Oh yeah, I was writing my next screenplay, called "Freedom Island".
It was inspired by my favorite movie at the time, "Out of Sight. And I wanted to do something where 2 characters fell in love who absolutely could never be together. In "Out of Sight", it's a Federal Marshall and a criminal, in "Freedom Island" it's a Nazi girl and a Jewish guy.
I started writing, and for whatever reason, it came really easy - much easier than my first script, "The Target". Everything was flowing and I felt good about it. Usually around page 60 you are dying, but with this, it just worked. It was a breeze. Writing movies is easy!
I did a rewrite, and then eagerly gave it to my TV writing boss.
Well, maybe there was a reason it came so easily...it wasn't that good. She wasn't as enthused by this script as the previous one. But she did very kindly give me some constructive notes. However, there were no offers to send it around town.
I worked on it some more, but the spark faded. At some point I realized it was kind of a dumb idea. It was funny to me, and quirky, but maybe a little too quirky. I abandoned it.
To make matters worse, my boss's development deal was about to end. The best thing that could've happened was that she sold a show, it got on the air, and she hired me as a writer. And she definitely would have. So I felt like I was within spitting distance of the holy grail: a sitcom staff writing job.
Unfortunately, the best thing didn't happen. The worst thing happened. She did not sell a show, her deal ended, and I was out of a job. That was 2 years of my life, and I had absolutely nothing to show for it. I mean, nothing.
She was fine. She quickly got a job on a big NBC show. She vowed to hook me up with an assistant gig there. So I went into interview with the Executive Producer (who is still a big time guy in the "biz"). I did my research, and discovered he was a 5 time Jeopardy champion. Since I love Jeopardy, this seemed like a great thing to bring up.
We sat in the commissary at Dreamworks and I don't think I was the best part of his day. He was not happy to be there. During the uncomfortable silence, I quickly brought up Jeopardy. He made it very clear that he did not want to talk about that. At all. He wanted to talk about fax machines. Here is his exact quote:
"When I tell you to fix the fax machine, I don't want you to tell me how to fix the fax machine, I want you to fix the fax machine for me"
I'll take douches for $800, Alex.
He was very concerned about that fax machine. So basically I had gone from almost writing sitcoms for a living, to praying to God I could work for the lazy asshole with the faulty fax machine.
To this day, I fucking hate that guy. It was literally a 20 minute meeting, and I still can remember every awkward second of it. I was actually relieved when I didn't get the job, though I probably shouldn't have been. That would've been a nice opportunity.
Incidentally, he ended up giving the job to his babysitter. I'm not kidding. And they let her write an episode! That's how close I was to the dream. She never wrote anything else again, and she's still an assistant...8 years later.
Anyway, I was out on the street. It's not a good feeling. There are so many people competing for everything, it feels like it's impossible to get someone to pay you for anything. But through a friend, I got a job working on "Celebrities Uncensored" on E!. Which seemed awful at the time, but turned out to be a lucky break. More on that in future chapters...
I kept writing.
Over that summer, I wrote a movie called "Putz".
"PUTZ"This is the script where I learned what my "process" was (yes, I have a process for writing scripts that don't sell). And it goes like this:
An overweight, cocky, know it all NBA mascot screws up on national TV, and it has to go work in a women's basketball league in order to win back his dream job.
I plow ahead, and write the whole thing as fast as I can.
I read it over, and realize that it is awful and I can't show it to anyone.
I set it aside for months.
I read it again, and realize that I am a genius!
It never goes anywhere, and I'm forced to move on.
I read it again years later, and realize I am, in fact, not a genius, I suck.
So I banged that out in like a month. If you look at the formula above you know that at this point I realized that it was awful. So I immediately started writing something else. This was "The Ex Factor".
"THE EX FACTOR"Keep in mind, I wrote this before "Little Black Book" and "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" and every other movie that has done this same thing.
An engaged couple - both former "players" - must confront everyone they've ever had sex with before they get married.
This took me another month, and of course, I then realized it was awful. But then I reread "Putz", and I was a genius again!
But I no longer had anyone to help me. I gave the script to whoever would take it. This included lots of people at E! This resulted in a whole lotta nothing.
But then, a good friend of mine, who just started working at a production company, took a liking to it. And he showed it to his bosses, and they showed it to their bosses. And it was through this process that I realized that it took about 100 miracles for a screenplay to sell.
This one didn't sell, but it did get optioned. They were very complimentary about the script, and had a few notes, and wanted me to rewrite it. And they wanted to option it for 6 months. I received actual money for it. Well, it was barely money. It was loose change, really.
But it was something! I had optioned a script. I was a real, working writer...sort of. And I felt like I was on my way!
I wasn't on my way at all. Putz dies. But another movie I write gets made into a real feature film that gets released in real theaters and this is somehow a really, really bad thing.