(Work in progress, this post still in editing phases)
It wasn’t just the Hollywood elite, it was The Hollywood Reporter elite versus Daily Variety. It was corporate versus crew, fava beans versus Del Taco, reality TV workers like me were nowhere near the international film set, but I went. Boldy brazen to try my pitch to sell a series out for the first time. I mean it was a feature film pitch contest, and I want to produce a reality true crime series, but I needed the practice, so focused on the pilot.
A normal person would have known better than to even go to the American Film Market in Santa Monica to pitch a reality TV series, but I figure, if I have to live in the dredges of L.A., let me at least take advantage of the proximity to potential success.
Plus pursuing the stories of pedophile priests, I'm out here in unchartered territory, anyway. I want to produce a series, a true crime docu-drama series, about the thousands of clergy sex crimes against children in the past 50 years or so.
So I figured I'd go to the AFM and pick up business cards of people to call later.
It wasn’t that kind of conference.
Unchartered territory. I read about the AFM online in The Hollywood Reporter including a “Favorite Pitch” contest run by the People's Choice. I mean, talk about the most homogenized product Hollywood can turn out, it will be on the People's Choice, not a pilot about the pedophile priest problem in the Catholic Church.
But I needed the practice.
I meant to point out that with a webcast, you don't even need a distribution deal, without thinking first, these are the distributors. This material is not for broadcast but great for narrow cast.
I decided to tweak my pitch a little and practice it on the People's Choice people at the AFM.
At least my idea is not expensive to produce.
Here I am walking into two hotels full of film industry corporate creeps, some straight from Central Casting, foreign languages, guys who look like they just flew in from Cannes and are leaving tonight to go right back,
Now TV industry, movies movies movies. These people sniff that they don't even own a cable receiver.
I was so out of place, if I hadn't spent a good part of my younger years bravely walking near naked into places where other people had on clothes, I’d never be able to do the stuff I do today concerning Catholic priest sex crimes.
Like they say, everything in your life leads you to the place you are today.
But at the AFM I was so out of place. I felt so awkward
I could still walk right in there because
I know from experience that the American Film Market is something cooked up by show business PR people back in the late seventies early eighties and I know it’s really a creation of The Hollywood Reporter, that one PR firm, and a few other elements. They also created several of the Awards that people today think are concrete and steel and part of the very Constitution of the film industry. That PR wizard and his firm just saw how much you can spin by creating an Award, so they created Awards and then started on conferences.
The Hollywood Reporter promoted the awards and conferences as if they were about royalty and thus created royalty, part owning the awards and conferences along with my friend and his PR firm. Meanwhile Daily Variety on the other side of town fumed as it continued to just be a daily reliable truth reporting rag for people waiting in audition waiting rooms to read holding that special way between their fingers, striking the posture.
First thing you see when you arrive at the AFM is a huge banner for The Hollywood Reporter. The daily's inside pages were crammed every day the days of the AFM with a program for that day's AFM events, pages and pages of full page ads, seamlessly available for everyone to read online as well as holding it between their fingers while sipping lattes at one of the beach hotels where the conference takes place, the Reporter, not Variety.
Ah, but putting that program online meant that a variety of people will show up at your contest, people like me, who bring the dregs of East Hollywood in on our shoes.
So there I was in my combat gear again. I didn't have anything else to wear, I don't quite fit into my jeans yet so I'm back in these baggy cotton pants I bought at the beginning of summer 2008. They were 2 for ten dollars at this little outlet in the strip of stores at Hollywood and Vermont. I still have a couple pairs left, and I'm still wearing my costume. It’s what I can afford that also fits on this extra body I'm still carrying around. The new jeans almost fit and when they do I’ll change the costume. I bought the jeans too small on my birthday August 29th and they will fit in about three more weeks. I'm getting there. But I wasn’t there in time for the Favorite Pitch contest at the American Film Market. So I wore the costume.
After it was over, I called Cindy after as I was laughing out of control about a half block up the boardwalk as far away from the AFM as I could get after it was over.
I said, “I'm so not dressed for this.”
She became serious, “Are you wearing the hunter’s vest.”
I hesitated. “Yup, I'm wearing the hunter’s vest”
But it's still too warm to add combat boots. I have on white tennies, with knee highs, the cotton pants stop below the knee, and an Army Navy vest full of zippers that I like as I have it down now- I can pull my camera out of the right vest pocket and have it rolling on a scene I see in seven seconds. I'm trying to get it down to five seconds. I was practicing in the park outside the Justice Department one day and three guys jumped up and began to assume a posture, they thought I was pulling a gun.
