Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Letter of Recommendation

Two weeks ago I recommended three friends for the new Sundance Film Institute producing program. Today, Mel C. called to ask me to write her a letter of recommendation. Damn! I knew that being nice was going to bite me in the ass. There goes an hour of my day.

I contemplate telling Mel C. to write up her own letter, which I will sign on her behalf. This would save me some time that I really need to spend doing other things, like finding financing for um, SIX of my projects. But, I'm practicing being nice so I can't refuse her. Also, I write excellent letters of recommendation. I wrote all my letters of recommendation for my college applications, which my teachers then proofread and signed on my behalf. I got into my first choice school, early admission.

I give good letter.


Here's my letter for Mel C.:

To Whom It May Concern:

My very favorite letter of recommendation was actually written on my behalf by Professor Banergee, the Dean of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at USC. I was applying for film school, but had taken loads of urban planning classes because I liked how human geography explained everything from illegal immigration to infidelity. In his letter of recommendation he simple wrote, "If you don't take her, we will." And signed his name.

I wish I could say something as pithy and elegant on behalf of Mel C., but alas I cannot. And I can't say it not because she doesn't have exquisite taste in material, because she does. And I can't say it not because she doesn't have the soul of an artist and the brains of a scholar, because she has both. And I can't not say it because I don't like her, because she is nice! Oh, she is so nice. And has so much integrity. She is SO great to work with.

I can't say it because if Sundance doesn't take Mel C., I can't take her. I can't give her a job. I can't afford her.

I am an independent producer. It's one of the best jobs ever, if you can just deal with constant budgetary issues, like not being able to hire someone who would be a tremendous creative asset to you.

My company does not have the budget to hire Mel C., who is smart and hard working and artistically courageous. The hardest thing about being an independent producer is not raising the money for a movie, but paying your mortgage in the meantime. The best case scenario is your movie makes you a zillion dollars at the box office, and you get a cut of that. Of course, making a movie that makes money and making a movie that is a masterpiece are often two different things. But overall, I don't think it's much of an exaggeration to say that producing film is very much like being a helicopter mechanic. If your work doesn't fly, you will probably never get another chance to try again. Suffering for your art isn't glamorous, just annoying. It wastes time, time that could be better spent making great motion picture.

This is why we haven't seen the fabulous producing work of Ms. C. on the big screen (yet). She, like most of us in the indie world, have been struggling to make enough money to make enough time to make art.

So, I guess this is the long and wordy way of me saying: "Please take her! She deserves the stipend, the infrastructure and the creative support of the Sundance Institute! Please take her! If she gets a shot at producing, she will do something wonderful! The industry will benefit!"

Because if I did have the extra cash hanging around, I would take her in one hot second.

Best Regards,

The Producer

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Unfortunate Gift

The High School Boyfriend calls me about the old yearbooks.

He leaves a long message on my voicemail thanking me for my thoughtful surprise package.

I miss his call by seconds. I call him back moments later but he doesn't pick up the phone. Maybe he's in the bathroom or something. So I leave a message expressing my hope that the yearbooks lead to good art. "We haven't spoken in a long time. I'd love to catch up," I tell his answering machine.

He doesn't call back.


So now I'm left to wonder if he really is thankful or if he's just frightened that I might start stalking him. Because if it's the latter, can I count my gift as a nice gesture?

I consider calling him again to explain that the gift was part of a year-long project. As an artist he would probably understand my experiment as a type of performance and appreciate the discipline involved.

Or, he might just see it as a desperate and sad attempt by an old girlfriend to worm her way back into his life. Which it's not. But how could he know that?

Another more odious thought pops into my head: If I call to explain that I sent him the yearbooks as part of an experiment to be nice, does his knowledge of my motivation negate the niceness? What if he feels used? Like I don't really care about his art at all. Like I just sent him the yearbooks so I could make another notch in my nice stick for the year? And, by not calling him and allowing him to tell me that he feels cheapened by my present--if that's in fact how he feels--am I cheating? Am I just avoiding a conversation where he tells me that my gesture is self-serving and lacks artistic merit by imagining that he's somehow ducking my call because he thinks I'm criminally insane and not because he's just busy. Or lost his cell phone in the sofa cushions. Or something.

I decide not to call him because I just reread the last paragraph which makes me sound like I'm one step away from boiling a bunny.

"An Unfortunate Gift" will have to be added to my collection of names I could call my future, imaginary rock band.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Good Photographs Make Good Neighbors

It took me all day yesterday to get over my irritation about having to write a cheery response email to The Mexican, my least favorite ex-boyfriend.

