Sunday, November 30, 2008

Better Than Bitter

A few years ago, I was invited to participate in a seminar designed to offer inspiration and guidance to young screenwriters. The event was billed as a casual discussion featuring six produced screenwriters. I wound up seated beside a hugely successful writer who opted to use his allotted time to engage in a personal bitchfest about the entertainment industry. Since he was a highly paid, award-winning writer, we were all surprised to learn that he considered himself a victim of the studio system - a system staffed by callous morons who were apparently preventing him from doing any truly great writing.

At first I thought he was joking and would settle down after he got a few laughs, but the rant continued. I began to wonder if he was aware of where he was or who he was talking to. Then I started thinking about how much money this guy made rewriting crappy scripts (the majority of which never saw the light of day). As I watched the smiles start sliding off the faces of our audience, I decided to break in. Using my best "Mary Hart" voice, I said I would love to hear him talk some of the things that inspired him as a writer. My request threw him a bit, but he did manage to rise to the occasion – sort of. The incident made me so angry I wound up recounting it to friends for weeks. I was surprised how furious I felt about the whole thing. And that’s when it hit me. The reason I was so pissed about his bitterness was that I was secretly fighting a little of my own.

When I first arrived in L.A., I was a broke playwright clueless about the movie business. I remember attending a party at a friend’s place in Laurel Canyon. It was one of those houses precariously cantilevered over the edge of a cliff (which to me felt like a giant metaphor for the life I was entering into). I was introduced to a balding, bespectacled guy who’d been making a very nice living as a screenwriter for over twenty years. His gentle, professorial manner instantly put me at ease. I was grateful for the chance to ask a few questions and was dazzled by the list of directors and stars he’d worked with over the years. But the conversation took a strange turn when I asked the one question no screenwriter wants to hear: “What have you written that I might have seen?” In his twenty-odd years of working with A-List talent, he had yet to see one of his scripts produced. His mood darkened. He poured himself a third, then a fourth drink as vitriol began to ooze out of him like molten lava. Suddenly, everyone he’d ever worked with was a backstabbing traitor; a loathsome, lying, Nazi rapist. I began to feel sorry for him. I also resolved at that moment to never become him. I would never become bitter. Never!

That proved to be a hard promise to keep. I’ve been lucky in that, for the most part, my scripts have been greeted with enthusiasm, sometimes wild enthusiasm. I once did a rewrite for a studio (whose logo is a large rodent) and was virtually carried around the lot on the shoulders of the execs, they were so happy. Pre-production would start immediately! My future was bright! Ninety days later, (for dubious reasons) the movie was shut down. At another famed studio, I’ve got a project now entering its seventh year of purgatory. Every full moon it rises from the dead, only to fall lifeless into its coffin again as soon as somebody mentions a start date. This can do a number on you after a while. “Almosts” can wear you down. You can only be stabbed in the heart so many times. As one writer I know who left the business put it, “I got tired of being fucked without a kiss.”

Without constant weeding, my artistic garden can get overrun by jealousy and resentment. Every time I mentor young writers I try to recommend the screenwriting journals of William Goldman and John Gregory Dunne. While Mr. Goldman’s books (“Adventures in the Screen Trade,” etc.) are about his work on iconic films like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Mr. Dunne’s book (“Monster”) follows the bizarre, nine-year odyssey he and his co-writer (and wife) Joan Didion took with the largely forgettable “Up Close and Personal.” One thing that Mr. Goldman, Ms. Didion and the recently deceased Mr. Dunne all had in common was that none of them were exclusively screenwriters. All three wrote in other mediums as well: novels, non-fiction, journalism, short stories, plays, etc. And that, in my humble opinion (and Mr. Goldman’s) is the secret to maintaining one’s sanity in the screenwriting business. Write something else.

A few years ago, I teamed up with a composer and began writing choral music for my church. It was a perfect outlet to use my talents as a wordsmith in an arena where it would have meaning and be appreciated. I soon volunteered to write and deliver some speeches on behalf of a charity I believed in (this also gave me a chance to exercise my performing muscles). I never dreamed that doing a short film would alter the course of my career, but it did. Writing this blog has led to magazine assignments and some interest from publishers about possibly writing a book. Although none of these projects has generated a ton of income, they’ve given me the chance to create freely; without permission, interference or notes. With no history of broken promises hovering over my head, I’ve been able to strengthen the most important thing any writer can possess: confidence in his or her own voice.

