Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.

Archive for the ‘Hollywood’ Category

July 15th, 2014 by Mere Smith

If You Want To See Me Puke Onstage

Evening (/morning/afternoon/6:02 p.m. GMT), ladies and gentletoads!

gentletoad

 

A rare update from the whirlwind my life has become. All willingly and eager, fear not – but I can see Exhaustion from here, and she’s waving. So I’m trying to take care of myself, trying to walk slower while doing more faster. Two deadlines this weekend and a reading/signing on Saturday night, which is technically the reason I’ve called this board meeting, but it feels impolite to shill you without foreplay, so…

Répétez. Begin at the beginning.

As you may have noticed, the blog’s kinda taken a back seat at the mo’ – fabulous things are afoot, but there’s only so much writing you can do in a day without your brain dripping out your nose in grey splats. Things should calm down soon, though, and I plan to come back here and regale you with all my wacky adventures in… yeah okay I’m totally making this up. (The wackiest thing I’ve been doing lately is listening to Sia’s new album on repeat. Wild times.) At the very least, I’ll try to make future posts unsucky and not-boring. That is my A-1 Quality Writing Promise™ to you.

The great news is, I’ve started working with some sharp-ass producing partners who came to me with a very unusual idea – and now I’m getting to collaborate and elaborate on that idea in every direction. There’s no graphic novel or video game to adapt this time, just a premise, so I’m getting free rein to craft conflicted characters and indulge in world-building (oh hi favorite things ever) in a very specific – but still classified – “mode” that is challenging me like no other project I’ve done. So naturally I’ve fallen in love with the damn thing.

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More as it progresses. ‘Til then keep it under your hats, palookas. That’s why I posted it on the internet. It’s private-like.

Elsewise, in an effort to maintain my energy and sanity, I’ve been working out at the gym like a motherfucker. Getting up at 5 a.m. five days a week: cardio, weights, kickboxing, yoga. Basically I’m living on endorphins and espresso at this point – not an uncommon state for a writer – in addition to enough ibuprofen to do laps in. Anybody reading this in their 20s best be enjoying your youthful resilience or I swear to Christmas I will beat that shit out of you. For me, now, almost every day some body part or other starts whining: ooh, my shoulder, ooh, my calves, my back, my ass, my toes. Places that never used to hurt after I exercised, but surprise! you wake up and you’re a few months from 40 and you didn’t even think that thing back there was a muscle, much less that you could tweak it by sneezing on the elliptical machine.

It’s times like this – the morning times, when my feet hit the floor, the joints in my body cracking loud and continuously like microwave popcorn – I remember a TV clip I saw years and years ago, a sports reporter interviewing a decathlete, a guy who’d chosen to keep competing despite a strained hamstring.

The – clearly dim – reporter asked later, “But weren’t you in pain?”

The decathlete answered, “Well, we do ten sports. There’s always something’s gonna hurt. Soon as you accept that, you stop worrying about it.”

There’s always something’s gonna hurt.

Well I’ll swan, from the mouths of jocks…

buddha

 

….Buddha speaks.

Meanwhile, between the soreness itself and the magma-hot Indonesian muscle rub I use to combat it, the searing pain reminds me I’m alive.

And holy shitsnacks am I really, really alive lately.

So alive, in fact, I’m doing something I never thought I’d do: standing up in a room full of people and reading my writing aloud.

(I’m ruining that slick segue to say, “Did you catch that slick segue?”)

MONSTER TRUCK VOICE:

THIS SATURDAY!

(SATURDAY!)

(SATURDAY!)

 

Under the aegis of Shades & Shadows, a dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction performance series, I’ll be reading an excerpt from my book…

 

cowfacecoverblog

 

 

…at the California Institute of Abnormal Arts (honestly, who didn’t see that one coming?) (okay, maybe the reporter), located in North Hollywood:

 

calif-inst-abnorm-arts

 

I, for one, feel very reassured to see John’s Lawn Mower & Saw right across the street. If ever a company name cried out for dark fantasy, “John’s Lawn Mower & Saw” ranks right up there for ominous titles. These Shades & Shadows folks know what they’re doing.

More specific details:

shades-shadows-tweetable-image

 

I’m not sure why I’m billed last, but I’m pretty confident it’s a badge of honor. Either that, or someone paid them to put me on at the very end so I’d have the whole show to work up enough anxiety vomit to spew over the entire first row. And now that I think about it, that sounds way more plausible than the first explanation.

Here’s the deal: I have seven minutes to read, and a couple ideas for passages to use – but I know these stories so well, it’s hard to take a step back and decide which section might be best for people who aren’t familiar with my work. So in the Comments section below, or if you’d like to contact me through Twitter (@EvilGalProds), I would LOVE to hear suggestions from anyone and everyone who’s read Cowface And Other Hilarious Stories About Death. Maybe a favorite scene, favorite character, favorite moment – fact is, I’m begging for help in not putting a bunch of people to sleep with my yappity-yap. It’s either this, or show my boobs onstage, and frankly I think the boobs thing will only hold them for 30 seconds – which still leaves me six and a half minutes to fill. Nobody wants to see what comes after that.

I pre-appreciate and thank you for your advice, and I hope to see you Saturday*!

 

P.S. Cowface will be available for sale at the show (with free Evil Gal bookmarks inside!), and I’d be thrilled to sign anything you bring. Even body parts. Even severed body parts, because in California that’s only, what? A misdemeanor, tops? I WILL DO THAT SHIT FOR YOU, FRIEND.

 

 

 

* Those seated in the first row may want to bring plastic sheeting. There’s a possibility it could get very Millie Brown Does Gallagher.

January 18th, 2014 by Mere Smith

Recording The Shining

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January 18, 2014 – Day Fourteen 

I saw the sun today.

For six minutes.

Looked just like I remembered it.

Went back inside.

 

sandrabullock1
sandrabullock2

 

January 17, 2014 – Day Thirteen 

Literally me today.

 

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January 16, 2014 – Day Twelve 

So that’s what it looked like when I got here.

This is what it looked like today:

fogggggg

Strangely, though, the fog seems to act like some kind of productivity blanket (I was about to type “or shroud,” but the fog’s spooky enough on its own) – making me feel like I’m all curled up away from the world…

…which, okay, yes, for all practical intents and purposes I was curled up already. But you know how there’s a difference between when you dance in front of other people, and when you dance by yourself? (Don’t pretend you don’t understand what I’m talking about, you lying dancing liarpantses.) The fog makes me feel like I’m dancing in a room with no windows, no prying eyes, no judgments.

See, I don’t know how other TV folk write specs, but me, I need full immersion in the show before I feel confident enough to recreate it. Like living in Spain to learn Spanish. The original story I bring to the spec is the easy part: it’s molding that story to someone else’s vision that takes work. This means watching episodes over and over and over until I can “hear” the characters’ voices without trying. It also means – same as I did for my “Sopranos” spec 200 years ago – logistically breaking down and diagramming a couple shows, as seen here in my oh-so-cryptic code:

photo-45
 

(That’s “Poison Pen”, by the way: S2E4, by Robert Doherty and Liz Friedman.)

This allows me to see the fundamental architecture of a script, like a reverse-engineered outline – as well as letting me track certain patterns inherent in the show, i.e.: on average, how many locations are they hitting per act? Over how many days does the story take place? How many interiors vs. how many exteriors? The number of amazing deductions Sherlock makes in a scene? The number Joan makes? (Answer: surprisingly, a LOT. To be honest, I didn’t realize how well the writers were balancing the deductive labor, since Sherlock usually makes the more outlandish leaps of reason, and those are the ones that stick with you.) What kind of space is given to the topics of addiction, or Moriarty, or the dynamics of working with the police? And on and blah and on. Like I said, total immersion.

(And if you’re not a writer, I apologize, because that entire previous paragraph probably bored the fuckstuffing out of you.)

All this shit is what you’d normally hash out in a writers’ room with a bunch of other people. Unfortunately with a spec, it’s 100% All On You, So Do Your Homework And Don’t Fuck It Up.

That’s what I mean by a productivity blanket. The fog erases the outside world and allows me to disappear into “Elementary”’s.

So don’t mind me, I’m just gonna keep practicing my little dance in here until I’m ready to hit the club.

 

canttalkaboutit

 

January 15, 2014 – Day Eleven 

 

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January 14, 2014 – Day Ten 

Act Two down.

Hello, Acts Three and Four.

 

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January 13, 2014 – Day Nine 

Sherlock’s bees.

I am one of them.

I have just placed the outline for the Teaser and Act One in the 14th honeycomb on the right.

Sure, it’s just masticated nectar at this point, but soon…

Soon it will be sweet bee vomit.

 

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January 12, 2014 – Day Eight 

Entering the deep waters.

It’s dangerous.

You guys stay here.

 

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January 11, 2014 – Day Seven 

[[WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ELEMENTARY SEASONS ONE AND TWO BELOW]]

Inside day.

Schizophrenic atmospheric conditions: foggy, cloudy, sunny, windy, rainy, wrath-of-god-rainy, Treenados. The weather needs some Haldol.

Tomorrow I start building the new architecture of my original story. Not as daunting as building something completely ex nihilo, but not not daunting, either. Obviously a lot’s changed on the show since I left off the spec last year (for example, it turns out Irene Adler and Moriarty are the same person, who is also Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones, thus officially making Natalie Dormer THE biggest badass on television, dragons or no motherfuckin’ dragons, khaleesi) — and so adjustments have to be made.

Definitely nervous, but the same way I imagine a guy feels in the batter’s box: yes, there’s anxiety, and a weird, very public, dread — Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a three-and-out of my hat! — but there’s also this burning desire to swing so hard you knock the cover off the goddamn ball, just like Chipper Jones did a couple years ago. An internal revving, a “bring it,” a “let’s do this.” (Note to aspiring screenwriters: never, never, ever actually put those phrases in a script. Trust me, I’m saving careers here.)

Am anxious to rise tomorrow, to do yoga, to get started.