Actually, it took me all day yesterday to get over being mad that my ex-boyfriend still can make me mad, even unintentionally. And by the way, his lack of intention somehow makes things even more annoying.

The Mexican emailed me again today to let me know that I was, in fact, correct in my identification of my neighbor's house in a 1975 photograph by Stephen Shore. Goody for me.

And now I'm annoyed once more. And I cannot even explain why.

I can't waste another day being mad about being mad. So I decide I'll do something nice with the emails and try and reverse the effect the emails seem to have on me. I decide that I will make a nice color print of the Stephen Shore photograph and give it to my neighbors who currently live in the house in the photograph. I will turn lemons into lemonade.

I've only met these neighbors in passing, usually while I am bent over, picking up my dog's poop off their parkway. They are a nice lesbian couple who think that I am a polite lesbian dog owner. I know they think I'm a lesbian because every time they see me they ask me, "Aren't you so-and-so's girlfriend?" (And I use the title "so-an-so" not because I'm trying to keep some girl's sexual orientation a secret, but because every time they ask if I'm so-and-so's girlfriend, they are asking about a different girl. Or maybe they're just asking about the same girl who changes her name all the time. Somehow I think this is doubtful). Maybe all the girls in their lesbian peer group have girlfriends with dogs that look like my dog and that's why they think they recognize me. Or maybe I just look like everyone they know, like I have some sort of an everylesbian look about me.

At any rate, even if they are already aware of their home's photographic pedigree, they'll probably see my little surprise as a nice, neighborly gift.

Of course I don't have a color printer. So I forward the photograph to Mr. Foxypants at work, where he is on super-duper deadline, to print it out for me on his fancy work printer. So now I'm making my poor boyfriend do work for me on behalf of the neighbors who don't even know I'm straight, so I can stop being mad about being mad about an email from my ex.

My boyfriend stays late at work to print out the photo for me. He is so nice to me, it makes me want to cry.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bad Pie

And you thought I was make a sexual reference didn't you? Whatever, perv.

I met Mel C. (my former intern, not the Spice Girl) for dessert at the bad pie restaurant in Burbank. I love dumpy restaurants because you can gossip about Hollywood and not worry about the wrong person overhearing your conversation. You know, like the person you are talking about?

Mel C. has been kicking ass lately, working on big commercials. She might actually be in the position to hire me as her assistant on an out of town job. I'm actually stoked by this suggestion. I have a feeling that Mel C. is a good boss. Plus, it would be fun to go out of town with her. It would almost be like a girl's weekend in Las Vegas, except that we'd be working 14 hours a day in Salt Lake City.

She wants my advice, as a mentor, on what she should do with her life and career.


While I'm busily telling her what not to do, i.e. Do not be me, it occurs to me that I should introduce her to Crispy. He's writing a series of comedic webisodes and keeps calling me for advice. I'd actually produce Crispy's webisodes for him so he could stop stressing, except I don't have time.

Okay, that last statement wasn't really true. The real reason why I'm not producing his webisodes is that I don't have enough money in the bank to work for free. I spend all my free time selling my small appliances on Craigslist. Being nice to my friends is certainly easier when I've got cash.

But Mel C. could be a great producer. She is still at the point in her career where she needs to do free work to build up her resume. I tell her about Crispy. She is so flattered and happy that I would recommend her for a producing job. She smiles and smiles and smiles.

Sometimes being a good mentor makes up for being a bad example.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

No Blood for Oil

I'm having an OUT OF THE PAST moment. Alas, it does not involve Robert Mitchum. Today, as in just now, I received an email from my ex-boyfriend, The Mexican. His message was cheery. He talked about how he's a partner in an art gallery, how much he and wife hate their Brooklyn loft, and how much he enjoys being a dad.

Like I could really give a shit. No really. Out of all my boyfriends, he's my least favorite. And it's not because we had a bad breakup. I've had bad breakups with men who are now some of my dearest friends. It's because he's a passive-aggressive twat.

His email began with him asking me to identify a house in a Stephen Shore photograph from 1975. In a post script he let me know that he hadn't forgotten about my request for pictures that he had taken of my dearly departed dog.

My dog died two years ago.

I'm confused and, therefore, annoyed by his email. This is the problem with passive-aggressive people who regularly lie by omission. You really never know what they're up to, but you're sure you'll be ticked off when you find out. Did he really need validation that Stephen Shore probably stood in my front yard to take the picture of the house in the photograph? Was that really preying on his mind? What I really want to do is write back, telling him that I don't care about his life, and would he please just stop being such a coward and just tell me what he really wants. Because what he really wants probably isn't architectural verification.

