Escape

I am lugging an incredibly heavy bag around these days. Inside it holds:

— My laptop, which was actually my Dad’s laptop, and not a very good laptop at that. It’s already had a major crash once. The C Drive claims to be full every other day and I only have word docs and about 10 .mp3’s on this thing, so I don’t know what to do. I keep wanting to buy myself a new iBook, as all I have is the first iMac invented (that I didn’t buy), and a clamshell iBook that no longer works if it’s not plugged in (also not purchased by me). The last time I bought myself a computer was 1996. Anyway, things keep getting in the way of me actually splurging on a new computer. Like moving.

— One script: “The Life of Rupert Holmes.” The show goes up tonight. Yesterday in the car, driving to rehearsal, I was trying to learn the words to “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” I never had to know them before. What a stupid-ass song.

— One container of CD’s. A mix CD, Eminem, Smashing Pumpkins, A mix CD, Norah Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, N.E.R.D., Queen, The Strokes, and Radiohead.

— One knit headscarf. (I knitted it myself! Ah, back when there was such a thing as free time.)

— One notebook filled with notes on five different projects. If I lost this notebook, I would be more than sad.

— Anne Lamott: Bird By Bird. Haven’t started it yet. I’m trying to gain some confidence on a couple of writing projects I have to start soon. They’re both things I haven’t really done before, and because of that I have a tendency to talk myself out of thinking I can do them. I like to read books like this for inspiration. Dude, I totally sounded like Oprah just then. Sorry.

— One script, earlier draft: Why Girls Are Weird. Filled with stee’s notes he wrote while we flew to Austin, including “Quit looking at me while I read your script.”

— Spring 2004 issue of Martha Stewart Weddings. Everyone recommends it. I tell you, it’s already better than Brides, which is the most insulting magazine I’ve ever read. They give the worst advice to women. “Have a fat friend? Ask her to step down as bridesmaid, or take pictures of just the two of you so she doesn’t mess up your group photo. Actually, since she’s fat, she’ll probably ask to stand in the back, anyway.” I am paraphrasing, but not nearly as much as I wish I were.

— One ticket stub: Secret Window. Why, Johnny? Why?

That’s just my messenger bag. The purse is another scary story. My shoulders are killing me.

***

Yesterday I had a script meeting on a draft of Why Girls Are Weird. I went in a little nervous, worried that the group was going to dump twelve pages of notes each on me. You hear terrible stories of writers getting ripped to shreds. Now, these are good people, and even if they were going to rip me to shreds, I’m pretty sure they would have done it in a semi-loving way, but it was still enough to make this first-time screenwriter a little jittery.

These meetings always start and end with compliments. That’s what you can look forward to, when you have your script meetings. It’s like when you get in trouble with your parents, and at the end they hug you and tell you that they love you. It’s a little like that. But yesterday’s note session went differently than the ones I’ve had in the past. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m an employee and not someone trying to hustle a job, or because I’m very comfortable with the material (as I’m adapting my own book), but once the meeting started I wasn’t nervous, and I wasn’t defensive (even when he said, “I mean, this girl is pathetic. I love her, but Anna is pathetic.” I now try to remove any similarities between me and the main character of my script based on the book based on the website based on my life.)

What became intensely satisfying was watching this meeting turn into a debate about what my central characters should do in order to satisfy this book as a movie. Here were four people I didn’t know last year discussing my characters as if they were… I don’t know… characters in Casablanca or something. They had real feelings about who these characters were, where they were coming from, and what they should do. It wasn’t a meeting where someone says, “This part where she’s on the phone? It’s not working for me. I wonder what we could do to change that.” We were talking about the heart of the script, what we’re trying to say about love and women and where to take it from what they said was a very good, promising first draft.

And that’s been one of my best Hollywood moments so far. It was two and a half hours long, and it was right after putting in eight hours on the television show, but I left that office (and went straight to rehearsal) feeling good. Not beat-up. Not abused. Not ashamed. Not even lectured or warned. I felt excited about taking another pass at the script. I hope it’s not just that I’ve lucked out with great producers, but that at a certain point your confidence rises enough to stop feeling like a whipping post.

The flipside? Stee had made dinner, even setting the table, and I missed it because my rehearsal ran for another two and a half hours. Brently saw the look on my face when I hung up the phone.

“You okay?” he asked.

“I missed dinner. He set the table.”

“Oh, man. I know that feeling. I’m so sorry. Man, I know that feeling.”

“He set the table.”

“He understands, Pam.”