It's my birthday today, so, while acknowledging that blogging is, by nature, masturbatory and self-indulgent, I'm going to indulge a little more than usual and tell you a story. It's a true story, one that is just interesting, not gossipy or scandalous, certainly not political, really, just a story that gives a bit of insight into a few things that most of us never have a chance to take part in. Gather 'round the fire, children, and let the Rude Pundit spin a tale.
Two years ago, I was contacted out of the blue by a Hollywood production company. Actually, what's funny is that the email was in my spam filter and even had the subject line of "HELLO!" so I came very close to deleting it. The email said the company was actually led by a Major Hollywood Star and would I want to talk about developing a television show. I emailed back and, as one would, I said, "Uhh, yeah." The Executive wrote back to set up a phone call.
On the phone, I learned that the the Major Hollywood Star was turned onto this blog by a Really Good Movie Director (no, they are none of the names you're currently thinking of) and that the production company wanted to get people outside the usual Hollywood system to create television shows for a Big Cable Channel. The Star thought I might be someone who would have something up my sleeve. The Executive told me to work on some ideas and then we'll talk some more.
I've been here before, on the precipice of some breakthrough beyond the folds of Left Blogsylvania. I've had meetings with editors at giant publishing houses and obviously didn't say the right things. I can't count the number of times I've heard, "Oh, let's get you a show on SiriusXM." You live long enough and stick to one area of business for long enough and live in the right place and answer the right emails, and you get these kinds of mini-opportunities. And what happens every time is you think, "What if?" And you start to fantasize ahead about what happens next. And then you realize that just because someone hands you a lottery ticket, you have no guarantee of even getting a consolation prize. I had some perspective is what I guess I'm trying to say.
I came up with a few ideas, ones that I thought were kind of cool, especially an Orange Is the New Black-type show that was about the lives of women who work for a house and business cleaning service. The Executive and others in the production company had a Skype meeting with me, which was fascinating for the questions they asked and their not-very-enthusiastic responses to the ideas. But they said they would let the Major Hollywood Star know. I heard back pretty quickly from the Executive that the Star didn't like the ideas, but that he wanted to talk with me (yes, he is a he, but, no, it's not that one, either). I would get a call. Soon.
On December 23, 2012, my cell phone rings and it is the Major Hollywood Star. Not his assistant, not anyone arranging a time, just him. He was driving. We had a great conversation. He had some ideas that had to do with using the blog more in the TV show. We riffed, made each other laugh, and, holy shit, by the end, we had an idea that I was hyped to work on. I mentioned that I knew the writer of one of his films, and we talked about what a great person the writer is. 25 minutes or so and we were done.
I read a few pilot scripts - I've written for the stage and for film, but never for TV - and got down to work. I won't bore you with the details of the pilot or the series, except to say that it's about conservative talk radio, liberal blogging, racial identity, and gender politics, with the overall arc of the series following the fall of a white man and the rise of a Hispanic woman, all with dark, dirty, rude humor throughout. I was pretty damn happy with how it turned out. I knew it was at least better than The Newsroom, which isn't a high bar, but still.
Let's dispense with the next two years in short order. The Executive and the Star liked the pilot but thought it needed to be rewritten to simplify some things and to be "edgier." I rewrote. They still liked it but thought my inexperience showed through. They brought the pilot to the Big Cable Channel, which liked parts of it but passed, especially since I had never worked on a TV show. The Executive wanted to make sure that I was ok not being the show
runner. I said it would be dumb for me to be the show runner since I had
never done anything for TV beyond act in some commercials and was the
voice of Thomas Jefferson for an A&E documentary done in Ken
Burns-style (yeah, that's totally true). The Executive said that the production company had decided that my show was one they believed in and were going to work further on it, with the goal to pitch it to other channels. The Star was onto his next big movie project. The Executive asked if I minded if they brought in someone to be a show runner and co-creator. I didn't mind at all. They tossed around some names, including Someone You Like Very Much, but then he had a show picked up and was out. The emails dwindled to less than once a month, then once every few months, then once. The way things stand now is that the production company might abandon TV altogether to work exclusively on films - they've made a couple of great ones. And that's that, I suppose.
I have no reason to have any ill will to anyone involved, not the Executive, not the Star. All have been Genuinely Good People. If you know anything about the development of TV shows, it often takes years before anything gets going, and, at every step of the way, there is someone who can say, "No," and it's over. Every game has rules. I don't know them all. I may very well be breaking one now by just talking about Fight Club.
"What's the point of this?" you might legitimately ask. It's a funny little story: wacky blogger crosses paths with big money entertainment. It's a crack in a door that remains closed to nearly all of us.
And, well, it's a bit of a birthday gift to myself, like buying a scratch-off game. Hey, what is there to lose beyond a couple of bucks?
Because, obviously, the primary reason for writing this is to put out the word to any potential other producers or production companies that I have this pilot script and series idea that a Major Hollywood Star was willing to associate his name with, at least in the preliminary pitching phase, that successful producers were willing to have meetings with networks about. I still own all the rights to it - never signed anything. So if anyone in that world wants to know more, well, they can use that email on the side there to contact me.
(Note: Overwhelming self-indulgence done. Back to regular rudeness on Monday. )