In my experience, very little good work ever emanates from a place of anger or bitterness. Chances are that nothing is stopping that A-List screenwriter mentioned earlier from taking a year off and writing a novel or an independent film -- except possibly a huge mortgage, an expensive ex-wife or just plain old fear. I like money. I like health insurance. I like success. But none of those things drew me to the altar originally. I thought I had a story to tell. I still think I do. If that’s in fact what I’m on the planet to do, then nothing can really stop me. The simple act of putting a few words down (sort of like I’m doing right now) stitches up the wound. It makes me forget the black eye I got the last time. Yes, it can get a little rough out there on the playground, but there are worse fates than having an imagination and knowing how to use it. Have a good week, Hollywood. Give ‘em hell.

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

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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why I Love Jews

A few months ago, I called home to chat with my mom and while we were talking, my cousin asked to speak with me. She wanted to tell me that she’d recently heard that all the major Hollywood studios were run by Jews and suggested that perhaps if I wanted to be more successful, I should try to think up some ideas that Jews might like. In my cousin’s defense, she’s a bit of an oddball who’s lived her whole life in small towns in Kentucky. I also suspect that she's never met a Jewish person in her life.

As embarrassing as this sounds, I didn't know there were any Jewish people in America until I was about 19 years old. Having grown up in small, working class towns, Jewish people weren’t exactly on our radar. Because my parents were big churchgoers, I’d definitely heard of Jews, but I thought they were just another dusty Old Testament tribe like the Pharisees or the Samaritans. In high school, I discovered that there were Jews in Europe and that after the war, many of them had moved to Israel. But somehow I missed the part about Jews having been a part of this country for over two hundred years. I smoked a lot of dope in those days.

Then at 19, I was cast in the chorus of a summer stock musical. The leading man was a guy named Barry Eisenberg. Barry told a lot of jokes and the punch lines always had something to do with somebody being a Jew. Needless to say, I never got the jokes. Then one day, I turned to Barry and with a totally straight face asked him if he was Jewish. He looked at me like I had just landed from Mars. “Yes,” he answered. Then, trying to sound sophisticated, I asked him what part of Israel he was from. Barry became sort of fascinated with my ignorance and during the run of the show, causally caught me up on a century or two of recent Jewish history. It was a good thing he did.

A year later, I was living in New York and working in a real estate office where I soon became intimately acquainted with the lives of two Jewish people. “Fred” (the middle-aged guy I worked for) had a particularly tortured relationship with his mother. Whenever he would see her coming from his office window, he would literally run out the back door, screaming that I was to tell her that he “wouldn’t be back for hours.” When his mother would huff and puff her way into the office, I would dutifully recite the official story. She would then shrug and say “I’ll wait.” And wait she did. Every hour or so, my boss would call in to see if she was still there. When I told him “yes,” he would yell at me to get rid of her - which was impossible. “Edna” had the patience of a Sphinx and all the time in the world. Clearly in no hurry to return to her empty apartment in the Bronx, she handily filled the time by telling me stories about the old neighborhood (which had apparently gone to hell after the Puerto Ricans arrived). She would tell me about my boss’s childhood. My boss’s brother. Their good-for-nothing father who'd abandoned the family. Her nervous breakdown. How her sons hated her. How, as revenge, they only dated blonde shikzas and refused to give her any grandchildren. Then there was her failing health. Her recent gastric operations. Her back. Her shoulder. Her feet. This would go on for hours.

Many times her visits lasted through lunch, which meant I would have to feed her. This was always sort of a production. We would go over the deli menu, item by item, as Edna briefed me on what she could or could not eat. Certain items would give her gas. Others would make her constipated. This could give her a headache. That could cause swelling. Eventually, she would settle on an Egg salad sandwich which (although it might result in death) would at least end her suffering.

After several hours, my boss would give up and return to the office. Since my desk was right outside his door, I couldn’t help but overhear every word. Having come from a repressed Southern family who loved talking about people but never to them, listening to Fred and Edna was a revelation. Their conversation would start out casually enough, but would soon blossom into a festival of guilt and blame, usually climaxing in yelling and tears. Then somehow it would settle down again. Edna would limp out of the office, get back on the number 6 train and head back to Riverdale. Nobody ever gave an inch and the whole thing would be repeated in about three week’s time.

