I remember sitting with a friend, a writer/director, more than a few years ago and trying to figure out whether it was still worth it for either of us to stay in the Hollywood struggle.
We had met years before, when he had been attached to direct the first of my scripts that had gone anywhere and the world had looked like it would finally be, if not our oyster, then at least our really good all-you-could-eat salad bar. That project, like most in this town, ended up never getting made, but the two of us had stayed friends. We had had our separate brushes with success since then, too. More brushes than any sane person could reasonably expect to have in this business, in fact, though we were both far from being “success stories,” let alone A-listers.
And that was our dilemma. We had had enough success to know that we were good, and to know that we could do this. But we weren’t successful enough to be sure that all the sacrifices and various insanities involved would actually be worth it in the end.
We were both pushing 40 as well. That’s not a good age to be in Hollywood when you’re still working to establish yourself on people’s go-to lists. Especially when you could see the choice of another, more stable life looming on the horizon. And the fact that this other life included a woman you were thinking of proposing to, well, that just made the idea of moving on even more attractive.
So he and I talked.
Did we really want to keep spending time in well-appointed rooms drinking overpriced bottled water with people who we really didn’t care for (and who didn’t really care for us) while talking about movies we all knew would never get made? Did we really want to write, direct, or write/direct the kind of projects we were actually in the running for? Did we realize that we had become those cynical guys who had fondly, if sadly, shaken their heads at us when we had first started out, all full of hope and confidence that we could change all the rules and would never end up like them?
Did we remember why we had even wanted to write, direct, or write/direct movies in the first place?
I did, or at least I did a few days later, when some other struggling Hollywood friends and I gathered for 3 hours on the rooftop parking lot of a Ralph’s grocery store and shot The New Guy, a short little lark about four master assassins and the rookie on their team.
We didn’t have the equipment we needed. We didn’t have the money we needed. We didn’t have the real crew we needed. But we did have a security guard trying to run us off every 20 minutes or so. And a serious need to make something without all the agents, scammers, ego trippers, and layer upon layer of development “notes” that can suffocate a project before it even takes its first breath.
And we had fun. More fun than I could remember having since the days after I had first moved to Hollywood.
That morning, I remembered why I had wanted to come to Hollywood in the first place.
Even better, I ended up marrying Samurai Girl.