Tinsel Town Tales (from Schlubby Bumpkins*)

Tinsel Town Tales (from Schlubby Bumpkins*)

I don’t want to begin this writer/reader relationship with a lie.

My name is not Schlubby Bumpkins.

That’s just my pseudonym for this lurid tale of Hollywood meetings. And I just like how Schlubby Bumpkins rolls off the tongue.

I’ve been a writer my entire life. Witness this photo of me at about age 5, writing on a yellow legal pad given to me by my Irish grandfather to keep me busy while he smoked his pipe on the front porch. I did not want to show anyone my writing until it was absolutely perfect. Four years of journalism school beat that perfection out of me.  

So, when I placed as a finalist in a Pipeline competition years back, I was excited to learn how to do screenwriting. I thought it would be easy. I’d published novels, I’d been a journalist, I’d been a high school English teacher. If I could read endless essays about The Scarlet Letter and Hester Prynne’s pubic (public) shame, or how in The Grapes of Wrath, the great whores (hordes) moved westward, I could absolutely write a screenplay, right?

Nope. It was really, really difficult. Stuffing a 300-page novel into a 100-page script is kind of like trying to fit a cow inside a tiny suede coin purse. Apologies to my vegan readers. No real cows were hurt in this metaphor.

The Pipeline staff was beyond supportive in my quest to produce a readable screenplay. They were encouraging but pushed me to produce something worth filming. It took about 50 drafts, but I got there with their help. My screenplay was born!

Then I figured I'd enter screenplay competitions through FilmFreeway and Coverfly. Much to my surprise, I started to win. I wasn’t always the grand prize winner, but I had many Official Selections laurels, a few finalists, a few semi-finalists, and four grand prize winner spots. I placed in about 50 percent of the competitions for which I applied.

For one of the contests, the grand prize was coveted Meetings™️ with Big Hollywood People®️. I was to be flown to L.A., to have these meetings, to which I replied, “Why do you hate me? Fly to L.A.?” Not a fan of the airport. Not a fan of flying. So, instead, I arranged with a friend of mine to drive me up for the meetings. I also really lucked out because another former journalism colleague lived in Studio City and was in New York on business, and he sent me the keys to his house.

My first meeting was at 9 a.m., so we drove up the night before. I’ll confess, I don’t know how people from outside of California who win contests make this work, because the Grand Prize did not come with accommodations or transport while in town. Maybe no one outside of California wins? I don’t know. Anyway, I solved my own problem, and we drove up.

We got to Studio City, settled in, and planned for the next day when I had two meetings scheduled. Oops. Until I checked my email. The first meeting was still on at 9 a.m., but the second, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., canceled because the person I was to meet with, a literary agent, had quit literary agenting to go into law. Apparently, this was a decision made in the dark of night, hence the email the night before the meeting was to happen. I’m sure most law school decisions are made this way, much like deciding to spend another hundred bucks on a slot machine in Vegas, or taking a chance on that 7-11 sushi roll.

We got to Santa Monica in plenty of time for the 9 a.m. coffeeshop meeting, so I settled into the café with my beverage to watch for movie stars. Everyone looked like Schlubby Bumpkins, honestly, but with expensive schlubby clothes from Rodeo Drive stores that sell $500 joggers and $800 T-shirts with designer logos on them to make sure everyone knows you PAID $800 FOR A T-SHIRT, which is sort of an intelligence test, in my opinion.

I realized I had no clue what my meeting person looked like. Hmm. I looked for people who looked like they were looking for people, which turned out to be almost everyone. I smiled a lot. I think there was too much Botox for people to smile back, or the $800 T-shirts were scratchy. I know that makes me cranky.

Finally, a man walked in wearing a baseball hat, jeans, T-shirt and jacket. He saw me looking expectantly around, and nodded to me, then put one finger in the air to show me he saw me, and he’d be right there. He got his drink, hustled over and asked if I were, indeed, Schlubby Bumpkins. He wanted to move to a more secluded spot outside where we could talk.

My first question for him was this: do you remember which script I wrote? Honestly, no, he did not. He really had no idea who I was, and he was probably going to get out of the business anyway. He told me to pitch him my logline, which I did. He explained that the only things being made right now were horror, action, and adventure. My picture sounded more like an indie, you know, a Sundance award winner kind of thing.

