The Writing Curve

First of all, I just want to say this week’s Onion infographic about moving to Austin is hysterical. I’ve known more than one Austinite with a damn didgeridoo. There’s an instrument created for people who can’t keep an iguana alive but still need something to make them even more of an annoying outcast.

Why, yes. I’m a little disgruntled today. How’d you notice?

I’ve been pulling a few late nights around here lately, working and editing long past dinnertime. This includes what we had to do Tuesday night. Sometimes work can be a little humiliating, a little painful, and, sadly — self-inflicted.

We went to see Bruce Almighty.

We ended up having free tickets, but originally we were going to buy tickets for A Mighty Wind and sneak into Bruce Almighty. It helps with the shame. But this time we didn’t have to pay. And then the drummer from Toad the Wet Sprocket was behind me in line. And then all the good things ceased.

I guess it’s not a terrible movie. It’s not Bringing Down the House bad. It didn’t exactly offend me, even when it became the biggest Christian movie since Kirk Cameron did Left Behind II.

We had to see this movie because people are going to bring it up to us every meeting for the next two years. Why? Because you went to see it, that’s why. You went to see Meet the Parents and you went to see Scooby Doo and for some reason you went to see What Women Want and now I have to pay for all of your bad decisions. I think everyone’s just happy they have a new Jim Carrey movie to compare all things to, as the words “Like Liar, Liar” had lost all meaning.

Here’s what I really don’t understand. You see a trailer for a movie probably twenty times before you go and see it. That’s why the movie made so much money — the commercials and trailers and billboards never stopped for a second, convincing you that this film was what you had to see, what you had to do with your life during Memorial Day Weekend, 2003. You knew that dog was going to pee in the toilet. You knew Jennifer Aniston was going to hold her boobs and ask if they were bigger, and then Jim Carrey was going to squirt some ketchup. If you were an American with vision you knew these scenes were going to occur.

And then you anxiously bought your ticket to Bruce Almighty. Finally, the Big Weekend was here. You got to say, “Two for Bruce Almighty.” And it felt just as good as when you got to say “Two for Ace Ventura” or “Two for Dumb and Dumber.” And it didn’t feel all weird, like when you had to say, “Two for The Majestic,” and then hook a thumb over toward your girlfriend, shifting the blame before you were judged.

And maybe you were so excited that you even laughed at that ridiculous Dumb and Dumberer, because you don’t hold grudges like I do, and you’ve forgotten who Eric Christian Olsen is. I understand — you’re excited to see your Jim Carrey comedy. You’ve waited patiently for Jim to come home, to come back to pee and poop and catchphrases you can utter while waiting for the coffee pot to brew. And when you hear Jim say, “It’s good, it’s goooood” I know your stomach did a little tremor of happiness, blessing you with your new summer slogan. Jim loves you. He really does. He thinks you are B-E-A-Utiful.

And maybe you ignore that the entire movie is about how Jim Carrey has had to admit he’s only loved by you when he does comedy, and not when he “really acts.” And for some reason you don’t mind his one moist eye when he cries. He’s funny. You’re right. Sometimes that man’s deadpan asshole comments are effin’ funny. And the guy from The Daily Show cracked my ass up for thirty seconds in a row like an old Austin Powers bit.

But here’s what I truly don’t understand. Why, why, why do you applaud for the jokes that are in all the trailers? When “The Power” started up over that city skyline, and you knew Jim Carrey was about to mouth the words and then point at a fire hydrant, right before making a woman’s skirt fly up — why did you rustle with excitement? And then why did you applaud and hoot? Why did you cheer? It was like when your one-hit wonder pop band finally plays the one song you’ve heard on the radio six hundred times that summer. You applauded like you finally were one step ahead of the joke.

Why do you do that? It makes them keep getting away with putting the entire movie in the trailer. Remember how right before the movie started, when they showed us the entire Charlie’s Angels sequel in three minutes, minus Crispin Glover? They showed us all the cool stuff. Why did you applaud again?

Basically, living in Hollywood, trying to get a job in the movies, is starting to ruin my love of movies. When a guy got up to wiggle past me during the film Tuesday night, at a point where he figured there’d just be a lot of blah-blah, I turned to stee and said, “But he’s going to miss the second act twist!”

