Sunday, June 29, 2008

Under-Employment

Last week, I was getting my free soda refill at Astro Burger when my cell phone rang. It was my acting manager. My heart leapt. She usually doesn’t call unless it’s important. I hurried out to the parking lot where it was less noisy. After I told her how great it was to hear from her, she explained the reason for her call. “I was just calling to tell you there’s nothing going on.” “Oh, okay,” I replied, “Well, thanks for calling.” After we hung up, I had one of those "Matrix-like" moments where I'm suddenly catapulted out of the life I imagine myself leading and into the one I’m actually leading. Oddly, I’d been so busy lately; I hadn’t noticed there was nothing going on. This is one of the great ironies of my professional and artistic life -- sometimes I get so busy working that I forget to make a living. Two days later, when my accountant called to inform me how much my modest little company owed the U.S. government, that nagging little voice in my back of my head was suddenly handed a megaphone. “Time to get a damn job!” it announced.

I’m lucky. As both as a writer and an actor I’ve got a little access to the great givers of employment. People do remember me from time to time and every so often, I go through a short, unexpected spurt of real popularity. But mostly, my career is (and has been) self-generated. Until I looked at my bank statement the other day, I’d been thinking that things were going pretty well. I’ve currently got a project in development at a studio and another optioned script that’s out to some very big deal talent. I’ve been pitching some book adaptations which require a ton of prep work. Plus, I’ve been researching a new spec while drumming up ideas for an internet project and a possible stage play. My comedy short on YouTube has been getting a lot of attention and in case you were wondering, these blog entries don’t write themselves. Why, it’s been a veritable festival of creativity over here, but unfortunately none of these projects come with an automatic paycheck attached. In the flurry of all that activity, I had sort of forgotten I was jobless.

When I was a young actor living in New York, I was managed by this sweet, odd, chubby guy who rarely (if ever) left his apartment. Every time I called him, he seemed to be eating lunch. No matter what hour of the day or night we spoke, he would always say this was the first opportunity he’d had to eat lunch. I remember calling him one day panicked about how long it had been since I'd had a job. I could hear him chewing as I shared my anxiety that I might be a cater waiter for the rest of my life. He let out a deep sigh and launched into one of his trademark pep talks. Suddenly, he was the 14th incarnation of the Dali Lama being channeled through a neighborhood yenta. "Don’t be ridiculous, booby,” he assured me. “You’re not unemployed. You’re just under-employed.” When I asked what that meant, he explained. “It’s not like you’ve never worked. And you know that eventually, you’ll work again. You’re just not earning right now. You’re under-employed. See?!” Somehow this appeased me and that night as I carefully ladled soup into the bowls of museum donors, the phrase “I’m just under-employed,” became my silent mantra. As it turned out, the Yenta-Lama was correct. An audition eventually arrived that allowed me to hang up my tuxedo (at least for a while).

In my humble opinion, the trick is not to obsess or become phobic about periods of "under-employment," but to realize that (for most of us) they are simply inevitable. Even big famous, accomplished people occassionally fall out of fashion and have to wait out a dry spell. The big question is what do we do with that time. Of course, I try to keep generating new work, but quite frankly, sometimes I just need a fucking break. I need to ease off and do a little living. That way when the tide turns back, I will have hopefully accumulated a little “life” I can then put back into my work. Yes, I always need to write, but I also need to occasionally read a book that will never be made into a movie, hangout with my crazy family or allow myself to develop a little crush on someone who will probably never work out. It’s in that "real-life" ebb and flow that my shoulders drop and my best ideas tend to arrive. If I don’t keep an eye on career-based obsession and jealousy, I become an artistic Hoover sucking up nothing but dirt and hairballs from the floor of show business. Plus it keeps me from having crazy thoughts like “Kevin Bacon stole my acting career!”