But of course that wouldn't be nice.

Instead, I write him back the briefest email I can that still sounds charming. I thank him in advance for keeping on top of the dog pictures.

And now I'm kind of mad. I'm not mad at The Mexican. I'm mad that being nice has made me mad instead of happy.


Yesterday I donated platelets, which are the sticky bits in blood that make clotting happen. I started donating platelets last year after I realized that so many important people in my life are still alive because some stranger donated blood.

I'm a terrible candidate for donation. I have to take iron suppliments in order to donate because I'm always verging on anemic. I have "tiny plumbing" so it's hard to get the needle into my vein. I have super low blood pressure so it takes me forever to drain. I faint at the sight of blood.

I hate donating.

But I keep showing up at the blood lab in Sherman Oaks every two weeks, because I know if I don't make it a habit, I will quit going. And I refuse to quit going because important people in my life will still need blood in the future.

There are good rewards to donating platelets. The blood lab knows that even people who are writing blogs about being nice won't put up with a three hour procedure which involves being strapped to a chair and stabbed with needles, without an occasional perk. Since it's illegal to pay people for their blood in California, the lab gets numerous corporations to donate $50 gift cards for free movies, icecream, coffee, restaurant dining, groceries or gas. For the last year I've been paying for my gasoline with my donor gift cards. The deal I made with myself is that I am only allowed to buy gas with those cards. It forces me to really be good about my driving--I'm trying to cut back on car usage for environmental reasons. "My blood for oil!" I think to myself, whenever I'm at the filling station. I'm helping my fellow man and the environment at the same time!

Yesterday, I go up to reception to pick up my gas card and discover that they've discontinued that premium. Apparently the lab is doing all sorts of FDA studies and as a result, they've become even pickier about what they can give away. This is when I discover that one of the premiums is for utilities. The lab will send a $50 check to the utility of your choosing. I happen to have my internet cable bill in my purse.

"My blood for high speed internet!" really doesn't have the same ring to it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fallen Fruit

"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger."

Leviticus 19:9-10

I am getting all Old Testament on my garden and donating the insane amount of kiwi fruits still hanging from the vine in my front yard to a food bank to feed the homeless.

And you thought Leviticus was all about the evils of gay sex and bacon.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Does Any Dream Involving the 405 Freeway End Well?

I had the dream again. I've been having the same dream a lot lately. Last night I dreamt that I was in my car, heading southbound on the 405 freeway toward Westwood. In the dream I'm sitting in the backseat of my Volvo reading a script. It must be cold outside because I'm snuggled under a comforter, wearing pajamas. The radio is on and I'm wiggling my feet, which are clad in bunny slippers, in time with the music. Just as my car passes the Sunset exit, I look up. This is the moment when I realize that I'm alone in my car and no one is driving. The dream always ends as I struggle to get free of the comforter and crawl from the back of the car into the driver's seat as the car swerves across four lanes of traffic toward the concrete median.

I wonder what my subconscious is trying to tell me?

Today I recommended three friends for the Sundance Producing Program. The Producing Program is brand new. This is its pilot year. I'm really glad that the Sundance Institute created a program to help young producers. It's really hard to start a production company because most people only have enough money to try producing once. If you're movie doesn't do well, you can't afford to do a second picture. And I'm not talking about not being able to afford the production costs of another film. I'm talking about not being able to pay your rent or eat while you try and put together movie. Most people who start as producers, without first working as an executive or agent, are really rich people. The original studio heads who created the industry were a bunch of rich guys from parallel industries like fashion. The Sundance Producing Program includes a stipend of $10,000, which is not enough to make a movie on, and not enough to really live on for more than a few months in Los Angeles, but enough to give a person a little free time every day away from thinking about how he or she is going to pay rent and make a movie at the same time.

There are three things producers need to make great movies: People, time and money. Generally speaking, most producers count their blessings if they get two out of three.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Oh. My. God.

I got a letter today from DVDS4VETS thanking me for my generous donation. I don't even remember donating DVDs to them, but whatever.

So, I called them up and guess what? They will accept porn. Let me repeat that. They. Will. Accept. Porn.

Not only will they accept my porn surplus and all my directing samples, but because I am donating so much, they will add my name to their Wall of Fame!

DVDS4VETS rules.

Then again, any charity that has Nancy Sinatra as its celebrity spokesperson has got to be cool.