Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Striking out in the new year

It's the start of a new year and, once again, I'm broke.

Actually, that statement is a lie.

The term "broke" implies that I have zero money. Which, I don't have. I don't have zero money. Right now what I do have is $18,273.47 in debt. As of today, my mortgage payment is officially delinquent. At the precise moment that I rang in 2008, my Directv service was discontinued. Honestly, I can't decide which of these three facts make me feel more like a loser, and less like a responsible adult, although I do feel compelled to tell you that I voluntarily turned off my Directv and my service wasn't cancelled for late payment. I'm not that much of a deadbeat. No. Really.

What's worrisome is that there is no big-ticket producing job on the horizon to bail me out of this self-inflicted debtor's prison. Nor, is there a little-ticket job. And, if I get financially terrified enough to consider taking one of those studio executive jobs, that I cannot even describe as being sucktastic without being redundant, there's none of those jobs to be had either. And that's not because I was fired from my last executive job. Which I was. But that's another story. There are no jobs for me on the horizon, because there are no jobs for just about everyone in Hollywood. The writers' strike, which is now in its third month, has brought the movie business to a standstill.

What isn't a lie is the "once again" part about me being broke. I've had no income for over a year now. Since November 2006 when my unemployment insurance from my last producing job ran out to be exact. Actually, I have been working in Hollywood since 1990 and have never been rich. I've always been either broke or almost broke. As an executive, I was always underpaid. As a producer, I don't get paid until the movie gets greenlit. Which can take years. No. Really. You know how producers always announce that, "This movie took eleventy years to get made," during their Oscar acceptance speeches for Best Picture like it's an important piece of trivia that film audiences should hold aloft and cherish next to their hearts like the fact that Rosebud is a sled? What that proclamation really means is not, "How stupid is the studio for not making this important picture about the Holocaust/alcoholism/horses sooner," but, "I got paid! After eleventy years I finally got paid!"

I have been broke longer than it takes for a movie to get made and win Best Picture.

Actually, it's the impending financial ruin of my fellow film professionals, that is really making the writers' strike suck for me. Typically I earn just enough money in Hollywood as a producer every year to qualify as a member of the economic class commonly known as "the working poor," so I can deal with the lack of a paycheck. What I'm having a hard time dealing with is the siege mentality that has taken over the industry, which is weird, because in Hollywood it really is who about who you know. In an industry based on relationships, day-to-day business runs on a currency of favors. Since the strike began, people have stopped being nice to each other. So, along with the work and the money, this underground economy of controlled sharing has stopped. Most of my business calls now involve someone who is angry/screaming, or frightened/crying, or depressed/self-involved. No. Really. Even answering the phone has become an unpleasant chore.

This whole blog idea started the other day when I was in the shower contemplating the new meaness of Hollywood. I do most of my contemplation in the shower. I know. This is kind of pathetic. Especially since I take short showers. I live a largely unexamined life. So shoot me. At any rate, I was in the shower and had this thought:

What would happen if I started being nice?

No. Really. What stops people from being nice? Why is nice so hard? Do nice guys really finish last? What would happen to me if I made a concerted effort to be nice? Not the nice where I expect niceness in return. Not the nice that's commonly referred to as "common decency" where I feel compelled to be nice, lest have people call me a jerk and use me as an example of what not to be to their children. Not the nice that is the path of least resistance because what I should really be instead is caring, passionate, or outraged. But that genuine kind of nice that exists when a person commits an of kindness and charity without the expectation of getting anything in return.

As my New Year's Resolution I resolve to do something really nice every day. And by really nice I mean "with no direct benefit to myself."

What's the worst that could happen as a result of this decision?

I'll see.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

The fact that you started this "experiment" in the midst of the writers' strike is validation enough that niceness does indeed exist.

The fact that I now have to differentiate between the WGA strike and the (possible/looking likely) SAG strike sends fear into my heart, and pocketbook, and livelihood.

Peace on Earth, and goodwill to all, this holiday season....