Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
February 2nd, 2011 by Mere Smith

Portrait Of Writer In Nude (Pantyhose)

Oo-rah!  The action scenes of Pilot Season have officially begun!

(Without Jason Statham or Jet Li, but I’ll force myself to get over that.)

I’ve just scheduled my first meeting — in the sense that S— at my manager’s office scheduled it for me — and I’m looking forward to it with a retro-teenage glee that makes my brain parts all tingly.  Actually, as a professional, it’s rather humiliating how much I’m looking forward to this meeting.

Even if I don’t get hired, it’s an opportunity to go in and enthuse all over someone else’s conference table for a change, instead of enthusing all over my desk.

(Do you have any idea how difficult it is to clean up enthuse?  It’s like chewing gum.  Nearly fucking impossible to get rid of.)

Plus, going back to look over my notes from the 21-script avalanche a week ago, I realized it was one of the scripts to which I’d given a hearty thumbs-up: thus, double enthuse.  Also, a newer version of the script got sent along with the meeting time, and said rewritten script was even better than the original — so TRIPLE ENTHUSE.

(Hint: Ajax mixed with hot bleach seems to be the only thing that gets it out.)

But then, of course, after the enthuse dies down a bit, you start thinking.

Which, in general, I believe is a good thing.

In fact, I think “thinking” is a highly neglected activity in this town.  Calming and healthy for the mind and the soul — I wish more people would start doing it.  Kinda like yoga.  Because in the beginning, yeah, sure, the contortions hurt like hell and you wonder, What is the friggin’ big deal about this shit? — but after a couple of weeks you start questioning, How could I have gone so long without it?  This makes me feel like a better, clearer-headed, more conscious and compassionate person.

Though I’m pretty sure there are more yoga classes in L.A. than thinking Industry folk.

Anyway, as I said, after the enthuse ebbs, you start thinking.  And for me, a female writer in my mid-thirties, this leads to:

What exactly is my place in this business?


I’m not young enough to dye my hair blue anymore (though that was the year I wound up on the Washington Wizards, so you can see how well that worked out [see previous post]), but I’m not old enough to have that air of wifely/motherly wisdom yet (mostly because I’m not a wife or mother, which I hear helps with the wisdom thing).  I still wear the nose ring I got at age 20, but for only two reasons: 1) I like it, goddammit, and 2) if I take it out, I have a gaping hole in the middle of my face, which leads to uncomfortable questions about smallpox and/or leprosy.

Do I wear my standard writer clothes — ironic T-shirts and kung-fu pants — or do I try to look “presentable” — whatever the hell that means? I think the last time I looked “presentable” was my first job out of college as a secretary in New York.  Then it was all midi-skirts, heels, and nude pantyhose.  After I moved to L.A. and started wearing track pants and Nikes to work, the very idea of pantyhose made me want to run away shrieking.  Honestly, still does.  I don’t know how many of my readers are male, but for those of you who aren’t aware, those fucking things chafe.

Do I mention my last two years in Development Hell? It could seem like a cop-out (“Oh, I was working on my own Very Important Projects”), or worse, like self-denigration (“Oh, I was working on my own VIPs, but apparently they weren’t good enough — sob, sob“), or, at worst, like a cover-up (“Oh, I spent my last two years in and out of mental asylums.  But really, I’m okay now, the meds have helped a lot.”).

Yet the single question that bothers me more than any other:

Do I “tone myself down” to get a job?

In other words, do I misrepresent myself just to get hired?

Because truthfully, I don’t see myself as being like most of the other writers I’ve met.

For instance, first there are the ovaries (the majority of writers I know are white men in their forties or fifties, most of whom — I believe, anyway — are ovaryless).

I laugh really loud — my dad calls it my “chicken cackle” — at nearly everything.  Not because I’m trying to ingratiate myself with the joke-teller, but because I find just about everything funny.  I won’t deny it; I am clinically overamused.

In addition, both my biological parents were sailors.  English is my first language.  Profanity is my second.

I have definite opinions, which don’t change unless my mind is changed.  On the one hand, this can be accomplished through sound logic and persuasive argument.  On the other, it cannot be accomplished simply because the guy two pay-grades ahead of me thinks it should be accomplished — and that I should keep my whiny yap shut about it.

I care less about office politics than I do about boll weevils.  And I really, really do not give even a minuscule shit about boll weevils.  Though I do like the word “weevil.”  Weevil, weevil, weevil.  But that’s just linguistics.

Also, I think debate is a good thing.   I have absolutely no problem with the phrase, “I disagree,” coming either from me or from anyone else — though some control-freaks find this trait annoying.  (Me, I find control-freaks annoying.  Could be a yin-yang type deal.)  The best relationships I’ve ever had with Executive Producers were the ones with whom I was not discouraged to argue — and who were not too high and mighty to argue back.  If I’ve learned anything from my experience in this business, it’s that healthy debate produces better stories than mute complacency.

Hence, I do not kowtow.  To anyone. I do not sport a topknot, and my knees don’t bend at the whip.

Being brought up in the South, I will give up my chair for someone older than I am, pull open doors for people behind me, and say “Yes, sir,” and “No, ma’am” with ease — but what I will not say is, “Pretty please with sugar on top would you walk all over me?  ‘Cause god, I just love it when you do that.”  If you need to pay someone to stroke your ego (or anything else), hire a hooker.

I never phone in my writing.

Ever.  Not ever.  Never.

If I feel I can’t write something well, I will dig into the outline to find out why — usually it’s because the character’s choices don’t ring true to the character, the plot is too convoluted, the plot is too simple, etc., etc. — and then I will attempt to have a discussion with my EP about it.

This tends to raise conflicts with folks who say, “Don’t question me, just write what I told you.”

These folks and I do not get along.

If you need somebody to write her ass off for you, I’m your Evil Gal.  But if you just want someone to type up what you want typed up, go get a fucking stenographer.  (Or a thousand monkeys in a room with typewriters.  I hear if you leave them alone long enough, you’ll get Shakespeare.  It can’t be too unreasonable to assume you’ll also get an episode of your show.)

And lastly, I am obsessive about writing at home, because at home there is peace and silence.  Some EPs are fine with this.  But some want you to write at the office so they can interrupt your writing at whim.  Now, when I sit down to write, I intend to write for 6-10 hours at a stretch without pause.  I do not intend to stop every ten minutes to look at someone’s new tennis shoes or to talk about this week’s “House.”   We can talk about “House” when I come back, because by then I will probably be sick of my own.

In other words, though I am a laid-back, easygoing person, I am not a laid-back, easygoing writer.  I take my job as seriously as a surgeon paid to poke around in a person’s… uh… (insert polysyllabic “House”-ian anatomy here).

So, to be hired, to be taken seriously, must a writer be transparent or opaque?

‘Cause me, I’m about as opaque as a pair of nude pantyhose.

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