Made ya look.
After doing my pitch at the AFM, walking along the beach walk, I thought for a second of what I must have looked like to them, and I realized someone could right that moment be reviewing the little video I just made. The video starts and here's this bedraggled old woman, un prepared, saying, "I'm not a screenwriter, I'm a sex crime victim." They’d be laughing their heads off and then I started laughing my head off.
Then they'd get to the part where I'm totally off my script saying, “the conspiracy is still going on, there are even infiltrators from the Catholic Church at our crime victim meetings, and those emails are private.”
Learn from Experience...
Even the way I opened the pitch was all wrong, I realize now looking at it from behind.
Don't beat myself up, remember. I went there for the practice, I'm totally green, I have to figure out how to do this.
In the pitch I introduced myself as a “crime victim, a sex crime victim” and I see now how -
People who haven’t experienced pedophile priest rape don't realize how empowering it is to call the acts crimes, for me, calling myself a crime puts me in a place where I'm part of law enforcement, justice.
But face it. I'm not.
I know most people prefer the word survivor, but for some reason that to me "survivor" still sounds too passive. Or like a jungle reality show.
So I have to find a different word.
People hear the word "victim" and since the world has become so over Oprah-sized, victim has these “oh poor me” connotations.
Even if you don't feel sorry for yourself at all, and you are actually a person of incredibly strong character and stamina, you can still be a victim. You can be super woman and still be powerless up against an evil act that's taking place on you, and thanks to Oprah-Dr.Phil we have to find new words for it.
Anyway the People’s Choice judges probably looked at the video and saw this negative defeated person in the first three seconds calling herself a victim and eliminated me. Plus the purpose of this contest was to get your entire pitch into two and a half minutes. The guy was supposed to lift his finger at one minute but he didn't, and so I stayed on the first half of my script, waiting for him to raise his finger at one minute,
As I'm talking I'm thinking, hmm, we haven’t gotten to one minute yet, so I start elaborating on the first half.
Then all of a sudden he gave me the 30 second signal and I looked up from my yellow index cards and said, “Wha-? Oh I must have misread your signals.” I blushed flustered stumbled and rushed the last three words out, smiling into the camera, “So what I'm pitching today is a movie based on City of Angels blog at city of angels 5 dot blogspot dot com” He’s holding up five fingers, now all of a sudden the Director, so professional his ten then nine then eight fingers so firm and straight. So I have seven more seconds I blurt out, “These are true crime stories” still more fingers “that have to be told.”
Worse yet I let the dweeb convince me I didn't have to do it over,
“You did fine,” he dismissed me looking over my shoulder into the Filmmakers’ Lounge where all the action was going on.
Something in his body language said it didn't matter as no one would touch my story anyway so I didn't pursue my right to do a second take for the contest. Outside on the beach, I'm thinking, it was his fault, he didn't make the one-minute signal, but I had known it was way past one minute, still I was rambling on and on, babbling extra details about the first half of the pitch…
I went there knowing I wouldn't win, I went for the experience. I learned don't trust the dweeb running the camera to give you the time signals I learned, spend more time in front of a mirror before you go on camera.
If I was really serious about winning I would have done a retake, but the kid was so anxious to hit that Starbucks counter and get with the rest of the peeps, he was so young and fresh and excited about his upcoming career, my maternal instincts kicked in. Here was this kid all dressed in the best suit his parents could afford, his resume in his back pocket, and a room full of producers at all these tables. The People’s Choice Favorite Pitch Contest was off at the end of the hall in the “Filmmakers’ Lounge” for the AFM Conference, so he’d been spending days in this little cubicle videoing amateurs, when the professionals were right out there, just out of his reach. Right by the Starbucks in the mezzanine of that hotel on the beach in Santa Monica, at every table were lively conversations, peppy young guys with ideas having their one chance to sit face-to-face with people who can make ideas into movies.
I felt so out of place. All I wanted was an exit.
Actually I had wanted to make an exit as soon as I got in the cubicle to video my pitch, and realized I was going to be under hot lights, a camera pointed at me. That's part of what happened to me at such an early age I was barely talking, there were hot lights and a camera lens, that big round eye, looking expressionless right down on me…
Funny, I didn't even make that connection between performing in child porn and being under hot lights at the contest until just now writing this. The panic didn't happen while I was there. Just now my fingers froze over the keys, heart started beating faster, image in front of me started to swirl. But it stopped real fast and I didn't panic under the camera eye at the contest.
