Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Worst Movie Meeting

Anyone who’s been in the business for more than eleven minutes has twelve stories of disastrous meetings. My partner, David and I have had more than our share. But our worst is worthy of an I LOVE LUCY episode.

This was a number of years ago. VOLUNTEERS and MANNEQUIN had been made. JEWEL OF THE NILE (which we rewrote – uncredited) was going into production. So for the moment we had a viable feature career.

Our agent arranged a general meeting with an executive from 20th Century Fox, Dylan Sellers. These are generally just meet and greet affairs. You want to be on their radar. It’s fairly hard to screw up these meetings. They just want to be sure you’re not too weird. So if you show up on time, are dressed nicely, and can carry on a breezy conversation for a half hour without revealing that you collect tonsils or God talks to you through hidden messages delivered by Mr. Rogers you’re pretty much in.   Often they have a project in mind and if you don't scare them they offer you the assignment. 

Our meeting was set for the end of the day, around 5:30. At the time, we had an office on the Paramount lot in Hollywood and drove across town to 20th. Traffic was bad (duh) and we just arrived on time. Punctuality is important with these meetings. It gives the studio executive an idea of how responsible you are. If you can’t show up on time for a meeting, how can they count on you to turn in the first draft when you promise?

David was driving. I opened the passenger’s door, climbed out of the car, and the seat of my pants ripped right up the butt crack. We’ll dispense with the fat jokes for now because I had a much bigger problem. How was I going to take a meeting with my underwear hanging out?

There was no time to postpone the meeting. I lived way too far to race home and change. We decided to just take our chances. I know. This is like right out of THREE’S COMPANY.

We walked into Mr. Sellers’ outer office with David right behind me. We tried to look nonchalant but I’m sure in some states we were close enough for sodomy charges. The assistant told us Mr. Sellers would only be a couple of minutes and take a seat. We sat on the couch. I tried to grab a copy of Variety that was on the coffee table and as I leaned in I heard the rip get a little longer. I froze immediately.

A few minutes later Mr. Sellers was ready to see us. Instead of just cutting across the room to the door to his office I sort of hugged the walls. The assistant looked at me funny. We entered his office and again I walked laterally along the wall, trying to appear natural.

Dylan Sellers came around from behind his desk, shook our hands, and invited us to take a seat on the couch. Which we did. It was an overstuffed couch, the kind you really disappear into.

He sat in a chair across from us and the meeting began. I sat there with a big smile plastered to my face. Fortunately, David did most of the talking. I just nodded like a bobblehead. I don’t think I heard a thing Mr. Sellers was saying. All I could think was, “How the fuck am I going to get out of this giant couch?”

At one point, the conversation turned to cars. Mr. Sellers was very proud of the new one he had just purchased. It was parked right outside and he invited us to come to the window to have a look.

Shit!

I struggled to my feet, felt a little more rip. Pretty soon the pants were going to just fall off. That would make a great impression. I casually hugged the walls, moving towards the window. David hopped in right behind me so that when Mr. Sellers was behind him he (hopefully) couldn’t see my now-officially fat ass.

It was back to the couch. Was he starting to sense something was weird? Most people turn and walk to a couch. They don’t backpedal.

More charming chit-chat for about fifteen minutes and that was it. Again, I had to hoist myself out of couchzilla. The ripping sound could have been mistaken for a fart but that’s hardly better. We shook hands, said goodbye, I hugged the wall all the way out the room then bolted.

Our agent followed up with him the next day. He said the meeting went well. He liked us but thought we were a little reserved. Worried that our sensibilities were a little too sophisticated for the project he had in mind. It was a very broad comedy. Lots of slapstick. Humiliating situations. That just didn’t seem like us.

Talk about taking one in the shorts.

18 comments:

lucidkim said...

hilarious!! tears rolling down my face - great story

VP81955 said...

Ken, one of these days you'll have to adapt that incident into one of your scripts; it screams for such Laurel & Hardy treatment.

Kathy said...

this is a great story. But I'm wondering, when do you just admit you're human and say, "My pants ripped and I'm trying not to let you see"? Would that be better or worse? Seems to me a great ice-breaker. Then again, I've never been face-to-face with one of these honchos.

Weston said...

That is an amazing story and one worthy of a full blown Three's Company episode.I'm going to place a link to your blog on my blog. Thanks for the great articles. Love the one about broadcasting for the Mariners last game of the season. Keep it up.

RCP said...

I'm in "stitches"!

Great story, Ken.

Anonymous said...

Not sure which is more embarrassing -- the ripped pants or taking credit for a rewrite of Jewel of the Nile. ;)

I have a mild version of your story -- I was in a job interview early in my career, was completely unqualified for the job at that point and so it was really a meet and greet based on a referral to chat, but they were interested in my experience so far, and they wanted me to approach them in a year or two when I finished my then assignment. Not fluffy, "call me later", but making sure I had their contact info and would contact them in 12 months, etc.

Then I went to get up and realized my leg was completely asleep. I realize now I should have just TOLD them, instead I did some sort of spastic weird walk down the hall and to the stairs, practically squirming the whole way with the pins and needles. Jack Tripper couldn't have done better.

Surprisingly, they weren't interested 12 months later. :)

Poly

Cap'n Bob said...

The leg falling asleep was on a Seinfeld episode. The clincher was that he'd been interviewing with a man who had an artificial leg and everyone thought he was making fun of the guy.

I discovered after getting home that the suit I'd worn to an interview had a torn seat, but it was only about a four-in rip. Your split was much better, Ken.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I had to interview Dario Argento this morning.

Thankfully, nothing weird happened during the meeting, although a restaurant did explode a few miles away.

Gotta love stories of disastrous meetings.

Janet T said...

talk about damned if you do, damned if you don't......... I'm sure it was nice to know David had your um...back.

VP81955 said...

Ken, do you know a guy named Tom Seeley? He's casting a pilot for a sitcom called "Upstate," which not only will be set in Syracuse, but filmed in Central New York. I don't know how much of a chance it has to reach a network lineup, but you never know. The Post-Standard had a story on it today:

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2011/10/casting_begins_for_upstate_a_p.html

wv: "osprity" -- the level of ability of a human to mimic actions of an osprey.

DanTedson said...

"No, no, the meeting went well. But we're looking for someone who converses with the Son of Man and collects tonsils."

Tom Quigley said...

Too bad you couldn't have come up with a line like "Uh... I was just brainstorming for a new childrens' cartoon series I'm developing, SPONGEBOB TEARPANTS"...

Mark Murphy said...

Ken:

I thought that you, as a former Syracuse resident, might be interested in this story about plans to film a sitcom here....

http://tinyurl.com/3br9eup

I'd be interested to know your reaction.

Phillip B said...

As was the case in both "I Love Lucy" and the Nixon Administration, the humor is in the cover-up!

People actually hold sessions on incidents such as these at sales conferences, and the advice is to fess up immediately - and hope that your host will be sympathetic. Have had to use that strategy once - dropped a chocolate ice cream cone on my suit during a hot day in Dallas - and it worked, sort of...

J S Swanson said...

Accidents,schmaccidents ~~ wardrobe malfunctions are yet another good reason to wear clean undies ....

Powerhouse Salter said...

Judy Garland reportedly would start live concerts by asking if someone could loan her a safety pin to adjust the hem of her dress. It was a prompt for audiences to empathize and relax their expectations.

HogsAteMySister said...

What Kathy said.

What do you reckon?

Brian said...

Ken - at least you were wearing underware (I'm glad you mentioned it). I have heard of pants tearning without it.