Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Meal Meeting Diet
(part two - BBQ Chicken)

I lost 20 pounds on the Meal Meeting Diet - and you can too!

I have a meeting with a *very* prolific MOW production company at the end of the week, I have to come up with a “take” on the remake of a hit 1980s film, and I have a killer cold.

I get absolutely nothing done while I have the cold, except blow my nose and goof off online. I actually write a new script tip - but nothing on the remake project. I get a call from the MOW producer - Friday at 1pm. This is great, because the cold is still a bit sniffly on Thursday, but will be gone by Friday.

And 1pm is a good time for a meeting in Simi Valley. That’s out in the boondocks on the very far edge of the 30 mile zone. Way out there. And it’s bedroom community for Los Angeles - so you *don’t* want to be heading there during rush hour. At 1pm, I can get there, have my meeting, and get home *before* rush hour. And even if the meeting lasts a bit longer than expected, I’ll be heading in the opposite direction as rush hour traffic. But Simi Valley? That’s a long way to go for a meeting.

Now, I’m a prompt person in a business where everyone is running late. So I’m in Simi Valley a half hour early... when I get the cell phone call pushing back the meeting two hours. So I figure I’ll just go to some Starbucks, open up the laptop, and work on the remake project. Except I can’t find a Starbucks. In fact, I can’t find anything. There is nothing to be found. One way, the road goes into the mountains. Another road leads into miles of tract homes. And then there’s the road that leads back to the freeway... where a strip mall and a gas station can be seen by big rigs zipping by. No Starbucks in the strip mall - but there’s a liquor store and a Round Table Pizza. Hey, I can work in the pizza place!

Except it’s mostly a delivery / take out place - *two* tables, *four* chairs total - no electrical sockets, so my 2 hour laptop battery is it. Not a problem, the meeting is in 2 hours. But it’s a meal meeting, so I wasn’t going to order a pizza... and they only have 2 liters of Pepsi and 20 oz bottles. I bought a 20 oz bottle, gave the guy behind the counter a $20 (all I had in my wallet was $20s, fresh from the ATM). He opens the register - no change. He counts out singles... and quarters... and there isn’t enough. He’s panicking. I ask if there’s a minimum for credit cards - yes there is. What about debit cards? No... hey, if I paid the $1.80 with a debit card, the change thing wouldn’t be a problem. I give him my debit card, he punches in numbers and runs it, hands it back to me... and he has charged me $18.00. Um, mistake. The guy says he can credit my card... but I’ll have to wait until the manager comes in. How long will that be? A couple of hours. Maybe sooner.

So I drink my $18 Pepsi and open the laptop and do a little work, but my brain just isn’t into it - I’m thinking more about the upcoming meeting, and wondering if the manager will return to credit my account before I have to leave for my meeting. As my battery is starting to flicker... my cell phone rings with the answer. The meeting has been pushed back until 5pm, now. This is all because they are trying to target one of their film’s meal breaks, and they were at a meeting in Westwood that ran late, creating a domino effect. So, now I’m stuck in this 2 table Simi Valley pizza place - without power - for a couple more hours. The manager comes, they credit my card and *give me* the Pepsi. I jot notes on the remake project... and at 4:30, I leave. So what if I’m early.

They have gates and guards and I have a drive on pass - just like any other studio. The place is huge - not as big as a real studio, but not like one of those converted warehouse places out in the north Valley. Kind of like CBS Radford or Raleigh. Gate guard tells me where to go. I get to the correct production office, and the person who recommended me for al of this is there. Introductions, conversation, apology.... It’s looking more like 6pm, now. This is the second to the last day on this shoot, and they have to get scenes on film before they can break for a meal. Okay. But they’ll give me a quick tour of the facility to kill time - which ends up being cool because they have all kinds of sets, including what looks like the CRASH DIVE submarine set (though I forgot to ask). They have 747 interiors, they have just about anything you can imagine - anything you would need for an MOW.

