The Ugly Truth…

For the past twenty five years I have been obsessed with the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots. A lot of people have tried getting a story about these pioneering women made into a film or TV series; Kathleen Kennedy, Stacey Sherr, Bo Derek, Michael Sugar. A script I wrote about the WASP, LUCKY 13, has been through at least a hundred drafts and at least as many screenwriting competitions as more information about the story and the remarkable girls who trained at the only all female airbase in American history became available.

Along the way, I began to collect WASP memorabilia. It’s harder than hell to find anything original because less than 1100 WASP made it through the program. I have two pairs of wings, an original Fifinella pin, original badges, some paper dolls and a zoot suit.

Three years ago, I found a treasure trove of handwritten letters on ebay written by a WASP, some on WASP stationary, and spent a small fortune buying the letters with the help of an incredibly generous friend. And then, I spent months putting them together in chronological order.

The story that unfolded was amazing. What was even more amazing, is that I took a novel writing class through the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA to figure out what to do with them, and on the first night of class, one of the other participants said her great aunt was a WASP.

At the break, I asked what her great aunt’s name was.

I know this sounds crazy, but her great aunt wrote the letters I’d bought on ebay.

It sent a chill through the room, and did, for weeks afterward. The coincidence was just too great for anyone to wrap their heads around.

I started researching the story in earnest, and posting what I’d learned on a blog about the letters and the people in them. I became obsessed with learning everything I could about the woman and her fiancee until my husband said to me at one point “I know you are excited about this, but can you talk about ANYTHING else? At least for a while?”

Six months later, I flew across country to meet the daughter of this WASP. We had plans to sort through her mother’s things, to match my letters with photographs,keepsakes and scrapbooks to tell the story of her mother’s life she’d never heard before and had no knowledge of.

It felt strange, telling this woman about her mother’s life as a WASP. The likelihood of buying those letters, walking into a class where a relative of the woman who wrote them just so happened to be, then meeting her daughter and finding everything this WASP ever wrote about in neat stacks on a dining room table was mind blowing.

And then it all went to hell.

The daughter’s new fiancee told her I had to go, or he was ending their engagement. He didn’t like me, and he sure as hell didn’t like the fact that I might be opening her world up when he’d managed to contain it so neatly, even to the point of cutting her off from her own daughter.

So she threw me out in the middle of the night.

I cried for weeks afterward, and I didn’t look at the letters again for years.

I got a text from the daughter out of nowhere a few months ago, demanding copies of the letters. When I told her no, she wrote back and forbade me from using anything in the letters to write about her mother. She has no right to do that. Her mother is a public figure, so in accordance with copyright laws, I can write anything about her mother that I want to.

According to those same copyright laws, she actually holds the copyright on the letters I own. I can write about her mother, but I can’t use the contents of the letters to tell her mother’s story.

And then I found out that a woman who has been trying to get a story made about the WASP almost as long as I have, found the blogs I wrote about this WASP and contacted the daughter for an interview. Now she owns the rights to a story no one would have never known anything about if it hadn’t been for me.

I am currently investigating my options with respect to protecting my research and copyright on the blogs. But in the end, my take away from this is that serendipity continues to be my guide with with respect to learning why the daughter reached out, what a backstabbing snake the woman is who is pursuing her own story about the WASP at my expense, and that everything having to do with what should have been epic and inspiring true story has destroyed something in me that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I still write about the WASP. In fact, I am halfway through yet another rewrite on the script that has been my passion for close to half my life. I am writing the script I always wanted to write, before everyone said it couldn’t be done, that no one would ever make a movie about pilots in war time who never flew in combat. This one is for me. And for all the WASPS I have grown to know and love over the past few years.

Maybe I will be the one to see my story made, and maybe I won’t. All I care about in the end is that someone celebrates the lives of these women, whether its me or not.

I only hope they do it without ripping my heart to shreds again.

The red carpet, the Cannes Film Festival and coming home to my day job.

Two weeks ago, I discovered that the short film I wrote, the one that is already remarkable for the fact that one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood, Robin Wright directed it, the crew from the Emmy award-winning House of Cards volunteered their time and resources to breathe life into it, and Sam Rockwell, Leslie Bibb, Callie Thorne, Michael Godere and Nini Le Huynh agreed to star in it, would make its red carpet debut during the 70th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.

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No matter how many times you may have rehearsed your Academy Awards acceptance speech in your pajamas, nothing prepares you for a moment like this. I spent my formative years in Hollywood, so red carpet premieres in and of themselves are not a big deal bearing in mind I’ve been the one who made sure celebrities like Michel LeGrand and Jerry Weintraub made it to the festival venue, the green room, and the after party. Michel LeGrand still owes me for the bow tie he wore to the Palm Springs Film Festival, not that anyone is asking, and Jerry Weintraub may never have found his way to the men’s room at the Palm Springs Museum of Art if it weren’t for me.

The truth is, I was on the fence about going. The ticket from Asheville to Nice was $1700, and frankly, I am at the point in my “career” where I have spent more money pursuing the dream of becoming a writer than I have actually ever made AS a writer. I’ve had exactly one paying writing assignment for low-budget indie producer, Larry Levinson, and that was years ago. But my husband knew, even if I didn’t at the time, that this was an experience I would regret not having taken part in, so he bought the ticket, and I had the panic attack.

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I haven’t gone clothes shopping in years and I needed everything. I found an evening gown on Rent The Runway, then had a panic attack about getting it back to the US before the deadline. They charge $50 a day for every day its late, not including the additional daily rental charge. So I found the dress I wanted on ebay, a floor length Badgely Mischka that might cover up the fact that I no longer have much of a waistline to speak of, a pair of spanx that ran from my neck to my thighs, and a pair of flat sparkly shoes so if I fell off them I wouldn’t have far to go.

