Behind the Lines with DR: What It Takes to Navigate Hollywood

Not long ago in a post I titled ENTER THE GAUNTLET, I wrote about what it takes to get me – the grizzled veteran word merchant – to peruse another’s work. As expected, I’ve since garnered an uptick in requests from blog readers to eyeball their stuff. Some queries more creative than others. But none close to meeting the threshold that would make me risk the liability that comes with perusing unsolicited material.

what it takesAnd guess what? I’m just another damned writer. I’m about the least likely to help an unknown script-baby break down the doors of opportunity. The true and oh-so-real gauntlet to getting through the gilded door is manned by agents, managers, producers, executives, and all their militant minions.

Then I had lunch with a dear old friend who, for the sake of her own sweet superstitions, asked to remain anonymous. So for now, let’s call her Missy Irish. I recently sat across from my red-headed pal at a west side breakfast joint in utter, slack-jawed awe as she unwound for me her latest adventure. With her permission, I’m passing it on.

I’ve known Missy Irish since she worked as a producer’s more-than-able assistant. Between reading scripts and managing her boss’ day, she’d begun honing her own screenwriting skills. Missy eventually left her showbiz job for a public relations gig with famous sports franchise and has since moved on to jobs in advertising as a much sought-after copywriter.

Bully for her.

And then she recently became inspired by (aka obsessed with) a particular TV series. It was a big hit half-hour entering its third season.

“It made me want to write again,” Missy gushed. “I’ve seen every episode like five times, I love the writing and it would be a dream to write for them.”

Thus began Missy’s mission. While she contemplated her first move, she found herself picking up lunch at Culver City’s Tender Greens. While paying at the counter she noticed the restaurant was putting together a delivery order to the Hit Show’s writing room. She briefly considered grabbing a pen and scribbling something pithy and memorable she could sign and slip in with the order. But she thought the better of it, instead mentioning her karmic moment in an introductory note she penned to one of the Hit Show’s writer/producers. She targeted him instead of the creator/showrunner because she’d read in an interview that he was, like her, a dedicated baseball fan.

Now most wannabes would’ve sat back, checked their mailbox and voicemail at every half hour, and wallowed in the non-rejection rejection. But my Missy had a different plan of attack. She works in advertising and understands that moving people to action usually requires nothing less than a campaign of sorts. So her next project was to mock up an AdWeek front page, complete with a photo-shopped pic of the famed Hollywood sign with a bi-plane flying the name of one of the show’s production executives.

The pic’s message was simple: “HELL WOOD U READ MY SCRIPTS?” Above it was a fake AdWeek headline: “L.A. COPYWRITER SOUGHT FOR QUESTIONING IN HOLLYWOOD SIGN STUNT.” Missy went the extra mile to fake an entire article, highlighting her faux crime along with her actual credentials.

Would that be enough? Stop now? Hardly. Missy saw there was going to be a Hit Show panel at the Television Academy. So she attended, hoping to at last encounter with the creator/show runner. Unfortunately, the Ms. Show Runner was a no show. Undeterred, Missy approached one of the writer-producers, taking the opportunity to gush about her affection-slash-obsession with the Hit Show.

“Oh my God,” said writer-producer in a moment of sudden recognition. “You’re the Tender Greens girl.”

And bingo. A connection was made. Missy’s face and sparkling personality was front and center, pounding a punctuation mark on whatever impressions she’d only been able to lick on an envelope and post a stamp on. But did that get her a gig? Did it even get her read? Hell bloody no! It did, though, garner her a tip. Better than sending along a sample script, he encouraged her to put something on film, even if was just a two-minute clip.

So guess what Missy did? Yeah. You bet she did. After selecting comic bits from her spec pilot about a famed sports franchise front office, Missy dug into her pocket for some cash, called in every friend and favor she could manage, including a camera, some lights, cast… all she was missing was a suitable location. Who was going to loan Missy an office suite for an entire Saturday?

Because she’d only just switched to a creative position at another ad agency, she couldn’t exactly ask her new boss for permission to use the business locale to help her get a job writing for TV. Yet she did still possess the security code to the building where, only days earlier, she had just given notice at her former job. Dare she?

Indeed.

For an entire Saturday she moved in with her crew and equipment. They lit it, they shot it, they left without a single trace of trespassing.

In no time at all Missy had her edited clip ready to strike to a DVD and a clickable link to whomever at the Hit Show might want to view it.

This is the part where I expect you’re waiting to read that Ms. Show Runner personally phoned Missy and offered a staff job on her show. But no such luck. Or not yet, at least. This story is too fresh. And campaigns sometimes take time to cement.

Missy continues to work her advertising accounts while plotting her next big move.

She’s not giving up. If anything, she’s more excited than ever over her writing future and wants to keep the traction moving under her feet. Which is damned important considering the part of the story which I conveniently left out.

You see Missy is back on her feet after three years of fighting a side effect to a medication that literally laid her out, exhausted her savings, and left her unable to walk more than a few steps at a time.

My guess is if Missy Irish can beat that, she can sure as hell beat Hollywood or any other dragon she chooses to slay. And that, my friends, is what it takes.

Read Doug’s new thriller, BLOOD MONEY. Available in trade paperback and ebook at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

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