When I was a kid, I wrote a short story about a man driving at a high rate of speed when he discovers a rather large spider in his lap. I don’t really remember anything else about it, other than it ending with the spider casually walking away from a flaming wreck, but my dad was really impressed. He always encouraged my creative endeavors, whether it be drawing, music, film production, or writing. I’m sure he’d have also loved to see me pursue a career that might help keep the power on, but he never advocated for writing to become a hobby. I dove headfirst into this and he supported it entirely. Most of the people in my life do. I feel pretty lucky about that.
But for some reason I always wanted my dad in particular to see me succeed. He certainly didn’t need to, for his sake; he never had any doubts. But I just wanted to point to my name up on that big screen one day, look over at him, and say, “I finally got here, all the way from that stupid spider story. Thank you for the push.”
I had been damn certain Accessory was going to be that script, which is why, by September of 2011, I was getting pretty discouraged that it still hadn’t landed anywhere.
Then, out of the blue, Suit 1.0 emailed to let me know a long-time TV director had read the script and was “passionate about it.” His agency really wanted to break him into features, and everybody felt Accessory was the perfect vehicle for him.
“So he’s officially attached, then?” I asked. I just wanted somebody to say it. I wanted to hear of deals struck and contracts signed, assurance that it would take more than a mouse fart to blow the whole thing to pieces.
“Well, here’s what we want to do–”
(Pro tip: a plan that begins with those words will not end well in this business.)
“–We’ll let him run around with it for a while. This isn’t standard procedure, but we’re not sure he’ll be able to attract the cast. Let’s see if he can before we commit.”
If you recall, back in Part Two, I’d just rejected a solid cash offer in favor of the promise of better things. Apparently “better things” was letting some guy “run around with it.” I wasn’t impressed.
“Sounds like things are moving forward, though,” my dad said after I’d updated him on this most recent development.
I don’t know how he stayed so optimistic. By this point he’d been battling skin cancer for several years. The long-term prognosis was not fantastic, despite having already undergone several major surgeries. If he could see the bright side of things, I figured I owed it to him to keep my chin up and not treat every minor setback as an extinction event.
I pressed on. I watched some of the TV series the director had worked on. My confidence was boosted. I started to feel better about everything.
By February, 2012, I’d finished two other scripts and made a healthy dent in the first draft of a third when Suit 1.0 called to tell me an A-list actor was in talks with the director for one of the lead roles.
“If we get her attached,” 1.0 said, buzzing with an excitement I wasn’t used to from him, “we’re gonna sell this thing for a million dollars. So open a bottle of wine and enjoy your weekend.”
It’s rare that a screenplay alone will sell for six or seven figures, or at all, for that matter, particularly the sort that I write. More often, the script is packaged — a producer or agency attaches elements such as a director and lead talent, the whole thing is wrapped up with a bow and hopefully attracts a studio or financier who will want to sink a whole bunch of money into making it.
Suit 1.0 assured me that we were closer than ever to that point. We had a financier, we just needed to secure a few more elements before they committed. Based on his confidence, I opened a bottle of wine. I called up my mom and dad. I told all my writing friends the good news. This was it. Finally!
I even told the agent trainee, who, if you recall, just a year before had ended an email with: “Get back to work. You’re big time now.”
He already knew. Of course he did. And his response was chilly at best.
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up — it’s a B-list TV director and has-been actress. Maybe if that producer gets out of our way we can push this thing forward in a real way, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
The celebratory wine turned to vinegar in my mouth. I tried to tell myself he was wrong, he was just still bitter toward me for turning down that option deal. Suit 1.0 was right and things were moving forward in a real way.
But as the months rolled by, my optimism withered. Winter became spring became summer, and that notion of a million dollar sale — or any sale at all — felt more like a silly, unattainable dream than ever before.
One day in June, I was standing in our little garden, just trying to clear my head and enjoy the quiet and the sunshine, when I got a phone call. It was my dad. He sounded tired. We talked about the weather, gardening, the aggressive new chemo he was undergoing.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were nights my dad went to the grocery store and just grabbed whatever he thought looked interesting, then came home and threw it all together in the kitchen without any apparent forethought. He was a wizard, regularly producing dishes that I, to this day, have been unable to replicate. Whatever magic he wielded, I did not inherit. I require recipes with exact measurements and mise en place and at least a dozen exotic utensils just to make a salad. But what he did instill in me was a passion for making good food. Him and I didn’t agree on a lot of things, but food we could always talk about, sharing recent creations and discoveries and laughing over total failures (usually mine).
But by that summer he was unable to taste most things. Fiery gochujang chicken may as well have been unseasoned mashed potatoes. Not only that, the combination of surgeries and chemo left him with permanent dry mouth. Even if he wanted to eat, it was hardly worth the effort.
One way I deal with writing stress is to go into the kitchen and lose myself in something impossibly complicated. Those days I was in the kitchen a lot. But this time, it didn’t seem fair to go on about all this great food I was making. So instead, I talked about Accessory.
“Last I heard, Nicolas Cage and Jason Statham are reading for one of the leads,” I said. I wasn’t too hopeful, but he was really excited to hear that. He’s a big Nic Cage fan.
“I really like him in National Treasure,” he said. I couldn’t help but smile.
Around the end of July, Suit 1.0 informed me that the director was out. Both actors passed on the project, the finance and distribution company had moved on, and I never spoke to either Big Shot Agent or that trainee ever again. We were back at square one.
By this point, you might be thinking that this particular blog series didn’t exactly live up to its title. A great number of directors orbited the project, and the two that actually managed to make atmospheric entry burned up before even making an impact. This is it?
Actually, no. This is, in fact, just getting started. And while I apologize for the extended prologue, I felt it necessary to give some context to the choices I made next, and the monumental fuckery that followed.
Which brings us to August, 2012, and to Part Four, wherein the first of the titular two directors finally arrives…