a day off work to attend what promised to be a very interesting session with some very interesting writers. Long story short (and without dropping too many names) I got to meet some great writers who were more than happy to answer my questions and share their experiences in the industry.

All-in-all, I have to say that it was a pretty positive experience from beginning to end.

With one minor exception. You see, I kinda screwed up.

There was one writer I was really interested in talking to, one that I'd been researching - trying to think of good questions to ask and cool things to talk about: Mr. James Manos Jr. - Creator of a little show called Dexter.

So, good news: I did my research and when I saw him walking around amongst the crowd, I mustered my courage and approached him. Big smile, big handshake. "Excuse me, are you Mr. Manos?" To which he replied "Yeah I'm Jim Manos". He seemed very cool, very chill and so I proceeded to try and chat with him.

Bad news: I bombed big time. I'm not exactly sure where or how it happened but I got about two questions out before felt enveloped by this wave of self-conciousness. All the questions I had in my mind went blank and, frankly, I panicked. Not entirely sure why I did, but let's just say I got an insight at how good LA Writers are at extracting themselves from awkward situations.

He politely downed the rest of his coffee, looked at his mug, said "excuse me for a moment" and disappeared. It was then that I had the sudden burst of self-awareness that as he walked away, well, he wasn't coming back.

Not that I blame him at all, he saw the fear in my eyes and took off. I would've done the same.

I've been thinking a bit about it - why was I suddenly so intimidated by this guy? Was it that he had made a show that I was a fan of? Was it that I was standing before someone who'd somehow made it to where I want to be (creator of his own show?)? Was it simply nerves?

Or maybe it was the fact that I knew too much - had invested too much or expected too much - to simply let a conversation be just that: a conversation.

Anyways, I don't want to self-analyse too much - or beat myself up about it - but I will say this: I learned 3 very important things from him in that very short meeting.

1) He didn't start writing until 35 and he never went to writing school.
2) When asked, his main piece of advice (outside of "don't get into this business") was to get out there and live life, meet characters and gather material for your stories. On a side note, it's something I can agree with in principle, but I'm not going to put the career I want on hold for 10-20 years just to go backpacking around the world.
3) There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to handle a conversation. The deer in headlights look - well, it's a bit of a momentum killer.

I guess you could also say I learned a bit about the art of getting out of awkward situations. I don't really drink coffee... but maybe I should start.

In other news, I had a really insightful chat with Peter Rowley about pitching shows and how best to find the core of what you're trying to sell. I'd been coming at it from the angle of all these cool things that I'd wanted to have happen, all these sweet details and twists I'd worked out for the season and I was getting frustrated trying to fit it all into my pitch (let alone my logline).

Peter was honest and he said something that made a scary bit of sense. Essentially it went something like this: 'Even if they hire you to make your own show, what they really want is you, they want your voice and everything else - any episodes you've written, bios, bibles, etc. - is in the trash. They want to have input, they want to re-break it from the ground up.'

So, what it forced me to do was pull everything off it and ask what my show is really about. What is at the core?

Outside of all the Horror and creepy stuff, outside of the darkly comedic tinges, it's about our quest for self-discovery; about the family we make for ourselves along the way. The family we get to choose.

Now that I've got the beat sheet done and the rough outline's in the bag I'm starting to feel pretty confident about starting my first draft. I know what I want, the steps are there, the flesh is on the bones - now it's just a matter of trying to find the lightning with which to zap this thing.

Will it live? Guess only time will tell.


1 comment:

Cherelleski said...

If it makes you feel any better, I did pretty much the same thing when I met Henry Rollins a long, long time ago. Only difference was, I was the one who bailed! LOL! It was one of those "DEAR GOD WHY WON'T I STOP TALKING!! RUN AWAY RUN AWAY" moments.
There's also the fact that the creator of "Dexter" probably gets his share of obsessed crazies... sometimes it's best to know as little as possible! As long as you don't ask "Where do you get your ideas?!" I hate that question.