I’m sitting in my Manhattan psychiatrist’s office feeling so anxious and depressed that my limbs aren’t sure whether they should twitch spasmodically or rest heavy and stone-like inert. But the shrink, let’s call him Dr. Becks (in real life his surname is actually just a different brand of beer), has my fickle attention suddenly. Why? Because instead of talking about how to cure me of my various mental illnesses (the impossible dream) he’s talking about an idea he has to make my all but moribund fantasies of big-time Hollywood success come true. He thinks this screenplay idea that he thought up, based on some show he saw on the History Channel, would make a perfect project to attract the attention of one of his celebrity actor patients – let’s call her Kali Kass (in real life her first name is just that of a different Hindu goddess). And who better to write the initial spec screenplay treatment (i.e., unpaid long synopsis) than me, Evan Breach (pseudonym), the man who has written and directed micro-budget films that have been reviled around the world at tiny film festivals (and even the occasional big one, where at the coyote-like reviewers were waiting to rip him apart with mere words, their fangs dripping auteurial blood).
Dr. Becks is a nice guy and also a very intelligent one. At the time of the events I am relating (and now at present for that matter), he really, genuinely felt (feels) bad for me that I was (am) mired in this swamp of unwellness. He also thought I had undiscovered talent and would have liked nothing better than to see me achieve some modicum of success in the Hollywood game. He watched my last film, nearly a decade old, called “Uxoricide,” a decade ago, and thought it was memorable if not quite great. (FYI, “uxoricide” is the word for killing your wife – and that was what the movie was about. A young business executive finds out his wife is a con artist who has sheared him like a sheep, financially speaking, and he takes drastic measures to get revenge and his money back.)
As a top-flight therapist, Dr. Becks has some famous patients, some of them actors who often complain about the lack of good scripts for them to choose from. What he suggested I do was to write a short treatment for this idea he had come up with – and in return he would daringly violate the ethics of his profession by recommending the fledgling project to his celebrity patient, Kali Kass. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to get Kali Kass attached to a project I was involved with; so what happened was, I watched the show on the History Channel the next time it aired, recorded it and started taking notes.
In case you’re curious, the TV show was about this Celtic queen from olden times, Boudica, who became a warrior leader and nearly defeated the Darth Vader-evil Roman army as it tried to subdue various territories outside the then bounds of the Empire. In other words, it was fodder for your typical Hollywood big-budget period piece spectacle war movie.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that I write this treatment (it takes me only several days as I’m jobless (on disability due to my mental state)) and then turn a hard copy over to Dr. Becks, who in turn hands it over to Kali Kass at her next scheduled appointment. Then at my next appointment, a little less than two weeks later, I sit in the waiting room wondering if she has read the thing yet and, if so, whether she had anything kind to say about it. Dr. Becks always keeps me waiting about ten minutes before admitting me into his inner sanctum, so I have a bit of time to fret over what news he will have for me.
As it turns out, all is quiet on the Eastern front this time; but at the beginning of my next visit Dr. B – I’m just going to call him Dr. B from now on – lets me know immediately that Kali read my treatment and liked it quite a bit. Just the kind of role she’s looking for, she said – something where a gal can play royalty and really kick ass at the same time. Elated, I ask my doc what the next step is. To which he replies that Kali would like permission to share the treatment with famed Hollywood director Scott Ripley (for the curious, fake name but not changed that much), with whom she is friendly and has long wanted to work. I am all for bringing Ripley aboard on the project and just sit there beaming in my shrink’s office, feeling like for the first time in a long while maybe the universe likes me.
A couple of sessions later, Dr. B tells me that Ripley wants in but there are two problems: (1) he is in various stages of production, pre-production and post-production on about five different movies and doesn’t have time right now to try to get a new one off the ground, and (2) he did a little research and heard that a famous, and now notorious (due to some ethnic slurs he made in an interview) actor turned director already had a picture about Boudica in the works. The only hope for me was that the actor/director ( let’s call him Lem Gibbons) hated the script that had been written for him by two untalented neophytes and was thus in severe need of a rewrite. Hearing this, Dr. B informed me, Kali got on the phone and called Lem Gibbons personally to offer her services as lead actor in his version of the Boudica story and my services as gun-for-hire screenwriter to create (perhaps, comically, along with Dr. B) a screenplay with which everyone involved could be happy. To her disbelief, Gibbons, jerk that he was (is) widely reputed to be, told her he didn’t care much for her acting and would not be tendering her any onscreen work in the near or distant future. Dr. B told me never to tell anybody about this humiliating rejection, and I never have to this day (though I’m coming dangerously close here, I realize). Anyway, I thought, so much for getting that project into development. A lot of mental energy wasted. Farewell, Boudica!
A few months later, while reading the newspaper and feeling demoralized and panicky as usual (such is my syndrome), I come across an article about a woman who contracted a mysterious skin disease that began to rapidly age her and, in a matter of days, turned her from a young woman into someone of very advanced years. This story gives me an idea for a script. What if, I think – what if the woman was not just some regular woman but instead a narcissistic fashion model whose worst fear was a pimple on her nose – and I put her through the ringer with this relentless disease? The model would have to face, for the first time, her own fears of aging and mortality. She would have to stop being a mere image of desire and become an actual human being. I immediately start drafting a treatment.
I finish the piece in about a week and give it to Dr. B, who likes it. As before, he turns my work over to Kali and she reads it while I wait on the proverbial bed of nails. At the beginning of my next session with Dr. B, I hold my breath waiting for him to say something like “So, Kali read your piece and was quite excited about it.” Or “Kali thinks you’re a very talented writer and would love to be associated with your project.” Something flattering and upbeat along those lines. But instead he just says, “So, how have things been going?” Although Dr. B almost always shows sensitivity to my state of mind, he obviously doesn’t seem to realize that Kali Kass holds the key to my happiness in her hands and that my mood is totally dependent on her opinion of my work. I have nothing else going on my life and am totally at the mercy of the fickle Hollywood winds. Nothing else is going on, Dr. B! You must tell me what is going on before I can tell you!
Finally, a month later, my patience is rewarded. Dr. B tells me that Kali enjoyed reading my new treatment, could see herself in the role and, most importantly of all, thought it was commercial. Her plan is to give the piece to her manager and let him shop it around to see if anyone else is interested in making a movie out of it. Once again I am elated. But now, as before, I must play the waiting game; I must let the manager make his moves out there in the world as time passes – and passes oh so slowly.
As always happens, though (it is a law of the universe), time goes by. And with every passing session with Dr. B, there is no word from Kali Kass. One visit I ask him if he can ask her what the status of the project is the next time he sees her, but he says he can’t really – it’s a delicate situation, as he’s bending the ethical rules of medicine already and does not want to get too involved with acting as my agent and business manager. But he promises if she brings the subject up, he will pass along any information he gleans from her. I thank him, feeling a bit stymied and less than satisfied with the situation.
At any rate, months pass, and there is no word from Kali Kass. It is a long winter. By the time March rolls around, the treatment (the written one, not my medical one) has ceased to be a topic of conversation for me and Dr. B. Amazingly, one afternoon when I drop by his office to pick up a prescription, I see Kali – the stunning movie star herself – putting on a coat in the waiting room. I want to say something, but I freeze, unable to vocalize, and the moment passes with me just standing there like a tourist from Wyoming. Kali, the fabulous Kali, puts on her jacket, then walks to the door and leaves. I can’t help thinking that I will probably never see her in person again.
Spring arrives to find me utterly without hope. I have no prospects, I have no girlfriend, I have no prospects of having a girlfriend. I am not writing. I think I have writer’s block. Dr. B says that I am suffering from something called “poverty of thought,” which affects depressed people by making their minds sluggish and uncreative. I ask him what I can do about it and he says I need something to jolt me out of my funk a little. “I’ll tell you what,” he says. “What is the best script you’ve ever written? Give it to me and I will pass it on to Kali and two other name actors, Debbie Moorehead and Rinnie Ziegler, and the director Will Anders” (all patients except for Anders (a social contact) and names all made up). “How does that sound?” he asks me. I tell him it sounds great, but there is a problem because there are no good female roles in my best script. He says that’s okay, what we’re looking for in that case is for the director to take a liking to it or for one of the actresses to pass the screenplay on to a male actor who might be interested. Once again my hopes are on the rise. I tell Dr. B that the script I have in mind is universally liked among Hollywood types (although nobody has liked it enough to film it). It is called “The Hell with Hollywood” and is the story of a great dramatist who tries to pitch his masterpiece (called “The Hell with Hollywood”) to the movie studios and gets nowhere until a drug-addled teen heartthrob takes an unlikely interest in it and tries to shove it down a studio’s throat.
So I email Dr. B my script, and for months afterward absolutely nothing happens. And I mean nothing. Not one of these four celebrities can find the time to read it. They are all busy getting divorced or having babies or checking into rehab – whatever celebrities do when they’re not busy on the set of some cinematic misadventure. I have never before in my life sent a script to someone and had him or her completely ignore it. I am dejected and heartbroken. The only thought that goes through my mind is this: The hell with Hollywood. It is the dog days of summer and I sit there in the doctor’s office fuming and thinking that one thought:
The hell with Hollywood.
Banner Image: By Ariel E Barry (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons