Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

From Television City in Hollywood

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Some of you have noticed that I’ve been a bit jittery on this blog lately — putting posts on, taking them off, and changing titles every half hour. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with me. Maybe I’m nervous about spending two weeks in Flushing with both Sophia and my mother. Did I mention that we’re also spending five days in a lakefront cabin in the Berkshires together?

But I think the real reason for my nervous energy is because I recently went to a meet-up with a few old friends from grad school, and I’m doing the inevitable comparisons of our lives. We were all in the MFA program at USC Film School. We lost touch for a while, but one found me through “Citizen of the Month.” During the weekend, we had a reunion. One is them is a major movie director. One is a editor for TV. One is a ICM talent agent. And then there’s me, the freelance writer known as Neilochka. So, I hope this explains my recent ranting on about syndication and bloggers making money.

I was very anxious about seeing these guys, but once I was there, it wasn’t bad at all. After you hit the age of 30, everyone’s life is such a confusing mess that it’s difficult to make comparisons based solely on career choices. And in Hollywood, everyone has had his ups and down, including the most successful of the bunch.

At some point during our meet-up, we went around the table, and each told a tale of his WORST Hollywood experience. This was not an easy task. Everyone had stories of crazed agents and meglomaniacal producers, sometimes even with the same characters.

When it was my time to tell a story, I filed through my storehouse of unpleasant Hollywood moments. Should I tell the one about the agent that was arrested while I was in his office? How about the pitch meeting at Fox? Sophia and I had written a romantic comedy script together. But when we pitched it to a young executive, he stood in the corner of his office and played this miniature hole-in-one golf game by himself.

I decided to tell the story of the sitcom taping that I attended with my former writing partner. It was the taping of some brand new show for the Fall Season. The show had a lot of “buzz.” They were filming their first episode at Warner Brothers.

After the show, my partner and I went to Dalt’s Grill in Burbank (which sadly closed last year). Even though Dalt’s was nothing more than a fancy coffee shop, it was close to Warner Brothers and Disney Studios, so everyone went there. You saw more celebrities at Dalt’s than in Beverly Hills.

As we ate our burgers, we saw the cast and crew of the sitcom taping we had just attended — sitting a few tables away. The producers, the writers, and the cast were there, all celebrating the success of the taping.

My partner dragged me over there to say hello and kiss some ass. We tried to look confident as we introduced ourselves. We told them how brilliant they were and that their show was the best thing on TV since “All in the Family.” They invited us to sit down with them. My writing partner and I looked at each other. We were in!

For the next hour, we poured on the B.S. I told my best stories. We did some shtick. I talked with the lead actor about some obscure movie he was in, and scored some major brownie points. The executive producer treated me like I was an old buddy. We both were from Queens. He said my partner and I would be perfect as writers for the show.

The executive producer’s phone rang, supposedly about some party we were all going to attend in West Hollywood. But it wasn’t about the party. It was the network. They were cancelling the show — after the taping of the first episode.

The executive producer started to cry. The lead actor threw a container of coffee against the wall. The others got drunk.

My writing partner and I never heard back from any of them again.

48 Comments

  1. after reading this post, and of course, a follower of yours, and seeing Domino, i am gagging for my trip to LA in august. it really is a wheels off ego play ground. are you ashamed of how you acted in that reminisce, or would you do the same thing?

  2. Really? The young executive playing mini-golf during your pitch wasn’t the WORST experience? I think I’d have to go on Prozac after that.

  3. I think you should have a weekly tell-all of one of your worst Hollywood experiences. Then you could take all those stories and compile them into one of those books like “The Devil Wears Prada.” People love reading shit like that. I mean I read that book. I’d certainly read your book about Hollywood drama. ….written by Neilochka.

  4. Why is it, exactly, that you haven’t written a novel yet?

    Or have you?

  5. Oh man, THAT is bad. A girl I went to college with in the midwest is in The Loop on Fox and I am hoping they havent cancelled that. It is hilarious. Your experience must have been like watching someone leaving their fiance at the alter in front of 600 people! How horrible!!!!

  6. Neil, you have so many entertaining stories – I think a screenplay or a book might be in your future! What do you think?

  7. Another story with a dramatic ending!

  8. Miss GoLondon — Ashamed of how I acted in that reminisce? My only sin was that a week after the executive producer broke down in tears, I didn’t call him and pitch my romantic comedy script idea.

    As for LA, don’t tell me that there isn’t a lot of ass-kissing going on at the BBC?

  9. Not getting to do your show made the executive producer cry, and that’s a bad experience?

  10. Ouch. That’s just so sad.

    A story that’s kinda related:

    When my son was just a few weeks old, I went to a luncheon meeting of the local chapter of Virginia Press Women. Brought the baby along for my professional pals to meet. One of the women said, “Just look at him! Do you think he’ll grow up and be a writer like his Mama?”

    “Well, actually I’m hoping he’ll get into something that’s more secure and pays better. Maybe he’ll be an actor!”

    The crowd roars.

  11. you really should turn these escapades into an anthology…really…

    kind of funny though, that phone call sealed your fate with them…if it had been something celebratory, you would have been in, since it was bad news, you were forever associated with that event.

  12. What show? What actor? Inquiring minds want to know.

  13. My ex-husband is an actor. When we went out to L.A., every project he was in got cancelled or half the cast was let go on a whim. Except for an episode of America’s Most Wanted, everything he’s been in, he’s been cut out of except for a bizarre anonymous shot of his hands or feet or whatever.

    That kind of stuff makes me crazy, but it’s the way of the arts in general. Why can’t I just love math and want to be an engineer?