When I left the real estate office, I went to work for a Kosher catering company based in Brooklyn that used to do events in a union hall so crowded it was like trying to serve dinner in a mosh pit. My first agents were a lovely pair of Jewish ladies named Marilyn and Diane. My second set of agents (who were young, crazy cokeheads) were also Jewish. My first great adult friend was a fellow acting student (also Jewish and also named David). In Hollywood, I’ve co-written with, been produced, represented, befriended, guided and counseled by Jewish people. My legal affairs, financial life and public relations have always been gracefully handled by some of God’s chosen. My doctor is Jewish. My neighbors are Jewish. My best friend (a guy who makes me laugh every day) is the son of camp survivors. It doesn’t get more Jewish than that. I adore his Mom. One of her paintings hangs in my bedroom.

I think one of the reasons I’ve always connected with Jewish people is that I was raised by a quiet father with unshakable faith who instilled in me a belief that I was part of something larger. I was also blessed with a loving mother who, while assuring me that I could achieve anything, also made it clear that it might be safer if I somehow achieved it without leaving the house. My parents taught me to show kindness and to offer praise and recognition to others. They also taught me to feel vaguely guilty about everything and to always expect the worst. When I explained all this to my friend Marty, he christened me “an honorary Jew.” He was also the person who told me that the video game Pac Man was actually a history of the Jewish People: Being chased while eating. Do you want to know the biggest reason I love Jews? They’re the only group of people I know who love bacon and Christmas more than I do. Friendly, funny, honest and loyal. As Marty’s mother used to say, “What’s not to like?”

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

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

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lunatics & Stupid Whores

When I first came to New York to study acting, I got a job answering phones and running errands for a real estate company that sold residential property in Manhattan. It was a good gig that lasted (off and on) for over five years and allowed me to support myself between acting jobs. The experience taught me that real estate was (in one respect) very similar to show business: Any idiot could become a huge success if they happened to be standing in the right place in the right time.

The entertainment industry is mostly populated by talented, sane and hardworking people. But there are certainly moments when you have to wonder who left the door open; letting all these nut-jobs and morons into the clubhouse. I’m not talking about the jolly eccentrics; the quirky artists who get on your nerves, but ultimately deliver when the chips are down. I’m referring to those nightmarish, horrible people who gum up the works, overturn the boat, hog all the oxygen and stink up the joint. Sadly, I can think of several such people without even trying very hard. Sometimes these individuals can amazingly float along for years based on one lucky break. Other times their insanity (or incompetence) is the key to their success, since they use it to wear down the opposition. As any of us who have ever been forced to work with one of these folks can attest, things can quickly go from “difficult” to surreal.

Early in my career, I did a play with a “celebrity” whose only claim to fame was her role in an infamous sex scandal that brought down a popular congressman. Despite having no acting experience whatsoever, she got herself into a prestigious class taught by a very famous (and very elderly) acting teacher who christened her an undiscovered genius. Buoyed by this endorsement, she then snagged herself a wealthy boyfriend and somehow conned him into financing her off-Broadway debut. I joined the production about a week before it opened, replacing an actor who had wisely chosen to bail. By this point, the play had notoriously gone through three directors and several cast changes mostly due to the coarse and violent behavior of our star who could easily have been mistaken for one of the hookers working on nearby 10th Avenue. The show (which was a horrible train wreck) mercifully closed after about two performances, but it was a strange experience to share the stage each night with a woman who appeared to be (how can I put this delicately?)…a crazy whore. Had she been a nice whore or a pathetic whore, I wouldn’t have minded so much. But she was a mean whore who called people “cocksuckers” to their face. When the show closed, she and her boyfriend disappeared into the night (with our paychecks) and were never heard from again.

One of the deadliest combinations is ego and stupidity. I once did an episode of a show with an “up-and-coming” actor who had strangely decided that television work was now beneath him. From the second he arrived on set, nothing met with his approval. Soon, it began to dawn on everyone that the actor’s problems didn’t really lie with the “weak” script, “second rate” co-stars or “lame” director. The real problem was that the actor was incredibly stupid. The guy looked and sounded good on camera, but off-camera he was something of a dolt. Although rumors of firing his dumb ass circled around the set, his antics had put the episode so far behind schedule there was no choice but to try to soldier on. It never got any better. On the last day of shooting, he waited until we were all standing on the set (in full make-up and costume), before announcing that he found the scene offensive (on moral grounds!) and was unwilling to perform it. Sensing that this fresh bullshit might keep us here all night, I piped up, saying I totally understood his dilemma and had a great idea about how to solve it. Amazingly, the director and producer stood by as I assigned a watered-down version of his “offensive lines” to another actor. My version didn’t make much sense, but the producer instantly approved it, the director shot it and the episode went on the air (with my rewrite intact) three weeks later. The actor continued to work, but “up and coming” he was not.

Sometimes, talented people become psychos when they are out of their element. Drowning in self-doubt, they can begin to think of themselves as a castle under siege. Suddenly, you are either “with them” or “against them” (with no middle ground). A few years ago, a friend of mine was cast in a sit-com that featured a well-known stand-up comic in the lead. When I asked her how things were were going, she sighed and said it was a basically an easy gig. She explained that each week the show started out with a fairly normal script; one that included a serviceable plot plus lots of jokes that were spread out evenly among the characters. But gradually during the course of rehearsals, the star would whine and scream and weep and threaten everyone until all the funny lines were eventually handed over. By the end of each week, my friend’s contribution to the show basically amounted to sitting on the sofa and saying some version of: “You’re kidding! So, then what happened?”

On the writing side, I’ve certainly encountered a few lunatics and dim bulbs as well. More than once, I’ve been in note sessions that seemed like “Twilight Zone” episodes (my favorite of these was when the director showed up for our meeting shit-faced drunk). Then there are occasionally people who leave you wondering how exactly they got their job in the first place. I can remember being sent to meet a woman a few years ago who was sort of the Sarah Palin of development executives. Pretty and well put-together, she seemed strangely clueless about the industry and had an odd tendency to start sentences she didn’t know how to finish. I can still remember her glassy expression as she assured me I could expect a bright future in Hollywood because (as she put it) my strengths were “just…so strong.”

Believe me when I tell you, I have my nutty days as well. This is a stressful business. I’d be the first to admit that the pressure to be the hippest, smartest, fastest, most-talented artist on two legs can be a bit much. If you’re not nuts coming in the door, you probably will be soon. And in the end, a little craziness might even be a good thing. Like the old saying goes: “Show business is like the insane asylum. Anyone can apply but only the truly insane are admitted.”

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

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

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The History of Drama (Part Five): The Artist in the Family

Once when I was about seven years-old, I remember some strange doctor trying to make friendly chitchat with me as he looked into my seriously plugged-up ears. At the time, I couldn’t understand why he kept asking me all these dumb questions like “Did I like baseball?” “No,” I said. Did I like football or basketball? “No.” Was I in the scouts? Did I like camping, hunting, fishing, BB guns? Finally, my mother, who was looking a little embarrassed, chimed in, saying that I was very good at drawing and painting. Smiling weakly, she added that I was sort of “the artist in the family.” Sadly, that was probably the best explanation my mom could come up with for her increasingly weird child.

A funny thing happens once you take the opposite road in childhood – it’s very hard to get back. Each summer, I can remember thinking that maybe I should spend a little time trying to learn a few “normal” pastimes, but it never seemed to happen. Since our household was large and chaotic, nobody really paid much attention to how you amused yourself. As long as it didn’t cost money, offend Jesus or damage whatever ramshackle house we were renting, you were free to do whatever you liked.

Being the sickly sort, I could often be found lying on the sofa watching our old black & white Zenith. I loved it. It was my window to the universe. For my ninth birthday, I actually begged for (and received) my very own subscription to TV guide. Each week I read it cover-to-cover as if it were Tolstoy. I became obsessed with the programming grids and soon created my own imaginary TV network, “UBS.” With a ruler and an old notebook, I drafted an entire slate of UBS shows including comedies, dramas and variety hours -- all carefully counter-programmed against the competing networks. Like any good executive, I tried to spice up the schedule by adding specials and TV movies including one called “The Strange Death of Mrs. Thompson” in which the murder victim coincidentally had the same name as my much-hated 4th grade math teacher.

