Last year, I celebrated New Year’s the old fashioned way; in that, I went out to a club, drank too much, danced my ass off and woke up the next morning in bed with a stranger. I hadn’t done anything like that in several decades and was sort of shocked that it was even still possible. This New Year’s was spent at home with a close friend, gorging on leftover Christmas cookies while watching “Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve” and thinking how amazingly quick a year a year can go by.
The other day, when I was standing in line at the grocery store, flipping throught the pages of People Magazine's "Year in Review" edition, I had a surprisingly deep thought. It occurred to me that the whole concept of time is something we humans made up. Our lives aren’t really measured in calendar days, but in how we spend those days. This, of course, led me to think a little about how my 2009 was spent. If measured by accomplishments or financial gain, it wasn’t that great, but if measured in change, it was one for the record books.
In January, I read a piece I'd written at Sit N Spin, a writer’s showcase at the Comedy Central Stage and luckily for me, I knocked it out of the park. Over the past year, I’ve become sort of a regular there and it’s now one of my favorite things to do. When you write screenplays for a living, you get somewhat detached from your audience. Sadly, I’d forgotten the importance of actually hearing people laugh. January was also the month I started teaching an acting workshop. Although I was initially of terrified of the idea, it turned out to be enormously rewarding. I didn't anticipate that teaching would offer such an amazing opportunity to learn. Who’d have thunk it?
February brought a bunch of meetings, mostly on TV projects that never went anywhere. My goal was to crack the ever burgeoning cable market, but I found pitching TV shows elusive particularly since nobody wanted any new ideas. On Valentine's Day, my book agent emailed me to say that my artfully-crafted proposal (based on this blog) had been turned down by yet another publisher. This was the first of six or seven similar emails she would send me during the course of the year, all of them saying that the editors had “really enjoyed my writing” and encouraging me to send them "my next idea."
In March, I did a little mentoring with a very talented young writer who I met in a workshop a few years ago. By year’s end, I wound up doing quite a bit of this sort of thing with several different writers. I’m always shocked to be asked my advice, but do my best to step up, since long ago, more experienced writers did the same for me. The acting monster reared its head around St. Patrick's Day when I was cast as an Anthrax-spreading psychopath on “Criminal Minds.” It was an odd gig since you didn’t hear my voice or see my face until the end of the episode. The good news is this allowed me to do some wonderfully subtle acting using my only back, shoes and hands.
April and May brought more meetings, more pitches and a couple of personal milestones including my 50th birthday. Turning 50 was one of those things I never really thought would happen to me. Some part of my psyche dug in its heels around age 35 and I’ve never quite dislodged it. Happily, according to the results of my annual physical (which I always have around my birthday) I’m in great shape and have the body of a 48 year-old, so that’s good news. Odd to think, I’ve lived half a century, but apparently I have.
June was a big month for being “in attendance.” Weddings, funerals, union meetings (which can sometimes feel like funerals). Plus, I lent my face and voice to a PSA in an effort to help repeal the heinous Prop. 8 which, when it passed in 2008, rolled California’s civil rights record back a few decades.
In July, I acted in an independent movie which will probably never see the light of day and went to a screening of another independent movie I shot back in 2008 (which will also probably never see the light of day). I taught an on-camera workshop in Michigan and sat on a film festival jury where I gleefully passed judgment on the work of others. July also brought a very unhappy event when my literary manager called to tell me he was leaving the business.
August was mostly spent in denial. I hate looking for new representation. It pushes all my buttons and makes me crazy, so I distracted myself by co-writing a comedy short with a friend and got all political again; this time campaigning vigorously for a moderate slate of SAG candidates (about half of which won). August also brought me a miracle comparable to the virgin birth, when not one, but three reasonably large residual checks all arrived on the same day!
By early September, a terrific new manager was in place and for the first time in eons, I auditioned for (and was cast in) a stage play. This coincided with a friend inviting me to participate in an underground comedy show called “Streep Tease” where male actors performed monologues from Meryl Streep movies. The latter proved to be a huge sold-out hit and is coming back in February for a four-week run!
In October, I had one of those odd “first-time-for-everything” experiences when the director of a script I’d written asked me to read his rewrite of it and give suggestions. After mulling it over for a day or so, I decided to do it. It was an oddly emotional experience, but time has taught me that letting go of what you originally had in mind is the only path toward progress. Since I do care about the project’s future, I sucked it up and managed to give a few reasonably objective notes on how to sharpen up the material before it went into the studio.
By November, my new manager had me firmly back on the meeting circuit and I now had several pitches to prepare. A scene from a script I’d written was read in a showcase at the WGA and went over like gangbusters. By mid-month, I was asked to lend my face and voice to short promo for the SAG foundation that will be broadcast during the SAG awards. Don’t blink or you’ll miss me.
2009 wrapped up two final surprises. The first one came when my acting agency did a little end-of-the-year housecleaning, and I was swept out the door with a few other "low-earners." It was a bit traumatic at the time, but within two days I was at a better agency, so it all worked out. The second surprise came when I decide to reenter the dating market and on my first attempt, met someone very nice that I’ve hanging out with for about a month now. It’s a little soon to be sending out the wedding announcements, but it's been nice to have my faith renewed that such things as mutual attraction still exist. Even at age 50.
This morning, I sat in the pew of my wildly progressive Methodist church and listened to our minister give a really lovely sermon on the subject of resolutions. She made several great suggestions about things to consider in the New Year, but the one that truly struck me was “Carpe Diem.” Like a lot of people, I can be guilty of regretting the past and frequently waste valuable time fantasizing about how great the future could be if everyone would just cooperate with me. So after some consideration, “Seize the Day,” is the only resolution I’m making for 2010. And I’m feeling quite happy about that.
Copyright 2009 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
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 http://www.partsandlabor.tv/