  14. Leah and Amanda may be onto something there.

  15. Amanda — That’s exactly what happened. We became bad luck to them.

    Kevin — Let me think about it. Can I just give initials.

    Tara — America’s Most Wanted? I’m hoping you’re talking about a re-enactment.

  16. Yeah, Neil. I’ll echo those sentiments. The g/f and I were having dinner last night, and I thought outloud, “Why doesn’t Neil write a book? He’s a great writer! There’s something about the way he writes that makes it so interesting to read…” So there, in case your ears were burning last night, that’s why!

  17. Neil, let me tell you something. That is not your worst Hollywood experience anymore. It is now that you had lunch with a major movie director, an editor for tv, and an ICM agent, and you – the writer – didn’t come out of it with a deal.

  18. I’m curious, do Southern places like, say, Memphis or Nashville or Atlanta or whatever bring up images from movies you have seen. When you say Flushing and the Berkshires for some reason Neil Simon plays about growing up in New York come to mind.

    Weird I suppose, but they just do.

  19. Life can change so quickly.

  20. TWM — Doesn’t everyboy in Memphis and Nashville either play the guitar or sing the blues?

  21. You didn’t mention your penis did you?

  22. Could the mini-golf thing work both ways? As in, could you bring a mini-golf set in, set a written pitch on an exec’s desk and ignore him while you played mini-golf in his office? Kind of a “I could give a shit about you, I’m THAT good” thing?

    That might require you to actually be an asshole, though…

  23. Neil, the presence of your penis has been requested at Sandra’s comment orgy.
    Please send him over. 😉

  24. never give up on your dream, you’re still young and alot can change in even one year.

  25. Neil, your nervousness and mid-life questioning is normal. I used to live in a car and I still question myself; why aren’t I more successful, why don’t I have more money, etc. etc.
    I should be happy that I’m not living in a car with my junkie parents and their ugly dog but Nooooo, what I have now just isn’t good enough.

    Ha, ha — goes to show you! No matter what we do have we will always want something else and more of it.

  26. Yes, he was in a reenactment. Luckily, he was someone who got killed by the bad guy (boy I could watch that scene over and over – just kidding). We had another friend play the bad guy in a reenactment and people kept calling the cops on him.

  27. Better Safe and Chantel — Thank for you kind words. Although it makes me a bit uncomfortable looking insecure about anything. Is that a male thing? Maybe it’s because women always write on their blogs that the most attractive feature a man can have is confidence.

    I’m not sure my dream was to work on a mediocre sitcom, but I won’t lie and say that it wasn’t a disappointment when it happened. But now it’s more humorous than anything else. The ones who really have tough are the actors who have to go on auditions. They are exposing their souls. Sophia has much worse stories.

  28. I don’t know how anyone survives in Hollywood–sounds like a nightmare to me! Why don’t you just move back to New York and write a book like the rest of us??

  29. Neil, ‘confidence’ is the not the feature I prefer most in a man.

    If that helps.

  30. God, that’s horrible. I must confess, though, that I laughed. I am a bad person that laughs at the misfortune of others. For shame. :p

  31. Kind of unrelated, but not. When are you going to be in the Berkshires? I’ll be in Albany (booo), but hell of a lot closer than LA.

  32. Hmmm, no one FROM Nashville or Memphis plays the guitar and sings country/blues. They are all from somewhere else.

    “Sorta like Hollywood without the tan” to play off a great song lyric.

  33. Eeekat — Sure, that’s a much more practical idea.

    Laurie — Laurie, the punchline is it’s not confidence that I prefer in a man, but money.

    Blonde — Yes, yes, the first rule of comedy. Watching someone slip on the banana peel always gets a chuckle. Isn’t that why we read each other’s blogs? So we can say, “Jeez, my life ain’t so bad. Look at this guy.”

  34. It’s always interesting, and sometimes intimidating, to reach out and touch the people who used to be such a part of your life. For me it always amazes me how much our paths have changed from what we intended them to be!

  35. An agent got arrested while in his office? Man that’s something…about the coffees on the wall…that;s so common…when I was on the set of Friends…they were in every wall!

  36. How old is that WB photo? It’s been ‘the rushmore of toons’ for about 5 years, I think.

    Ps – I’ll let you know when Dalt’s is back up.

  37. Non-Highlighted Heather

    June 14, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    What women say confidence is a man’s most attractive feature?? Pfft. Make me pee my pants laughing and I’ll love you forever. Or at least until next Thursday.

  38. That is a crazy crazy industry. I try to stay as far away as possible in the interests of retaining my sanity!

  39. You could do it (write and publish a successful book)….I’m sure you could. Look at all the crap out there…Plus, it’s already been proven that people like to read what you write. In fact, I “referred” your blog to another male blogger, because I thought he would dig it, and he was so intimidated by your vast readership that he was unable to delve very far, even though he liked your writing a lot…

  40. Hollywood does not sound fun. Reminds me of this
    Neil you are a creative and warm human being and you make me laugh.

  41. oh my…lol! that’s a good story…

  42. Dalt’s closed??? Very disappointed! Neil, I am surprised reading your blog that you aren’t yet with your own sitcom or book. But its coming! Creme always rises to the top.

  43. Yep, that’s a doozie. Woozie heights and crash!

  44. Reading, I keep thinking, he’s not funny today, he’s not funny today and then the end! lol! I love the way you keep the best part for the end! You think they sould have called you guys? Were you sincere when you were telling them how great their show was?

    Fitèna

  45. Fitena – no.

  46. Ah Neil, how well I know that post-film school feeling. Chin up, m’boy!

  47. I cannot imagine living in LA, but you bring it so vividly to life it’s almost as though I were!

  48. lol! Now, why am i not suprised! lol!

    fitèna

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