Production Racket

Late summer, early fall, I decided to try something new with my writing: I was experimenting in getting seen by movie and TV producers. The thing about trying to sell scripts and pitches is that there is a precise science to it. If you don’t do everything 100 percent right, they throw you away, regardless of how good your idea is. There is a whole publishing industry dedicated to how to write screenplays. I have a lot of good ideas, and the closest I came to being seen was a video pitch (in which I tried and failed to not sound like I was reading off of a sheet of paper). If I had made it past that round, I would have been put on a Zoom call with actual producers who would have ruthlessly picked my idea apart and probably made me cry. There are thousands upon thousands of ideas out there for movies, and it is up to these gatekeepers to decide which movie will be made.

My question is this: with this much quality control, why are the vast majority of movies and TV shows rubbish? I was just looking at Netflix for a movie to watch today, and I couldn’t find anything that I hadn’t already seen or didn’t look like a complete waste of my time. Are the ideas I come up with actually worse than these ideas (no, they’re not)? I know that movie-making is a business, not an art, so will I base my success as a writer on how marketable I am?

I don’t know what about my video pitch didn’t sell. Was it my insistence on making the main character a party animal? Was it that I turned the other main character into a stalker? Was it how well I read my script? Was it my tie? I don’t know, I didn’t get feedback. But I know what I want to write, and I will write a tale of drunken debauchery with a side of stalking. I don’t need anybody’s permission to do that.

My experiment ended up costing me about $400 in fees and gave me a bad review that still troubles me to this day, and I’m glad I did it. But I know after all that that this isn’t the way forward for me. I’m sticking to unpublished novels from now on.

The One That Got Away

The love of my life, my biggest regret, is engaged to be married. The idea of her ever leaving her perfect life with her long-term boyfriend and his kids and ideal career and so on for me is as much as fantasy as anything in Lord of the Rings. But it was my fantasy, and I’m crushed.

Life wasn’t perfect with her. We’d broken up four times, and I still don’t think she’s forgiven me for the last one ten years ago, but when I think back on my life, she was one of the biggest parts of it, second only to Kate. I first met her during my first month in New York. We broke up. We came together again shortly after, a little more established in the city and sure of ourselves. We broke up. I was pretty sure that was it for us.

We somehow found each other again, as friends, after over a year and change apart. She started hitting on me, and I knew she was doing it, but I didn’t appreciate it, and when she directly asked me out, I told her no. I stayed at her apartment overnight because she lived about as far away from me in Manhattan that she possibly could, and I changed my mind about her. I was a different man then, much more confident, and much more fun. Together, we enjoyed the best New Year’s Eve of my life. We went to concerts.

Someone recently asked me what my best memory was. Without thinking about it, it was a cold winter’s day in New York, early in the morning, getting off the train that we took downtown together. We were about to part ways, and she kissed me. It was a small peck of a kiss, just a quick goodbye, but it was the first time she had done that. It felt natural and cozy. It’s one of my most vivid memories, even now, twenty years later.

We broke up.

Years later (while I was married, but open), we hooked back up and had a romantic week together for Christmas that I will never forget. I heard her sing, and until I did, I had no idea how much I had missed it. We tried to video chat when we could, and we texted constantly. And therein lies the problem.

When Kate wanted to open up our marriage, she meant that she wanted to sleep with a bunch of men, but I shouldn’t be able to sleep with women. When the love of my live and I reconnected, Kate was insanely jealous and hid it from me. She made it impossible to carry on a relationship with her, and her behavior led her to think that I was cheating on Kate, not that I had her blessing. A year later, I met another woman, and Kate pulled the same thing. My relationship with the love of my life has never recovered.

That’s not why she is my biggest regret. What haunts me about this colorful relationship I had with her was that I’d never told that I loved her. Of all the people I’d told I loved them (except for maybe Kate), none deserved it like she did. She’d told me. I never reciprocated. I always thought I’d have more time with her to kind of ease into it, but then we would break up again. There’s no way I can tell her now. She’s engaged to be married. She has two stepkids she loves like her own. She’s got the ideal job and a number of side interests that keep her occupied. How would it look if an old boyfriend made that kind of declaration to her? It would look terrible, that’s how it would look. So how I feel about her will have to remain my secret.

I can still wish and hope that someday she’ll find me again, but I know that she hardly ever thinks of me. She might even still be mad at me for “cheating” on my wife with her. I send her a Facebook message every year on her birthday, and the next year, I’ll note that 365 days have passed since the last message exchange we’d had. Life goes on without me, as it should.

Ain’t That a Kick in the Pants?

Does anybody remember America’s Funniest Home Videos? Honestly, the adults who condemn younger people for their TikTok hijinks really have no place to talk because they made that show a hit, and America’s Funniest Home Videos was TikTok before the internet, except for one difference. TikTok doesn’t have Bob Saget narrating the videos with funny voices and sound effects. Maybe if they did that on TikTok, more Boomers and Gen-Xers could get behind that. Where is Bob Saget anyway? He’s not doing anything. He should get on that.

But I digress. America’s Funniest Home Videos was a contest, and every week there was a first, second, and third place winner, and every single week, one of the placers was a male of some age getting punched, kicked, crushed by a ball or rake, or experiencing some other impact to his crotch. Rule number one of comedy: temporary, debilitating pain is funny.

Today, I had an America’s Funniest Home Video moment during my tennis lesson, when the instructor served a ball directly at me at my most sensitive. It has been decades since I’ve experienced a collision with that part of my body (I was drunk and trying to leap-frog over a parking meter; spoiler alert, I didn’t make it), so I’d forgotten how utterly painful it was. I had to sit the rest of the lesson out. I was lucky the instructor was hitting them slow, or it could have been a lot worse.

Where was my tennis partner during this? She was bent over, laughing her ass off. Because that’s the kind of relationship we have.

A Heaping Slice of Humble Pie

This is quite possibly my roommate’s favorite story about my youth. In high school, there was a guy who loved to argue. He’d argue about anything, and he was never wrong. In his eyes. He was my friend, despite the massive headaches he gave me, and he stayed my friend for a long time. One thing that never changed was his insistence that he was always right, despite the evidence against his point. It should come as no surprise that he grew up to be a proud Republican who I can no longer talk to.

One day, I’m pretty sure this was senior year, he came to the group of nerds and misfits in the Gifted And Talented Education program, and he told us that we were pronouncing manicotti wrong this whole time. It wasn’t man-ih-COHT-ee, it was man-ih-CUHT. He’d know because he was Italian. This was, in my opinion, the stupidest thing I’d heard in quite some time. None of the nerds and misfits were swayed by his argument, and we all had to endure it whenever the word manicotti came up (which to be honest, was pretty rare) and he corrected us. He was ready to die on this hill.

One day, toward the end of our stretch in high school, he sheepishly came to the group of nerds and misfits in the Gifted And Talented Education program and confessed that he found out that it was indeed pronounced man-ih-COHT-ee. He had his bib and his fork out, prepared to eat a shitload of crow, and our reaction was only, “Yeah, we know.” The journey he went on had no effect on our lives in any way whatsoever. In retrospect, I wasted that moment. I should have treasured it because, in his forty-five years of life, this was the one time in history that this guy, this fucking guy, has ever admitted to being wrong about anything.

Also, Nicole and I pronounce it man-ih-CUHT now because that’s how much we love a good story.