Sunday, February 28, 2010

He's Got a Ticket to Ride, But He Don't Care

Recently, I was reading in one of the entertainment rags that in 2009, Steven Spielberg was paid $50 million dollars by Universal for theme-park royalties based on his movies. It made me wonder if Steve (as I like to call him) might be interested in designing a ride based on my life.

About a month ago, something happened to me that I wasn’t really expecting. I was struck with a very real bout of despair. I’m not talking about the to-be-expected mood swings that come along with being in the entertainment business. I’m talking about an uncontrollable freefall into the ninth circle of hopeless hell.

I’d just come back from visiting my oddball family, which to be honest, can sometimes put me in a vulnerable place. Dropping my luggage just inside the door, I gathered up my unopened mail and began to sort through it. Among the restaurant menus and union magazines that I never read, were two unexpected bills. I supposed “unexpected” is the wrong word, in that I knew they would be arriving at some point, but I didn’t think they’d arrive on the same day. And I didn’t realize just how frighteningly huge they would be. 2009, although very fulfilling in a number of ways, hadn’t exactly been a banner year in the money department. As I stared at these two ginormous invoices, both of which were marked “due on receipt,” I had absolutely no idea how I was going to pay them.

In order to avoid a panic attack, I did what I always do -- I applied a nice thick layer of denial over the whole situation. “Oh, it’ll all work out,” I heard myself say as I tossed the offending bills on the dining room table, but something about the statement sounded hollow and unconvincing. A cloud began to form over my head and for the next two days, I couldn’t shake it. Then midweek, as I sat at my desk, eating a chicken salad sandwich, the earth opened up without warning and I tumbled into the abyss. There was no denying it. I had failed.

Just a few hours before, I had been a working artist. Not famous. No genius, but clever enough to make a living in Hollywood and remain vaguely optimistic about my future. Now suddenly, I was a middle-aged flop. What had happened? Instantly, my mind went leapfrogging backward to my early days when all I wanted in the world was Timothy Hutton’s career. He’d just won the Oscar for “Ordinary People,” playing the same kind of sensitive troubled young man I knew I was born to play. And why hadn’t I been cast in “Mask” instead of Eric Stolz? I was really good in that audition. They’d said so! Surely, if I’d gotten that part, I’d have lots of money now. Plus I’d know Cher.

Having opened the wound, I couldn’t stop pouring on the salt. Why hadn’t I moved to L.A. when I was still young and cute? Why had I clung to that stupid New York actor dream for so long? Or maybe I should never have left New York in the first place! Who knows? By now I might have been a big deal Tony-winner (like my friend Julie White). The slide continued into the following day. Why hadn’t I signed with Agency A instead of Agency B? Why had that guy I used paint apartments with become an A-List writer instead of me? How come my former neighbor was now a gigantic film star and I couldn’t even get a lousy audition for one of her movies? Maybe I should have had children. They’d be young adults by now and could support me. And why hadn’t I won a fucking Emmy for “Boston Legal?” They give out a truckload of those things every year! They couldn’t spare one? Suddenly, I was neck-deep in that awful feeling I'd when I was a kid and it was time to “choose up teams” in gym class. Bespectacled and utterly un-athletic, I was always the last to be picked. Here I was again, standing against the wall. The last to be picked. What the hell had happened to me? What had gone wrong?

Clearly, it was time to take action. I might not have enough money to pay my bills, but I sure as hell had enough to purchase a pint of Häagen-Dazs, a bag of Cheetos and a pack of American Spirits. As we all know, bad behavior never solved anything, but sometimes it can provide the perfect string section for the symphony of despair. As I sat watching a rerun of a talk show -- that I’d already seen – at one o’clock in the morning -- I tried to desperately to scrape up some forgiveness. Yes, it had been rugged lately. I’m not a born juggler. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but over time, I’ve learned to keep tap dancing; to keep tossing pebbles at the palace windows until somebody opens the latch and screams, “Okay, you can come in for a minute.” But on this particular evening -- at one o’clock in the morning -- covered in Cheeto crumbs, I felt like I’d run out of tricks. There are worse things than failing, I told myself. I didn’t have cancer. I wasn’t living in a cardboard box (yet). Many people I knew were struggling. Maybe I could have a garage sale. Maybe everything would look better in the morning.

