“Bad fortune enlightens and good fortune deceives.”*

            The following is a true story:
            A screenwriter friend had finished a screenplay. A comedy. I read it and thought it to be quite good, funny and commercial. He had a handful of people he could ask for help in getting representation. The first person he called came through for him in spades. He couldn't help him find an agent, but he had access to a major Hollywood player.
            This individual, himself a producer, had become friends with the sister and brother-in-law of a big time Hollywood director.  Hearing the director’s name, the screenwriters hopes soar. Those hopes soar even higher when he is told by the producer to drop off his screenplay to the office of the director's brother-in-law.
            Residing near the brother-in-law’s office, the screenwriter decides to drop off the script in person. He gets there and a receptionist greets him. He holds up the envelope containing his screenplay and asks if she can get it to so-and-so. But she misinterprets what he says, asks for his name, picks up the phone, calls the brother-in-law and says there’s someone here to see him. The screenwriter doesn’t say he just wanted to leave the script.
            A secretary comes out, and before the screenwriter can say a word, says “Mr. So and So will be with you in a few minutes. Come with me.”
            The screenwriter follows her into a small meeting room where he is told to wait.
            After a few minutes the brother-in-law arrives. Again, the screenwriter is prepared to simply formally introduce himself, hand the guy the screenplay, thank him for getting it to his famous brother-in-law and then leave.
            But the brother-in-law wants to talk. So they talk. For more than an hour. About movies and stars and the big time director. The screenwriter feels comfortable with the and the conversation goes so well that the subject of getting together for lunch in the future is brought up.
            So far, so good.
            Now for the bad news. The brother-in-law proceeds to explain that he will not be giving the screenplay to the big time director to read, but instead to the big time director's sister
            Yes. Sister.
            This stuns the screenwriter. The brother-in-law proceeds to explain that the sister reads scripts for her big time director brother—-scripts that come to her via people she meets in her business, which (now this is important) is not show business. The sister is in a field that is far removed from Hollywood and literally has nothing whatsoever to do with the ability to read and judge the merits of a screenplay.
            The horrible truth is all beginning to fall into place for the screenwriter. If the big time director’s sister likes the screenplay she will pass it on to her brother. But what the screenwriter start to wonder is whether or not the big time director will actually give any credence to what his sister’s opinion of a screenplay is.
            Why should he? The big time director is so big time that he has his own production company receiving scripts from the best agents and managers representing the best screenwriters…so why would he give a damn what his sister who’s not even in show business thinks about a script? He wonders, like, "duh!"
            Despite his misgivings, the screenwriter gives his screenplay to the brother-in-law, they shake hands and part in a friendly “We’ll get together soon” manner with the brother in law saying “My wife will get back to you after she reads the screenplay.”
            The screenwriter forces a smile and leaves.
            The instant he walks out of the office his heart sinks. His gut instinct is that nothing will come of this. He goes home and Googles the big time director’s sister and, as he suspected, finds not one mention of her film credits or anything to do with show business. He does, however, find several hits concerning the business in which she is in.
            Despite his misgivings, he decides to put a happy face on the experience. He started to imagine that the big time director's sister will love the script and pass it on to her brother and that he will like it and a phone call will be made and a meeting and a six figure deal and the house in Malibu and...
            Five months passed. There was no contact. The screenwriter's happy face scenario turned into a sad face, but not a defeated face because screenwriters cannot allow themselves to be defeated. That would mean giving up. And that particular screenwriter doesn’t have it in his genetic make-up to give up. He’s a big believer in living and learning, being cautiously optimistic and having a healthy cynicism about these things.
            But most importantly, this screenwriter has had a valuable experience from which he can draw upon the next time he has the chance to meet someone who might help further his career. As the philosopher Boethius* says, “Bad fortune enlightens and good fortune deceives.”
            This screenwriter’s emotions will be a mix of cautious optimism and healthy cynicism, but he’ll go in with eyes wide open, a little wiser and a little tougher.

21 comments:

  1. Cool story. Creepy, but cool.

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  2. Why is it that so many people who seem to not have real qualifications get into the movie business? I've heard stories, not as extreme as this, but close enough.

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  3. hope the writer learned something about follow up as well.

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  4. Great story with many lessons. Thanks for passing it along. Oh, and thanks, as always, for all your help. Hello, people, you gotta work with this guy.

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  5. I knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone who dated the ex-husband of a highly respected actress in her 40s (but not a star and probably without much clout) and was convinced that he could get his script to the actress even though she divorced the guy like twelve years earlier.

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  6. I love hearing this kind of stuff. It makes me feel less insignificant when I think about trying to network. I suck at networking. I need an agent to do my networking.

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  7. Boethius? I haven't heard that name since grad school. This sounds like a fun ride.

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  8. Definitely enjoying this. Look forward to more.

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  9. glad to see you're finally writing a blog. looking forward to more.

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  10. cool story... look forward to following this blow.

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  11. Life itself is a crap shoot.

    Lots of acorns fall every year.
    They don't all turn into oak trees.

    The tree doesn't get discouraged and
    decide to become an accountant instead.

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  12. I have missed not being in DB's class this semester but being able to read DB's inspirational and informative blog is just as helpful!

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  13. great story - and all too common.

    i can't count the number of "deals" i've had that have suddenly vanished when it came time to write the actual check. or fallen apart because of a clash of egos.

    as i like to now say, "I'll believe it when the trucks are there."

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  14. Hope he continued exploring his other options :)

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  15. This forces the question: Why do I write? I feel good when doing so. I often lose my sense of existential isolation. It's the best part of my day. I love telling stories that engage and amuse people. It gives me purpose. Think of how many people I could engage and amuse if my screenplay was produced. I love actors, and want to give them things to say and do that use all of their talent. Am I hopelessly naive?

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  16. Been there. Done that. So, like, is this supposed to be a unique experience? I know 50 people with stories like this. We should form a club.

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  17. I don't know whether to laugh at this story or cry. I guess it falls under the ironic category. BTW, I loved The Portable Film School.:-)

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  18. Cautious optimism and healthy cynicism. Throw in a martini and in for the ride.

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