By the time 6pm rolls around, I was wishing I’d had a pizza. They break shooting for dinner, I’m taken by the office person who is, I guess, my contact at this company, to the area where the catering truck is parked and the tables are set up, and we grab a place in line to get food. Hey, is that Faith Ford? She’s the star of this MOW. And other actors I recognize. There are three choices of entree, I think BBQ chicken sounds good, I get a breast dripping with BBQ sauce and some yummy sides and am taken to the “adult table” to meet the two people in charge of production. One is good cop, one is bad cop. Or maybe that’s just their personalities. Or maybe that’s what makes for a good producing partnership. Whatever.

My contact person introduces me, “This is Bill Martell, the writer I told you about...” and then the introduction goes off track. I’m sure this person was trying to reassure them that I can write for an MOW budget, and that I’m less expensive than David Koepp, but if you can imagine the absolutely worst ways to say that - this was even worse than that! I would rather be introduced in a way that points up the best parts of my career, rather than things that might be the worst parts. No mention was made of those best parts. My personal problem is that I don’t brag well. I either say nothing, being modest... or when there is a glaring omission, I hit too hard. That easy middle that most people have - I have yet to master. I am a social misfit. I usually say nothing at all, or joke about my achievements. Anyway, there was no humor in the delivery of this introduction...

I scramble to set things right, but the conversation is already on to their company and what they do and what they’re looking for... and Bad Cop keeps hammering me on everything... and that delicious chicken breast drizzled with BBQ sauce sits untouched on te plate. I pick at the salad and vegetables. The chicken requires actual public mastication, and between not wanting to look like a hungry hack and not wanting to do a spit take with food in the event of further introduction details, it sits untouched on the plate. I *think* I get things back on track, and I *think* I correct my introduction, but the end result is... they need a script *now* that would appeal to families, and is something that my mother would enjoy watching on TV... and I don’t really think I have something like that. Oh, and it has to have a Christmas theme. I tell them about my Barrel Racer treatment, they want to look at it, and COMPLEX, which they want to read. And they say because they make 48 films a year, they are always looking for writers to work with and material - specifically scripts centered aroudn a holiday - that someone like my mom might enjoy watching on TV. So if I ever have anything like that, send it their way.

Meeting is over, cast and crew are going back to work on the film... and I’m leaving a plate full of food on the table. On the way out of Simi Valley, I head in a different direction... passing a big shopping mall with movie theaters and a Starbucks. If I’d know the geography of Simi Valley I could have hung out in that Starbucks (with power for my laptop) and worked until the meeting. Instead, basically a day shot and it takes a full week for that $18 credit to pop up. Now all I have to do is develop this remake pitch... based on a movie I haven't seen in 20 years and barely have a memory of.

And find some dinner.

- Bill


ObiDonWan said...

funny story. how to make a script out of it?
Lessee, a soldier-of-fortune--burnt out, of course, and just abandoned by his girlfriend--is up for a job as, er, bodyguard for a beautiful woman who is targeted by some kind of terrorists because she's (fill in here)...and he has the kind of meeting you just described.

ObiDonWan said...

...only different. Instead of a laptop needing recharging, it's his (some hi-tek thingy he needs to do the job) and instead of a cheap pizza place it's a bar...and so on.

Christina said...

Okay, so this is my take away from your recent posts - eat before these meetings and just barely pick at your food during them. I think that is what I'll do from this point forward. I've had very few of these meetings but the ones I've had have played out like that scene from Adaptation where he sweats a lot.

J.J. said...


Get a blackberry or I-phone or something that would have allowed you to google starbucks so you could have gotten work done.

The Moviequill said...

granola bars are your friend

Morgan McKinnon said...

I agree with the moviequill.

Granola bars.
Or at the very least steer clear of breasts dripping with bbq sauce.

Laura Reyna said...

Yeah, you need to keep some snacks in your car.

I personally would have munched down on that chicken.

Fuck what they think. They made you wait around for 4 hrs!

Laura Reyna said...

... In fucking Simi Valley.

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