The Vagaries of Show Biz - From a Writer’s Perspective

    The first screenplay I ever wrote was stolen by one of the biggest producing entities in the world. Not to name any names, but it’s associated with some of the most beloved animated characters of all time, and will hereon in be referred to as BBS (Big Bad Studio). And this was the beginning of my almost-stellar career in Hollywood.

    Here’s how it happened: Two years after we had written our first screenplay - and scribing out third - my writing partner and I were taking a break from the computer. We were working on a horror film for a Japanese company that had requested our services through someone who knew our work. I settled in front of the TV while my partner flipped open the TV Guide. “Oh my gawd,” she said, pointing to a listing. “That’s our screenplay.” I took a closer look. Sure enough, it was the same title and the brief synopsis sounded a bit too similar to the one we had written. It got worse. We sat for almost two hours, glued to the television watching as the story unfold, almost exactly as we had written, with the same characters. Beginning with the title, we counted 95 points of similarity.

    We contacted a law firm in Century City. After reviewing our case, the lawyer who agreed to meet with us, said, in so many words “Yep, sure looks like a case of plagiarism.” What ensued was a series of phone calls to BBS’s legal department and one particular lawyer who said, in no uncertain terms, that he saw no similarity between BBS’s production and our screenplay, but in the future, should we have our screenplay produced, BBS will sue us for plagiarism! Uh...what?

    Welcome to Hollywood.

    We were told by our legal council that BBS was far too huge to take on and they would bury us - even if we had the tens of thousands of dollars, it would take to pursue legal action. So we dropped it. Discouraged, yes, but we kept going. I think most rational people would have given up screenwriter and gone on to writing recipes.

    In retrospect and having known other writers who have had their works stolen out from under them, we probably should have contacted the Writers Guild of America. In spite of what many people think of unions, they do serve a purpose - and will rally to your cause.

    Oh and then there was this manager who loved our work and who courted us and set us up with one of the more prestigious talent agencies for TV (we had written two spec scripts for two very popular televsion shows). We came up with several ideas for what we thought would make fabulous shows and handed them over to our manager. Short story, he, the manager, disappeared, the agency decided they weren’t interested (rather they stopped returning phone calls), and then (you can probably guess what’s coming) coincidentally (or not) over the next few years, we saw three of those shows come to life on network television.

    Was I ready to quit yet? Naaaah....

    When I first got to LA, I met lots of famous people and had many doors open for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the confidence to take advantage of the opportunities. I realize now that success is predicated upon having confidence. A little shameless self-promotion doesn’t hurt either.

     One lesson I continuously have to relearn is to always go with your gut instinct. One project in particular reminds me of this. Both me, as a writer/producer, and the lead actor were dead set against casting this particular person to play a rather important role. All my bells and whistles were tooting and screaming “NO!” But we deferred to the director and casting director and agreed to cast the person. Long story short: I could not stand being in the same room with the actor for more than five minutes and the lead actor was so affected by the other actor’s “energy,” he lost 35 pounds during the run of the show.

     Never apologize for anything, unless of course you inadvertently step on someone’s toes or run someone down. We are all sisters under skin. We all have a rightful place in creation.

     Having been on both sides of the casting sofa, I now realize that actors need to understand that many times they might not be cast simply because they don’t look right with another person that has been cast. Or they aren’t blond, or brunette, or tall, or whatever – or simply just not what the director/producer has envisioned for the part. Don’t take rejection personally. Remember also, that some of the greats – both writers and actors – had been rejected for years before anything took hold.

     On that note: I was once recommended for a part in a film (with known actors). Had I been cast, I would have gotten my SAG card (a big deal back then). First flag: I was called by the “director“ to audition on Saturday. Next flag: there was no one to sign me in or out, a SAG requirement. But being game, and spotting at least one other person in the building, which was in a decent area on Melrose Avenue, I went ahead and met with the director. I had red hair back then. After a few moments of polite chitchat, the director paused, then sat back in his chair. “So tell me,” he said, “I’ve always been curious. People with red hair – are they the same down there as they are up there?” He looked first at my crotch, then at my wavy red hair (Thank you Clairol.). I smiled politely, shrugged, all the while thinking about that damn SAG card. He then told me that one of the scenes would require me, the actress, to come screaming out of a house topless (this was news to me). He then asked if I wouldn’t mind showing him my breasts. “After all, we have to be sure.” Be sure of what? That I have perky tits? I felt my face color, and saw that SAG card flashing before my face. “Uh,” was about all I could muster. I popped out of my chair and headed toward the door. “My breasts are just fine, thank you.” I went home, called my agent (commercial agent – the only one I had at the time) and told her what happened. “Well, it’s really up to you,” she said. I didn’t get the part.

     To me, God is creativity and Creativity is god. Everyday we are creating, even if we don’t consider ourselves “artists.” (Me on a good day).

Sometimes we run out of paint. (Me on a bad day).

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