by Diane Grant
A while ago, Nancy Beverly, a fellow lafpier, sent me a link to a YouTube series called The Calamities of Jane, which is about a 50’ish actress who is still trying to make it in the biz. Nancy wrote a lot of the episodes on this show which stars Rebecca Klinger, who produced and plays the title role.
Each episode, and I’ve seen three so far, is sharp, honest, very funny and so painful.
And all released a flood of memories. I remembered the time I was auditioning for a commercial in which a woman who has won a big prize throws a bunch of cash in the air. I had made everyone laugh and I knew, just knew, that I’d booked it, when some demon inside me spoke up and said, “But wouldn’t they have given her a check?” End of story. There was a game show I thought I was sailing through until a guy came up to me and whispered, “Relax, sweetheart, and pull down your skirt.” Didn’t book that again. There was always something. I was too fat or too thin, too young or too old, or “too short for a two shot.” Strangely, whenever there was something I was absolutely right for, the daughter of my agent would get the part.
Then, my husband, a filmmaker, and I wrote screenplays together. And of course, pitched them. We pitched our little hearts out. And kept at it until we had holes (not diamonds) in the soles of our shoes. We worked for Amway distributors and phone rooms and wrote a charming little story that could have made the studios millions, called The Blini.
Like Jane, we always had car trouble and one day on our way to a studio, we heard a thump and a clunk and a rattle and a horn honking. A woman in the next lane yelled, “You’ve got a flat tire.” We kept on, flat tire or no. (We found out on another occasion, that the spare tire in the trunk is smaller than the other three and when you put it on the wheel and drive off, you feel like clowns in an impoverished circus troupe.)
We limped into the studio, and pitched our charming little story with great verve and sparkle and passion. The producer told our agent that she was “underwhelmed.”
We were sent out again and while waiting and waiting in the anteroom of yet another producer, told an assistant that we had to go soon to pick up our daughter from school. When the producer finally appeared, she said, “Make it quick. We don’t want your daughter to be abducted on the street corner.”
We were sent to another studio. We’d had to change the date and our agent assured us that that hadn’t been a good move. While we waited, sitting in two tiny chairs, in yet another anteroom, which was the size of one of those walk in closets you see on reality shows, the producer’s “girl” talked on the phone. “Well,” she shouted. “So what if he had a gun? What’s so wrong about that? What is your problem?”
Finally, we were waved into the producer’s enormous office, where he was watching the stock market figures moving across an electronic band at the base of his office walls. He might have said, “Go ahead,” but we weren’t sure because he was talking over his shoulder. However, we pitched our little hearts out and then he said, “I think I heard that pitch before and passed.”
We did have a little run of luck and after winning with a short film at Cannes wrote another charming little script, this time for a studio, a complete rewrite of one of their films. We called it Cannes Artists. I have to make this short because I might START SOBBING. It did make millions for the studio but not for us because the head of the studio who had employed us left and the project was passed on to a new writer who rewrote it and called his script Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Now, when I send out my plays and receive a rejection in two seconds flat or don’t hear back at all or get that “not for us at this time” email, I don’t blink. I pour myself a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio, turn on the TV, put up my feet, and watch Chopped.