 

exhaustidog

 

January 10, 2014 – Day Six 

Remember how I said I worked like a MONSTER yesterday?

Was reading Sherlock this afternoon on the couch, when suddenly the book got really close to my eyes, then eased back to a normal distance, then got really close again, then slowly back to normal… it was only when it happened the third time that I realized it wasn’t the book moving — it was my head. I was, quite literally, trying to read and sleep at the same time. And as the time-honored saying in my clan goes: Fuck that. I’m taking a nap.

So I did. Right there in the middle of the afternoon, on the couch, curled under a blanket, for two solid hours.

Let me tell you, they may’ve been two of the greatest hours of my life.

Not because of the sleep — though the sleep was fucking fantastic, seriously — but because I didn’t feel guilty about it.

Okay.

So if you do as much headshrinkery and yoga as I do, you get real familiar with the phrase, “Give yourself permission to… (whatever).”

Give yourself permission to feel anger.

Give yourself permission to relax your shoulder muscles.

It seems a little odd at first, the notion that there’s some other “you” you need to appeal to in order to get something done — some higher, more-authoritative “you” that apparently reigns over the rest of… well, you. (Freud would call it the superego — though for some reason, that’s always given me the mental image of a red capital E flying around in a cape.) If you wanna get all neurological about it, we’re talking about your frontal lobe, the area code in your brain that spans higher reasoning and judgment — the part of you that keeps you from doing insane and dangerous things, like speeding in the rain on a mountain road, or befriending a rabid lion, or trying to steal a sip off my mom’s margarita. All that shit will get you killed, son.

Even Bill Nye would agree — that’s how scientifically accurate this is; I’m not fucking around — there is technically a “you” that’s sorta in charge of the rest of you. (“Sorta” is a science word.)  And as I’ve learned from both the yoga and the headshrinkage, just being aware and conscious enough to ask that “you” for permission is usually enough for “you” to give it over. After all, it’s not as if your higher reasoning is gonna be like, No, I do not give you permission to relax your shoulder muscles! I like the way they’re feeling all pinchy and hurty and tight. I hope our whole neck cramps up tomorrow! 

(Man, superego, you’re a dick!)

(Or maybe that’s just Freud again.)

No, it seems “ask and ye shall receive” actually is the case — and like all excruciating cliches, it is only redeemed by the merit of being true.

That’s why this afternoon, when my head nearly crashed into the book a third time, I thought about all the work I’d done yesterday, and all the work I’d accomplished so far that day — and how this retreat, in its remoteness and quietude, is almost forcing me to be more mindful, more aware of what I want and what I need — and as so rarely happens in my regular, driven, ambitious life, I finally — and fully — gave myself permission to rest.

I slept like that dog up there.

 

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January 9, 2014 – Day Five 

What writer’s retreat is complete without a library?

At last, the Box O’Books arrived! Also included: my zombie slippers and yoga mat. Y’know, the important stuff.

Worked like a fucking MONSTER today; it felt fabulous.  Also I ate some bacon.

 

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January 8, 2014 – Day Four 

This is what happens when I have no TV at night.

Crafts. 

I’m practically almost fucking Amish now… if the Amish liked to knit their clothes out of obnoxiously bright, sequined, and silk-feathered yarn.

So I’m Amishpunk, which is just like steampunk, only without all the newfangled technology.

 

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January 7, 2014 – Day Three 

So here’s the Overlook Hotel at dusk. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me how amazingly incredibly perfect it is, I already know. So perfect in fact that I keep waiting for Someone In Authority to barge in, grab me by the neck, and growl, “Who said you deserve to be here?”

Sadly, I ask myself variations on that question more often than I’d like.

Only three days into the woods, and in the absolute drop off of bustle and hum, I find myself making casual realizations like this: that I often feel unworthy of the good things in my life. It’s as if I believe, deep in my bones (completely irrationally, I’m well aware) that at some point in the past I committed an unspeakable crime… only I can’t remember what it is, just that I owe for it. I owe for it. I’m on the red side of the moral balance sheets, and to wish for or receive anything beyond a basic survival amount of happiness is… I don’t know… flouting punishment? tempting fate? getting greedy?

Anyway, something horrible and indecorous that will inevitably lead to the end of the world. Not to be grandiose.

As I said, though, this particular irrational thought — that I am somehow unworthy of happiness — isn’t unique to my current situation. I carry it around with me every day. It’s simply that here in the Overlook, when 90% of the outside noise disappears, the echo of that thought sticks around a lot longer, clanging and re-clanging off the silent walls, off the inside of my head. And I am grateful for the quiet.

For in this moment, at least — and maybe it only takes a succession of these moments, staying mindful enough to create a succession of these moments, to make the feeling disappear permanently — instead of letting that sense of unworthiness slip back into my primordial angst soup like it always does, this time I’m grabbing it by the neck and growling, “Who said you deserve to be here?”

 

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January 6, 2014 – Day Two 

Went for my morning run — frost-covered fields, ice-encrusted hay crunching under my feet. Cold didn’t bother me at all — was layered as a wedding cake — but my lungs felt ready to explode. Pretty convinced there’s no air in the air here. EPA might wanna look into that. After the run, meditated. Like a boss.

Forgot how fast I read when I’m not distracted (i.e., with the TV on in the background, or constantly checking Twitter, email, Tumblr, phone games, etc.). Have already plowed through An Anthropologist On Mars by Oliver Sacks and You’d Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs, and just started Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney. Only one other “recreational” book until my Box O’Books arrives on Thursday — Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Feel like I’m adjusting my mental to the slower pace. Have a horrifying suspicion that I may be forced into town to procure knitting material.

Yes, fuckers. I knit scarves. Only scarves, but I can fucking knit. Yuk it up.

Script-wise, been re-re-reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vols. I & II and taking notes — pointedly now, knowing the basic elements of my story, searching out pertinent twists on classic Sherlockian devices.

Lovely here. But.

I miss the Finance.

 

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January 5, 2014 – Day One

Am somewhere beyond this mountain.  Cabin is amazing in that way where you say the “MAY” part a really long time. Unpacked all my shit – surprising, for me – while blasting music, singing at the top of my lungs, dancing. Hope my happiness eats away at @saalon like a cancer.

 

 

February 12th, 2013 by Mere Smith

Spec-tacular Spec-tacular!

Via the Oxford Dictionaries:

spec – noun (in phrase on spec) informal

In the hope of success but without any specific plan or instructions: he built the factory on spec and hoped someone would buy it

* * *

Replace the word “factory” with “script” and now you understand the place of specs in Hollywood.

Kind of.

Because in Hollywood, a “spec” can mean not only a script you want to sell, but – paradoxically – also a script you have no intention of selling.  A script for an episode of TV that you use simply to showcase your skills: a writing sample set in a world Hollyfolks are already familiar with, since (smart) Writers generally choose popular shows to spec.  And yes, here in LaLaLand, “spec” is actually a noun AND a verb.  (Sorry, OED.)

Before they’ve even met you, Suits and Executive Producers can gauge through your spec how interesting your ideas are, how well you break a story, and how you can adapt to writing in someone else’s voice, since it’s likely they’ve seen the show you’re “speccing.”

Of course, what’s popular changes from year to year.  Arrested Development specs used to land on desks by the thousands, and before that, Grey’s Anatomy, and before that, The Shield, and before that, Six Feet Under, and before that, The Sopranos, and before that, The X-Files, and Ozias begat Joatham and Joatham begat Achaz and Achaz begat Ezekias…

So at any given time there’s always a “hot spec” – a show that Hollywood is watching en masse at that particular moment – and if you can hit the sweet spot – that is, if you can write a spec of that show at the exact time it becomes “hot” – well, then you’re already a few steps ahead of the rest of the slavering pack of Writers nipping at your heels for jobs.  Because much as its denizens would love for you to believe in their jaded seen-it-allness, Hollywood has its own (albeit more affectedly subdued) fandoms, and a good spec is like good fanfic.  No true fan can resist more story, OMNOMNOMNOM.

Me, I’ve been using a Sopranos spec.

For ten years.

So you can see how “hot” I am.

My problem was, after writing the Sopranos, I never found another show I wanted to spec.  That might sound crazy, given how much TV I watch (and love), but there were always reasons why I couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t spec any of my favorites.

The West Wing?  What I loved about this show were the characters.  The intricacies of political policy never held enough interest to compel me to do the research, and without the research, I would’ve come off like a bloviating twat.  (However, I might have written some Josh and Donna scenes for my own private collection.  Might.)

House?  See above, only with medical stuff.  (But no Josh and Donna.)

Six Feet Under?  Okay, this one I did want to write, except I was employed the entire time the show was on the air, and by the time I needed a job, the show was gone.  Writing a new spec of a show that’s already been cancelled is like sending a thank you note to a dead person.

But now?

NOW IS THE TIME, MY FRIENDS.

I am finally (or as my manager might put it, “finally, finally, finally, finally, finally, fucking finally Jesus fucking Christ finally”) writing a new spec.  But of what, you may ask?

 

"Elementary," my dear Watson.

“Elementary,” my dear Watson.

 

If I can pull it off, I have what I am 99% sure is a fantastic idea for a spec script (you have to leave open that 1% possibility that it sucks – otherwise you catch God’s attention, and She just loves to fuck up what you think you know for certain) — but this idea, too, will require a bit of research, and staffing season starts… well, around now-ly.

Believe me, I would’ve loved to have started this whole process earlier, but the idea only came to me this past weekend as I lay in bed at 4 a.m., unable to sleep.  By 5 a.m., I had the entire story worked out (or rather, the story felt like it had worked itself out, and those are the best kinds), including characters, progression, twists, emotional resonance, etc. – but I knew if I wanted to strike while the iron was “hot” (ugh, I am so sorry, you guys), I’d need some help.

