Update: The meeting with the two female Suits on Thursday went surprisingly well.
Neither of them were uptight ball-breakers (I have to worry about that, since I have a larger brass set than most men), and though I did — much to my shame — attempt to pretend to be “nice,” neither of them called me on it. They actually went along and attempted to pretend to believe I was nice.
Silly, silly Suits.
The only real hitch in the whole encounter was that I had to drive all the way out to Burbank to meet them at 4 p.m.
For those of you unfamiliar with L.A. traffic, rush hour here lasts from 6 – 11 in the morning, then picks up again from 2 – 7 p.m. Even after 7 p.m. is dicey, depending on if there’s been any kind of accident on any of the dozen highways surrounding the greater Los Angeles area. Even a harmless fender-bender on the shoulder of the 405 (along with the concomitant dickhead rubberneckers — and, have no doubt, this includes female dickheads, too) can delay — literally — tens of thousands of people from getting home in time for supper. (Granted, “supper” in my case is usually me making my world-famous… phone call to Pizza Hut. Not exactly time-dependent. But Finance doesn’t seem to mind — though he has started working out five days a week. Me, I could live decades after Armageddon/The Zombie Apocalypse solely on pepperoni.)
In other words, it took me an hour and a half to get to the meeting, and then an hour and a half to get back. I spent over three times longer on the freeways than I did in the room with the Suits. So…
ATTENTION ALL SUITS: DO NOT SCHEDULE YOUR MEETINGS WITH WRITERS AT 4 P.M.
This may be convenient for you — stick us in at the end of your day, so we don’t mess up whatever schedule you got going on; we get it, we understand– but be forewarned, we are absolutely fucking brain-dead by the time we arrive.
Seriously, like Zombie Apocalypse half-eaten-brain-dead.
Especially if we’ve just driven an hour and a half through stop-and-go traffic at 15 mph to get to your office. Not even GPS-narrated porn could keep us coherent for that long. If you really want to know what we Writers are capable of, either schedule us in the mornings, when our gray matter’s still fresh and juicy and uneaten — say, 11 a.m. — early enough for our coffee to see us through the drive — or, better yet, just call us.
Can you imagine, my fellow Hobbit Writers? Wouldn’t that be sweet? Phone meetings as standard?
‘Cause it’s not like your personality is gonna change on the drive. You’re still gonna be just as smart-assed (or stupid-assed) as you would be in a room — but after an hour and a half at Flintstones’ speed, I guarantee you’ll register 20 points lower on an IQ test. Highly detrimental to getting a job which requires, y’know, “thinking and whatnot.”
And with only a phone call, Writers wouldn’t have to worry, like I do — I’ll admit, a tad obsessively — about appearance or body language. For instance, whenever I find myself in a meeting, I’m constantly aware of my facial expressions (attentive? surprised? gratified? thankful? contemplative?); whether I’m leaning forward (interested, excited) or leaning back (disinterested, bored); whether I have my hands in my lap, on the table, under the table, or on the chair arms; whether I’m projecting “openness” or “closedness”; whether I’m looking someone in the eye, or at the floor (even though by instinct, I look at the floor when I think — a habit I’ve tried years to break, to no avail [the looking-at-the-floor part, that is, not the thinking part; seems I have zero control over the latter] — even though I know the floor-looking makes me seem shifty). Honestly, it’s amazing I can still yap my jaws at all while this freight-train of bullshit runs through my head.
Plus there’d be none of that business with the handshake (too hard = too aggressive? too soft = too pussified?, etc., etc.) — and hell, with a phone meeting, you wouldn’t have to brush your teeth if you didn’t want to. You could eat a goddamn onion-and-cow-patty sandwich and still come off like Oscar Wilde.
All these advantages, plus, without having to negotiate the mind-numbing traffic, you’d be able to present the best “you” you could be.