It didn’t. That is until the mail came and there, in among the flyers for shows I have no intention of seeing and offers to sink myself further into debt, was one extremely large royalty check for a play I wrote almost twenty years ago. I had virtually forgotten that the play even existed, much less that it was still being performed somewhere out there in the hinterlands. But happily, the play had not forgotten me. Suddenly, things weren’t so bad. That sad, broken, hopeless wretch who hadn’t showered in two days was quickly replaced by a still energetic guy who might have a few more tricks up his sleeve. I was fine. Better than fine. I was a show business professional.

Funny how dreams never really die. Thirty years after having bought my first ticket on this ride, I still like it. Every time the car whips around the track at breakneck speed, forcing my stomach into my throat, I swear that I’ll never get on it again, but I always do. I haven’t been near a real roller coaster in more than a decade, but I still remember that dizzying sensation when you are hurtling down toward what feels like certain death, only to be jerked up and out of harm’s way at the last possible second. I always loved that moment of salvation, but my favorite part was what came next; that long slow climb back up the tracks as your heart fills with anticipation. Up you go, while anything resembling the earth slips from your peripheral vision. You can still hear the music and the crowd, but they are so far below you. All you can see is big blue sky. And you just keep getting closer and closer.

Copyright 2010 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 http://www.partsandlabor.tv/

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/QuitcherBitchyn

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Happy Anniversary

Shortly after I published last week’s entry, I realized that I had missed an odd little anniversary. Two years ago, in mid-February 2008, I began writing this blog. At the time, the Writers’ Strike had just been resolved and I found myself with extremely mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was glad that the strike was over, but on the other, it was clear that the entertainment industry was entering into a new phase. Some big questions were on the table including whether or not my being in show business was going to remain a viable way to make a living. Even after months of walking the picket line, I still wondered if I was the only person who struggled with the ups-and-downs of being a “creative” in what appeared to be an increasingly uncreative business. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to write about it.

“Parts and Labor” was launched as an experiment. I thought I'd give it six weeks. Maybe less. But to my surprise, almost immediately my inbox was jammed with messages from people in the business admitting that they too struggled with many of the injustices and tough decisions that I wrestled with. Many of these folks saluted me for acknowledging the elephant in the living room and encouraged me to continue. Buoyed up by this wave of enthusiasm, I kept the blog going a little longer.

Before I knew it, an entire year had passed and readership had grown substantially. Many of the people reading P&L weren’t even in show business, but related to the tales I was telling. Although that was flattering, it was also intimidating. I began to worry that I’d run out of stories or that the struggles of a none-too-famous actor-screenwriter would get old. Did people expect a happy ending? What if I never achieved any more professional success? Would this turn into a blog about being a big fat failure?

As my anxiety rose, I began wondering if it might be in my best interest to gently back out of this commitment. I wrote an entry hinting that I was getting awfully busy and might not be able to continue the weekly posts. Overnight, I received a ton of messages urging me to keep going; that “Parts and Labor” was a source of inspiration to many of those who toiled in artistic vineyards of Hollywood. Guilt forced me to keep typing. On I went.

Then last week, I was amazed to realize that a second year had passed. Unbelievably, my adventures in show business had again provided me with just enough material to choke up 52 more entries – 52 more tales of small triumphs and minor tragedies. Two entries published in 2009 did however, provided me with something I’d never received before: Hate mail.

The first instance occurred when I published an essay that contained a small reference to rags-to-riches singing sensation, Susan Boyle. In the post, I made the mistake of saying that although I didn’t think she was the greatest singer in the world, I was hugely charmed by her courage, modesty and openness in front of an audience. Well, apparently, quite a few of Susan’s fans have Google alerts up for her name, because by sunrise of following day, I was on the receiving end of some extremely nasty emails. Let me warn you, Hell hath no fury like a Susan Boyle fan scorned. An international network of middle-aged ladies ripped me a new one for having the nerve to criticize their beloved hero. Many of these ladies got extremely personal, calling me an “Shithead," an "Ignorant Twit” and saying that I clearly didn’t have an ounce of the talent that Ms. Boyle possessed – and those were just the nice ones! Stunned, I actually responded to a couple of the more vehement messages and invited them to take a second look at what I’d actually written. This proved to be mistake, because their responses made it plain that I was in the Susan Boyle doghouse for good. Hopefully all these ladies felt justly vindicated when Susan’s debut album sold more than 400,000 copies the first week it was released – more than any other female recording artist in history. And before I get any more nasty emails, let me reiterate once again, I like Susan Boyle. She seems like a terrific lady and I’m very happy for her success.