I must be getting better.
But I was a mess.
Okay, I have gotten into the habit of not even looking at myself in the mirror before I go out the door. It didn't help yesterday morning that my daughter and I got in an argument that made the walls shake, again, just minutes before I was to leave to ride three buses an hour and a half to Santa Monica to go make my pitch at the AFM.
Now maybe if I’d stopped to look in the mirror before I left, I’d have seen how mismatched, unbalanced, and dowdy fat and ugly I looked. But instead my daughter and I were arguing…
See my twenty one year old daughter lives with me in this East Hollywood midnight cowboy style slummy one-bedroom apartment, and she’s recently announced to me that she thinks if she gets pregnant it will help her get more motivated about her life.
Now I know her real problem is poverty, that if there had been a government grant for her like the one that put me through college in the 1970s, she’d be at a university right now, she’d have a thriving life, full of stimulation. But instead my brilliant but broke daughter is working for a little over ten dollars an hour at one of the few corporate institutions that is still thriving in this 2009 economy. She thinks she’s well off as she has health insurance, but she still often can’t afford the co-pay if she needs to go to the doctor.
She’s depressed. She comes home from her job, sighs, “I'm tired,” and sleeps until it’s time to get up and go to her job again. As her mom, I'm usually sitting in my office-bedroom which is actually the dining room in this little hovel where we live so I watch her walk in and out of the house once a day to and from her job, and then spend the rest of her time in the one bedroom of this crummy apartment. She has a window that looks out on the roof of the building next door, where this Mexican woman yells at her family from morning to night. That's what Lizzie listens to from the room she stays in all the time.
Once about a week ago, she went for a walk and was amazed to realize Griffith Park is just a few blocks up the street, even though we moved here in November 2005, after two years living in homeless shelters. Yes, two blocks up from this midnight cowboy style dump are the mansions of Los Feliz and then if you are strong enough to get up the hill even farther, there’s a park. It’s been out of my reach since we moved here, my fandango legs won’t get me up the hill even as far as the mansions, but I do sometimes walk in the block just I block north of us, on the other side of Hollywood Boulevard. Up there the sidewalks are clean, there’s less bugs swarming around mystery masses in the bushes. Just one block away from us is a decent life, but we can’t afford it, so we're down here in the vermin.
Now Lizzie’s decided to get pregnant, and worse yet, the guy she’s getting pregnant with is a Republican.
A broke republican, you know, the ones who read Ron Paul by candlelight in a tent underneath a freeway.
My daughter found a broke homeless republican and got pregnant.
So I was rattled when I left for the pitch contest at the AFM, and forgot to even think about how I looked. Forgot to use an iron on my hair, so then at the beach my head was surrounded by a mass of strands going all different directions. Hmm, the contest judges may have thought I arranged it that way.
I forgot to take with me the phone number of a friend who was there at the conference. I thought I’d just wander around until I found him, but they don't let people into that part of the hotel, there’s no way for the public to wander around the AFM unless you hang around the lounge
I felt so out of place.
Especially when as I walked into this double luxe de-luxe place that is the Modrigal Morigeot, if you have to ask how to pronounce it you can’t afford it hotel.
Of course they have mirrored beams and your reflection shines back at you in the golden columns. And that's when I first saw it.
I looked like a mess. But it was too late now, I was already walking in the hotel revolving door.
After it was over I couldn't wait to take that revolving door the other direction.
Thinking now about the sound bites The People's Choice will pick out of my pitch to use in their promos:
“Conspiracy, undercover agents infiltrate our advocacy groups, I know 15 crime victims chomping at the bit to tell their stories, because the Roman Catholic Church uses PR firms and clandestine consultants to beat us down."
This mad woman, whose mouth blares missing teeth as she empasizes the words "chomping at the bit" wild eyed behind dime store glasses, holding yellow index cards with madwoman handwriting, lines scratched out- a mess.
I burst out laughing loud out loud and called Cindy once I got out on the beach, relieved as soon as I found the boardwalk. I felt so much more at home and at ease, down there at sea level, where the guys picking through the garbage make me look good.
POST SCRIPT: Who was that guy who followed me and made a point of meeting up with me, later, near the place to catch the 704 back to L.A., this too good looking to be true guy right up in my face saying he didn't have a place to stay, and I was so unmoved it didn't work, but he was really persistent.
Who put him onto me?
Didn't think to ask that until a day later, I mean I didn't look rich or hot, why was that man who was perfect down to his recently trimmed silver hair pretending to be interested in me?