A re-printing of “So, What Do You Do?” (FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2007)
It’s been rather hot in Los Angeles the last couple days. On Wednesday – or was is Tuesday? – I decided to join my friend, Steve, at the local coffee shop, although I had the air conditioner on in my apartment. We sat outside drinking iced coffees as he did his crossword puzzle and I sat staring at the Scientology Building. Regardless of the heat, it was a beautiful, sunny day.
To our right, a guy named Michael sat down next to us. First off, I have met this man before and do not like him. He rubs me the wrong way and, within a matter of minutes, he had turned to us and asked, “So what do you do?”
I’m getting tired of this question, because it’s usually means someone is trying to gauge your worth. They may preface the question with “What is your name?” or “I see you here a lot. Do you live in the neighborhood?” But usually by the third or fourth question they are asking, “What do you do?”
People love to know what you are about in this city. What car you drive. What part of town you live in. What your apartment looks like. How you make your living. What you’re doing in order to make that living. They like to know where you fit in the grand scheme of Hollywood and what you can possibly do for them.
Steve told him he was an actor, but that he was also in production. And then Michael looked to me, through his sunglasses, and asked me what I do. I wanted to slide through my seat and down to the ground, which would hopefully then swallow me up. I wanted to use my backup answer, “I’m getting my Masters at UCLA in the Geopolitical Strategies of the Former USSR in relation to the US and the UK,” but I didn’t. (That usually shuts them up.)
But I mustered up enough courage to say, “I’m a writer” and Steve quickly added “A very good one.” AH! Shhhh! Not in this town! Why didn’t you say you washed dogs for a living!? But it was too late! Michael asked me what type of films I wrote and when it came out that I wrote “Independent Films,” or one might say “European Art House Films,” he sat back in his chair and with a troubled deep breathe, as if the weight of the World had just sunk on his shoulders, exclaimed, “Yeah, I can’t do that.”
Wait a minute! What? Huh? Hold the phone! Did you actually think that over a cup of coffee that somehow we would create a working relationship? HA! Did he actually think I was sitting there with my fingers crossed hoping that he would make all my troubles go away, pick me up and help me carry my little film towards the light of success?
Another lamprey moment happened to me the night after this. I went into Birds to watch the Boston-Yankees game – such pain! I’m a Boston fan – and this guy sat down next to me and, after much prodding and annoying questions by him, I told him that I was a writer and that I was doing a short film. And by the end of the night, the Idiot had asked me to be his writing partner and gave me free reign to steal his ideas. Pardonnez-moi? Простите мне? Excuse me? What!?
You might have realized here that I’m very private about what I do… And perhaps I also have a wee problem with being secure in what it is I do… I know I’m a good writer, but it’s not something I want to shout from the tippy tops of buildings or on street corners or in restaurants so some producer will take note of me… I’m not like that. I want to do this on my own. I want to be left alone. I want to be independent of what Hollywood symbolizes. I want to sail out on my little ship, with my handpicked crew of fabulous, trustworthy “sailors” and do it my way…
Oh, God help me.