The second uprising came when I wrote a piece about the ratification of the recent SAG contract and the ridiculous chain of events that had led up to it. Truthfully, I was simply fed up. Acting is a business that struggles for dignity and I was pissed that the leadership of our union had for 18 months waged a very public civil war that had made us look like a bunch of bickering idiots. I posted it just before the SAG elections and made it clear that I, for one, felt it was time to let go of what “was” and to start thinking more creatively about how we could protect our future. To date, that entry scored the highest readership of anything I’ve ever written. Once again, I was treated to some very angry emails from disgruntled SAG members who seem to be accusing me of everything from being in bed with corporate America to having no compassion for old people, orphans or dogs. Thankfully, a few of the more progressive SAG members liked my piece and I even got invited to a big celebrity-laden party where I was clapped on the back and congratulated by a great many actors I deeply respect (not only for their talent but for their intellect and discernment). Although the final election results did not rid us of all the loons and nutcases, I remain hopeful that the next round of negotiations (scheduled for later this year) will include a few more concrete and realistic maneuvers that might preserve our financial future; a future that I care very deeply about.

As I’m sure you know (assuming you read this blog with any regularity) I try to avoid being preachy. I also try to avoid complaining and self-pity. I’m not always successful, but I do try. I’m consistantly very grateful for the feedback I received each week and hope that you’ll continue to send me your thoughts and ideas. And like all performers, I really enjoy praise, so feel free to keep that coming as well.

The goal of this blog has always been the same: To document one guy’s odd, but not unhappy journey through the world of entertainment. As a lifestyle, show business doesn’t always make a lot of sense. The rewards are often quite personal and tend to arrive at irregular intervals (sort of like residual checks). But when they do appear, they are as sweet and satisfying as rain in the desert. A very good friend of mine, who is now a big TV star, recently came to a comedy show I’m currently doing and the next day sent me a very kind email reflecting on the fact that we’ve now known each other for over 25 years. It included this very lovely quote: “So glad we’ve shared the dream for this long. They are years well spent.” I couldn’t agree more. Have a good week, Hollywood!

Copyright 2010 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/

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/QuitcherBitchyn

Monday, February 15, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy... If they'd just let me.

A few weeks ago, the Oscar nominations came out and I was shocked to see that my name was not among the nominees. I suppose there’s some logic to this, given that I haven’t really worked in over a year, but still. Sadly, awards season is usually a little rugged for me. It always leaves me feeling crabby and neglected. I guess it’s because my initial introduction to show business sort of started off with the Oscars.

I still remember the first time I saw them when I was about 12 years old. Nobody in my large and argumentative household was too keen on the idea of sitting through a 3-hour televised award show honoring movies they hadn’t seen, so I had to put up quite a fight just to keep the TV tuned to the right channel. Truthfully, I hadn’t seen any of the movies either, but I had seen the ads for them in the local paper and sensed that this was somehow a momentous occasion. Even now, after many years in the business, that feeling still persists for me.

For many of us, award shows gave us our first glimpse into the seemingly glamorous world of show business. They offered a sexy, tantalizing view of celebrities at the peak of their success. Jesus! Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that club? Apparently, once you were in contention for some major award, it separated you from the pack. Even if you didn’t win, you at least got to become an indelible footnote in the cultural history of entertainment. It’s a pretty seductive image – especially for newcomers. The idea of having the word “nominee” attached to your name would certainly impress your family -- or at least shut them up for a while.

Of course, once you’re in the entertainment business for a few years, you begin to realize that the majority of anyone’s career is not spent standing on a red carpet with a microphone in your face. Most of your time is spent doing what all people in the business have to do: hustling for work and waiting for something wonderful to happen. Keeping the dream alive requires some imagination or maybe more accurately, some daydreaming. And what better to daydream about than the idea of finally being recognized for the time and energy you’ve put forth.

As embarrassing as this sounds, I have over the years, composed a great many acceptance speeches in my head. I find they come in handy when I’m stuck in traffic or on the days when I find out that I didn’t get a particular job I was hoping for. There’s something sort of medicinal about that imaginary moment of hearing your name called. It washes off the dirt of failed auditions, scripts that didn’t sell and the people who sort of abandoned you at key moments in your career.

I’ve noticed that my imaginary acceptance speeches have sort of evolved over the years. This probably stems from the growing realization that as I mature, such a spectacular windfall is pretty darned unlikely. My early speeches were filled with dreamy, naïve excitement, but lately they have become more of a statement of purpose; a self-awarded merit badge for having carved out a path of myself and stuck with it. Plus, they help me shed regret and celebrate what I actually do love about the business.

And so my friends, I’d like to offer you my acceptance speech. It’s a little generic since I wear a couple of different hats in the industry and could (in theory) be nominated in several different categories. But first, let’s set the scene.

In this particular fantasy, I look fantastic. I’m fit, trim and am wearing slim-fitting tuxedo that I actually own. Seated beside me is my smokin' hot date (with whom I’m going to have sweaty, rapturous sex later in the limo on the way to the governor’s ball). When my name is called, my date gives me a quick, affectionate little kiss before I bound down onto the stage with youthful and athletic grace. I am handed my award by a gorgeous celebrity who shakes my hand and pats me lovingly on the shoulder. While waiting for the thunderous applause to die down, I do my best to appear humble and composed, nodding my head shyly and smiling at the cheering crowd.

And then I open my mouth…

“First off, I’d like to say thank you for voting for me. I know you have many choices when voting for award nominees and I appreciate that you picked me. I’d like to assure you that you made the right decision. I promise to carry out all my official duties as an award winner this year with class and dignity, upholding all that the academy stands for. Obviously, there are a many people to be thanked. So many in fact, that I’m not going to attempt to do it in the thirty seconds I’ve been graciously allotted by the network. Instead I’d like to say a little something about gratitude. When I came into this business, I was quite young and all I really wanted was some glory. And I’m happy to report that along the way, I’ve been granted a little. Initially, I thought my job was to satisfy some highly personal need to be the center of attention, not realizing that no one gets to occupy that spot for long. It took me quite some time to realize that my job was actually to be of service; to entertain others. To give people a break; make them laugh; or invite them turn over a few of life’s rocks and see what’s underneath. I guess that might sound a bit pretentious, but I do think that audiences appreciate what we do. God knows, it’s an unusual and sometimes costly way to spend one’s life, but it’s not without its rewards - the primary one being love. And I don’t mean that in any sappy, all-encompassing kind of way. It’s not like I’ve loved everything I’ve done or that I haven’t worked with some real assholes along the way. I mean that unlike many people, I will be able to go to my grave saying I enjoyed the ride. I truly loved what I did and I gave myself to it fully. It was fun. And it had meaning. Believe it or not, even if you had not given me this lovely statuette (which will look great on my mantelpiece, by the way) I would still feel the same way. This has been a terrific way to spend my life and I am indeed very grateful to be able to say that in the time I was given, I “entertained” for a living. Thank you! Thank you very much!”

Copyright 2010 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
www.partsandlabor.tv

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Fun Factor

Last July, I was in the gym, huffing and puffing away on the treadmill, when a guy I barely knew approached me and asked if I would be interested in appearing in a show he wanted to produce at one of the local comedy theatres. The premise, he explained, would be an evening of monologues from Meryl Streep movies - all performed by men. I instantly laughed. It was certainly an original idea and God knows there are plenty of Streep movies to choose from. However, having been burned a few times in my semi-illustrious career, my guard sprang up.

“Is this a drag show?” I asked cautiously. “Because if it is, I don’t really think…” My friend quickly broke in, assuring me that it wasn’t. The hour-long show would be “sort of homage" to a great actor; the key words here being “sort of.” Not yet convinced, I asked my next key question: “Who else is in it?” After recognizing the names of three actors I knew and respected, my force field began to lower a bit. My friend continued his pitch, explaining that each of the eight performers would choose their own monologue. There would be no director and the show would have a casual “open mike” feeling. Mildly intrigued, I then asked which movies had already been spoken for. As my friend rattled off the list, I noticed that one of my favorite Streep movies, “Out of Africa” had not yet been picked.

For a millisecond, my resistance slipped, and I found myself agreeing to appear in the show (tentatively entitled “Streep Tease”). By the time I got home, I was already wondering what the hell I had just agreed to. As described, this could either be really clever or really embarrassing. I consoled myself with the knowledge that this is L.A.; a place where people are always talking about doing stuff, but rarely follow through on it. In fact, within a few weeks, I’d totally forgotten about “Streep Tease” – that is until I received an email announcing the first rehearsal. A knot formed in my stomach. My mind instantly went to work, concocting a really good lie that could get me out of this. However, before I could come up with one, I discovered that not only had a first rehearsal been scheduled, but a theatre had been booked and a poster (with my name on it) was being printed. Guilt overtook me. Apparently I was going to be appearing as the Countess Karen Blixen, like it or not.

Sucking up my guts, I rented “Out of Africa” and watched it a couple of times. I’d forgotten how much I loved it. A sprawling epic in which the plains and mountains of Kenya almost manage to steal the movie from Streep and her co-star, Robert Redford, the film is also a sad reminder that Hollywood simply doesn’t make movies like that anymore. There are no more directors like Sydney Pollock and no studios who would dare finance such an eye popping, romantic saga. As I watched, I also started wondering how the hell I was going to break off a small chunk of this huge movie and have it make sense on a tiny stage on Fairfax Avenue.

There was also another problem. As an actor, I needed something to grab onto. Oddly, Karen and I seemed to have very little in common. Finally, it occurred to me that the Baroness Blixen (AKA Isak Dinesen) was a storyteller as am I. Once that penny dropped, I started forming an idea that I hoped would fill, but not exceed the six-minute time limit imposed on each performer.

When I arrived at the first rehearsal I was a little anxious. There were some extremely funny performers involved and the last thing I wanted was to stink up the joint. One by one, each guy got up and staggered through his piece. Some were hilarious. Some were genuinely touching, but what I was most struck by was how much affection for the iconic Ms. Streep had been woven into each piece. Feeling more confident, I trooped up onto the stage -- where I promptly bombed. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it was clear that easily a third of the piece didn’t work. As I drove home, I started rewriting it in my head; streamlining it and bringing it more in line with the dignity that Streep had infused into her character in the film. At the next rehearsal, I killed. Still, I remained suspicious.

Time has taught me that “Rehearsal laughs” are not to be trusted. What may crack up your overworked cohorts doesn’t necessarily fly in front of an audience. In the meantime, my friend who had dreamed up this little entertainment had been working overtime, virtually wallpapering West Hollywood with posters announcing the show. Then an article came out in Variety and within 24 hours, every ticket was sold. Whatever it was were doing, we were going to be doing it in front of a full house of paying customers.

The first performance of “Streep Tease” remains, for the most part, a blur. I remember walking up on stage. I remember the lights in my face and I remember the first laugh; a laugh I wasn’t expecting to get. After that, it was (like all performances should be) a rollercoaster ride – scary, incredibly fun and over way-too-soon. Luck was with us. The entire evening fell together amazingly well. We managed to put on a hilarious and oddly touching little show. Word spread.

A few weeks later, the “Streep Tease” company reassembled for another show. It also sold out. Then another. Same story. Last Saturday, we opened a four-performance run that will take us to the end of February. There have been a few cast changes and a little backstage drama, but the latest incarnation of the show seemed to satisfy the ticket-holders in a big way! On a personal note, I’m very glad I said yes to this. There are few things better than sharing the stage with people who can crack you up, over and over again. I doubt that “Streep Tease” will be moving to Broadway anytime soon; nor do I suspect that any Hollywood powerbrokers are going to walk in the door and swoop us away to stardom -- Although, wouldn’t that be great if it happened?? It’s just one of those quirky underground comedy shows that pops up at the right moment with the right people involved. It's remains a hilarious, but heartfelt tribute to an amazingly talented performer by a few of her funny, but less-famous fans.

It’s strange how often those of us in show business lose track of why we’re in it. Somehow, in the crush of scrambling for our next job (or obsessing over our IMDB rating) we tend to lose sight of the only logical reason to be doing this with your life: Because it’s fun. It’s fun to entertain people. I’d now like you to notice how seamlessly I segue into the following plug...

So, if you’re looking for a little fun on any Saturday night in February, please stop by and see “Streep Tease” at the Bang Comedy Theatre in Hollywood. If you'd like tickets, I'd suggest you act fast! http://www.bangstudio.com/streep-tease/ And if Meryl herself should show up, run around to the alley behind the theatre. If you hurry, you’ll get to see eight grown men jumping out the back window.

Copyright 2010 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
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

Monday, February 1, 2010

Voice Print

A few years ago, I was mentoring a young screenwriter in a program I helped found, when I complimented him on his “voice” as a writer. He looked sort of puzzled and asked what I meant by that. I realized I was talking to a 22 year-old who had written, at this point, exactly one script. Although he had a few problems with story structure, it was clear he was talented and had a distinct, quirky sense of humor that genuinely popped off the page. I did my best to explain what I meant by "having a voice.” It was like a thumbprint, I explained and that I suspected that if I were handed another of his scripts with no title page attached, I would still be able to recognize it as his writing. He smiled a little and I could see a tinge of pride in his eyes.

Finding your voice as an artist takes time. I learned this gradually. When I was new to writing, I was plagued by self-doubt. I’m still plagued by self-doubt, but now it’s more of the professional variety. I can remember booking a writing job early in my career and then being overwhelmed by the fear that I didn’t know how to execute it. I knew virtually nothing about the subject matter (rap music and feminism) and had sort of bluffed my way through the pitch. Gripped by a growing terror that I was going to finally be found out for the fraud that I was, I did what all highly gifted, professional writers do. I procrastinated.

I’ve developed a great many talents in my career, but procrastination is probably the one in which I can take the most pride. Over time, I’ve developed it into something of an art form. Occasionally, I can grab the reins and get right down to work, but often there is an extended period of dancing around the task at hand. The reason for this is simple. I fear sucking. I dread typing the first couple of pages because I know how it will make me feel – like a big fat loser who can’t string even a few coherent sentences together. It becomes almost impossible to hold my mind in the present since my imagination is already skipping into the future when the producers will be reading this piece of shit and wondering why the hell they ever hired me.

Eventually, when the self-loathing reaches an unbearable pitch, I sit down and the work begins. I stop worrying about what might happen and start trying to carve out a story that might be slightly entertaining to watch. My big moment of revelation came when I shamefully admitted to another writer that I was sort of paralyzed on the rapper project. The writer asked me how I had gotten the job. I recounted how I was approached by the producer with the initial story idea and how I had pitched it to the studio. “And they are paying you, how much?” the writer asked with a certain parental tone in his voice. “The most I’ve ever been paid,” I answered guiltily. “Well,” the writer continued, “Nobody held a gun to their head and made them do it. You must have told them a very entertaining story. They’re not stupid.” For a moment, I wondered if he was right.

The writer sighed. “David, they hired you for your take on the story. You must have brought something into the room that made them see what you had in mind. Now, all you have to do it write it.” I began to relax as a few things finally dawned on me. There was no way to second guess what my employers would be expecting. Everything in this business is a crap shoot. My job wasn’t to write the ultimate rapper comedy. It was to write my version of a rapper comedy. Yes, I needed to educate myself, but I didn’t need to become the subject of my story. I was there to do what I do well; be funny, instill a little heart into the proceedings and keep things moving.

Happily, the script I finally delivered was pretty darn funny. The second draft was (in my humble opinion) even funnier. Sadly, for a myriad of reasons, the movie never got made. Despite that, the whole experience remained a good lesson. What all writers are paid for is their point of view; their “take” on the story. Their voice. Developing a voice only happens by using it and by paying attention to how others are using theirs. Mimicking what worked for the last guy or gal rarely results in a strong career. Bringing your particular humanity, life experience and imagination to a project is always your strongest suit. And truthfully, it’s nice to have a certain awareness of who you are and what you’ve got to offer. It builds confidence and with that comes a little courage. These days the challenges of any assignment provide me with more surprises than anxiety; although anxiety plays (and will always play) a certain defining role. I don’t kid myself about that.

I’m happy to report that the young man I mentored a few years ago is now a produced screenwriter. Although his movie wasn’t a mega-hit, he’s now in the game and once in a while, we grab lunch and catch up. I’d like to say that he reminds me of myself at his age, but he really doesn’t. He’s very much his own person with his own unique way of looking at things. I could never in a million years write what he is going to write in his career and by the same token, he will never write anything like me. Although I envy him his youth, I’ve got plenty on my plate to keep me busy until retirement. What I really hope is that we will all get to benefit from seeing more of his particular “voice” back on screen -- sometime soon!

Copyright 2010 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 http://www.partsandlabor.tv/



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