So many parties, plenty of time.

I went to no less than four holiday parties last week, and two festive holiday dinners. I am quite pleased to report this, as last year I was invited to exactly zero holiday get-togethers of any kind. I’m filled with happiness to know in a year in Los Angeles I’ve made that many friends.

Highlights of the holiday festivities include:

–The holiday pub quiz at the Treehouse, the Burbank home of my friend Tedd and his equally funny/smart friends. The quiz included categories in basic knowledge of Christianity, holiday movies, and name that holiday song. Jared and I scored a 5 out of 25, but I swear it’s because of the distracting video on repeat of a guy dressed in sexy santa garb licking a candy cane. I’ll try to find the link and post it here. We took Petey (the dog) to the party and he was a big hit in his little Santa hat.

–Chatting with Eric and Stephen and Michelle at the UTA trainee party, at which I met not a single person who actually worked at UTA.

–Dinner with Berliner friends Lisa and Michael, who are the most interesting artistic funny cool friends ever. In L.A., I feel like you have to pursue friendships like you do dating, and I’m glad I kept after Lisa until we were going steady. 🙂

–Tea and cookies with my Uncle Jimmy and his friend/partner Marcus. They embody the true spirit of Christmas. They don’t have much, but they gave us a bag full of presents–a lot of little things, including an awesome coaster set of wooden cat faces from the thrift store, which Jimmy spruced up and added new felt pads to. Marcus made us little origami models of their miniature schnauzer, Maggie, and we also got matching light-up Santa hats! Their love and thoughtfulness was in every gift, and we ended the evening with a little mary-jane. Truly a great holiday get-together!

Now gearing up to head home to Reno/Tahoe/Gardnerville for Christmas, where there is tons of snow, should be good for a head change. Have to admit I’ve been taking time off from my various projects. Trying to spend the end of the year reflecting on all I accomplished, and get ready for revise mode next year. I’ve got a screenplay, novel, and short film to shape and sculpt and whip into shape, all in their second or third drafts. At least my brain will be in the same mode of editing rather than drafting. Just got back from showing the second rough cut of the short to the brothers Cox, my buddies from Animus who are going to compose an original score for the film. It’s always intimidating showing your work to people when it’s not in a polished form, and two of their friends who go to UC Santa Cruz and USC film school where there, but revising isn’t for sissies so I swallowed my nervous tendency to talk too much and just let it roll. Jim Beam on the rocks helped.

Dispatches from the homeland coming soon.

 

Recently met: Sofia Coppola, Halle Berry, Helen Mirren

Now that’s a braggy title if ever I’ve seen one!

But it’s true! The holiday season in Los Angeles is alive with parties and events where mere mortals (such as me) can rub elbows with the goddesses of cinema. Especially now that Write a Novel in a Month is over and I once again have a life.

The only problem is I seem to have developed something I’ve coined “Reno Tourettes.” This happens when I’m in a particularly swanky situation and I feel out of place. Even though one of my personal mottos is “Fake it til you make it,” sometimes my country roots get the best of me and I can’t help but point out how new I am to all of this Hollywood stuff.

I do this in the form of spouting nonsensical facts about Reno. I suppose I’m trying to be funny, but I kinda just sound lame.

Like the time Beth and I ran into Shannyn Sossamon at a coffee shop in Silverlake. This was exciting because 1) Shannyn Sossamon is super hot, and 2) She grew up in Reno, so she’s proof it’s possible. Beth and her have a mutual friend, so Beth struck up a natural, nice conversation with her. I stood there with a frozen smile, arms stiff at my side, trying to think of something clever to say. They wrapped up their little chat, then I blurted out: “Do you miss Reno?” She looked at me like I was Beth’s mentally challenged friend out of the institution for an afternoon visit, then said in a flat tone: “Uh, no.”

Reno Tourettes struck again a few weeks ago, during my first visit to the illustrious Chateau Marmont. I was having a late dinner with Jen Birn, my new friend from NaNo class who’s one of the coolest chicks I’ve met out here. She used to be the editor of OK! Magazine, and she’s really awesome, so in turn her friends have cool jobs and are awesome too. And there I was, unable to stop pointing out how Reno I am. “Where I’m from, the drinks are way cheaper.” “Where I’m from, the only people who live in hotels are prostitutes and crack heads.” Etc., etc. I was really broke that night (Erin, be honest, you’re always broke), so to finish my Reno Tourettes with a bang, when one of Jen’s friend left behind a half-eaten plate of paella, I made sure no one was looking, then I dug right in. And then I drank the remnants of his martini. Classy.

I know why I do this. It’s the zit effect. I feel like it must be so obvious I’m new to this whole kit and caboodle that I should point it out first, like when you point out a pimple on your chin even though nobody probably noticed it in the first place. But I’m getting better! I force myself to think about what I’m about to say, and I’ve made a 70/30 rule. I permit 70% of what occurs to me to say to come out of my mouth, and a general 30% is not allowed.

I put this into practice last week when Beth and I went to a screening of “Somewhere,” the new Sofia Coppola film, which happens to be about an actor who lives at the Chateau Marmont. So you’d think I’d have something relevant to say! After the screening, Beth marched right up to Sofia Coppola (she’s so good about introducing herself!) to tell her how much she enjoyed the film.

I stood there, making an effort not to be slack-jawed. Trying to burst out of my mouth was something along the lines of “I liked when Stephen Dorff had the strippers in his room…because I’m from Reno…where we have strip clubs.” But I applied the 70/30 rule and it was Reno Tourettes be gone! Instead I shook her hand and said simply, “Great movie.”

As of this morning, I think I might have banished Reno Tourettes for good. Jen Birn asked me to be her guest at the annual Top 100 Women in Entertainment gala, where Halle Berry was presenting Helen Mirren with an award, Katie Couric to speak as well. Um, yes! I sat through the whole glorious morning without so much as an overly self-deprecating peep. Halle Berry was exceedingly charming, and Helen Mirren brought down the house when she said “Hollywood still worships at the altar of the 18-25 year old male penis. I’ve seen it. And it’s small.” Amazing!

I suppose if one had to have tourettes, Reno Tourettes aren’t all that bad. In a way, I like my little disorder. It’s like my subconscious is reminding me where I come from, so I don’t let all this go to my head. Heading to an industry thing at Voyeur tonight, we’ll see if I can keep my R.T. under control.


A trifecta of cool Los Angeles things

1) I started receiving the Sunday LA Times! I feel smart. I feel very grownup. I feel like the newspaper can’t be a dying medium because it’s sooooo cool. I even like getting the ink on my fingers. I’ve been known to press my whole face into the newspaper folds upon opening. Can’t get enough of that scent!

2) Point Break Live! Went and saw this last night, a complete reenactment of the wonderfully cheesy movie “Point Break.” They pick someone out of the audience to play Keanu’s role, and the cast throws water and fake blood and all manner of gross things out into the audience, but don’t worry, they sell ponchos. Very fun! http://www.pointbreaklive.com

3) Business of Being a Screenwriter! This was a class I went to on Saturday at UCLA. It was fun and interesting, we got to practice our pitches, and the best thing was the guest speakers, including Dan Jinks, one of the producers of “American Beauty,” one of the best screenplays and movies of all time, in my opinion. I asked a question of Sir Jinks, and managed to slip my pitch in there. All in good time.

Also:

  • The Farmer’s Market at The Grove. Golden Crisp apples!
  • I found a free parking space that works 9 times out of 10. But I’m not telling.
  • Went to Voyeur last night, it’s still alive and kicking and very, very sexy cool.
  • The beach in November! Freezing cold water, but worth it. Also Cha Cha Chicken and the guava cheesecake. Yumsworth.
  • Boo: Chairman Meow ate my phone charger.

The art of the Hollywood “pitch.”

Went to a seminar on Sunday at UCLA Extension about the art of the Hollywood “pitch”…yet another fascinating aspect of this business. Jill Gilbert, one of the panelists, talked about how pitching is all about making an emotional connection with your audience, that’s what they’ll remember.

And it’s true. Think about when you meet someone new, and you have a strong reaction to them, positive or negative. A few days later, you won’t necessarily be able to remember exactly what you talked about, but you’ll remember how they made you feel. So in a pitch, although you’re trying to relay your screenplay idea, sell yourself and your abilities, all while be charming and personable, the most important thing is the impression you leave on them.

During the seminar, I realized I have TONS of pitching experience. YEARS, actually. And it all comes down to pageants. Training for the interview portion of the pageant, which we would do for months and months leading up to the big day, was the most intense public speaking practice imaginable. We had 12 minutes to impress the judges with our composure and smarts. They’d throw questions at us ranging from “What’s your opinion on stem cell research?” to “Who is the head of the Federal Reserve?” to “How would you decorate a Mardi Gras mask?.” We learned it wasn’t so much what we said but how we said it…we were entitled to our opinions so long as we could stand behind them. Much like the Hollywood pitch. If you believe in your story, the movers and shakers that can get it on-screen will too.

I gotta say, my whole job with Wild Animus is one giant pitch as well. Hundreds of pitches an hour, day after day, lots of rejection peppered with just enough validation to want to go on. “Free book? Free art?” we say to the students. Many of them ignore us. Many say no without even hearing what we’re offering. But then, every third to fifth person, will stop and say, “What? It’s free? What’s it about?” And then we launch into our “pitch,” trying to get it all out in one breath as they walk quickly by: It’s-an-experimental-art-for-art’s-sake-project-completely-free-no-catch-it’s-an-adventure-story-about-the-search-for-self….or whatever order it all comes out. And if we can get our message across, make an emotional connection with them, 99% of the time they take the book.

I learned the finer details of pitching at the seminar, and then realized I practice pitching every day.