Kind of a Mother’s Day column. But we’re, you know, behind:
by Martha Thomases
Like everyone else in the United States, I saw Iron Man 3 last weekend with my illustrious colleague,Mike Gold. I went for the explosions. I went to see my future husband, Robert Downey Jr. I went because I love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Shane Black beyond all reason.
And I had a good time. But, as time goes on and I have time to consider what I saw, there is one thing that bugs me. If spoilers are going to bother you, depending on your standards for what constitutes a spoiler, you may want to stop reading now.
And that brings us to this week’s word:
There is a kid in the movie who helps Tony Stark. The kid lives in Tennessee with his mom, his dad having abandoned them long ago. The kid is, of course, a boy, because, for the most part, boys are more interesting to Hollywood than girls are.
If I were still a kid, this would have been my absolute favorite part of the movie, because I would identify with the boy (identifying with boys is something girls are expected to do all the time, although the converse is rarely true) and feel what it’s like to hang out with a super-hero. As an adult, I thought this part went on a bit too long.
So long, in fact, that I started to worry about the kid. His mother had to work, so she wasn’t at home. At night. Leaving her kid by himself, to run around town with Iron Man, even when there were explosions. We don’t know if she ever finds out what he was doing.
Mothers are hardly ever the leading characters in action-adventure stories. In comics, there is Sue Storm in Fantastic Four, Mark Andreyko’s Manhunter, and I can’t think of any others (please correct me in the comments). There are a lot of mom’s (and mom surrogates) who are supporting characters – Martha Kent, Martha Wayne, Aunt May, Maggie Sawyer, Hippolyte – but very few headliners have to find child care.
I think this has to do in large part because of who makes comics, and who they think the audience is. Men, for the most part, don’t identify with mothers. Boys (of all ages) prefer to think of their moms as people devoted to being parents, not lean, mean, world-saving machines.
As for sex, that other inspiration for plots, none of these guys want to think about their moms – or anyone’s mom – having sex. Ever. Unless that woman is maybe the mother of Blue Ivy Carter.
In real life, of course, mothers are heroes every hour of every day. No matter how one defines the term, mothers are brave and self-sacrificing and just plainbad-ass.
And that’s after they have pushed a live human being out of their bodies.
You could take your mom to see Iron Man 3 this weekend, and she’ll probably like it, because, in addition to its other attributes, it has Guy Pearce. Just be sure to tell her that you know she’s tough enough as she is, and doesn’t need any armor to prove it.
You’ve read the book, you’ve written the scripts, you’re contemplating “the move,” but you have questions. My answers may or may not be what you’re looking for, but they’ll be as honest and detailed as I can make them. Don’t see your question here? Ask it in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.
Last week: Where do you live? How much is rent?
This week: How do you meet people? How do you get around?
For years, on Larry’s advice, I’ve been compiling a list of people who might know people who might know people in LA. Why did I compile this list for years? Because I was too afraid (proud?) to actually utilize this network to my advantage. “Nah, nobody wants me to ask them if they know anybody in LA,” I thought. So desperate. So cliche! I didn’t want to be THAT guy. I’d achieved some success in another country, damn it! I was about to take LA by storm! Surely they would read about me in the papers! But as the date for my move became closer and closer, I sent out several emails that went something like this: “Dear #, My mentor says I should ask people I know if they know anyone in LA who might know anyone in LA. He says not to worry, as this is how LA works. You can tell people that I’m ABC and XYZ and not a dork. Thanks.”
Responses were varied. Some didn’t reply. Some introduced me to their friends who were interning at Disneyland. Some introduced me to bankrupt playboys. But each time an introduction was made, I followed up, I sent emails, I pasted their addresses into Google Maps and hopped on the bus ($1.50, unless the machine is broken) (or unless you buy a monthly pass, which I never figured out). A director I’ve worked with introduced me to one key contact—a producer of films you’ve seen. We talked on the phone and he felt that I wasn’t a dork, so he introduced me to four younger guys, all about my age, all connected to his family, all struggling to crack in (an actor, a writer, a cinematographer, an independent producer). And these introductions paid off. Not in the sense that it led to an immediate job—but in the sense that I now had a community that’s working on my behalf, just as strongly as I’m working on theirs. A lawyer introduced me to a lawyer (“Any friend of Mike’s is a friend of mine!”) who used to represent a manager that I’ve got my eye on. This is how it works.
Another friend from New York introduced me to his friend who’s living around the corner. He’s not in the film business, but get this—he’s an extrovert! He goes to the parties. He meets the people whose mansions I will eventually buy! The point is: from the smallest beginning, your community WILL grow. But you need to have the expertise (writing) and the humanity (don’t be a dork) that will make people believe in you and get behind you.
Another friend, who was raised in LA, said, “You’re going to be torn to pieces and screwed in every direction. I’m so fed up with LA sharks and their bullshit. It takes years, man, YEARS! Just got to parties. Fuck those sharks at the studios and on the lots. You don’t need them. Dude, get out of LA.” So there’s that.
My first few weeks, I focused on meeting as many production companies as possible—companies who were interested in producing films in the country where I’d just moved from. “Do you have scripts?” Yes. “May we see them?” Yes. I sent my best material to them and the response pretty much went like this: “Read the script, proves you can write, will keep you in mind for future stuff!” This isn’t a bad response. You can’t expect to come in and sell everything now. Because just as you’re working on things you believe in, so are they. You have your properties and niche and voice, and so do they.
Give it time. Don’t call back and say, “Hey dipshit! Someone else is interested in my script! You better tell me your answer now!” All you can do is keep writing and don’t be a dork. Remember crazy Joe Davola? Don’t be crazy Joe Davola.
As for getting around, the city is at first overwhelming, but soon becomes manageable enough as you start to recognize the pockets of activity. I bussed it for the first month, then finally bought a motorcycle. Throughout March and April, the whether has been warm by day and chilly by night—not coat whether, but chilly enough to accessorize your screenwriter’s uniform (jeans, t-shirt, furrowed brow) with, say, a black hoodie (with the sleeves rolled up, as the kids are doing it).
I was invited to a premiere by one of the production companies and was filled with introverted dread. (Surely they didn’t allow hoodies at these events.) So I popped into a cheap store and bought something for the occasion. I bussed to the theater, picked up my ticket at the will-call booth, slipped around the red carpet, found my seat and sunk down as low as possible as stars made their entrances. The director got up with a microphone and said, “First and foremost, I’d like to thank our writer, who delivered a fantastic script!” I was about to clap, but nobody else did. So I maintained invisibility.
“And, of course, our star!” the director said. The audience erupted in cheers. (So be it, world.) After the movie, I had a ticket for a hobnob and a drink at the place downstairs. But I had bus schedules to keep, and pages to go before I sleep.
My friend Mike was invited to the premiere of Shane Black’s new movie, Iron Man 3. I joined Mike for the after, after, AFTER party and talked with him about my future, as visions of sugarplums and danced in our heads. His brush with businessmen prompted him to promote my pilot, which he describes as “the best thing ever written in the history of mankind.” I left the party. I went home. I polished the pilot. I sent it out (to a reputable producer of films and TV series). Three days later, they called back and said, “We would like to meet.”
But I’m no expert. I’m just a guy. Use my experiences to help inform yours. Leave your questions and advice in the comments below.
Next week: Do you have an agent or manager yet?
Peter is a baby feature writer who wants to be a showrunner. (BLAHAHAHA!)
So first: big news this week, the HNS cover finally went live! It really is thrilling to see your work on the cover of a magazine for the first time. The issue will be live soon and when it is, I’ll post the full article.
Been running around to a tons of meetings and workshops. Did another great workshop at YouTube with Chris Chan Roberson. It’s getting very exciting cause in about a month, I’m finally starting production on the collaborations and the workshops address using the lighting and equipment in the studios. A lot to absorb, but very very cool. Unfortunately, the workshop was the same night as Big Screen Little Screen, so couldn’t attend, but I’ll be going back next month.
Also, was interviewed on Da Flava Radio. They asked me to do a monthly Lele segment on their show. They air in Atlanta and Gambia in Africa! Pretty cool. They’re also picking up Lele’s 60 Second Wrap-Up so, starting late June it’ll officially be on three radio stations!
And then there was the Rollo meeting. The first tip-off: we met in a restaurant. Not an office. Not a network. At a tiny hipster joint in the East Village with dim lighting, cushy, low-to-the-ground chairs and tables, an old Das Racist mix on the speakers. At this point my I’m Officially Skeptical Meter was binging through the roof. But hey, this is Rollo World.
Rollo’s hookup, the guy from the network, is short with exceptionally pretentious eyeglass frames, early thirties, clears his throat a lot and orders a craft beer. I instantly dislike him. I’ll call him “Pete.”
He and Rollo schmooze like crazy, which, essentially, is like attending the world’s biggest name dropping festival. It’s awful. The first thing he says to me, ten minutes later, is, “I hope the chairs aren’t too low.”
When I was starting out, I flew out to LA for a meeting with a mid-sized production company. It was the second script I’d ever written. A pilot. I didn’t have a clue about how things worked in Hollywood and a friend of friend had made a call. I sat down in a room with the two women who ran the company and one said, “You know Leesa, the chair you’re sitting in is lower than the chairs we’re sitting in. If you’d prefer to sit in a chair that’s on OUR level, I can have my assistant bring one in.” And I said, ” You know [name redacted], I’m on a mission to sell this script. If I sell it to you, cool. If not, that’s ok, because I will sell it. So I don’t really care how high the chair I’m sitting in is, I just wanna pitch.” Call it huge cojones, call it being oblivious, either way, they offered me a deal two hours later. FYI, I wistfully refer to those few hours as “My hotshot years.”
I did not repeat that speech to Pete, mainly cause I was pretty convinced by that point he couldn’t get me a deal. Or if he could, it certainly wasn’t the deal I wanted. Instead, I said, “Nah. I’m cool.”
Pete goes into his spiel. [Tiny network no one’s ever heard of] is really blowing up. He loves Chilltown and wants me to pitch it to his boss, who also has a boss (or two.) I ask him about the network. What other shows do they have? What type of financing do they typically do? He skates around and doesn’t really answer but says they have financing for shows. He wants to set up a second meeting. Something more formal. I’m thinking, “Perhaps in a Chinese restaurant next time?”
My I’m Officially Skeptical Meter has morphed in a full-fledged Bullshit Meter and it’s really going crazy. I already know this Pete situation is a deal that’s not going to happen–if this is step one for a network that nobody’s ever heard of, it’s just, well, a really bad idea. But I’m also a little pissed. I knew it was gonna be a bad. Just didn’t think it would be this far off the mark. I guess I felt I owed it to Rollo to at least take this meeting. And I genuinely feel sorry for him. I know he’s not a liar. He’s just…desperate now, I guess.
I told Pete I’d get back to him. Rollo looked crestfallen.
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