Show business legend, Bernie Brillstein titled his autobiography, “Where Did I Go Right: You’re No One In Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead”. I am beginning to chart the level of progress in this business based on those sage words, since it seems I am doing a fine job of pissing people off lately.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not doing it on purpose. I am just not giving them what they want, which makes me the bad guy, and I am okay with that. It means I am growing a backbone when it comes to standing up for myself, something I never would have done when I was younger. It was something I DIDN’T do when I was younger. If I had, my career might have had a different outcome all those years ago. Of course, I might not have learned the lessons I needed to if I came equipped with a spine of steel, and the one great advantage of getting older is recognizing that if things don’t work out the way you want them to, the world will not come to an end.
Hollywood is a small community and operates more than you might imagine on cooperation and people who are easy to work with. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, this is an industry of people who work together to achieve their goals. Having said that, it is also a place where opportunities to advance are limited, and there are only so many big breaks to go around. People can be vindictive, petty, and vengeful, and in the past year I have had more than my fair share of run-ins with folks who wanted something I had and when they didn’t get it….well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
So I must be doing something right.
A few days ago I learned the screenplay I wrote about the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, called LUCKY 13, was chosen as one of three winners of the Atlanta Film Festival competition. Lucky 13 is based on the amazing true story about the young women who were recruited by famed aviatrix, Jackie Cochran, to replace male ferry pilots in the United States so desperately needed combat pilots could battle the air wars in Europe and the Pacific. She established the only all female airbase in American history in Sweetwater, Texas, and for two years trained women pilots the Army Air Force way. Thirteen women were hand selected to attend B26 Marauder school in Dodge City, Kansas as sacrificial lambs. The B26 Marauder was the only airplane during World War Two to go directly from blueprints to production. With the modifications the Army made, the plane quickly became known as the Widowmaker. Because the B26 was central to the push on Monte Cassino in advance of the Normandy invasion, the military needed to find out how to get the plane airborne without killing pilots, or scrap the D-Day advance entirely. The girls learned to fly the planes, taught male pilots (who quit when they found out they were going to have to train with “girls”) and their reward? Congress disbanded the WASP in favor of male civilian pilots hoping to avoid the draft, because “girls can’t fly”.
RIDE THE WIND; The Bessie Stringfield Story, is based on the life of African American motorcycle legend, Bessie Stringfield, who was the first woman to ride a motorcycle cross country, the only woman to serve as a motorcycle dispatch rider in World War Two, and who was celebrated in a “Heroes of Harley” exhibit shortly before her death. A Timeline video on Bessie’s life was published in December 2016, and has received 16,000,000 hits, 300,000 shares and 5,000 comments regarding why a movie about Bessie’s life hasn’t been made yet. The script is currently in submission to an A list actress, and with the outstanding (and not at all surprising) success of HIDDEN FIGURES, this is clearly a story whose time has come.
I was also interviewed recently for a podcast with the amazing Laura Powers that says even more about why I am inspired to write about women, and I found out yesterday that a TV pilot I wrote about the all girl bands in World War Two was selected for inclusion in the Scriptapalooza TV writing competition, with 12 winners to be announced tomorrow in four categories. I am currently re-writing the script for submission to the HBO Access program, which is open for four days at the beginning of March.
I am often told I am tenacious in the pursuit of what I want. The actress who is reading the script about Bessie Stringfield is the actress I wrote the part for, and three years ago, when this project first launched, everyone told me I would never get anywhere near her. She may not agree to do the film, but I kept at it until I got it in front of her (with a LOT of help, I might add). Another project I just finished is on its way to another major league actor (again with a lot of help), and no one seems to understand how I am doing this from an RV park in Florida, and a house in Mars Hill, North Carolina, with no agent or manager, and I think its because I finally know myself and how to protect the only real asset I have; myself.
So I’d like to think Bernie Brillstein would be proud of me. It turns out, pissing people off isn’t the worst thing in the world. And I am a natural…..