Given that the Bottrell family’s motto was always “We’re broke, so don’t ask,” I learned early on to become a connoisseur of cheap thrills. I was the first of my siblings to hold a library card. I dug prizes out of cereal boxes, clipped coupons and entered a zillion contests – once winning a cardboard lemonade stand. When I ran out of actual lemonade I managed to sell the neighborhood kids a few cups of what I called “Liquid Ice” (which miraculously came right out of our garden hose). It wasn’t long before I discovered the magic of catalogues. Anyone would send you a catalogue. All you had to do was ask. Soon I had stacks of them, filled with treasures I dreamed of one day possessing.

When I finished reading a comic book, I’d cut out the images with a pair of scissors; rearranging them and pasting them onto pages of typing paper in order to create a new comic with an original story. Wanting desperately to possess superpowers of my own, I would safety-pin a bath towel around my neck (to simulate a flowing cape) and then chase invisible evildoers around my back yard with a broken croquet mallet. Occasionally, I would encounter dangerous piles of Kryptonite (cleverly disguised as dog shit) and quickly pulverize them. Each bizarre obsession would gradually give way to another: Egyptian pyramids, coin collecting, mermaids, flying saucers, Ann-Margaret, Greek gods, garage sales, astronomy charts, road maps, old record albums. One afternoon, I remember pulling my arms inside my T-shirt and spending the next several hours seeing what it would be like to live without hands.

Oddly, nothing fascinated me as much as death. When a neighborhood cat became adept at catching sparrows, I began conducting numerous, well-attended bird funerals. What most of the six year-old mourners didn’t realize was that a week later I would dig up the remains to see what they looked like. Much of my voluminous artwork included pictures of my family walking hand-in-hand with our Savior (while Russian bombs fell overhead). Once when I was being punished for something, I took a marker and drew red lines across my wrists. Then I lay down on the floor of the hallway and waited for someone to discover my attempted suicide. Mostly, everyone just stepped over me on their way to the bathroom.

When the roof started leaking, I drew detailed floor plans for the massive homes we might someday inhabit. After I saw a copy of “House Beautiful”, I was allowed to rearrange the furniture (as long as I moved it back before my Dad got home from work). Somehow each change of season offered some kind of promise. I was the first to volunteer to stay inside during recess if it meant getting to decorate the bulletin board. I traced my hand to create Thanksgiving turkeys. I cut out leaves in fall colors. I made snow out of cotton and stars out of tin foil.

My first taste of show business arrived via a book on magic tricks found in the local library. Soon, my poor family couldn’t sit down with being forced to pick a card, any card. When made to share a bedroom with other kids, I’d use a flashlight to create creepy hand shadows on the ceiling while making up elaborate tales of escaped murderers still on the loose. Once when I moved to a new school, I told the other kids my parents were secretly rich, but extremely stingy.

As I sit here struggling to come up with that fabulous spec script that no one will be able to turn down, I feel a bit jealous of that weird little kid. Half of my artistic life has been spent trying to recapture that kind of abandon. Looking back, I can see that a lot of my childhood creations were in response to a world that never seemed too secure. One of my favorite essayists, Anne Lamott, advises her writing students to “write the world you want to live in, because by doing so, you will bring it into existence.” I’ve been quite lucky in my career, largely aided by a life that was once imagined by a geeky, asthmatic kid in a cape, smashing dog turds with a broken croquet mallet. Everything I write is, in one way or another, a small attempt to repay him.

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
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 delightfully middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Elect Yourself

Hollywood loves politics. And politics loves Hollywood. In the past few weeks, many of our most famous, articulate and well-informed citizens have been out there stumping for their favorite candidates and causes. But celebrity endorsements can be a mixed blessing. Although most stars can easily express how they “feel” about a certain political candidate or issue, few are prepared to tell you exactly “why” they feel that way. Thankfully the media understands this and rarely asks any tough questions out there on the red carpet. The good news is that stars are extremely good at attracting the two things no political campaign can live without: money and unearned attention. Over the years, show business has even managed to graduate a number of elected officials including: Ronald Reagan (remember him?), Sheila Kuel (D-California), Fred Grandy (R–Kansas) and Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee). Even Clint Eastwood was Mayor of Carmel for a while and the always hilarious Al Franken is currently running for a senate seat in Minnesota.