Now, it’s no secret around these parts that I am half in-worship with Amanda Palmer.  Not only do I think she kicks massive ass as a rockstar and artist, but also as a human being, and I believe her personal connection to her listeners-slash-friends is a big part of that.  (After all, we’re talking about a woman who raised over a million bucks for her album and tour on Kickstarter.  Kickstarter, y’all.)  She’s not afraid to trust and rely on other people, to collaborate, to allow room for others’ ideas and others’ art, allowing it to add to and enhance her own – all without losing her original vision.

That sense of openness – of inclusion – was the spark for what follows:

As I said, I’m going to need some research – specifically, knowledge of authors and literature – to make this spec work.  Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a problem (considering this’d be research I’d actually be interested in, unlike the wonkified minutiae required for a West Wing) – except for the time crunch I find myself in.

And so it is, dear friends, that I turn to you.

.

I have seen the power of the hivemind,

and it is awesome.

.

But asking people to help you for free is a tad on the tacky side.

So I decided to structure this process as a challenge to both of us, to see if together, you and I can make it work.  The main goal:

 

TEN DAYS

ONE SPEC

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with script lengths, that’s about 54 pages.  Totally doable if you’re writing a show you’re employed by – but that’s because you’ve already been in a Writers’ room for two weeks discussing every detail of the outline with a group of other Writers.

Trying to break it, outline it, research it, and write it alone, by myself, in 10 days?  You might as well ask me to eat quinoa.  Never gonna happen.

But with your help?

crazypillow

 

To be perfectly honest, I am scared fucknoodle shitless of trying this, y’all.  I’m terrified of falling on my face, of missing the deadline, of writing a suckass script – and if that weren’t enough, to do all of these things in public.

But having already declared 2013 my Year Of Glorious Mistakes:

gloriousmistakes

 

I am going to take Mr. Gaiman’s advice:

Whatever it is you are scared of doing, DO IT.

Just because this might not work is a total crap reason for not trying at all.

So here are the rules I’ve set for myself:

  • I will be throwing out research questions over Twitter (@EvilGalProds) for the next three days (Feb. 13-15), while at the same time doing my own research and breaking out the script (that is, figuring out the architecture of exactly what goes where, why, and when).  I’ll probably also ask a few questions while I’m actually writing the script, ‘cause shit always changes, no matter how well you’ve planned.  Scripts are kinda like life that way.

If you have/find/know anything you’d like to share, I’ve set up an email account – elementaryspec@gmail.com – for you to send responses to (all email addresses will be held strictly confidential), since A) conveying even a small nugget of information 140 characters at a time is crazymaking, and B) trying to scroll through Twitter will take me forever, and efficiency will be key to this experiment.  (This way I can also keep a permanent record of who’s contributed, and what their particular contribution is.)  Seriously, if you answer over Twitter, I will not see it, and then I will be bummed, and the script will be the poorer for not having had your input.

  • I will finish a complete outline of the script by end of day Friday, Feb. 15.
  • I will then be off-grid for 7 days, writing from Feb. 16-22, except for the aforementioned possible distress calls on Twitter.
  • I will try to sneak an update blog in, but then again, I may be too busy going fetal on the floor and sobbing.  Still, I’ll do my damnedest.
  • I will finish the first draft by the end of February 22.  This means midnight, and I have no doubt I’ll be writing right up until Cinderella turns back into a broke-ass white girl.

And if I wind up with a script on the day we’re aiming for?

Here are the rewards (hopefully y’all won’t be like, “She calls these motherfucking rewards?  Cheapo bitch.”):

  • After doing a second draft (sorry, but not even my mother sees my first drafts, and she used to wipe poop off me), I will post the entire script on this site.  It will be in .pdf format that you are welcome to download, share, email, print, or set on fire for warmth.
  • I’ll highlight any and all contributions made by each of you, and thank you all individually and embarrassingly profusely.
  • I’ll write a “journey” blog about this experience and how you influenced the script (it may take me a couple days to recover from writing the script first, but I’ll get off the floor eventually.  I’m pretty sure.  Okay, I’m relatively sure.), a blog which will include…

…the big “reward”:

You’re coming with me to the tattoo parlor.

That’s right.  I’ve been wanting to get two specific tattoos on my wrists for AGES, tattoos that hold a special significance regarding what we’re trying here, and I think I’ve finally found the artist I want to do it.  If we make our goal, I’ll get a videographer (probably not The Finance, as he loathes needles like I loathe vegetables) to accompany me to the shop, and you can watch someone dig sharp things into my delicate flesh while I pretend it doesn’t hurt at all.  Even though it totally will.  A lot.  But out of pain (for instance, the pain of writing a spec in 7 days after only 3 days of research – ah! see what I did there?) can arise beautiful art, and as the Tat Man scars me for life, I will think of each of you, and maybe even mutter your name and, “This is all your fucking fault.”

And lastly:

  • PLEASE NOTE: I DO NOT OWN “Elementary”’s interpretation of the Sherlock and Watson characters, and I DO NOT WANT any financial transactions, including charity auctions, attached to this spec.  I support many causes, but making money off another artist’s original ideas is not one of them.  No selling, no buying, no bidding, and – much as I love you all – I will never sign any copies of this script.  Ever.  Of course, people can (and usually do) do what they want – but I DO NOT encourage nor condone these actions.  This spec is meant as a writing sample only, and if you try to make money off it – IN ANY WAY – I will be deeply unhappy (to say the least; and I can’t imagine CBS or Timberman/Beverly would be elated, either: fair warning), and unlikely to try anything like this again.

This whole process is a huge risk, I’m well aware.  The chance that I will fail in some way or another – well, hell, “chance” may be the understatement of the year; it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll fuck up somehow – but I’m going to try it anyway, because you are what makes me think this insane idea could even be possible.

Over the last 18 months or so, ever since my re-acclimation to the grid, I’ve been amazed (and delighted) to find such a vast number of smart, creative people populating the same tiny corner I hang in.

And now I want to push us – both you and me – and really see what we’re capable of together.

So what do you say?

You in?

August 10th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Mea Culpa, Teen Vogue

So today on Twitter, I RTd this link from Upworthy, a .gif rah-rah’ing Emma Stone for “calling out” the media during an interview with Teen Vogue (media which, one assumes, includes Teen Vogue itself), branding the questions she’s often asked regarding her personal life, her hair color, her style icons, etc. as sexist.

 

.

This, of course, would be superfabulous.

If it were 100% true.

Problem is, Upworthy took the last quote in its .gif (Stone saying, “It is sexism.”) utterly out of context, omitting the fact that it was actually the Teen Vogue reporter, Lauren Waterman, who was the first one to call this line of questioning “sexism” — and Stone simply agreed with her.

(Which, by the way, was met with a resounding, “Oh, come on,” by Stone’s boyfriend and co-interviewee, Andrew Garfield.  Nice one, Andy.  And just so you know?  Saying Stone is your “hero” later in the piece doesn’t make up for your staggering douchedom here.)

To suggest that Waterman was blindly playing into the media’s usual “Who ya datin’, whatcha wearin’, how much were them shoes?” rigamarole does a disservice to both Waterman and Teen Vogue.

Because it is my understanding — and no doubt Stone’s and Waterman’s, too — that when interviewed by a fashion magazine, you are probably going to be asked about fashion.  Go figure.  (You want Stone’s take on the Greek austerity measures?  Wait for her interview with The Economist.)  Likewise, the additional questions about Stone’s personal life are de rigueur for any media outlet these days, fashion-centric or not.  Last I checked, TMZ didn’t give a shit about Stone’s feminism, merely cramming her cheek-by-jowl next to a picture of Olivia Wilde under the charming headline: “Who’d You Rather?”

Which leads me to my point.

The very fact that in the published interview (meaning the Teen Vogue editors approved the content), both Stone and Waterman talk about the idea that this line of questioning is sexist is a giant leap forward in terms of openly examining and deconstructing the media’s objectification of women.  Would Stone have actually used the word “sexism” if Waterman hadn’t?  Who knows?  Stone was already treading the line, telling Garfield that he’s never asked these kinds of questions in interviews “because you are a boy.”  But credit where it’s due, it was Waterman who threw down the “sexism” gauntlet.  And kudos to Stone, she picked it right up.

Now will this exchange stop Teen Vogue — or any media outlet — from asking these types of questions of women?  Of course not.  They know their audience — and that their audience has been indoctrinated into thinking that they’re entitled to the answers — thus in order to survive in the free market, they feel obliged to ask them.

My only request is, if the questions “must” be asked, at least have the ovaries to do what Waterman and Stone did: talk about why these questions are sexist, and how being reduced to your hair color, wardrobe, and personal life is the exact opposite of feminism, which sees a woman as a fully realized human being, not a collection of titillating soundbytes.

August 8th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Zoe Saldana: “What Is Your Fucking Issue?”

Yes, it can get repetitive, even for a feminist — but every time I hear another woman say it, I feel a little less crazy.

Thanks, Zoe.

http://vimeo.com/41078222

from The Conversation with Amanda De Cadenet

June 13th, 2012 by Mere Smith

I Carry Sherlock In My Heart

Now, I don’t wanna shock the shit outta y’all, but…

…I am not an 11 year-old girl.

.

What? No! SRSLY?

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Seriously.  I’m not even double an 11 year-old girl.  In fact, I’m more than triple an 11 year-old girl.

Which is why I keep telling myself that it’s okay to be crushing on Sherlock (the BBC TV series) three times harder than I crushed on Jon Knight from New Kids On The Block back when I was 11.  Before I found out he was gay.  Not that this would’ve mattered when I was 11.  At that idyllic age, I would’ve been convinced he’d only be gay until he met me.

(You have to love tween-ego – it blossoms into such lovely thirtysomething megalomania.  Because for the record?  Once I rendezvous with Anderson Cooper, it is ALL OVER for the rest of y’all gays.  Sorry.)

**

So I’ll admit, I came late to the Sherlock party.

Many of my friends and assorted Twitterati had been extolling the show for ages, but I refused to watch because… are you ready?

I adore Sherlock Holmes.

Hell, to be honest, “adore” doesn’t do my feelings justice.

Here, I’ll just plain out say it:

I love Sherlock Holmes. 

Every anti-social impulse, every withering bon mot, every brain-melting flash of brilliance: they are my perfectly-cooked steak, my sparkling diamonds, my sleepy-slow sex on a rainy Sunday morning.

I’ve read every short story and novel Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote about this genius detective, and had begun planning my own movie about him – right down to highlighting passages in my two-volume set and taking notes in the margins (a blasphemy I’m generally loath to perform, but… Sherlock!).  I’d even called my manager and told him to expect a script in a few months.

However.

Not two weeks later, I heard that a Sherlock film had just been greenlit starring Robert Downey Jr.

It was soul-crushing.

I felt as though someone were taking away “my” guy and making him date someone else.  And when I finally saw the movie, all the things I wanted Sherlock to be: he wasn’t.  Sure, he was a version of glib, a version of arrogant, a version of a prodigy.  But not the version I’d carried in my heart since I’d read my first Sherlock story.

And my main problem?

Robert Downey Jr. was just too damned likeable.  Not really his fault, I suppose, I’ve heard he’s an affable guy – but he was also too funny, too pretty, too slick, just too, too everything.

No one seemed to get what I believed to be the core of Sherlock’s character: that he is a sociopath, that his moral compass (if indeed it can be proved he has one) is entirely self-defined, and that the only thing preventing him from turning into Moriarty himself is the steady, humanizing influence of Watson.

As Conan Doyle writes in “The Sign of Four”:

“ ‘Schade dass die Natur nur einen Mensch aus dir schurf

Denn zum würdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff.’ ”

– Goethe, Xenien

 .

“It’s a shame that Nature made you only one man;

there was material enough for a worthy man and a rogue.”

.

Sherlock has his own code – he doesn’t always turn in the “bad guys” (see “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot,” or “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”).  And that ethical ambivalence, that willingness to ignore the law, that dangerous tipping-of-the-scales – which way will Sherlock go? – was what hooked me, made me ravenous for the next story, crazy to know the answer – if ever there would be one…

…all of which played as cartoon in the film.  It made me feel sick to my stomach.

In the movie, Sherlock was just another superhero – another Iron Man, only without the shiny flying suit – because that’s what Hollywood wants at the moment: superheroes.  And who knows?  Maybe it’s fabulous, but I’ve yet to see the second movie… because goddammit, my Sherlock is no superhero.  He’s not even an antihero.

He is Sherlock, and no single label could apply.

But when the Academy screener of the BBC’s Sherlock showed up at my door – a DVD of “A Scandal in Belgravia,” the fourth episode in a run of six – I finally succumbed to peer pressure (and my own wishful curiosity) and watched it.

Now, usually I try to see all episodes of a series sequentially – being a TV writer, I know creating and following characters’ emotional arcs is one of the most gratifying things about television’s extended storytelling – but after experiencing the Iron Man Edition, I didn’t think it possible that anyone would ever see Sherlock the way I saw Sherlock, so what was there to lose in watching an episode out of order?

I settled myself on the couch, hit Play, and when the DVD ended, I hadn’t moved for ninety minutes.  I hit Menu, then Play, and then did not move again for another ninety minutes.  Had the Finance not come home after the second showing, I would’ve remained motionless for another ninety minutes.

I was torn between ecstasy and lunacy.

Someone had found my Sherlock Holmes.

The real Sherlock Holmes, the one I saw and heard in my head.  He was, in a word: extraordinary.  A savant, insensitive, acidic, asexual, amusing, immune to pressure (who else would show up at Buckingham Palace in a bedsheet?) —

.

— and – above all else – detached.

At an almost-insurmountable remove from the mortal condition, making you yearn for a connection — because he will never return your yearning.

This was the sociopath I’d been looking for.

Not to mention that suddenly Watson became a real man, not merely a cipher through which I entered the stories.  And not only did I care about Watson, he opened up a way for me to care about Sherlock, too – as a human being — a way Sherlock, the character, wouldn’t allow.  Likewise, Molly Hooper and Mrs. Hudson also offered me proxies through which I could love Sherlock the same way.

And though my introduction to Sherlock began on the tail end of Moriarty’s entrance into Sherlock’s world, even he offered me a way to understand Sherlock: as a mirror of Moriarty himself.  Later, in “The Reichenbach Fall,” Moriarty expresses a vicious delight when Sherlock agrees, “I am you.”

“Brilliant!” I kept saying to myself.  “Brilliant bloody fucking brilliant!”

Immediately I DVR’d all the episodes of Sherlock I could find, and in the past month, I have watched every episode.

Five or six times each.

At least.

Obsessive?  Oh, absolutely.  But when you’ve carried a person around in your heart for most of your life, and all of a sudden someone gives you that person to hold in your hand, how long do you stare?  How often do you check just to make sure they’re still there, that they remain as beautiful as you remember them, that every gorgeous thing they’ve said and done is still as gorgeous as you recall?

How do you feel when someone reaches inside you, removes one of your most precious treasures, then gives it back to you, unconditionally, polished and shining?

Grateful.

Even Sherlock Holmes could tell you that.

 

NEXT POST: 

Benedict Cumberbatch

or

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Batch

 

June 4th, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment — JUNKPUNCHED

 This blog entry is the seventh and last part of a continuing series.

If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.

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Resolution

A JOB?

 

It’s taken me a while to figure out how to write this entry, and while I love a good surprise as much as the next killer clown, I’ve decided not to bury the lead.  Thus, after all the effort that went into The Pilot Season Experiment, the result is:

I did not get staffed on a show this year.

In therapyspeak, now is when somebody asks, But how does that make you feel?

And in the spirit of TPSE, I’ll be real with you:

It feels like shit.

Shit on toast.  Shit on a snowflake.  Shit on a stick.

Shit shit shit shit shit shit.

In fact, when I got the final thumbs-down from my manager last week, I had to take a day away from the internetz just to go fetal on the couch and mainline episodes of “Sherlock,” all the while telling myself, “I could write this show.  I could SO write this show.  I’m smart.  I’m funny.  I’m nearly sociopathic.  I could write the tits off this show.”

Meanwhile that wretched you-suck-bitch whisper inside my head was needling, but could you?  could you really?  do you have a single ounce of talent, you ancient slag?  a half-ounce?  do you even possess a DIME BAG of talent, you poor, silly cow?

Luckily I’m far too egotistical to let my doubts and fears keep me fetal for long.

For which I thank… myself.

But that recovery only came after the grieving period.

Because at the time, hearing that in spite of your utmost exertions you are not getting the job – a job – any kind of job – I’m pretty sure the experience is akin to getting junkpunched.

POW! Right in the nibblets!

.

At least, this is how my guy friends have described junkpunchery.  One solid jab straight to the nads can fold your diaphragm in half, make your vision go blurry, and instill the urge to throw up for a couple hours.

That sounds about right to me, though my nausea lasted a couple days, was somewhat more existential, and I needed some serious reaffirmation from friends and family in order to keep from ejecting my bile duct – ptew! – right out of my mouth and onto the floor.

**

So what went wrong?

Ah, this town’s eternal paradox.

Because the answer is: nothing.

Absolutely nothing went wrong.  The meetings were great, I got along with everyone, and no one even called me a cunt to my face.  (I always leave the “behind the back” option open.  This is Hollywood, after all.)

I realize “nothing” can seem a bit unsatisfying at first, but it becomes clearer when you consider how many factors go into staffing a show to begin with.

For besides the superficiality of The Pilot Season Experiment (since, let’s face it, kids – it was a lot more Extreme Makeover than it was est), I did everything of substance within my power: read every script, took thorough notes, researched the showrunners, went to every meeting offered, showed up with enthusiasm and ideas, tried to be as funny and friendly as possible – all while wearing SPANX.  Fuck, dude.  If that ain’t commitment, I don’t know what the hell is.

But then there are the things I can’t control, such as:

My title (think of it as my “rank” in the Scrivener Army).  Given my years of experience, technically at this point my title is “Co-Executive Producer,” which is just one notch under the top slot of “Executive Producer.”  WGA union rules – thank god – prevent studios and networks from forcing us veterans to accept noob titles… and noob paychecks (in a sense, “demoting” us), which, given their druthers, they’d do in 1/88th of a heartbeat.  While this makes getting a job tougher for me (vet titles come with vet paychecks, and studios/networks are notoriously tight-sphinctered), these rules are absolutely vital for lower- to mid-level Writers, since most of us in this town are weak and fearful and would probably blow the first person to guarantee us a job.   Correction: blow that person AND their pet ferrets.  However, if there are only two upper-level “slots” open, it’s generally a good bet that…

…the showrunner’s friends will get them.  Having attained the rank of showrunner, it’s likely that the Writer has been in the business long enough to cultivate friends who’ve been around just as long as he has.  Those friends need jobs, too.  And it’s always easier to hire someone you’ve worked with before rather than take a chance on someone new, because that new person could turn out to be either a) useless, b) insane, or c) a complete fuckhead.  If the showrunner still has a slot left open after offering it up to his friends, then come…

…the Suits’ friends.  Studio and network executives also have friends.  (I know.  It’s so weird.)  And because they’ve helped the showrunner get his show running, in the Versailles-like protocols of Hollywood, they’re due a modicum of quid pro quo.  If they suggest one of their Writer friends, and that friend isn’t immediately and obviously a), b), or c), the showrunner may feel obligated to hire said friend.  However, if even the Suits don’t prevail, there are always…

…the overall deals.  Overalls (not the Osh Kosh kind) are exclusive contracts that Writers sign with studios or networks in which they’re paid a certain amount of money regardless of whether they’re actively working on a show or not.  (This is basically just a way for studios/networks to say to other studios/networks, “Neener neener, wiener!  This is MY toy and YOU can’t play with it!”)  So naturally, when it comes hiring time, the studios/networks will push the showrunner to hire an overall-dealer to work on the show, so that the overall-dealer earns that money the studios/networks are already shelling out.  It’s as close as they come to getting a “free” Writer.

