Patience was never my forte. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll spend months working on a project to make sure every aspect of it is right, whether it’s a piece of art, or the first act of a new screenplay. The last screenplay I wrote was part of a thirty-day challenge. The goal was to write three pages a day. I did, without ever going back once to look at what I’d written. I spent the next few months writing and rewriting and writing and rewriting the first thirty pages until I wanted to scream. This true story culminates in one of the worst mass murders in American history, but it starts as a love story, and every note had to be just right. Once I was finished, I sent it to the producers, who came back two weeks later with notes. I spent the entire weekend in front of my computer to get the new draft out immediately. I am nothing if not a true Type A personality.
Then, I waited.
The entire film business is about waiting.
You wait for someone to return your emails, phone calls or texts, you wait for someone to read your script, you wait for the “no” that never comes (because no one in Hollywood wants to be the one that told you no if your project becomes the next Star Wars), you wait for the results of a screenwriting contest, if you win a screenwriting contest, you wait for agents to contact you, and if you have a produced film, even a short one, and you reach out to agents armed with evidence that other people believe in you enough to make your script a reality, you wait for them to decide if your project has merit over the thousands of other emails, and phone calls and contest winners who are also waiting.
Not long ago, I saw a photograph taken in an agent’s office of scripts stacked on top of one another from the floor to the ceiling in row, after row, after row that filled an entire wall. They were deemed scripts worth reading, if the agent in question lived to be at least two million years old I suppose. Agencies and production companies used to hire readers to shift through stacks of screenplays in search of a gem or two, but now overworked assistants, unpaid interns and mail room staff read scripts when they aren’t writing their own in the hopes of advancing their own careers.
So I wait.
I hate waiting.
You want to know what I hate worse than that? The fact that waiting means working a nine to five job that would take the stuffing out of people half my age. My husband and I have an RV repair business. I am 57 and he is 63. In Hollywood years that makes me a fossil. Which doesn’t exactly help with the waiting part. My expiration date, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned, was over twenty years ago. I do my best to keep that tidbit from folks, because if waiting is hard, being discounted as a writer based purely on my age would be devastating. So I lift air conditioners that weigh almost as much as I do over my head onto a scaffold (then climb onto the scaffold to lift the air conditioners over my head onto the top of a coach), I help take refrigerators that DO weigh more than I do out of their cabinets to work with my husband on replacing failed cooling units, I submit warranty claims, schedule appointments, help replace toilets, and go in and out of and up and down the stairs of RV’s bringing my husband tools in sometimes brutal temperatures while people tell you how to do the repairs they have hired us to complete because they read about them on the internet.
Whoever said “if you want to hear the sounds of God’s laughter, tell him your plans” got that one right.
I came back from the high of working on a film in Baltimore with Robin Wright, Leslie Bibb and Sam Rockwell, and you know what happened? I found myself laying on my back under a fifth wheel trailer on the concrete in a pool of cold soapy water, holding a sewer pipe and my nose so my husband, who has no business spending what should have been his retirement years crawling around an RV on his hands and knees, worked to replace a black water valve. A black water valve, for those of you who don’t know, is the valve you pull to empty the contents of your toilet into the sewer. In order to replace the black water valve, you have to disconnect it, and put a bucket under the two parts of the pipe to catch whatever might be left in the tank that collects the contents of the toilet.
The man who owned the RV, and who is probably my husband’s age, stood over me in a pair of khaki shorts, and said, “your husband tells me you are a screenwriter”. “Yes I am” I told him, and hoped a fissure in the concrete would open up just enough so I could disappear into it.
People keep telling me to slow down, that my time is coming, that “these things take time”. They are right, of course.
But I have been waiting since I was 23.
Maybe my time will come, and maybe it won’t. For the first time ever I feel like I am in the right place in order for the right time to become a reality. A Timeline video on African-American motorcycle legend, Bessie Stringfield, appeared on Facebook a few weeks ago and has over 15,000,000 views, 300,000 shares and 3000 comments about why a film hasn’t been made on her life. I wrote a script about Bessie Stringfield two years ago when no one had ever heard of her, and everyone told me no one would EVER be interested in this woman, and now Hidden Figures has just outpaced a Star Wars movie for first place at the box office several weeks running. Another script I just finished could be on its way to Brad Pitt or Leonardo diCaprio before long.
But in the meantime, I wait.
And I really hate waiting.