Amazingly, three actors from the movie “Predator” have gone on to political careers: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California), Governor Jesse Ventura (I-Minnesota) and Sonny Landham. Sonny (who prior to “Predator” had a brief career in porn) was recently running for Governor in my home state of Kentucky. That is until the Libertarian party decided to remove him from their ticket when he called for genocide against Arabs and referred to them as "Ragheads." It’s risky out there. Legendary talents like Paul Robeson and Charlie Chaplin paid dearly for their unpopular political beliefs while Jane Fonda survived relatively unscathed. I still contend that Martin Sheen should have run for the Oval Office in 2004, since at that time I think most Americans assumed he was already President.

I actually feel bad for the conservative contingent in Hollywood. There are a few big guns who go unpunished (Adam Sandler, Tom Selleck, Kelsey Grammer, etc.) but confessing to a GOP membership doesn’t make you a lot of friends out here. Conservatives always complain about how the liberal mafia controls Hollywood. I don’t know why this surprises anyone. Entertainment (and drama itself) thrives on bad behavior, questionable morals and irreverence for the status quo (three things that come pretty naturally to us Democrats). Plus, most conservative entertainment is well, usually a little dull. Director David Zucker (who is an extremely funny guy) recently gave us Hollywood’s first conservative comedy, “An American Carol” which cost twenty million dollars to make and has, so far grossed a little less than seven. Not-so-famous conservatives tend to keep a low profile. In Hollywood, admitting that you willingly attended a Republican fundraiser will make you about as popular as saying you recently enjoyed a charming minstrel show.

I’m not a huge politico, but I did spend ten years of my life sitting across the breakfast table from an iron-willed, Irish-Catholic Libertarian, so I can assure you that my views as a moderate liberal received a vigorous “vetting.” I don’t disagree with everything that conservatives stand for, but I do believe we are at an important crossroads, and I’d just like to see us aim a little higher. And speaking of aiming higher, I’d now like to talk a little about California’s Proposition 8.

As you might have already noticed, the people who are trying to convince you to vote for this wretched proposition have yet to come up with one good reason why you should do so. Lacking a viable argument, they have fueled their campaign by trying to convince California voters that (as “The Colbert Report” so brilliantly put it) “Gay people want to date your babies.” Speaking as a Gay person, I can assure that is not the case. In fact, we Gays wish all California families well. What this seemingly very angry group of people are not telling you is this: Gay Marriage doesn’t affect straight people. It doesn’t affect children. It doesn’t affect school districts. It will not harm the Catholic or the Mormon church (both of whom have put their considerable weight behind trying to pass Prop. 8). In fact, no church will ever be forced to perform Gay weddings, nor will they be stripped of their tax exempt status. Proposition 8 (which seeks to eliminate same-sex Marriage in California) is a completely unnecessary measure. If passed, it will do nothing but diminish the lives of Gay people who (if I may be frank) put up with enough shit as it is. Please Vote No on Proposition 8. And ask everyone you know to do the same.

As it is with every political season, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the future. “Vote for us and everything will be great!” “Vote for them and everything will suck!” Both sides seem to have laid claim to the keywords “hope” and “change.” Honestly, I have nothing against conservatives, but lately their message has felt wrapped in a certain nostalgia for a world that no longer exists. The word “diverse” doesn’t begin to describe the America we are living in. The last seven years have finally opened our eyes to the fact that we share this planet with a few billion other people; many of whom we don’t currently like and may never fully understand. However, if the goal is a world that’s habitable, then we will have to start sharing responsibility for its peaceful preservation. Like it or not, we seem to be entering a new era; one that might require us to unplug our iPods so we can listen. It might require us to quit rolling through stop signs and let the other guy go first. It might ask us to consider (or reconsider) what we truly value.

Yes, I know, I’m just another Hollywood liberal (and I’m not even famous, so why should you listen to me?), but I'd like to point out that elected officials (and hard-won ballot measures) will never be able to create the kind of sweeping change we keep hearing about. Only we, the governed, can do that. Today strikes me as an excellent opportunity to ask ourselves what we personally are willing to do, starting November 4th, to move our communities, our country and our world toward higher ground. As someone who writes happy endings for a living, I'd like to make a suggestion. Take something other than “hope” into the voting booth tomorrow. Take some courage. Take some generosity. Take some responsibility. And by all means, take some willingness. It’s a new day.

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
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 delightfully middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv