Once, many years ago, I had a screenplay I was flogging around town. It was an amusing little ditty about being Asian-American in Hollywood. I had a manager involved, it placed in a screenplay competition, there was actually some interest in the project, but I needed a director to make it happen. A director to, you know, push it forward, talk it up, make the dogs and ponies prance about. Which was not really my strong suit, as the following story will illustrate:
One potential director I met with was someone with whom I had worked closely in my Chicago days. We were in the same theater company for years. He had directed me in a play. We were friends. We had history. (I also had a slight crush on him, but that was beside the point. Or was it?) This director and I had both recently relocated to Los Angeles, where he was making inroads into the film community. I was looking for a film director. Perfect, right?
We agreed to meet at his house and talk about the project. I stayed up late the night before, getting the script in perfect shape. The morning of the meeting, I trundled over to his home, a bohemian California bungalow rental in Silverlake. He made coffee and I made chit-chat (in my signature Barbara Walter’s interview style) while we tried to negotiate that odd tonal terrain between friendly catch-up and commerce.
What was he up to? I asked. A lot, apparently. The director smoothly unspooled a long list of projects— upcoming, completed or conjectured—all while casually opening the refrigerator, hauling out the Brita, handing me my glass of water. He presented a verbal resumé without it ever sounding like a recitation, making it sound, like, well, conversation.
“And what have you been doing?” he asked, all friendly-like. I stared blankly, like he had just asked me to recite the Gettysburg Address in Portuguese. “Oh, well, I, uh, oh you know, just the, trying to… get…stuff… done.” Never mind that there were accomplishments I could have ticked off— my one man show, my nascent voiceover career, anything—no, it was as if I had just that morning awoken from a three-year coma. I took the longest swig of water ever known to man.
And that was just the chit-chat portion.
We made our way to the living room. There, on the coffee table, was the script I had so diligently worked on the night before. Without words, we both knew, instinctively, that we had at last wended our way to the business portion of our meeting. “So,” the director said, settling down on the couch, “tell me what the screenplay’s about.”
You’d think I might have anticipated that question.
“Oh! Well, it’s about, um, there’s this girl, she’s half-Asian, and she’s got a fixation on this up-and-coming Hollywood star, and, well, you think it’s a crush, but it’s not really, he’s, um, I mean, it turns out he’s got this secret, um, and it’s that she’s his sister, I mean, that’s not the secret, I mean, though no one knows that, but the secret is that, like, he’s half-Asian, and so, in Hollywood, they don’t know, and, um—“
This is not the most painful part. The most painful part is when I actually interrupt my rambling to bury my face in my hands, sigh the weariest of sighs, and mutter the three words guaranteed to sell your pitch: “I’m so tired…”
I’m. So. Tired.
|But I was!
Needless to say, he passed on the project.
This cautionary tale continues to haunt me, especially now, as my book is entering its long gestational period before publication. I want to speak eloquently about “Still Life Las Vegas” in conversation or interviews. I want to chat it up at a moment’s notice. I love my book, and I need to think of it like it’s my own son, about whom I can talk proudly and endlessly.
So here’s where you come in.
If, in the next year, we happen to be conversing, and you find a propitious moment, could you casually ask me what my book is about? I won’t go on too long, I promise, and we needn’t dwell on the matter.
It’s just that, you know, I might need the practice.