A few years ago, Steven Spielberg produced a film adaptation of Whitney Otto’s novel “How to Make an American Quilt” (screenplay by the very talented Jane Anderson). The project gave a bunch of wonderful older actresses (Ellen Burstyn, Anne Bancroft, Lois Smith, etc.) a chance to sink their teeth into some big, juicy roles for a change. I remember reading a press interview where Spielberg decried the fact that these actresses were generally so underutilized in films. “Ellen is so incredible. Lois is amazing. Annie Bancroft should be working every day!” he gushed. According to the article, when Ms. Bancroft was told of his remark, she laughed. “Is he kidding? That’s why I went into show business in the first place - so I wouldn’t have to work every day.” I only met Anne Bancroft once when she came to see a play I had written. She seemed like a feisty, but pragmatic veteran of the wars. I was so nervous I don’t remember much of our conversation other than when she was leaving she said “Just keep being funny” and winked at me. My heart skipped a beat. I guess I might have been reading quite a lot into that one little wink, but I took it as a gesture of reassurance from a woman who (by her own freewill) had chosen to marry Mel Brooks. I believed her wink to mean “Keep being funny and eventually they’ll pay you for it.” And eventually they did. And they will again. It’s hard to always keep this in mind, but when fed and watered, talent doesn’t wither. It actually grows. It’s tough to wait, but the wheel eventually spins and somebody gets lucky. The following week, it’s someone else’s party. Eventually, it’s yours. Take heart, Hollywood. Everyone (who is meant to) gets their turn.

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

This essay can be emailed to a friend by clicking on the small “envelope” icon below.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being unabashedly middle-class in Hollywood at http://www.partsandlabor.tv/

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The History of Drama (Part III): A Soldier’s Story

When I was seven, we moved to a new town and my mom decided the best way for all of us to make friends was to get involved in our new school’s Christmas pageant. I wasn’t too keen on this idea. I was used to being drafted each year for our church’s Nativity plays and I never liked being in them. My sister (who had waist-length hair) always landed the plum role of the Virgin Mary, while I usually got stuck as the third shepherd from the left. I never had any lines. All I did was stand there in a bathrobe with a towel on my head. I found the whole thing sort of boring and was expecting something similar with this new show. I was in for a surprise.

Unlike the little homespun events we were used to, this was a musical with painted cardboard sets and sewn costumes. The story revolved around a bunch of toys that came to life on Christmas Eve. I was selected to be one of six toy soldiers. We had our own song and some choreography that involved us marching across the stage while stiffly swinging our arms and legs as if we were made out of wood. Since I was tall for my age, I had to stand in the back row behind this shorter kid named Carl. I’d only been in this school for a few weeks, but I already hated Carl. He tended to shove people on the playground and steal the ball from you in gym class. Having to spend any extra time with him made the whole idea of being in this dumb show even less appealing.

As opening night grew closer, I noticed my Mom was becoming increasingly excited about her contribution to the show – sewing my costume. All the mothers had been given a pattern from a book and together they'd chipped in for a bolt of red corduroy fabric so that all the soldiers’ jackets would match. My mom (who was very “crafty”) was already helping the other moms with the tricky job of making our tall cardboard hats. Meanwhile, Carl was really getting on my nerves. He did nothing but fidget and fart around during rehearsal and didn’t even know the lyrics to the stupid song. I wanted to drop out of the show, but knew I couldn’t because of my mom’s clear dedication to whole silly enterprise.

The day before the show, I came home and was excitedly ushered into my bedroom so I could try on my newly completed costume. I begrudgingly put it on and shuffled out into the hallway. Seeing me, my mother squealed with delight. Even my crabby grandmother was pried away from her beloved soap operas to come see how cute I was. Despite my whining, pictures had to be taken. Finally, as I was trudging back to my room, I stopped and looked at myself in the hall mirror. I blinked. I looked like one of those English soldiers I’d seen on TV when the Beverly Hillbillies went to Buckingham Palace. For the first time in my life I was looking into a mirror and someone different (someone not me) was looking back.

The next night we arrived at the school to find the auditorium quickly filling with people. My heart started to pound. Suddenly, I felt nervous. Everyone was going to be looking at us. What if we screwed up? What if everybody forgot their lines? Before I knew it, the show had begun. In the first scene, two kids in pajamas talked about what they wanted for Christmas and left a note for Santa. In the wings, all of us toys waited breathlessly. We knew that at the end of the first scene, the curtain would be pulled and that was our cue to rush out into our places. As I listened to the "pajama" kids say their last few lines, my mouth went dry. I felt like I needed to pee, but it was too late. This was it. There was no backing out. That’s when it hit me. I was in the back row! No one would see me. No one would see this cool costume my mother had slaved over. Suddenly, I was consumed by this huge terrible instinct. It totally overtook me. Fuck Carl! Why should he be in the front row? He didn’t even know the damn song. Whoosh! The curtain swept closed and all the toys charged the stage. Although Carl was way more athletic than me, I was taller and had longer legs. I beat him to our position by the Christmas Tree and skidded into the front row. As expected, he panicked and scrambled into the only open slot (mine, in the back row). Just before the curtain reopened, I heard him hiss “You’re not supposed to be there!” I didn’t respond. I knew Carl could beat the shit out of me, but I doubted he’d do it in front of an audience full of adults. Whoosh! The curtain reopened and everybody clapped like mad! One by one, the toys performed their individual numbers. When our moment came, the toy soldiers went for it and a relatively unassuming little boy was, for a few moments, transformed into a grinning, 75-pound Virginia ham. In hindsight, I may have swung my arms a little higher than I should have, but nobody seemed to notice. We finished to a big round of applause.

The second the show was over, I bolted from the stage and into the safety of my parents' arms. On the way home, they told me I had done a wonderful job. Carl never did beat me up. In fact, he didn’t seem to much care about what had happened. He quickly went back to knocking people down at recess and I opened an office at the top of the jungle gym where our paths were unlikely to cross. I don’t think I ever exchanged another word with him. The following year, we would move yet again and my new school would not be quite as nice. Soon, I'd begin to withdraw into my own little world; quickly mastering the fine art of invisibility. I wouldn’t set foot on a stage again until I was fifteen; drawn there not by any desire to be in the spotlight, but by a much more compelling force: a terrible pointless crush. But more on that in the upcoming chapters of “The History of Drama.” Have a good week, Hollywood. See you next Monday.

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

This essay can be emailed to a friend by clicking on the small “envelope” icon below.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being proudly middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just Past Famous

2007 was sort of a nutty year. I had just finished a fantastic stint on a TV show playing a crazy, but very entertaining character when, out-of-the-blue one of my siblings was diagnosed with a nasty case of colon cancer. Given the hereditary factors associated with that disease, my doctor deemed it a good idea for me to have my first-ever colonoscopy. For those of you who’ve never had a colonoscopy, it’s an approximately thirty-minute procedure where a doctor inserts a camera into your anus and takes a good long look at your rectum, bowl and lower intestine. Because I know myself rather well, I opted to pay an extra $250.00 to be anesthetized during the procedure. I wasn’t particularly worried about the discomfort factor. I just didn’t like the idea of having to make small talk while someone had a camera up my ass. I don't know about you, but there are certain moments in life I like to pretend never happened. When I woke up, the gastoentologist who had performed the procedure was hovering over me, gently calling my name in a warm, fatherly tone of voice. He asked me how I felt and I groggily replied "fine." Then, leaning in every so slightly, he smiled and whispered in confidential sort of way, “Did I happen to mention that I’m a big ‘Boston Legal’ fan?”

I can still remember the first time I wanted to be famous. I was about nine years old at the time. I had by then become sort of an indoor kid, constantly glued to the family’s TV set. One night when my parents were distracted, I managed to stay up late enough to watch “The Carol Burnett Show.” I loved it, and soon it became a weekly ritual. Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to be a guest on that show. When I stupidly confessed this dream out loud one night, my sister (who always took a certain joy in bursting bubbles) pointed out that Carol Burnett would never give a yahoo like me the time of day. Only famous people got to be on her show. Side note: I actually met Carol Burnett at an industry event last year and decided to test that theory. I asked her for the time and she told me she was sorry, but she didn’t know. So I guess my sister was right.

When I started acting in high school plays, I discovered that minor fame had some benefits. Used cleverly, it could shield you from bullies and occasionally win you a party invitation. I, who was no damn good at any other aspect of high school life, could at least avoid harassment by playing court jester. After graduation, I enrolled in a college that promised the students a chance to work intimately with “well-known theatre artists.” These “theatre artists” turned out to be mostly aging, alcoholic TV stars down on their luck and in need of a job. Here I got to see the tail end of fame up close and it wasn’t pretty. However, the experience awakened a certain ambition in me. If these drunken, lecherous losers could become famous, surely I could.

By age twenty-one, I was a “serious” young actor determined to make my mark in the competitive world of New York theatre. Here fame was hard-earned and only awarded to those with real skill and talent. I desperately wanted to be one of those classy East Coast actors whose careers straddled both Hollywood and Broadway. To me, fame now equaled status. All I needed was one rave review in the New York Times and I’d soon be hosting classy dinner parties at my sprawling Connecticut estate. My guests (Kate Hepburn, Bobby Deniro, Meryl and of course, the Newman's) would all join me in telling witty stories about how awful and tacky Los Angeles was. Although I eventually did get to see my name in the New York Times, the closest I ever got to the Newman’s was catering a party at their house.

By the time I came to L.A. to pursue a writing career, I was seeking a totally different kind of fame. I now only wanted to be famous within the industry. Maybe I wasn’t sexy or good-looking enough to be a big-deal actor, but goddamn it, I was funny! I might have given up on seeing my name in “People,” but I was determined to see it in “Variety.” I reasoned that (unlike acting) it would be easy to claw my way to the top of the writing profession, eventually landing in the coveted director’s chair. Fame was power. If I could just get a little of it, I’d soon be clutching an armload of Oscars. Eventually, this would lead to a “tribute” evening at AFI or USC where geeky film students would ask me thoughtful questions about my career and I would charm the shit out of everybody with my grace and modesty. A guy can dream, right?

A couple of years ago, something occurred to me: I’m never going to be famous. At least not in that “major artist” kind of way. I’ll have my moments here and there (like occasional recognition from medical personnel) but I’m not going to win an Oscar or sit in a box at the Kennedy Center Honors. The reason is simple. People rarely get famous after forty. Sometimes it happens (Morgan Freeman being the best example) but the odds are largely against it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like the industry has ignored me. Quite the opposite. In fact, I’ve seen most of my wildest dreams come true. When I was younger, I was so driven and focused and insufferably determined to be somebody. I wish I had realized at the time that I already was somebody and that fame, when you boil it down, is just a light someone shines on you. It can only illuminate who you already are and can often blind you to what ultimately matters. Had I known that twenty years ago, I might have taken things a little easier and hit fewer walls.

The revelation that Godot is not coming has been strangely freeing. The last two years have been, hands down, the most fun and artistically satisfying of my whole career. The decision to stop steering the boat has paid some glorious dividends in both the writing and the acting camps. It's odd to realize that my fantasies gave me a life and now life is giving me back those fantasies. As my hero, Mark Twain once said, “Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.” Maybe not the cheeriest way of putting it, but I don’t disagree. A long time ago, I was lucky enough to be let into a club that celebrates dreaming and dreamers and I’ll glady perform in their talent show as long as they’ll have me.

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

This essay can be emailed to a friend by clicking on the small “envelope” icon below.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being fantastically middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Genius Meeting

When I first announced I was moving to L.A., my New York writing agent told me not to bother boarding the plane unless I had a freshly-minted screenplay under my arm. I'd never written a screenplay, but I'd seen lots of movies, so I wasn't particularly intimidated. How hard could it be? Tossing caution to the wind, I just started typing with no particular game plan in mind. That, of course, is the worst possible way to begin a screenplay, but God occasionally looks out for the insufferably stupid and within a few weeks I had myself a big 118-page-mess of a script that I was extremely proud of. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my script lacked any sort of viable structure, had a hugely overcomplicated plot and would have required a budget somewhere around one billion dollars. In short, I had written a completely unmake-able movie. However, in its defense, I will say it was a pretty entertaining read. It had a solid comic engine driving all twenty-seven of its intertwining plots and was consistently surprising from beginning to end. I headed for L.A. with high hopes.

It’s sort of a long story, but shortly after the plane landed, I parted company with my lit agent and drifted for a few months until somehow my script wound up in the hands of some execs at a major studio who introduced me to my first mega-agent. Unbelievably, she loved my script and with a zeal approaching religious hysteria, proceeded to introduce me to all the producers and development people in Hollywood – and I do mean all of them. Soon, I was taking a ridiculous number of meetings (30 in the first month alone). Based on this single script, I managed to stay on the “hot writer" list for the better part of a year. At the time, it struck me as odd that not one of the people I was meeting had even the slightest interest in actually producing my script. They just wanted to meet the guy who wrote it. Over and over again, the word “genius” was kicked around. I was a “genius” or my script was “sheer genius." Apparently, I was an innovator, a ground-breaker, a visionary. And a damn nice guy.

Almost everyone I met assured me that they couldn’t wait to work with me. They had numerous ideas they wanted to discuss. Books that needed adapting. Scripts that needed rewriting. My future was bright. I was assured I would be hearing from them, "next week at the latest." It was like a dream. Apparently all I had to do was sit on my ass and tons of high-paying work would soon be dumped into my lap. Why had I waited so long to move to Hollywood? Unfortunately, this influx of attention proved to be not so good for me as a new writer. My ego soon inflated to the size of a dirigible and I began to turn down perfectly good opportunities because they didn’t fit my new status as a cinematic “genius.” My agent began to lose patience with me; hinting that this party might not last forever. Secretly, I was developing a huge case of writers' block fueled by a rising terror that I would never be able to live up to my new fan club's expectations. In the end, that would never become an issue since most of my fans never called back. A few did, but most simply dissolved into the ether. Apparently, a new wonderboy had come to town and the crowd stampeded after him. It was a painful lesson.

For a while, I felt like a jilted bridegroom left at the altar, but disappointment can be a great teacher. Within a couple of years, I began making friends in the producing community and suddenly the whole mystery of the “genius meeting” began to reveal itself to me. Like everybody else, producers and execs are drawn into the entertainment industry by the slick and shiny veneer of creativity. But soon, the veneer cracks and they can find themselves up to their asses in so-so, uninspiring material (some of which they have paid handsomely for). When a new script by a young writer comes across their desk that’s fresh or funny or innovative, they are of course galvanized by it. Naturally, they want to reconnect in a personal way with that same sort of creative energy that attracted them to this business in the first place. Who can blame them? We all need to believe that miracles can still happen. Hence the general meeting (AKA “The Meet and Greet”). Bottles of water are cracked open and the lovefest begins. A friend of mine refers to this as “The Evian Tour.”

Yes, there are some sleazy, duplicitous jerks out there, but the producing community is primarily made up of hardworking regular Joe's – totally human and prone to periods of intense, unwarranted excitement. In my experience, at the exact moment a producer or development exec is saying that they love you, love your work and really want to work with you, they probably mean it. But then you leave the room, and the phone rings and shit starts to happen. Perhaps they suddenly remember that you are a comedy writer and their bosses want only action movies right now. Maybe they are in production and quickly become embroiled in problems emanating from a troubled set. Or there’s always that new serial killer novel that arrives at 6 PM and has to be read by 9 AM the following morning. The sad truth is your inventive little script soon becomes buried under an avalanche of time-consuming, ego-based projects that tumble in their door on a daily basis. Having spent time in many producers’ offices, I can say with some authority that they seem to only operate in two distinct modes: “pleasant, surreal boredom” or “dangerous, blinding shit storm.” It's a nutty job and the attrition rate is staggeringly high.

Having been in L.A. for fifteen years, I’ve now (professionally speaking) outlived about three generations of movie producers and executives. Some of them I adored. Others I wasn’t so sad to see go. Even now, when I walk into one of those cramped studio offices, my heart sinks a little when I see the piles and piles of scripts cascading off shelves and tables and stacked against the walls. I can’t help but think of the investment that went into them and how soon (when no one can walk in here anymore), some assistant will cart them all down to the recycling bin where they will soon start their new lives as recycled greeting cards, file folders and of course, toilet paper. The good news is that if those writers are in fact real writers, then they will have more stories to tell. And if their new stories are well-told, there’s always a chance that some intrepid producer will discover one of them in the stack and fight like hell until that writer’s vision becomes a reality. Sort of amazing when you think about it: everything that goes into that moment when the lights go down and an image starts dancing across the screen. I'm always a little awed by it. Some might not be so impressed and simply declare it business as usual, but I'm a sucker. I prefer to call it by its real name: “genius.”

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

This essay can be emailed to a friend by clicking on the small “envelope” icon below.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being beautifully middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Paneling

In addition to being Mecca for the film and television industries, L.A. is also home to about a zillion entertainment-related organizations. They're a diverse group that includes unions, academies, film schools, lobbying groups, film festivals and social-networking outfits. All of them figured out long ago that the most effective form of promotion in L.A. is the “event” and the cheapest form of event is a panel discussion. Everybody does them. I’ve sat on many, organized a few and attended plenty. Basically, all you need is a big room, a microphone and some folding chairs and you’re in business. Your panel will need some sort of topic or theme (something catchy like “The Changing Face of Transgendered Asians in the New Media), but no matter what your topic, the success or failure of your event will rest solely on one ingredient: your panelists.

