My interesting dayPart of: Hollywood , Slice of Life
By Tiffany Stone
I called John to see how many scripts I could finagle.
Karen answered, “Oh, hi Tiff.”
I swallowed to keep from asking her to call me Tiffany.
“Sorry, no scripts. It’s slow right now.”
This was the third day in a row. I needed to come up with a strategy. Maybe I should buy her a box of truffles? No, that was too much like a gift an actor would give a casting director. Plus, she was probably on a diet.
I made up my mind to go see Karen around lunch hour. It was always more difficult to say no to someone in person.
I secretly hoped that only John would be there, and Karen would be at lunch.
I walked through the overly modern lobby and glanced at the faux Eames chairs. Thankfully I never have to sit in them. Jay, the receptionist, was wearing a shiny black dress shirt, and his hair was spiked. He was a permanent temp. Jay liked me because I conversed with him and always gave him gum or Blow Pops.
“Hey, Jay. Special occasion?” I said. “I felt like wearing a different shade of black today,” he said.
“You mean material.”
I opened the glass door to the offices with great momentum, but it didn’t budge. I slammed back into it.
“Ow,” I said too loudly.
“Sorry. Karen told me I couldn’t automatically let readers in anymore,” Jay said.
I wasn’t any reader. Didn’t he know that by now?
“You can have a seat.”
I sat across from a petite blonde woman who looked familiar. She was wearing the typical manager/agent blah (black) suit. I passed on saying “hi.” I have finally realized that if I can’t recognize where I know a person from, they are probably not worth remembering.
I picked up “Variety,” since it was either that or “The Hollywood Reporter,” and pretended to read. Then I felt her staring at me and looked up.
“Is your name Tiffany?”
Damn, I should have said no.
“Jamie from ZZ.”
Oh, I knew her from a management company. I had worked at ZZ as a manager trainee for a few months. Jamie was always getting angry at me for not coming to the weekly 7:30am script coverage meetings.
“What do you think you are-- special? Everyone else shows up.”
Each week Jamie said a variation of this. She was always commenting in a passive/aggressive way about my weight--alluding to the possibility of an eating disorder. She had her own weight issues. I made next to nothing, so I wasn't dining lavishly. That was my secret. I wanted to tell her to get over it and develop a coke or crystal meth habit already.
I guess I had the upper hand because I hated my job and didn’t care if I were fired. I had gone to the Monday meeting once and had literally fallen asleep. Our work hours were 8am-8pm, and we had to read and cover at least one script after work. Jamie had everyone do a verbal script report in the meetings. Who gave a shit about the opinions of 22 year-olds? I didn’t.
Jamie wanted us to graduate to writing a four-sentence logline and commentary. It would take covering hundreds of scripts to be ready. Give me a fucking break. Jamie had broken down once and yelled at me. Outwardly she was always very controlled and even-tempered. I knew there was a lot of anger brewing underneath. I was supposed to do a treatment of a sci-fi comic book that had made no sense whatsoever. It was only 10 pages long. I truly did the best I could.
“What were you thinking? Did you do this on purpose? This synopsis makes no sense. Nothing happens.”
Her face was red now.
“You think you are being cute? Drake (her boss) was very upset with you.”
Yeah, Drake was fantasizing about spanking me.
“I’m really sorry,” I said.
I was sorry that I had to even deal with the comic book. Jamie’s face softened. Jamie looked the same now except her hair was blonder, she had lost ten pounds, and her suit was designer. I was sure she had upgraded her shrink and had a Beverly Hills condo. She used to live by LACMA.
“Who are you meeting with?”
She cut right to the chase. I knew that she was one of the top managers at the same company now. I, of course, didn’t give a shit. I pretended not to hear her.
“Tiffany?” Jay called me over just in time.
I smiled at her and waved instead of saying, “Nice to see you again,” because it really wasn’t.
I couldn’t believe that I had to wait 15 minutes. There was no good reason. I bet Karen was overweight with ashy-brown hair and had been very unpopular in high school, not that I cared about high school or popularity. I enjoyed how this sounded-- like the opening of a cliché after-school special.
I strolled down the long corridor to John’s office. Karen was at her desk eating Red Vines like they were going extinct while whispering something to Diesel jeans guy. G-r-e-a-t.
Today he was wearing white jeans and a bright Hawaiian shirt. It was December. Karen was in a black suit that was way too tight, and she was overweight and mousy looking. I couldn’t believe she was older than 16.
I extended my hand and said in what I hoped was a gracious voice, “I’m Tiffany. You must be Karen.”
I sounded like a mom. Karen didn’t offer me any licorice. Bitch.
“Oh, hi Tiffy.”
Diesel Jeans looked at me dismissively.
Karen noticed my scowl. “I’m sorry. You don’t like that. I always shorten people’s names.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Well, there are still no scripts,” she belabored in her forced, cheerful voice.
I wanted to smack her. I pointed at John’s door.
“John’s on vaca this week.”
“Vacation,” I said under my breath. What a Valley girl. There was an awkward silence.
Diesel Jeans filed his nails. Karen grabbed her bag. “Um, we’re off to lunch, but I’ll call you if we get anything in.”
Yeah, r-i-g-h-t. I did not want to take the elevator down with them. I stood there for a minute and pretended to admire the oceanscape Karen had taped to the back of her computer. She had a collection of beanie cats on top of it. I had never seen anyone adorn the back of a computer before. And John hired this tool?
I jumped, startled out of my deep thoughts. A cute guy around my age was standing in front of me.
“Who do you work for?” I asked mistaking him for an assistant.
I had never seen him here before, but then again, I hadn’t met most of the employees.
“I am a staff reader,” he said.
That rare species does exist.
“That’s your office?”
I hated when I stated the obvious.
“Yeah, want a look?”
The office was tiny, but somehow fit a small desk and couch. It reminded me of a dorm room.
“I take a lot of naps,” he said smiling.
Clay was average height and thin with black hair and blue eyes.
“Why weren’t you at the reader’s appreciation party?” I asked as Clay flopped on the couch to prove it was comfortable. I was amazed that he fit. There was a regular pillow on it. I let out a giggle.
“Would you go again?” Clay asked me. He did have a point.
“John has some real characters. Some of those readers are old-timers. John doesn’t like to let people go. Was the grandma there? There probably weren’t any cute girls there because John has dated them all. I’m surprised he hasn’t asked you out yet. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Are you Jewish?”
With my hair dyed black I looked ethnic. Someone had recently mistaken me for a Spanish soap opera star.
“Why?” I asked.
“John likes Jewish girls as buddies, but he likes to date quiet, submissive women,” Clay stated.
“Oh, so tell me about the other readers.”
No need to ruminate.
“I’m Action/Broad Comedy guy, there’s Walt-- a.k.a. Family man, (he really does have a family) and Alissa, “Dramedy girl.” Alissa is a huge bitch, though. She thinks she has a better literary agent than I do, among other things. I only do nothing a few days a week. You know my job is the epitome of hurry up and wait. The internet is my best friend.”
“Why don’t you work on your own writing?” I asked.
That’s what I’d do. I’d love to get paid to have my own office space.
“I do sometimes, but it’s really hard for me to write here. I don’t feel very creative stuck in this box for hours. Trust me. I would rather be reading scripts all day than doing nothing on slow days. You are a writer I take it?”
I nodded my head.
“Hey, can you copy some good scripts for me?”
My writing teacher was permanently in my head saying his infamous, “Spend your time reading great writers unless you aspire to be mediocre.”
“No problem. I like to use as many company supplies as possible. Let’s copy some right now. Don’t worry; I will look out for you. I know Karen is giving most of the scripts to her bitch. If I see any on her desk, I’ll give you a shout.”
Finally something good happened today. I was beginning to think I should see a shrink.
At the Apple Pan, people hovered behind your seat, waiting for you to finish. I picked up “The Calendar” section of the Times so my “shadower” would know I was going to be a long time. This almost always worked, but you had to make it seem like you had a few sections to read. The front page was the best.
I tried not to think about anything as I inhaled an egg-salad sandwich and fries. I liked that I could be alone here, yet not feel alone. The seats were all counter seats that wound around the grill in a square. I was going to draw out this lunch as long as possible. Fuck making cold calls out of The Hollywood Creative Directory.
I reached for my check and noticed a 100-dollar bill sitting on top. The suit next to me produced a shit-eating grin. What an ostentatious asshole. He palmed my hand with a velum business card that read, Warren Lancer, attorney-at-law.
Back at my apartment, I had no idea where my Creative Directory was. I probably buried it somewhere on purpose. You would think it would be impossible to hide something in a small single with only one closet. If my credit card weren’t maxed out, I would buy a new directory. I did not like to waste time like this.
I turned the TV on so I wouldn’t feel alone. I can’t do any kind of cleaning without the TV or music on.
I realized that squeaky voices were emanating from the TV. Those damn Teletubbies were mocking me. I quickly changed the channel.
Yes, it really took me a half an hour to find the oversized red-book. It was in one of the compartments of my dusty suitcase. I didn’t have a clue why I put it there, either. I flipped through it and laughed at some of my notes. There were a lot of, “Not hiring readers right now, but would be happy to have me cover 2 scripts, so my coverage will be on file.”
I had gotten tired of writing this, so I had shortened it to: “Am naïve. Will work for free.” Making cold calls out of the Creative Directory was how I had originally landed the trainee job. I asked if they were hiring readers, and they said they didn’t use outside readers. However, they were looking for young/smart/green people for their in-house trainee program.
This time I would not start calling at the letter Z. That was definitely not thinking outside the box. I decided on opening the book to random pages.
I got a large glass of water and set it down by the phone. It was probably too late to start calling now. Mid-morning or after lunch were the best times to call people.
I put the Creative Directory under my bed, so I didn’t have to be reminded of it.
I tried to come up with a strategy. Maybe John would recommend me to some story editors or development people. Now I was using some brainpower.
I ran a bath in my tiny tub (good thing I am thin from still being poor) and settled in with a good screenplay. I couldn’t stop smiling.