Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Shallow Gal

Fun Joel's comment on my last post about the Nicholl reminded me that I'll be in Los Angeles for a wedding during the first week of July. Of course, Friday and Saturday will be full of wedding stuff so if I actually want to visit anyone, I'll have to stay an extra few days. So, I made plans to do just that.

But now, I'm rethinking it and while I fully expect to be bombarded with insults and chastised for my naivete, here's why I'm waffling --

First, let's go back --

Last year, when buses from Louisiana arrived in my small town and I found myself in the middle of Katrina recovery efforts, several Hollywood folk offered to help. Here's the thing. They didn't know me! I was a name they remembered, but they wouldn't recognize me if they sat next to me on an airplane. I didn't solicit their help. Yet, they offered. How did they know I wasn't building a swimming pool or getting lyposuction with their contributions? How did they know I wasn't a prison inmate scamming people over the internet? They didn't! They just trusted their guts and they trusted me.


To prove that their trust was not misplaced, I made sure that I accounted for every cent and mailed verifiable proof of that accountability to each contributor who went through me. I've sent thank you gifts and notes of gratitude from people who received help. Still, it just doesn't seem like enough.

I want to meet these benefactors face to face.

I'd really like to sit across the table with each one, look them in the eyes, squeeze their hands, and tell them how very grateful I am that they aren't self absorbed, macho money mongers. I want to thank them for pausing in their insanely chaotic lives to touch hundreds of somebodies they will never meet. And, I want to thank them for diluting my cynicism of mankind.

Corny as it sounds, that was my plan -- contact each one, set up a lunch or meeting, and tell them that the world is a better place and I am a better person because they give a damn.

Then, I read a post -- a sort of, but not really, tongue in cheek confession by a wannabe writer about how shallow she is and how her communications with professional screenwriters, regardless of how they are presented, are really nothing more than a plea for that person to get them a writing job or better yet, hand over their own. The pros that responded to the post said things like "classic" and "how true" or something along those lines.

I wanted to throw up.

Not only do I not want to be like that, but I can't bear the thought of anyone even thinking I'm that shallow. Yeah, I know it's the way the game is played -- get a champion and use him for everything he's worth. Set up a lunch, hit him with your smarts and don't let him leave without your script in his hand.

I can't do it.

You see, I like people. And sure, I want to sell a screenplay and I'd love to be a professional screenwriter one day but I don't want to live in a world where every time I smile or wink or shake a hand, the person on the receiving end is wondering what I want. I don't want to share a lunch with somebody knowing full well that the other person is waiting for me to hit him up to read my script. That's my agent's job. Can't we just share a pizza while you tell me about your exciting life and I try not to bore you with mine?

In a former job, I got called "steel magnolia", "iron nads", and other unflattering names meant to compliment a woman with backbone. But, some days, I just don't think I'm cut out for Hollywood. Others, I'm a cockeyed optimist -- or, at least a dichotomous one.


Fun Joel said...

I completely understand what you're saying here. I struggle with how to deal with such things as well, since I am not the "typical" personality for H'wood. But the conclusion I've come to is that I just do what I do, in the way that I do it, and don't worry about what people will think. At the same time, I expect very little from people here, so I won't be disappointed.

On the one hand, you can meet these people, and do what you wanted to do. By not pushing your screenwriting on them during the meeting (and talking about it little), you can make the point that your intentions are pure. Remember, actions speak louder. And on the other hand, you can do what you're considering, which is to not have those meetings. I don't think that is necessarily the worst choice either. You have already thanked them, via mail. So if you don't thank them all in person, so be it.

The third option, of course, is to select those certain people who you think might not take your gratitude in the wrong way.

Either way, I hope to meet you when you come to LA. I'll be in NYC the first part of that week, but I get back into town late in the morning on July 4th.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Thank you, Joel, but ya know what? I still feel like a pansy. I care more about being a gracious person and making others feel appreciated than self promotion and while my idealism sounds noble and good on paper, it will most likely make me look foolish, childish, and unrealistic in Hollywood.

However, I am what I am and whatever will be will be. Plus, it's a good day to rent a Doris Day movie!

Anonymous said...

MaryAn ~ gotta rush right now, but will comment later.

love this piece ::wry smile::

Grubber said...

It is hard to be considered genuine in your motives, whilst living in an often cynical world.

I hope the people concerned do reliaze your dilemma. From what I read, I think FJ seems to offer good advice.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Well, Dave, I'm just gonna have to be me. What choice do I have? Even if it makes me look like the Kelly Pickler of screenwriting. Besides, I like Calimari.

Grubber said...

That's your best choice and one you can definitely live with as you come across as very genuine and likeable to me.

Brett said...

I think there's a subtle yet critical distinction to be made between those who converse with the pros *solely* to scamp up whatever benefits and connections they can manage versus those who converse with the serious intention of conversing yet who are not so defiantly matry-like that they will actively aggressively run from any benefits which might result from said convo.

I've dropped emails to pros in which I came right out and concluded with "and surely some part of my motivation for dropping this note was just to keep my name somehwat current and familiar in your memory." Without exception, the pros to whom I've sent this disclaimer have responded with smilies and comments like "yeah, but you're not coming at me looking for a handout, so don't beat yourself up or lump yourself in with those folks who do behave that way."

Be a genuine human being. Treat people like genuine human beings. It's not that novel of a concept... except that it is, apparently. ;-)