This being Hollywood, celebrity panelists are a big score, but they’re hard to get, so the next step down the food chain is to book panelists who have recently worked in the industry or as I like to call them “People with Parentheses.” Having pretty much anything in “parenthesis” behind your name casts the illusion that you might actually know what you’re talking about. For years my parenthesis read David Dean Bottrell (“Kingdom Come”). Currently, it’s David Dean Bottrell (“Boston Legal”). If you’re wondering what the content of your parenthesis might be, here is the formula: It’s what the headline of your L.A. Times obituary would say if you happen to die on the day of the panel.

I think I became popular on the circuit because I possess two skills highly desirable in a panelist: I'm usually funny and I can make a point in less than two minutes. On various occasions I’ve “paneled” on the writing process, being a produced writer, being a produced writer with spiritual beliefs and being a white writer of African-American entertainment. I’ve also sat on a lot of gay panels where I shared hilarious anecdotes about being a gay writer, a gay actor, a gay director, a gay producer and a gay activist. What can I say? The gays love a good panel. When asked to be on a panel, I almost always say yes, because like everyone else in show business, no matter how busy I am, I never feel like I’m busy enough. And needless to say, if there is any free food or drink involved, I’m there!

I enjoy doing panels. They're fun. No special preparation is needed and the only real requirement is that you speak when spoken to. There are only two parts of the evening I dread. The first is the “Q & A” with the audience. Sometimes the “Q’s” are great. Sometimes not. Occasionally, the audience member at the microphone doesn’t seem to have an actual "Q," and instead winds up delivering a long, strange monologue with only the slightest connection to the subject we've been discussing. This is always a tad awkward and leads to a lot of squinting and nodding on the part of the panelists.

The other dicey part of the evening is what I call “the surge.” The surge occurs when the panel is over and the audience storms the stage to talk to the panelists. This can be a little scary, particularly when I see people coming at me holding headshots or spec scripts. That’s the tough part about paneling - when I find myself face-to-face with individual members of the audience. Most of these people are knocking themselves out, working side jobs or taking classes while trying to get a foothold in the entertainment business. They’ve come to this event hoping to gain some useful information or to maybe forge a professional connection with someone (someone like you). I often meet people at these events that inspire me with their guts and determination and others that worry me a little; people who seem ill prepared for the journey or maybe a little mature to still be chasing this particular dream.

Once, during a particularly dramatic “surge,” a nervous, skittish-looking young woman approached me and asked my advice on her stalled acting career. Pouring her heart out, she told me she felt the problem basically stemmed from having been raised in a highly critical household that had left her suffering from a crippling lack of self-esteem. The girl was a mess. I listened until it became hugely uncomfortable. Finally I broke in, giving her some generic “hang-in-there” advice and ducked guiltily away. I felt bad, but I knew I couldn't say what I honestly wanted to (which was: “Wake the fuck up, Sister! This is your life you’re screwing around with!")

Forgive me while I climb atop my soapbox for a minute. This job is not for everybody. The basic component of all creative work is fantasy and fantasy can be a wonderful anesthetic for our personal pain, but the entertainment industry is not designed for slow-moving people with delicate constitutions. We all like to think of ourselves as exotic flowers, but until proven otherwise, we will be viewed as dandelions at best. It pays to know up front that the big riding mower of show business shows no favoritism and will be cutting off your head on a regular basis. But wait! There’s good news! To stretch that dandelion metaphor a little further -- the ability to grow a new head by the end of the week is the mark of someone who is putting down roots and it’s those roots that will sustain you until someone recognizes your talent and gives you your first decent opportunity. I can guarantee you that most of the people you admire (people with parentheses behind their name) are on their fourteenth or fifteenth head by now. I know I am.

Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I'm hoping that someday soon, I'll be so swamped with extremely high paying work that I won't have time to sit on any more panels. Or maybe one day a big studio talent scout will spot me sipping my Evian behind the panelists' table and it will be Hollywood's version of true love. He will see in me the guy he's been looking for -- the perfect produced writer-director-actor for that white, African-American, activist dramedy with spiritual, yet gay undertones. My ship will have finally come in!

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

This essay can be emailed to a friend by clicking on the small “envelope” icon below.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being unexpectedly middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv