Thursday, November 29, 2012

Essayons...That's All You Can Do


It was a tough lesson to learn and one that cost my friend dearly. One that I lament also, because three years of almost daily contact is about to slide into even fewer Skype encounters, texts and calls. Contact reduced largely to a friendship via Android until he gets back on his feet once more.

Yes he's able to spoil every photograph - quirky, arrogant, eloquent, intelligent, tipsy, argumentative, rude, creative, frustrating but...

He’s been in LA for almost two and a half years. The first year, dedicated to cementing relationships, getting on his feet, finding his bearings, honing his craft, writing furiously, engaging with contacts, producers, actors, mentors, and generally getting himself established; itself a full time job. This man is a fine storyteller and a very good script writer. The second year, after a visit to Australia followed by prolific production and a short period of ill health culminating in an operation, he realised that if he’s going to make it in Tinsel Town as a writer and producer, he needed to get his skates on. And a flurry of activity began.  Poetry and prose were traded for scripts, his beloved Tenth Daughter of Memory blog closed. A novel he’d written turned into an amazing feature screenplay and things were beginning to buzz. Lots of contact with old friends and new, creative like-minded souls, red carpet openings and the apparent interest of producers famous and unknown. 10 Short film scripts, negotiations with SAG actors and crew, furious networking and the seeking of mentors. By July 2012, he was buoyant. Running out of funds but frantically busy. One of which held such promise as a recognised Hollywood producer. Most of all, he was happy, positive, optimistic; everything was coming together. Our conversations were varied, he was funny, intelligent, chatty and I looked forward to racing home each evening to catch up on the events of his day. So exciting compared to the banality of mine.

Over the past three months the reality of ‘making it’ in a town full of false promises, shallow people and abject vanity began to show. The mentors weren't forthcoming, deals fell through, contracts were dubious. The slow reality of becoming known as a paid writer, gave way to mounting debt.  I watched the enthusiasm fall from his face. I saw the disappointment in his eyes, the exhaustion take its toll. There was a palpable change in his temperament from uplifted to jaded, something few of his Hollywood friends recognised despite a barage of not-so-subtle hints on Facebook. Most of all, I recognised the familiar apathy returning  as he said “I don’t care…” More often than I cared to hear it.

Finally, totally out of funds and in more debt than he can service, (most of it inherited from someone else) he’s had to pick up sticks. Two short films have been scheduled. One already shot and
in post production, the other in pre-production and ready to film on 8th December with an almost impossible completion deadline of 3rd January.
His crew and co-writer working frantically to put it together as an entry in Australian Tropfest. 

He couldn’t be leaving at a worse time. Hopefully, the global village that we are, will allow him to stay in touch via internet and phone and to help drive this project forward. It was a labour of love and I’ve seen with my own eyes, the level of effort that has had to be made to bring it this far. Jeff, is beyond exhausted. The film, "Imaginary Friend" has just reached it's minimum target, but if you're interested in seeing this dream fulfilled, feel free to lob a few bucks at the boys. I have a selfish interest in as much as the Director/Producer get to travel over for the festival if they're selected as finalists.

I love this man, because he is my dearest male friend (other than my son of course), because for three years, he’s been my constant companion on Skype, and for a while in person. I am devastated that he has to leave. Then leaving isn’t the big thing for me. Wherever he goes, he’s still on the other side of the world. The devastation comes from his inability to service his debt quickly so he’s looking at the most high risk occupations because they offer the highest and fastest returns – the fastest route to sating the appetites of voracious creditors. 

In another life, and long before I knew him, he was a soldier, a combat engineer, a paratrooper. He’s now seeking contract work detonating land mines in Afghanistan and I can’t tell you how that makes my heart bleed. Especially, since at one point this year, he was coming to visit for three weeks over Christmas. I still hold a vain hope that he might make it, given that the timeframe for this application might take a couple of months. I know in my heart it’s unlikely, very unlikely, and I fear I won’t see him for another year, or at worst, ever again except via my computer screen. The attraction of high risk jobs in warzones? Tax free income, food and board and a quick ass way to reduce debt, for those who have the right skills.

On Thursday, he heads home to sort his affairs. Drop off his gear, go through the motions of becoming suitable for such work and worst of all, finding homes for his beloved animals. I know how much that’s going to hurt. I’ve seen it before when he  had to leave two of his dogs behind to go to LA in the first place. Even though they’re well cared for, he misses them. Misses them dearly. The job in a dangerous place isn't a given but it's his best hope getting back on his feet. Besides, what boy doesn't like to blow shit up!

Part of me wants to hug him, braid his hair and tell him it will be alright. Part of me wants to berate him for not getting part-time work while he was in Hollywood. Part of me wants to slap him and tell him not to put his life at risk, and part of me knows that he needs money, fast, and that a dangerous occupation is probably the only way he can do that without losing everything. Probably the only thing he’s really highly qualified to do, other than write. Part of me also knows that he has a craving for risk and adventure and mountains and travel, this way he satisfies those lusts.

I know he'll keep in touch. I know he'll message and Skype me when he can.  

So Jeff, keep your wits about you, your spirits up and know that you are loved across the pond. It'll be interesting to see how much of Tinsel Town stays true. 

Tonight he told me "...most will stay friends for a week!' 

I didn't respond but I know which ones will. Not I, my friend. I'm here for the long haul. Then with most of my evenings free....perhaps I'll join a drum circle, or start blogging.

This is not so much a lament but a warning to those who venture in to Hollywood with stars in their eyes. It has little to do with how 'good' you are, or even who you know, it's about having the financial backup to fulfill your dreams and persist. Perhaps he'll go back, perhaps it's time for a whole new start.
\
Essayons Jeffrey, things will work out fine. I know you feel bottom of the barrel right now, perhaps that's what draws us together. 

"Let us try!" That's all we can do.

On the set of his soon to be completed short film "Dog" with the 'model' who played dead dog Starbuck.



16 comments:

River said...

Quite a sad story Baino, I found myself wondering why Jeff didn't have a part time job to help with his costs, anything is better than getting in so deep you have to consider a life threatening job to dig your way out again.
Still, life threatening or not, at least he now has a job.
I hope things work out well for him.

Baino said...

No job yet River, the application process is quite comprehensive but with a military background, he's a good candidate.

Janice said...

This post was sad to read, but what a dear and devoted friend you are, a gift to him. Being a good friend is a skill that, unfortunately, many people are never able to master. You've got it in spades. Clearly.

kj said...

i don't get it. dog is good and on its way. imaginary friend will be made. these are very good things. these are things that jeff has created.

why such drastic measures? why no job doing something/anything in la?

sometimes it's the person who's on his way up that has a much harder time than the person on his way down. i hope jeff does not give up on his talented self. and hells, you are one super love.

xoxo
kj

Mim said...

Ah shit.

Kath Lockett said...

"Try" is the perfect word. He's got choices to make and, even if they're the wrong ones, he must never ever feel trapped or alone. What a terrific friend you are!

Tom said...

thanks for the update...I don't talk with Jeff near as much as I'd like to - or should - but he's been a huge part of my life these past 2 years or so, and you know that better than anyone. Anyway, chin up sweets. Be talking to ya!

PattiKen said...

You know what I would say, have already said, so I won't say it. Just know I'm here.

Pam said...

Gob smacking post Helen. Wow. Don't know what to say. Hope things will be alright. It's admirable that he has the integrity to apply and train for such a drastic mission. You'd certainly need close friends to applaud your choices and voice concerns.Your loyalty and concern here is admirable also. You take care. Both of you.

California Girl said...

Sorry to read this Helen. As a native Angeleno with more than a few friends in the business, I know how awful it can be. Many of my friends enjoyed the nepotism of their show box folks but even that wasn't enough to sustain them for the long haul. It's a nasty tough town. I never aspired to the industry because it was a scary known commodity and I did not have the fortitude and thick skin required. Very few of my friends whose patents were in it have succeeded long term. It's not just talent. It's luck.

Gledwood said...

I used to see screenwriting as literary prostitution... but what the fuck it pays real good!

Gledwood said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS DARLIN'
XXX!

Jay said...

How very sad, and so demoralising for him. You try as hard as you can, pull some more trying out of the bottom of the barrel, and it still isn't enough. Tinseltown is very cruel, and I wonder what fraction of a percentage of those who break their hearts there actually make good?

I'm wishing your friend Jeff all the very best in his endeavours to clear his debt and get on his feet, and my very best that he will do so and emerge unscathed. Hugs to you, Baino.

Carolina said...

Fingers crossed for Jeff. And for you, that all will be good.

I'm wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy and peaceful New Year.

Hugs,
Carolina

Baino said...

Well he's still around. Imaginary Friend completed and Dog will be on the Festival Circuit later in the year. Thanks to the generosity of others, he's avoided the Afghan thing for now.

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