So I saw a cut of the movie, and it was bad. But there was actually some great news:
The movie was going to open "wide" in over 2,000 theaters.
And Lionsgate decided to award me "Screenplay by" credit. Even though the process was brutal and it didn't turn out the way I wanted, at least I was getting my name on a real movie that was coming out in theaters, which was kinda the whole point. I knew I wasn't winning an Oscar with this one, but I thought it was a huge step in fulfilling my dream of living at the beach and banging Rachel Bilson.
Finally, my career was on its way!
I was still writing on "The Soup", and E! hired a new president. One of his first orders of business was deciding that "The Soup" wasn't funny. His big note was:
"There's too much Joel Mchale in the show!"
What a visionary.
Thus, we had to do these really awful field segments with "correspondents". They were really bad. But apparently, that didn't help, because there was still too much Joel! So then we did an even worse "round table" segment, where Joel talked about the week's pop culture moments with 3 "comedians".
Just to give you an example of what it's like writing comedy at E!, I once got reprimanded and called into HR because I was calling Paris Hilton a "slut" too much in my jokes. We submitted our jokes via email, and they looked at my emails and flagged slut! How crazy is that? These are jokes. It's a comedy show. And Paris Hilton is a slut.
Anyway, the President of E! still wasn't happy, and he had a new solution:
Fire all of the writers.
Interestingly enough, this is the same guy who decided that the big problem with his marriage was:
"There's too much fucking my wife in my marriage!"
And began an affair with Chelsea Handler. And lo and behold, a year later Chelsea Handler got a show on E! And what do you know, she did a segment where she talked with 3 "comedians" about the week's pop culture moments. Funny how that worked out.
Now, I don't want to toot my own horn, but I did really well on "The Soup". Despite the fact that I was the least experienced, I got a lot of jokes on the air and was a big contributor to that show. I remember after the 1st season ended, the VP of E! said these exact words to me:
"I just wanted to thank you for this year. Can't wait to get you back next season, and you're gonna get a big raise"
And I never worked there again. Thanks, Chelsea Handler's boyfriend!
However, some good things came out of it. I met a couple of great friends. One of whom has helped me out a million times ever since. After getting fired, he got me an agent at CAA.
Even this was a bit of a frustrating experience though. Why? Because I had written a bunch of screenplays, hell, I even wrote a movie that was getting made at a major studio with a $10 million dollar budget and no agent would touch me. And what ended up getting me an agent?
Two pages of Britney Spears jokes.
That's right. I was killing myself writing 100 page scripts, filled with characters and plot points and climaxes, and it turns out that the only thing I needed was about 20 monologue jokes.
So I was fired and out of a job, but now I had an agent at CAA. I was on my way! But then...
DMX's friend decided that she didn't like her "Story by" credit and appealed to the Writers Guild. When this happens, you go into "credit arbitration", which at the time I knew nothing about.
Basically, she was upset with her "Story by" credit, and wanted "screenplay by" credit, and wanted my name off of everything. I'll spare you all the details, but when this happens a committee of Writers Guild writers is formed. They look at all the drafts and decide who should get what. It's out of the studio's hands, and now up to this committee.
Also, the writers involved have to write a very long letter detailing every contribution made to the final film, and why they should get credit.
I wrote my letter, and it was exhausting. I mean, it was over 10 pages of minutia about the making of "In the Mix" (kinda like this series of posts). It had to be very detailed and precise, which I am usually not good at.
Then, I had to go meet with the board and present my case. What am I, the Lincoln fucking Lawyer? State my case?
I called them, and I asked, "do I need a lawyer for this?" And they're like, "absolutely not, don't be ridiculous". I walked in, and immediately realized that I needed a lawyer. They literally cross examined me for a lengthy period of time. I'm like, "my argument is in that very long document you made me write". If I had to do it again, I would've walked in there with F. Lee Bailey, or at least, Matthew McConaughey.
A week later, they made their ruling. Let me preface this by saying that I was not in the Writers Guild at the time, nor was the writer who made the appeal. Okay, the ruling was:
I no longer received "Screenplay by" credit, I was pulled back to "Story by" credit. The woman who appealed stayed at "Story by" credit. And the woman who rewrote the Italian dialogue, who wrote on "Law and Order", and who didn't appeal anything and was fine with the credits the way they were, went from getting no credit to "Screenplay by" credit!
Now here's a shock: she was in the Writers Guild. We weren't. The committee deciding it: The Writers Guild. Yeah, that seems fair.
That really hurt, and even though I'm now in the WGA, bitterness remains.
After this was decided, Lionsgate planned to release the movie in August against no competition. Then, they changed their mind and it was going to be September, which might've been even better. But then, they decided to go with Thanksgiving weekend. Also opening that weekend: Harry Potter...and about 10 other movies.
I was to receive a bonus if the movie made $25 million, and another bonus for $30 million. And when I say bonus, it would've been way more money than I got to write the thing in the first place.
Alas, it was not to be. On the big Thanksgiving weekend wide release, "In the Mix" came in at $4.4 million. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the same weekend: $102 million.
In the Mix made $10 million overall. They made their money back, but there were no bonuses to be had.
It was all over. I was sorta relieved, but I'll always wonder what I could've done differently. I guess I was under the false assumption that if you write a movie that gets released in theaters, that's a big deal. Turns out, sometimes it's not. That credit has never gotten me anywhere. It didn't get me so much as a single meeting. Lesson learned.
But you know what? There is no real lesson learned. Because this movie could've just as easily been "Step Up", and I could be writing "In the Mix" sequels to this very day. So who knows? It was a gamble, and it came up shit. I've moved on.
I guess the real lesson is: keep writing. And I did. And before "In the Mix" came out, I put my head down and cranked out the next great screenplay. It was:
"Wife is Beautiful"On the next chapter: the story of "Wife is Beautiful", and the temporary end of my feature film dreams...
An unattractive married couple's relationship is tested when the wife goes on Extreme Makeover and now looks like Angelina Jolie.