Great script conference on the set of Red Dust.
Left to right: director Victor Fleming, Jean Harlow,
Clark Gable, Mary Astor.
In the spacious, well-appointed conference, I’m at the tail end of a script conference with a group of high-powered studio executives.
It’s a good meeting. The company is enthusiastic about my latest spec script.
Spec scripts are not studio assignments. Instead, I wrote it on my own time in the belief that I’d find a buyer, and thus attach myself as executive producer and reap much higher financial rewards. Owning and controlling my own scripts, though risky, is one of the best ways for a Hollywood screenwriter to control his career. My batting average with specs is, so far, pretty darn good.
The production company optioned my script almost as soon as it hit the market
Now we’re discussing a rewrite—actually, more like a polish. I also have to deal with some below-the-line budget problems. Figure out a way to cut a few million from the script and make it doable. I figure I’ll scale back on the massive action scenes and combine several locations.
The execs are a creative, experienced group. Their notes are solid. I’ve known most of them for a long time. We’ve been in Hollywood for some 20-plus years. I like and admire these execs. Always respectful of my Orthodox Judaism they go out of their way to schedule lunch meetings at kosher restaurants.
We’re all on the same page, script-wise. I’m thinking: this is fab-u-lous, we’re gonna make an excellent movie.
I’m also gripped with a huge sense of relief because the meeting did not include the standard and obligatory George Bush-is-worse-than-Hitler pre-meeting chat.
Yup, it’s all smooth and professional — until the meeting devolves into sheer lunacy.
“Okay,” announces the senior studio executive, “I just want to make sure that everyone in this room is voting for Obama.”
To the left of me a junior executive goes: “Well, sure, of course.”
To the right of me another executive nods his head up and down like a bobble and mutters: “We need Obama so badly.”
Let’s be honest, folks: I can just grunt in the affirmative and be done with the whole wretched ambush.
The studio exec is smiling, all charm and fuzzy-wuzzy, but his eyes betray confusion. I mean, Hollywood is in the tank for Obama, all except for a handful of out-of-the closet Republicans and even more who dare not voice their conservative beliefs for fear of being blacklisted. This is not paranoia, It’s just the way it is for Hollywood Republicans swimming in an ocean of liberals.
“Earth to Robert?”
All eyes are on me. My colleagues are shifting uncomfortably in their super-comfy leather chairs.
Everyone in Hollywood takes it for granted that if you work in Hollywood you are a Democrat. Hollywood people, whose job it is to imagine stuff, find it hard, if not impossible, to imagine a Republican in their midst.
I feel like a Marrano, a secret Jew, unveiled before the Inquisition.
Time to man-up.
“Look, I don’t talk politics. I’m here to make a movie.”
Seriously, the studio exec looks like he’s just had a glimpse of the apocalypse and his head is about to explode.
He’s like: “You are kidding, right?”
I’m totally absorbed in the incredibly complex task of closing my MacBook and shtupping it into my briefcase.
I glance up, all eyes on your faithful blogger.
G-d in heaven, I silently pray, puh-leeese let loose with an earthquake—not massive and corpse strewn, mind you—just awesome enough to send everyone scurrying for their lives and get me the heck out of this totalitarian canyon.
Is my prayer answered?
No, it is not.
I’m like: “Let’s just make a great film together.”
My studio executive goes all Ludwig Wittgenstein on me.
“You’re not voting for Barack. That means you’re voting for John McCain,”
Now I’m focused on zipping up my laptop case. It’s unbelievably complicated and demands all my attention.
Smiling through a deadly combination of disbelief and rapidly escalating anger: “Robert, this is not a democracy in this room. You don’t get to abstain.”
I love liberals. They’re so not liberal it’s almost a fulfillment of George Orwell’s 1984.
“Look, I don’t discuss politics or religion in business meetings. Sorry.”
Sure, I could say that I’m voting for McCain-Palin, but I don’t feel like playing in their playground. I want to create some simple boundaries.
“Sarah Palin is such a backward step for women,” chimes in a young, slender D-girl. DG is an Ivy League grad, overeducated, overbred and fashionably undernourished. She invariably shows up at meetings poised for the runway in Prada, Armani, Dolce Gabbana, plus a seemingly endless supply of Manolo Blahnik pumps, footwear whose combined cost is more than the GNP of several third world countries.
I shrug, trying to give the impression that I’m way too stupid to process D-girl’s sophisticated political analysis.
Finally, my agent—G-d love him—claps his hands together and all hyper and energized and trying desperately to create a Ho Chi Minh style diversion announces that this is a great script, that the notes are great, that we all have great relationships, that we’re going to make a great movie, and it’s all so, you know, great.
Oddly enough, I don’t feel so great.
In the elevator going down to the parking lot my agent chuckles and calls me a four-letter word. He does this with great affection.
“Why don’t you just give ’em what they want?”
“As Barack Obama once sad: That’s above my pay grade.”
“It’s a good thing you have so much talent or you’d be so dead in this town.”
And hey, wouldn’t you like to see the videotape of Obama attending a dinner in honor of Palestinian terrorist Rashid Khalili? The LA Times is holding it back—at least prior to the election. The tape, might, y’know, get blindly reliable Jewish Democrats to reconsider voting for Obama.