Sure, there are some people who can “sell themselves” (don’t tell me Hollywood isn’t a giant whorehouse; the only difference here is, the brothel’s televised) purely on charisma. Unfortunately, however, this is usually to make up for some lack of talent. I hate these people. Maybe it’s because I wish charisma came as easily to me, but mostly it’s because there are always a few mentally-challenged folks who turn up on a staff just because they trick you into thinking they’re a cross between Johnny Depp and Stephen Hawking. Even when they can’t tell a black hole from an asshole.
Likewise, my dear Suits, don’t try to cram us in at the end of the day “Just so (you) can put a face to the name.”
I’ve gotten this so many times, I feel like I should take a shot of booze every time I hear it — call it The Suit/Writer Drinking Game. Also take a shot for “So what were you working on before now?” (Wasn’t that in the packet of info your assistant gave you? Do you have any idea who am I at all, or what I’m doing here?),* as well as, “So how do you like living in Gardena/Redondo Beach/Venice/Koreatown?” (It sucks, what do you think? If I had enough money to live somewhere nice and centrally-located, I wouldn’t be in this meeting, because I’d be the EP of my own show.) Truly, if all you really want is to put a name to a face, just ask us for a .jpeg of our driver’s license, or a photo from our last birthday party, or a copy of our mug shots. I promise, we’ll email them to you. Or have the LAPD do it for us.
* [[Sidenote: I swear on my mother’s life, this story is true: I once had a Suit ask me, “So what’s it like working with Mere Smith?” After a stunned half-second, I replied, “Oh, she’s fantastic. Love her. One of the most brilliant writers I know.” This Suit just nodded — meanwhile typing emails throughout the entire meeting — and muttered distractedly, “Great. Yeah, I’ve heard good things about her.” He obviously had no idea that the person in question — i.e., me — was sitting right there on his couch. It was all I could do not to scorpion-kick him in the head before I left. Instead I shook his hand. Aggressively.]]
However, don’t think all Suits are stupid. They’re not. And you can fuck up royally by making this assumption.
Over the years I’ve met a couple handfuls of really sharp Suits, ones who get it; they understand story, they understand character, arc, and more importantly — to me, anyway — they understand that despite my torrent of mental fidgets and eccentricities, that I will bust my brass balls to give them the best work I can. These Suits have stuck up for me, fought for me, remembered me when it came time to staff that new show. I love these Suits. I even remember their names. (Ahem.)
But just like Writers, not all Suits are so sharp. Some of them got where they are on charisma, or charlatanism, or nepotism, or through sheer attrition. And I have about as much use for them as I do for Writers of the same persuasion — which is to say, none whatsoever.
Yet still Writers must slog through rush hour traffic to the Suits’ offices and do what I call “the monkey dance,” simply because if you don’t, that’s bad for you. Like gods, Suits have only to summon these Writers like pathetic mortals to ParaMount Olympus — and we have to come running, even at 4 p.m., because to not run means we’re arrogant ingrates who don’t want the job badly enough — when in reality, most Suits are just covering their asses, so when their bosses, the SuperSuits, ask them about a specific Writer, the Suits can check their calendars and say, “Yes, I had a meeting with her.”
Not that these Suits will then tell the SuperSuits their opinions of said Writer (if they can even remember what the Writer looks like; so much for wanting to put a face to the name — drrrrink!). Most will just wait to hear what the SuperSuit says about this particular Writer, and then heartily agree with the SuperSuit’s opinions.
Thus technically, the meetings themselves aren’t even necessary — all the Suits really have to do is maintain their calendars so that it looks as though they’ve met the Writer. Technically, all we Writers have to do is talk to the Suits’ assistants, so that the assistants can then tell the Suits what to think. That is, of course, until the SuperSuits tell them to think differently.
But digressions aside, as I said, my meeting with the two female Suits on Thursday went splendidly. I was feeling pretty good.
Until my manager’s assistant called that night and told me they’d scheduled another meeting for me with a different Suit…
…at 4 p.m. the next day.