There’s A Movie In There Somewhere

by anna on August 5, 2009

Photo by Anna for ABDPBT

“There’s a movie in there somewhere.”

“There’s a movie in there somewhere.”

“There’s a movie in there . . . somewhere.”

There are people in Los Angeles–particularly in the general Hollywood/WeHo/Fairfax/Beachwood Canyon areas–who are peculiarly fond of identifying hypothetical movie story lines. Please note that these are not people who actually make movies. They might have been an extra once, or worked as a PA for somebody you’ve never heard of, but generally, to be so enamored with the idea of making movies, you cannot be involved in the day-to-day grind of actually making them. That kind of work would dampen their enthusiasm too much, and instead of always looking for the next big thing, they would start to say, “So the hell what?”

Identifying movie opportunities is kind of like the travel bingo of area code 323. Except instead of barns and water towers, there are hackneyed plots and A-list romantic comedy vehicles vying for the attention of these mostly young people who flock to Los Angeles every year in search of fame and fortune. People who would like, someday, to be in a position to make a movie, to be in the position to declare something “is a movie” and then make it be so–like God, or maybe Steven Speilberg. So they go around congratulating themselves about identifying these opportunities to make movies, usually when they themselves have no ability to make movies, nor do they have any connections to whose attention they might call the existence of this hypothetical movie.

Like most people you hear about in the movie industry, they are full of shit.

Twice in my lifetime–scratch that, twice in the past four years–I’ve had people tell me, upon revelation of my parents’ professions (family law attorneys) and their history (divorced) that there must be “a movie in there somewhere,” I suppose because the concept of divorcing divorce lawyers is kind of catchy, like the anti-met cute scenario. [Who represents whom? Egads?! What if one of them went to the other one to try to get a referral?! Oh the hilarity! &c.] Before they got divorced, well, there would have been a movie in there, too, because what?! divorce attorneys who are married! how cute! Do they work together? And before I was born, well, there would have been a movie in there, too, because divorce attorneys without a kid? What is the deal there? Were they already worried about child support payments?

Or whatever.

The thing about people who are in The Business in LA is that they live in a world where anyone can tell anyone else what makes a movie and what doesn’t. And the storytellers among us are like, “Yeah no shit, Sherlock–there’s a movie in anything, potentially–just like there’s a novel in anything, or a blog post in anything, or a poem in anything. I invite you to check out the movie Adaptation to see how far one can go with this concept, if asked to turn a mostly nonfiction book about rare orchid hunters into a fictional story.

Stories are like assholes, as the (modified) saying goes. Making a story sing is the thing.

Movies are like assholes, and for the most part, they are made by assholes. Not the people who do the bits and pieces, real world, thankless labor parts of it. The animators at Dreamworks or Pixar, for example, are probably not assholes. They’re super talented computer geeks. And similarly, the Key Grip and the Best Boy, and the makeup artists, and the grunt writers, maybe even the Director of Photography–all of these people are not any more likely to be assholes than anyone else in a job in any other industry. They are workers who make things happen. The people who walk around telling each other about how “there’s a movie in there,” who hold “meetings” at the Bourgeois Pig or anywhere else on either Franklin or Cahuenga, or at the Farm, those are the assholes. Because either they used to be just plain old workers and, through fame and money, turned into assholes, or they were assholes to begin with, and came here from wherever–Bakersfield, Barstow, San Bernardino, whatever, and decided to try to get rich off their assholery.

Hollywood might be one of the last places where there really is a successful get rich quick scheme. People want to take that concept and transfer it to other stuff, like blogs, and that’s not how it works. Hollywood runs on beautiful young people who are as expendable as they are numerous. For a few of them, there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But they can lose it just as easily, and it has nothing to do with skill or talent, it has to do with the whims of the market.

Finding the stories isn’t the hard part. It’s finding your place in the story that’s tough. And most industries aren’t too different.

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