There are about forty other considerations that have nothing to do with me, too, but this is starting to sound like sour grapes —

Not this kind. Unfortunately.

— when all I really wanted to say was, Despite getting punched in the junk, I’m not taking it too personally, because almost nothing in this business is personal.

It feels personal, sure (what junkpunch doesn’t?), but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many years of slaving away over a hot Final Draft, it’s that there are so many variables involved, it’s a miracle that any show gets made, that anyone gets hired, and that anything gets done.

**

But what about the impact of The Pilot Season Experiment in regards to my rounds of meetings?  Wasn’t that what this whole series was all about?

Like all of my fellow faux-scientists, I’d love to say that I got definitive results: that it either made an ENORMOUS DIFFERENCE!!! or, conversely, ZERO DIFFERENCE!!!  But I think the truth hovers somewhere in between – and has more to do with how I felt – than how I was perceived.

See, before going into this year’s round of monkeydancing, I was feeling kind of low.

Not so much “What’s it all about, Alfie?” as “Ohhhhh, balls.  The expiration date stamped on my ass is getting closer.”  And yes, I can assure you: every person in Hollywood has an expiration date stamped on their ass.

Hold on, wait – let me rephrase that.  Some of us have expiration dates, and some of us (sorry to steamroll a dead horse here, but you can’t untrue a truism) – namely, straight white men – have a much more elastic Sell By date.  You know, a sort of suggested idea of when you’ll start to get E. coli if you hire them – but then again, maybe they don’t have E. coli at all, and you can risk it.  For example, Clint Eastwood has been officially and universally declared E. Coli-Free In Perpetuity.  You can hire Clint ‘til the day he dies – and probably after – without so much as a tummyache.

Dead? Not dead? Doesn’t matter. Still E. coli-free.

The rest of us – y’know, the vaginas, the ethnics, the ethnic vaginas – get a damn-near definitive stamp slapped on our rumps on Day One.  The gay white guys get a stamp, too, but it’s not in indelible ink, and can be switched to a Sell By date at any time, depending on how much money they rake in for a studio/network.

So the question is, when is that expiration date?

Well, unless you’re extremely, extremely fortunate (like Robin Green of “Sopranos” fame – though it should be non-judgmentally noted, she partners with her husband, the straight-white-male Mitchell Burgess), you top out in your early fifties, if not before.  And no, I’m not speaking anecdotally.  Check out the 2011 WGA Executive Report (Figure 13), where you’ll find that TV writers’ salaries peak between the ages of 41–50, before dropping drastically in the next demographic.

And that’s including straight white guys.

So you can imagine the vaginal expiration.

As a matter of fact, aging – or in other words, my starting to nudge up against the 41-side of that 41-50 demographic – is one of the reasons I undertook The Pilot Season Experiment to begin with (not to mention the reason I shot poison into my face).  Women in their late 20’s and early 30’s – those chicks to whom the years have yet to be unkind – are mostly lower- to mid-level writers.  As I explained above, it’s much easier to get a job at that level; between the ages of 25-35, I wrote for five different shows, almost continuously.  But once you’ve reached a certain “rank,” you’re either lucky as a motherfucker to get on a show, or lingering like a wraith in Development Hell (posts to come on that topic soon).

Hollywood says it wants veteran Writers, people who’ve had experience, people who’ve gained wisdom and insight into how to do the job well.  But when they say “people,” what they really mean is “the white folks with schlongs.”  (Come to think of it, that’s what “people” has meant since the founding of America, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.)  Considering I have no intention of chopping off my boobs or sewing on a dick, this makes me… what?  A greater risk?  A poorer Writer?  A non-person?  A total fucking alien?  All I know is, this:

.

…is so much not a joke in Hollywood that it makes me want to punch someone else in the junk.

**

Alongside my expiration date, my main impetus for trying The Pilot Season Experiment was that women – regardless of their experience, and much more so than men – are judged on their looks.  (I feel like I just wrote, “Oh and by the way, water is wet and dirt is dirty.  Just so you know.”)  Thus for this year’s Merry Go Round O’Pain, I tended to my appearance much more than I did when I was younger.

When I was in my late 20’s, all I had to do before a meeting was read the script, throw on a tank top, and make sure I wasn’t actively bleeding from the eyes.  This year: I got Botox, bought Spanx, cut my hair, wore make-up, dressed in clothes that made me look “responsible” and “together”…

…and still didn’t get hired.

So what was it?

My looks, my age, my personality, my connections, my reputation, my writing?

(Did you even notice that writing came in last on that list?)

As I said before, it could be all of those things, it could be none of those things.  Hollywood is a fickle beast – actually, it’s just an enormous hairy asshole with tiny ephemeral moments of joy tucked up inside it – so I’ll never truly know for sure.

What I can tell you absolutely is how I felt during it.  And that is…

Dude, this sucks.

.

I felt stressed (more than the usual for pilot season).  Uncomfortable.  Fake.  Frustrated.  Inadequate.  I was resentful that I had to do any of this shit at all.  Often I felt like the battle was lost before I even got out of the shower, since I knew I was about to kowtow to societal expectations.

Basically, trying to play the game made me miserable.

And maybe that’s why I didn’t get hired.

All I know is, before I started all this nonsense, I was pretty goddamned happy with myself.  Not happy with being unemployed, of course – though the dress code of “pajamas” is nice – but happy in my own skin?  I think I can say yes with almost 97% of my being.  (That self-loathing 3% is because I don’t call my family often enough, I spend too much time on Twitter, I don’t drink as much water a day as they say you should…)  I was just fine being me — being Mere, the regular old Mere – until I started dissecting the nature and implication of appearance, then striving to “keep up with the Rashida Joneses,” so to speak.

Then I felt terrible about myself.

Having Botox made me think about how old I was getting.  Chopping my hair off and dying it crimson made me wonder if I was too old to be doing that at all.  Wearing Spanx made me confront (and intensely dislike) my generous Hips and Ass.  Buying new clothes made me think about how skinny I used to be, but am no longer.  Applying eight different kinds of make-up made me wonder what was wrong with my real face.

What I’m saying is, for every step I took to “improve” my looks, it was one more step down the spiral staircase of self-hatred.

And seriously, girls, how fucked up is that?

That all those activities deemed “necessary” to appear more competent (no exaggeration: read this) could make at least one woman (me) feel worse and worse… it’s a vicious circle whence the only escape is to do one of two things:

1) Either totally succumb and go full-on Aspiring Miss America

2) Tell the Normies to fuck off.

Guess which option I chose?

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So if The Pilot Season Experiment has had any definitive result, it is this:

I will never again try to be anyone but myself.

Because goddammit, I’m pretty fucking cool.

Granted, I may have a filthy mouth, creases between my brows, weird hair, oily skin, a fat ass, and a preference for clothing that, in a pinch, can double as a medieval tent…

…but I’m also happy that way.

Besides, I’ve been pitching a new show around town lately, and I may be employed (and out of my pajamas) quicker than I want to be, anyway.

Cross your fingers.

And fuck your SPANX.

Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?

May 24th, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment — WAR PAINT

This blog entry is the sixth part of a continuing series.

If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.

 

Step Five

WAR PAINT

 

In case y’all haven’t figured it out by now (and if you haven’t – whuff – time for that Remedial Reading Comprehension course, folks): I am not a girly girl.

I take no joy in dresses, or heels, or doing my hair, or any of that other shit chicks do to look “pretty.”  Far as I’m concerned, “pretty” is just the word that comes before “sure,” or “goddamned sure.”  For me, it has little to no aesthetic meaning, and most of the time, I feel about “pretty” like I feel about C-SPAN: it bores the fuck out of me.

However.

There is one aspect of the girly oeuvre that I do enjoy… and that’s make-up.

Not wearing it, mind you – it’s a shit-ton of work if you want to apply it correctly, and I’d rather invest that time in tweeting inappropriate thoughts about Benedict Cumberbatch – but I do love collecting it, like my brothers used to do with those tiny rubber M.U.S.C.L.E. men figurines, whose sole raison d’être was hiding on the floor in plain sight until stepped on, then provoking stream-of-consciousness cussing my parents mastered like Mozart did the clavier.  If you never knew that “shitballsmotherfuckingballshitfuck” was a word?  Step on a M.U.S.C.L.E. man and increase your vocabulary.

So wearing make-up?  No.  Having a big box of it sitting under my bathroom cabinet?  RuPaul would be proud.

My only problem for The Pilot Season Experiment was that nearly every piece of my vast make-up collection was upwards of five years old.

Guys may be like, “So?  I have some cologne my mom gave me for high school graduation and I still use that shit!”

Women, on the other hand, know that after about a year, make-up goes to hell on you.  It really does.  Mascara gets clumpy, eye shadow gets crumbly, foundation turns to syrup that looks like radioactive self-tanner.  Even powder foundation (which is what I use, considering I have oily skin that repels make-up as if it were vinegar) starts to streak across your face like Sioux war paint.

And in fact, that’s what I call make-up when I’m obliged to wear it: war paint.

Because if I’m going to the trouble of applying that crap, you can be guaranteed one thing: it is not peacetime.  I am going to war.  I’m leaving my house AND I’m trying to make a good impression.  In any other case, I would rather draw dicks on my face with a Sharpie than slap on the war paint.  When The Finance comes home after I’ve had a meeting, even he says, “Ah, you still got your war paint on?  I like you better without it.”  Which is when I love him so hard it feels like my spleen will burst.

I’m sure some of you women out there will protest, “But make-up’s not that hard!  I do mine in five minutes every day!”  And with the greatest respect, fellow females, I say: BITE me, you lying lady liars.  Any woman who can apply her make-up in five minutes or less doesn’t need make-up to begin with.  Which on the one hand – hey, great for you!  you’re genetically blessed! – but on the other hand – don’t be giving Quasimodo advice on standing upright.  It’s just hurtful.

For instance, here’s model Adriana Lima with no make-up on:

There is not enough “fuck you” in the world.

 .

Atrociously gorgeous, no?  Well, not all of us look like Aphrodite when we roll out of bed.  Some of us look more like the Kraken:

This is my driver’s license photo.

.

Thus, when I decided to do The Pilot Season Experiment, I knew I’d have to visit Sephora, because it’s the only store I trust to have quality make-up that won’t drip down my skin and give me scary clownface.  I wept over the expense and trouble I’d have to go through for approximately .08 seconds, then planned my trip like it was fucking D-Day.  For luckily, I had exactly one item of war paint that was less than a year old:

Good old Maybelline mascara.    Don’t knock it, you snobby bitches.

 .

Which meant I GOT TO BUY EVERYTHING ELSE BRAND NEW.

(Really, it’d be indecorous to show you the dance I did when I realized this; mostly because I wasn’t wearing a bra and I might knock someone out with a stray flying tit.)

My trip to Sephora started like all my trips to Sephora do: with me rushing around the store like a bratty 4 year-old in a candy shop.  “I want thish!  No, I want thish!  Mommy, can I have thish?”  (Which is a little odd, considering my mom wasn’t there, and I don’t have a lisp.)  In my head, though, all I heard was, “Yes, darling, yes!  You can have everything!  You can have it ALL!”  Which is sort of awesome when you’re an adult with her very own credit card and an excuse like, “But I’m doing this for work!”

Because what shops like Sephora and MAC and all the high-end make-up counters in department stores offer is something deceptively simple — something everyone wants — something people will do terrible things in order to have.  And that something?

Hope.

Hope that if you smear this on your face, or delicately dab this on your eyelids, or brush this on your cheekbones, you will somehow transform into the most beautiful, incredible creature who ever deigned to alight on this planet.  You will haz ALL TEH MENZ! (or ALL TEH WIMMENZ!  or ALL TEH HUMANZ!) just begging to slay dragons for you or, more likely, to go get you a mocha latte whenever you want, because you are a goddamned supermodel, goddammit!

And while it’s true, beautiful people do have an easier time making it in the world (see here, herehere, or, I don’t know, fucking open your eyes), odds are, if you look like the Kraken in the morning, you can be relatively certain that no matter how much war paint you apply, you are not going to be Aphrodite when you’re done.  Make-up is not plastic surgery.  Make-up is not a structural renovation.  Make-up is a new coat of paint in the living room and possibly some new posters to distract from the cracks in the walls.

Hope can be wonderful.

But hope can also be awful when it shows itself false.

To really hit it on the nose: it’s just like pilot season.

Me?  I was fortunate in that I knew exactly why I was shopping for make-up — pilot season and The Experiment — so I didn’t have my sense of self-worth wrapped up in it, since I also knew I’d only be wearing that war paint for the equivalent of two weeks out of the year.  It’s sort of like eating an entire birthday cake while you have the stomach flu.  You know it’s not going to stick around for long anyway, so you might as well indulge.

And indulge I did.

Yes, primers. Like paint.

PRIMER 

These are primers (or what I call “face spackle”).  I bought two kinds since I wasn’t sure if the anti-acne gel in the blue bottle would dry out my skin — because trust me, there’s nothing worse than having oily skin… AND dry little bits of face flaking off and floating on top of the sheen.

After you wash your face, you spread this spackle over your skin like moisturizer.  Except it’s not moisturizer.  It’s simply designed to make your skin as uniformly flat as possible, so you can apply foundation evenly without looking like you’re trying to cover smallpox scars.

Powder foundation, blush, and setting powder.

 

 

FOUNDATION AND BLUSH

I started using BareMinerals about ten years ago, after having used liquid foundation for the ten years before that, then finally realizing I’d been doing it wrong.  Adding liquid foundation to oily skin gives you a very small window to look good: like, so small you won’t get out of the house before turning into Tammy Faye Bakker.  (Dear Baby Jesus, please let some of my readers remember who that is.)

What we have here is the powder foundation (in Fair, since they didn’t have a color called Whitest White Girl In The Whole White World), some blush, and some powder named Mineral Veil, a “setting powder,” which is basically just code for “Hey Oily Chicks, You Need This Like WHOA.”

Each with a different function.  Admit it, guys — you thought this shit was easy-peasy, didn’t you?  Fools.  Fools!

BRUSHES

You know those little Q-Tip-wand-doohickeys they include with the cheap-o eye shadow you buy at CVS?  Yeah.  Those suck donkey-schlong.  Problem is, you don’t realize the schlong-suckage until you’ve used real brushes.  Kabuki brushes, face-contour brushes, angled eye shadow brushes, smudger brushes, eyeliner brushes, eyebrow brushes, lip brushes, pubic hair brushes (just seeing if you’re still paying attention) — the list goes on forever.  This is what I meant when I said applying your make-up “correctly” takes a shit-ton of work.  Like any good painter, you have different brushes for different techniques, and what works to spread foundation over your face will not work to apply eyeliner beneath your lower lids.  At least, not if you want to stay on this side of the Goth I-write-to-men-in-prison line.

If you haven’t used Stila eyeliner, please turn in your vagina before you leave.

EYELINER

Every make-up artist I’ve ever met has said to apply your eyeliner before you put on your eyeshadow.  It allows you to remove smudges easier, and if you accidentally poke your eye out with the eyeliner pencil, you can usually pop it back in without it ruining all the make-up you’ve put on up ’til now.  (You might have to touch up your foundation and take a Vicodin, but honestly, I’m not seeing a problem there.)  Since I have blue eyes, I bought Stila eyeliner in black, grey, and brown — because putting teal or jade eyeliner near my eyes generally results in me looking like that green chick Kirk bangs in the original Star Trek.  (Oh, he did TOO bang her.  I’m not even going to argue this.)  In other words: we’re talking freaky extraterrestrial.  This would be fine if I was going out to party — I vaguely recall — but when you’re trying to convince a showrunner that you’re a responsible, intelligent human being, “Alien Eyes” is not a good nickname to walk out with.

Know what colors look good on you. As a general rule, “rainbow” is not anyone’s color.

EYESHADOW

Simple, right?  Two small cases, six colors, nothing flashy.  Not that I’ve never done flashy. In your twenties, flashy is your birthright.   Could I have gotten away with being Kirk’s bang-buddy ten years ago?  You bet your ass I could’ve.  My hair was fucking blue.  What were they gonna say about my eye make-up?  But if I’m going to be real (which I promised in the very first installment of this series), I must tell you: when you hit your mid-thirties, flashy stops being flashy and starts looking desperate.  While I would never deny that desperation is a large part of being a Writer in Hollywood, another large part is making people think that you’re not desperate at all.  Because the more you can project a sense of “ZOMG, like, this whole town wants me to work for them,” the more people will want to steal you away from everybody else. For no other reason than they just don’t want to be The Guy Who Missed Out On Hiring The Hot Thing.  This is insane, I realize; it’s based on air and attitude and nothing else — but don’t think for one second it’s also not 100% true.  Therefore, if the barest whiff of desperation can tank you, you avoid anything and everything that might imply you’re even familiar with the word “desperation.”  And glittery silver eyeshadow on a near-40-something?  Screams “desperate” so loud even Helen Keller would grab her ears.

LIPSTICK

The color I’d smear ALL OVER this guy.

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Look.  This is the lipstick I bought.  I know you can’t see it very well in this picture, but it’s low-key, kind of mauve — and if you don’t know where this goes on a female face, there is absolutely nothing I can do to help you at this point.  I’d go into more detail about lipstick in general, but one, I give zero fucks about lipstick, and two, I’m really distracted by Mr. Cumberbatch in the background there.  He has nothing to do with pilot season or The Experiment, but he does have a lot to do with how I unwound during it.  Which reminds me, I need new batteries.

For the remote control, you pervs.

Just kidding.  They’re for my vibrator.

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GOD’S GIFT TO OILY GIRLS

You hear that? It’s a heavenly choir of angels.

 .

If you are a fellow tribe member of the Oily Face Nation, and you only buy one thing from Sephora in your whole life, it should be this.  I have tried numerous kinds of blotting papers, and these are the best by a loooooooong shot.  Press these suckers on your nose, chin, and forehead five minutes before a meeting, and you’ve got at least an hour before you start looking like BP came on your face.

It’s a small thing — as close to inconsequential as you can get when you’re talking about war paint — but the fact is: oily skin looks like greasy skin.  Greasy skin looks like dirty skin.  Dirty skin says, “I might not have showered before I got to this meeting.  I might not shower if you hire me.  If you’re going to sit in a tiny room with me all day for the next six months, you’d better hope I wear deodorant.”  Which is a long side-track of thought for a showrunner to follow when he’s supposed to be listening to your brilliant ideas (that is, when he’s not staring at your camel toe).  So anything you can try to de-grease your face?  Do it.

It’s one less thing to pull focus away from your brain.

And when it comes down to it,

THAT

is what war paint is all about.  

When you wear make-up to a meeting, all it should say is: not only am I smart enough to talk character and story arc and potential episode ideas — I got my personal shit wired, son.  I can bring home the bacon AND look like Charlize Theron while I’m doing it.  (Some of us can only hit Charlize Theron in “Monster,” but effort is effort.)

Use that war paint to show off those sparkling green eyes, that seemingly flawless skin, and you will learn — like the thousands of Adriana Limas that have come before her — that looks really do matter.

People more readily attribute good qualities to attractive people.  Sucks for us Average-to-Middlin’ Folk, but when we take advantage of every opportunity we have — even when we know it’s all bullshit, and unfair, and forcibly normative — then we can look back on pilot season with a certain satisfaction, knowing that we have done everything in our power to get hired.

.

NEXT WEEK

A JOB?

Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?

May 21st, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment — THE WARDROBE

This blog entry is the fifth part of a continuing series.

If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.

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Step Four

THE WARDROBE

 

Here’s the thing: I fucking hate getting dressed up.

Or, well… dressed.

At all.

Honestly, if I could spend the next forty years at home, in an XXL t-shirt, no bra, a pair of yoga pants, and some socks with monkeys on them?  I’d consider my life well-lived.

Unfortunately, the career I’ve chosen – being a Writer in the Business of Show – demands that you look like you give at least one-third of a shit when it comes to your appearance.  (Naturally, this is the upper requirement for straight white male Writers – who can get away with giving as low as 1/16th of a shit.)  However, if you’re a female Writer, that fraction is upped to a minimum two-thirds of a shit, and if you’re a female Writer looking for a job, that fraction bounces all the way up to you needing to give one whole shit.

So clearly, left to my own devices, I’d be boned.

But for The Pilot Season Experiment, I committed myself to presenting the very best physical appearance I could create – and this meant going to the mall to shop for new clothes.

“Yay,” she muttered, stabbing herself in the face.

Now, on my good days, I am not a self-denigrator (self-deprecating, yes; self-denigrating, no).  In fact, for the last 10 years or so, I’ve been relatively okay with myself (remember? “I look fine!”).  But as the age creeps up and Hips and Ass move in, it is no longer possible for me to grab a few size 6’s off the shelf – without even trying them on – and be done with my mall run in under 20 minutes.

(Sidenote: for as much as I hate getting dressed up, I hate going to the mall about infinity times more.  First, there’s all the fucking people.  For someone who spends the majority of her time alone – literally, when I’m not working on a show, I’m by myself about 14 hours a day; which is fabulously okay with me – jostling up against a throng of strangers is like locking me in that scorpion-box on Fear Factor.  In other words: no goddamn thanks.  Secondly?  There’s all those fucking people.  Just once I wish I could Lohan a store into closing solely for me.  So that I could steal stuff like rich people do.)

A 20-minute mall run was one of the many advantages I didn’t realize I had until I was no longer a size 6.  Or 8.  Let’s just say I’m in low double-digit territory now, and shopping for clothes is an exercise in struggling to maintain enough self-esteem to not break down in tears in the dressing room.

Which, FYI?  I have failed at many times.

Because if you thought those harsh fluorescent lights made your chunky parts look chunkier?  Your cellulite cellulite-ier?  Wait until you pair your chunky cellulite with a red nose, watery eyes, a blotchy face, and more self-loathing than a Christian freshman waking up pantyless after her first kegger.

Severely not pretty.

Oh, and one other factor you might want to take into account here, ladies?

DON’T GO SHOPPING THREE DAYS BEFORE YOUR PERIOD.

Not only is the hysteria that much closer to the surface, but I used to think the whole “bloating” idea was a con – one more way the Midol criminals raked in the cash by making women feel like worthless assholes.  However, turns out bloating, unlike “compassionate conservatism,” is actually a thing.  (Sorry, Midol.)  Now, how did I discover this?

When all the clothes I bought two weeks ago are now approximately one size too large.  And this is AFTER I wore my Spanx to the mall to try everything on.

Mind you, this is most definitely not because I’m Super-Exercise-And-Diet Girl.  For the record, I ate pizza and two giant ice cream Drumsticks this weekend, and didn’t move off the couch except to pee.

No, this is because I was lugging around about five extra pounds of water weight when I went shopping.

“Five pounds?” I hear some of you – mostly guys – ask, incredulous.

To which I reply, “Yes, five fucking pounds, you incredulous dicks.  I said five pounds, didn’t I?”

Women know this is true.  Or at least, women who don’t look like this:

Somebody get this chick a motherfucking cheeseburger.

 .

Women can gain or lose five pounds without really noticing, since it’s all in our poochy little bellies, hips, ass, and boobs.  When you notice those five pounds is after you’ve bought clothes to accommodate those five pounds, and then two weeks later, suddenly those jeans that looked AWESOME on your booty now look a little… meh.

So here’s me, shopping for pants:

.

As you can see, I’m in Old Navy.  I’m not at Bergdorf Goodman, or Sak’s, or any of those fancy-schmance places.  I wouldn’t have the money to afford stuff from there even if I wanted to go.  But good Old Navy is for Jes’ Plain Folks.  You, me, yer momma – we can all find something useful at Old Navy, even if it’s just basics, like jeans.

Only, have you ever tried on chick jeans?

Unless you get them two to four sizes too big, they will inevitably find a way to cram themselves up your vadge.

They will wiggle, sneak, and finally CRUSH themselves against your clit and labiae, with only your underwear to mitigate chafe.  And if you’re wearing a thong, you’re flat-out fucked.  (Though it is my own personal opinion that if you’re wearing a thong, you have it coming.  Now bring it, Thong Bitches.  Bring it!)

Men’s jeans, on the other hand, are almost universally low- to mid-rise, which means the waist rides below the navel.

Here, I’ll let my friend Ben Stone, of “The Nine Lives Of Chloe King” fame show you:

Image totally for reference purposes, y’all.  Ladies don’t have “spank banks.”

 Photo credit: Studio IX

(Send all thank-you notes to my manager.  And Ben’s parents.  And Studio IX.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a belly-button ring – go ahead and laugh, but I’ve had this thing longer than some of you have been alive – that gets tremendously unhappy when it’s constantly rubbed up against a waistband.  Along with not liking my belly-pooch smashed, it’s one of the main reasons I like my pants to ride low on my hips – below my navel, just like guy jeans.

And so I bought guy jeans.  Actually, a pair of guy jeans and a pair of guy cargos.

I’m not trying to make a statement with them.  I’m not trying to be hip or cool or whatever the kids are calling it these days.  (The fact that I don’t know what they call it — and that I used the phrase “whatever the kids are calling it these days” — should be a clue that I’m not interested.)  I bought guy pants because they don’t invade my vagina, they don’t squish the pooch, and they don’t try to rip out my belly-button ring.  I appreciate them for that.

I already had a few nice skirts (barely used, obviously), so after the pants, I got shirts.  Because the pants are relatively baggy (I said I’d try to look “nice,” not “bound like Chinese lotus-feet”), I picked out a few fitted tops, to give myself some shape.  That is, some shape other than Gleep on “The Herculoids”.

Of course, some of you may be wondering why I didn’t pick out an ensemble like this:

All tray tables must be in their upright and locked positions…

 .

And the answer is simple:

IF YOU ARE NOT A STUDIO OR NETWORK EXECUTIVE

(i.e. a “Suit”)

DO NOT WEAR SUITS.

Even the Suits don’t wear suits all the time.  This is laid-back LaLa Land.  If you walk into a pilot season meeting wearing a suit, it says one of two things to the showrunner.

Either:

A) “I have never worked in Hollywood before, and if you hire me, you will have to instruct me in even the most rudimentary arts of being a TV Writer — right down to the sick, disgusting, obscene jokes told in the Writers’ Room.  On the other hand, I might just sue you for them instead.”

or

B) “Clearly I am lost.  Where is the Accounting Department?”

Neither of which will get you a job on a writing staff.

.

I finished my clothes-shopping with the makings of at least seven different mix-and-match outfits, which I figured I could rotate through meetings, to get the most out of my “nice” wardrobe.

But before we left, I had to stop at Sephora.

It was the last step of The Pilot Season Experiment.

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Step Five

WAR PAINT

Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?

May 15th, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment — SPANX

 This blog entry is the fourth part of a continuing series.

If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.

 

Step Three

SPANX

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I must admit, out of all the pieces I planned for The Pilot Season Experiment, this is the one I’ve dreaded most.  No, not because I have some rare form of lycraphobia, but because I promised to be real, and the realest of real is: I got body issues, y’all.

Surprise, surprise, right?  These days body issues seem to come as a package deal with a vagina – including free bonuses from a hateful fashion industry, delusional Photoshopping, and every lying piece-of-shit media platform in existence.

Thankfully my body issues are not so dire that I refuse to eat a crouton – like a certain Actress I know, who, hand to Baby Jeebus, picked them out of her salad and actually threw them away.  As if leaving them in the salad might impart some sort of dangerous carb-y crouton-atoms to her dressing-free kale.  Crouton-slut that I am, I never scooped them out of the trash and ate them, but I wanted to.  Oh, yes.  I wanted to.

So not crazy-serious body issues, but serious enough that I would rather take a box-cutter and carve “FATASS” into the ample meat of my buttocks than discuss these issues in public.

However, all the positive responses I’ve received about this series so far have had one thing in common: everybody wants the truth.  Nobody wants to hear how amazingly perfect you are and how easy it is to land a job in Hollywood.  They want to know that you, too, have those days when you look in the mirror and go, “Oh, fuck this shit,” before crawling back into bed under your warm, non-judgmental blanket.  (Everyone looks good under a blanket.  Even dead people.)

So I’ll be honest with you here, much as it tortures me, because six years ago when I worked on “Rome” I looked like this:

I *might* have my hands on Kevin McKidd’s and Ray Stevenson’s asses. I’m just saying it’s a possibility.

 .

I see that picture now and think, “You horrid skinny bitch!  What have you DONE to us since then?  Did you swallow a fucking Cessna?”

The answer – I hope obviously – is no, I did not ingest a plane.  (Though this guy did, which is just goddamned crazy.)  But whereas I used to work out at the gym six or seven days a week for two hours a day, I have since become…

Well, sane.

Okay.  Sane –er.  Kind of a sliding scale around here.

These days I work out about four times a week, an hour each time – which is still a good amount – except that I’m omitting the several years where I didn’t do jack shit but sit at my kitchen table, sit in my writing chair, or sit on my couch.   Actually, I’m almost certain that all that sitting is why my backside is now wide enough to carve FATASS into it at all.

“But what happened?” you might ask.   “Why did you go from being such a kickboxing/martial-arts/yoga fanatic to being such a sloth?”

And you wanna know the answer?  My real, honest answer that doesn’t have any of that “Oh, I was just really busy and things got reprioritized and then somehow I broke both my legs when a house fell on me” bullshit?

Why did I stop going to the gym?

‘Cause I was fuckin’ tired, y’all.

Seriously.  I was really, really tired of forcing myself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and driving to the gym and working out for a couple hours and then showering and driving either to a studio or back home and putting in a 12-hour day before I went to sleep and then got back up and did it all over again, day in, day out.  After keeping to this rigid routine for seven years, I felt like I’d earned a break.

A break… that turned into a vacation… that turned into a hiatus… that turned into a sabbatical… that turned into a whine that went something like this:

“I look fine.  Why should I bust my ass to be ‘skinny’ when I look fine?”

The trouble with fine is, you keep tweaking and re-tweaking the definition.  Toned becomes soft, soft becomes mooshy, mooshy becomes flabby, and then one day you’re in the shower and you look down and can’t see your pubes anymore, no matter how hard you suck in your once-upon-a-time-these-were-abs.

And suddenly you’re like, “But I was fine!  What the fuck just happened to fine?!”

Except it wasn’t “just,” of course – it took months, if not years, for you to blow up like the Michelin Man, fatty increment by fatty increment.  Then one January you see the photos your family took of you at Christmas and all at once you want to claw your own face off.  Your face, and all three of those chins you’ve been toting around, unbeknownst to you.

So The Finance and I invested in an elliptical machine and a treadmill, and now I’m back to pumping that cardio and yoga’ing my muscles into long, ropy sinew.

However, Houston?  We have a problem.

And this problem is called Hips And Ass.

Don’t talk to me about lunges.  I do them.  Don’t talk to me about running.  I do that, too.  Don’t talk to me about resistance bands, stomach crunches, lifting weights to build muscle because muscle burns fat, or surviving on nothing but lemon juice and chili powder.  Fuck you.  Those puny foes have no sway over Hips And Ass.

Speaking as a woman nearing 40, I can tell you that once Hips And Ass have moved in, they are your roomies for life.  If someone had introduced me to Hips And Ass when I was 30, I may have taken a vacation from gymratitude, but the full sabbatical?  Oh, hell no.  That’s when Hips And Ass notice the lights aren’t on at your house, so they move their shit right in like they own the joint, never to be dislodged again – unless you’re willing to have a doctor suck them out with a cannula.

Fat never leaves.  It is the worst roommate EVER.

So now, while I do my best to make sure Hips And Ass don’t take over the whole house, I can’t boot them out entirely.

And this is where Spanx come in.

If you’ve never heard of Spanx, you can go here to get the idea.  By now they’re a Hollywood staple, if not an inside joke, as proven by SUPASTAR! Molly Shannon, when she flashed her Spanx at the world at a Tribeca event in 2007:

I love a woman with balls. You can’t see ’em, though, ’cause of the Spanx.

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Spanx are like your grandmothers’ girdles, except cooler and more fun because they’re called “Spanx,” and not “girdles.”  Mainly, they’re just really tight lycra contraptions that smash your fat down against itself so it doesn’t bulge in the wrong places.  And according to American standards of beauty, “the wrong places” means “anywhere on your entire fucking body.”

Needless to say, I was wary at first.  My feminist side raged, raged at the hiding of the Hips And Ass!  I am woman! I wanted to scream.  I am supposed to have Hips And Ass!  Maybe we don’t like each other as much as we should, but I live with Hips And Ass and I won’t stand for you talking shit about them!

Except – as I’ve been trying to demonstrate with The Pilot Season Experiment – everyone in Hollywood is judged on their looks.  Everyone… but especially women.  (Of course, it’s not limited to Hollywood: check this out.)  You might think this is normal for Actresses – after all, starlets have always been more gorgeous than your average Jane – or at least better plucked, coiffed, make-upped, and medicated – but when it comes to a woman whose performance rests squarely on the invisible talent in her head?  You might assume we female Writers would get a break.

But that makes you an ass, and now me is laughing at u.

Because you can’t walk into a bunch of pilot meetings wearing clothes that are too tight (unless you already have a slammin’ body — then more power to you, bitch) (sorry, I’m sorry, that was wrong; it was just jealousy, pure jealousy) (cunt).  You can’t be sitting there in a job interview fretting about your muffin top transforming into several loaves of bread because in order to get a job as a Writer, you need to be thinking.  You need to be collaborating, riffing off the show, coming up with brilliant ideas.  Speaking from experience, it is infinitely harder to come up with brilliant ideas when you’re silently obsessing over whether or not you’re flashing cameltoe at the showrunner.

Thus for me, Spanx weren’t so much for vanity as they were for getting my mind off Hips And Ass.  If I didn’t have to pay attention to Hips And Ass, it would free me up to rattle off those brilliant ideas that would get me hired – or at least, not tossed out after only 15 minutes.  (A little inside info: a good pilot season meeting runs 45 minutes to an hour.  If they chuck you before then?  You should’ve stopped obsessing over your cameltoe.  It is now time to buy Spanx.)

I bought my Spanx online.  I chose the size that conformed to my height and weight, then picked the style I thought would work best for me.  Did I need the Thigh-Trimmers?  Not so much.  Booty-Boosters?  No thanks.  I have plenty of booty and so far, it’s riding just about the right height.  When it came down to it, I just wanted a bodysuit that’d keep everything where it was, but just smooth it out, since fat has this annoying habit of lumping up on itself.  So this is what I ended up choosing:

The picture’s a little blobby, but I assure you, when they come up with iPhoneSpanx…

 .

It’s called a “Hide & Sleek Slip-Suit.”  All I cared about was that it:

1)   smoothed out what those fitness assholes would call “my problem areas” (though I would really love for them to say that to my face)

2)   it worked as a bra, too, ‘cause I hate those fucking things

3)   it was all one piece, so I didn’t have to worry about tugging shit back into place all the time

The day it came in the mail, I was truly excited, thinking – a-HA, Hips And Ass!  I will NOT be defeated! – and ran into the bathroom to try it on.  Besides feeling like the tightest pair of pantyhose you have ever stepped foot in, and doing that awkward hip-to-hip-shake-and-jump-and-bounce thing while jerking it up (you ladies know exactly what I’m talking about; don’t lie), one thing suddenly stood out to me.  In truth, it shocked the holy hell out of me, and that was this:

This might be the creepiest picture I’ve ever taken.

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There’s no fucking crotch.

Seriously, the material overlaps, like the material overlaps on the opening of a pair of boxers, but when you finally yank the whole sucker up and get everything into place, you immediately notice that your cooch is air-conditioned.  There’s a draft up that thing.  When I walked around the house to see how it moved, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that my pussy was playing peek-a-boo with the floor.

Now, I knew I’d be wearing these Spanx under my clothes, but I couldn’t stop myself from having these horrifying visions of the crotch of my pants ripping in the middle of a meeting and a showrunner staring right up my Betty.  Who knows?  Maybe they could do your cervical exam while you’re pitching ideas, I thought a little hysterically — before I did what women from the dawn of time have been doing when confronted by incomprehensible female undergarments: I sucked it the hell up and kept going.

As I paced from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom to my office, I started to feel a little, Huh.  This is… um… this is a tad… uh… “constricting” was the nicest word I could come up with.  I decided I needed a test run — a few hours’ outing to see if I could find a way to keep my fat smashed in without asphyxiating like a goldfish on the carpet.

So I took The Finance to the mall.  Why the mall?  Two reasons: one, I needed to finish The Pilot Season Experiment by buying new clothes and make-up (Steps Four and Five, respectively, and coming soon to a blog near you).  Two: better to be somewhere with a dressing room in case I needed to be cut out of my Spanx before I died.

The drive to the mall was uncomfortable.  In general, I try to never wear shirts smaller than Andre the Giant could’ve fit into, or pants that don’t have drawstrings.  Long, long ago I did my bid in CorporateWorld, and one of the most important things I took away from that experience is that I do not enjoy the sensation of being swallowed by a python.  I like my clothes baggy, hanging off my hips, and if I can’t wear Nikes to it, it’s a 99.9999% certainty I don’t want to go wherever it is.  (Shondaland being the obvious exception, though if anything, that only reinforced my preferences.)  So sitting upright in the driver’s seat with my new super-tight unitard was… unfamiliar, to say the least.

And at first, I had trouble breathing.  No lie.  I couldn’t figure out how to breathe in the goddamn thing.  That made for a near panic-attack (which is great when you’re driving) until I finally realized I’m used to breathing from my belly — a nice, relaxing holdover from all those years of yoga — except now my belly was bound by a type of fabric I’m nearly sure is bulletproof.   When this realization prompted me to breathe from my chest instead, which was considerably less restricted, I found the oxygen returning to my brain, and I didn’t even crash the car and kill us both.  The Finance didn’t give me nearly enough props for this.

However, twenty minutes later, we were walking into the mall and I was saying, “Seriously, dude, I don’t know.  I don’t know if this is going to work.  This is really tight.  We might have to go home.  Dude, I’m being totally serious.”

Ten minutes after that, I had totally forgotten I was wearing it.

Miraculous?  Goldfish-memory?  How the hell could that even happen?

You know what I think?  I think I just adapted to it.  Humans are easy like that.  I got my mind off it for a few minutes — “Where’s Lady Foot Locker?  Where’s Sephora?” — and when I checked back in with myself, I went, I’ll be damned.

Could I still feel it?  Sure.  Once you’re inside the python, you never mistake yourself for being free.

But instead of feeling trapped, I felt hugged.  Whole-body hugged.  Really, really enthusiastically hugged — like by Lennie from “Of Mice and Men” — except not crushed, like I’d been fearing.  We shopped for three hours and the only thing that got smashed was The Finance’s patience (“How can someone spend AN HOUR in a make-up store?  How much face can one person have?”).

And so… I now love my Spanx.

I don’t wear them recreationally, you can be damn sure — but when I walk into meetings now, my hips and stomach lie flat, and there are no lumps or bulges anywhere.  I go in feeling like I’m already getting a big hug from my self-esteem.

Also, my vagina stays cool and comfortable in case of any unexpected pelvic exams.

Which really puts my mind at ease.

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Step Four

THE WARDROBE

Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?