He was polite. He was doing his due diligence, meeting with me as a prize winner. “99 percent of scripts never get made,” he said. He downed the rest of his coffee and wished me luck. I walked outside to wait for my ride, met a very nice dog attached to an older man who said I had very nice eyes.

We had the rest of the day free, so we went to Porto’s and had a religious experience with a pumpkin tres leches loaf.

Day two was a Zoom meeting because the woman had RSV. Totally understandable. This woman had her own entertainment business, and I’ll confess, I was not sure what that meant. But I was excited to talk to her.

I waited until the appointed hour and got on the Zoom. She didn’t look really healthy, and I thanked her for meeting with me anyway. She asked what questions I had. I asked again: Do you know what I wrote?  Nope. She didn’t remember. I filled her in, giving her my best pitch and logline song and dance. When I mentioned that my main character had OCD and trichotillomania (hair pulling) and that she wore a wig through much of the book, her eyes brightened. “If she wears a wig, maybe you could get creative with casting,” she suggested. “Someone who might wear a lot of wigs.” Um. Right. I mean, she hadn’t read it. She was spitballing. I appreciated the effort. What of her entertainment company? “Oh, I closed that down,” she said. “I’m thinking of changing careers.” A theme!

Meeting three was the next morning, at a different coffee place. Surprisingly, this person had skimmed my script! He knew there was a female main character and that it was an indie, Sundance kind of movie. He actually engaged in a great dialogue with me for two hours, which I appreciated. He also told me that he currently had no job. He had worked for a very high-octane director, but the director had left a big-budget project because the star was difficult and ‘life was too short.’  So now my friend had no job, but would likely land somewhere eventually, and he promised to remember me …

My last meeting was via Zoom, after I got home to San Diego. It was with a man who’d been in show biz for a long time, and he was quite informative and friendly. He didn’t know who I was, of course, but we talked for a long time. I described all the wildly popular novels I’ve written which are all out of print, and discussed screenwriting and how much I enjoyed it. He told me film is a young person’s game, and asked if I was about 30, and I said “sure.” (I am not 30. I used to be, so it’s technically not lying, right?)  

He asked me if I were a fast writer, and I assured him that I am. Then he asked me to send him a couple of scripts! He’d have his assistant read them and get back to me. I sent two that weekend, along with a scripted version of our conversation embellished with some witty dialogue and a vengeful unicorn, to show him that I could, in fact, write quickly.

Then I received a reply from his assistant, who I will refer to as Ken (not his real name). The reply: “Dear Lisa, I’m sure xxxxx told you that we do not deal in scripts. We work in the book space. Unfortunately, we are not enthusiastic enough about your work to move forward. Best wishes.”

Who was Lisa? Was this email really meant for me? I had no idea.

Long and short of it: I’m no closer than I was before. But I did score a Porto’s tres leches pumpkin loaf, and that’s not nothing.

I will say that, in most cases, the person meeting with me did not remember who I was or what I had written, or why we were meeting, which was kind of a bummer, but I used that to my advantage and got them all to agree to go and re-read the script. I do have three more Zoom meetings set up in January and February, so that’s promising.

Someone suggested that I also look for production companies owned by actors because if I can get an actor attached to the project, it’s more likely to get made. (We talked about No Hard Feelings with Jennifer Lawrence, which I loved.)  

I wouldn’t say that I got a lot of concrete answers, but I didn’t expect that. I’d really much prefer to continue working with Pipeline to find a way to get the film made.

All in all, I think this other company did try very hard to make my meetings happen. I just don’t know if they weren’t the right people, or if they are indicative of any meeting I would have. Most seemed to think I need a rep or lit manager to really get going on this or any project.  

So … I feel sort of where I was before. Not sure what to do. Feel like it’s a really good script, but not a big moneymaker (unless it is), so very difficult to get anyone to look at it. Same with novels.

Maybe I’ll just start writing romance books. They always seem to have readers.

Or maybe I’ll take up crochet.

*Feature Photo: The young Schlubby Bumpkins

Because everyone's voice should be heard ... without retribution.
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