People talk about movies in this town like an apology. They want to buy a movie that you really don’t want to see because it’s safe to buy that movie, and then they’ll pan any movie that’s like the one they’re trying to buy. The following are sentences that have actually been said to me over the past year and a half:

“We wouldn’t do something like Bring it On, because it’s just too risky.”

“People don’t like sorority girls, unless it’s like, Legally Blonde or something smart like that.”

“We want your script to be more Donald Kaufman, and not Charlie Kaufman.”

“Oh, I hated Bringing Down the House. We’re looking for something like that, but good.”

“We’re looking for something for J. Lo. So if you have an idea that’d be great for J. Lo, then please call us up and pitch it. We’re always looking for J. Lo.”

“I really liked your script, but I think it would have been better as a book.”

“Think in terms of Meet the Parents.”

“This guy has to be someone we’ve never seen before, but is really loveable. Like Jim Carrey.”

“Don’t worry about making it interesting or funny or smart right now. You can do that later after we sell the idea.”

“I loved your script. But we’re looking for things we can adapt internally. So if you read a magazine article you like, or maybe a newspaper clipping, give us a call. We’re always looking for new ideas that maybe you’d want to try to adapt together. Or a book. We love books. If you read a book you like, let us know so we can see if anyone has the rights yet.”

“This movie would have made a much better television show.”

“We’re always looking for another Groundhog Day.”

“It’s the kind of movie I’d love to see, but not the kind of movie I’d like to make.”

You start feeling like no matter what you do, you aren’t going to beat this game. Yesterday I pitched an idea that was shot down for not being whatever enough, and today I read that the exact idea, the EXACT idea was just sold to a different studio. I mean, on one hand I’m glad it happened before I had ever tried to write the script, but then again, it was good enough of an idea for someone else to make low to mid six figures off of it.

But I also find what just happened encouraging. It means I’m starting to think like Hollywood. I’m starting to figure out what Jim Carrey/Ashton Kutcher thing they want next. Yes, it’s scary, and yes I can actually feel that little piece of my soul turning black and falling off like a newborn’s umblical cord stump, but it’s also kind of freeing.

Like on Memorial Day, a group of us went hiking in the mountains and as we walked, sweating and grunting, we figured out what the Kevin Williamson horror movie about us would be — how each of us would die, who would get the love scenes and how the geek girl (hi, have we met?) would save the day with her cunning skills and hidden running abilities.

Even on a vacation we have to keep writing, keep thinking up new stories, keep wondering how we can tell the stories we want to tell and make them seem like the stories these people want to buy.

But man did I get a visceral reaction to watching Renee Zellweger on Inside the Actor’s Studio. From her describing Katy as “idyllic” to her talking about life in Austin to sort of “falling into this whole acting thing” to her then explaining her “craft” as she learned how to sing and dance for one of my favorite roles of all time… I just kept getting angrier and angrier.

Stee then said, “She probably wants to write a book. I bet her whole life she’s wished she could publish her stories and get taken seriously as a writer, and it’s killing her that she’s an actress and not a writer. And if you were sitting on Inside the Writer’s Studio bad-mouthing Katy while complaining about how hard it was to get where you are, she’d be throwing popcorn and Oscars at her television, crying in Hugh Grant’s lap while getting her hair stroked by George Clooney. You really do have the better life.”

And then they asked her what profession she’d have if she couldn’t be an actor. She said, “One of these days I’ll have to put pen to paper and write a book.”

Stee’s smile was more than smug.

Oh, Hollywood, how you stroke and kick the ego on the half-hour like clockwork.

And once again I write an entry only to see that Fametracker said it better.

I got a letter from an author, for one of you:

[readermail]I came across your blog, and saw that someone purchased my book, “More Like Wrestling,” for the Oakland Library.

I would like to thank you, and the “Kate” who purchased my novel. It means a great deal to me.

best wishes,


And finally, look at all the pretty Squishettes. It always trips people out when I explain a SquishyCon. I try to make them understand it has almost nothing to do with me. Luckily, they aren’t called “PamieCons” or the teasing would never stop.

My fans are prettier than Omar’s. It’s true. Don’t look at me like that. And if you’re a fan of both of us, then you’re crazy-pretty.

Currently reading

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

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