Robin Wright and Denise Meyers

I made arrangements to stay at an Airbnb a “bus ride away” from the Croisette, bought my first set of grown up luggage, installed a global plan on my phone, and boarded a plane for Charlotte, destination, Nice, France.

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When I got to Heathrow Airport, I received a text from Nini Le Huynh; The Festival de Cannes was putting us up at the Grand Hyatt Martinez from Tuesday to Friday, so I let my Airbnb host know and headed to the Martinez, which, as it turns out, was the host hotel for the festival. Everybody stayed there; Jessica Chastain, Will Smith, Elle Fanning, Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, Pedro Aldomovar, Fan Bingbing, Victoria Abril, Sara Sampio, Monica Bellucci and Robin Wright. I had a front row seat to all the insanity, from the crowd of paparazzi and fans gathered behind barricades outside the front door, to the entrances and exits the stars made, to sitting down to breakfast with Robin like it was an every day occurrence.

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Wednesday afternoon, I got another text from Nini. We had been invited to attend the seventieth anniversary dinner for the festival in the Grand Ballroom of the Martinez. The stars sat together at a long table in the middle of the room; the other tables fanned out from there. The room was cavernous, and it was hard to hear anything, but the experience of being there was unforgettable. Especially after Robin introduced me to Harvey Weinstein, who was kind enough to engage me in conversation for a few minutes.

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The next morning, I accompanied Robin and Nini to the Variety/Kering Women in Motion interview at the Hotel Majestic where the main focus of the conversation was the upcoming season of House of Cards and Wonder Woman. When she was asked about our film, she introduced both Nini and myself to the room, then made sure to mention all the people from House of Cards who volunteered their time to work on the movie. We ended up having over 125 crew members involved in the film, not the least of which was a young editor named Alfonso Carrion, who spent hours and hours making sure the film was perfect.

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We left for the Palais at 6:15 and were delivered directly to the red carpet. Two lines of people with invitations to the opening night film feed into the red carpet from either side, and risers packed with reporters in tuxedos line either side of the red carpet. Behind us, more reporters on step ladders, to get the best possible vantage point, and more security than you could shake a stick at.

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Robin was announced, and all four of us (Robin, Nini, Alfonso and myself) stepped onto the red carpet. Everyone started screaming her name. We made three stops on the red carpet, since its not very long, and there are reporters on both sides. We turned to face one set of photographers, then on a signal from a man in a tuxedo on the carpet itself, we turned and faced the other set of photographers. We repeated that move two additional times, them made our way up the steps of the Palais where we were greeted by Thierry Fremaux, the head of the festival, who ushered us upstairs to a private cocktail lounge where we drank champagne and waited for the film to begin.

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A short time later, we took our seats in the Salle Bunuel Theater where Thierry introduced each of us before inviting Robin on stage to talk about the film. She was so complimentary about the film and gave Nini, Alfonso and I credit for the roles we played in making the film possible.

And then it was showtime.

Leslie Bibb and Michael Godere

The film looked marvelous on-screen. People reacted the way we had hoped they would in all the right places, and when the final scene cut to black, the woman beside me, an agent from CAA, said to herself,  “God that was GREAT’.

Sam Rockwell as Officer Witt

We went to dinner afterward, just the six of us at a little seaside restaurant. It was lovely, just sitting around a table, watching the sunset over the ocean and sharing a bottle of wine. It was definitely a night for the record book.

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I am back in North Carolina now, back to my day job, trying to make sense of the events of the past week, and how to move forward. The film was accepted into the Palm Springs Short Film Festival in June, which is an Academy qualifying film festival with a short film market (the only one of its kind in the nation). I’ve been invited to an event hosted by the Athena Film Festival, who arranged pitch meetings for Athena List winners with Amazon  as well, and hope to set up some meetings with agents and managers while I am there.

In the meantime, I am working with a TV producer for a series based on the short film, and a new project about an award-winning screenwriter who returns from a red carpet event and goes back to work fixing toilets and refrigerators in the RV repair business she owns with her husband.  Because there’s nothing like hearing the sound of God’s laughter after telling him your plans.

How My Short Film Made it to the Cannes Film Festival

The Dark of NightI found out four days ago that the short film I wrote, THE DARK OF NIGHT (directed by Robin Wright and starring Leslie Bibb, Sam Rockwell, Callie Thorne, Michael Godere and Nini Le Huynh) will be opening the Cannes Classics film block on the seventieth anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. We premiere on May 18, just prior to the digitally restored version of “All That Jazz”, which won the Palme d’Or in 1980, and the director of the festival, Thierry Fremaux will introduce us.

How in the hell do you wrap your head around that? How do you buy a dress, and some shoes, iron clothes you haven’t worn in years, pack a bag (you just bought by the way, because the last time you went to Europe, you wore a backpack and stayed in youth hostels), then fly off to Cannes to spend two days with the woman who directed your film, a woman who is still one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood, a woman you have admired since the first time you saw her on screen, and act like its all no big deal?

I’ll tell you how.

You launch yourself at this adventure like you have nothing to lose, because at the end of the day, you don’t. And how many times in my life am I ever going to get to say I had this kind of experience? I am 57 years old and I work hard. Harder than most people I have ever meet in my life. I don’t give up and I don’t take no for an answer. I didn’t get here by myself, but I sure as hell didn’t wait around for someone to hand it to me either.

And now here I am, on the precipice of an adventure most people can only dream of. 80 people from the TV series, House of Cards, volunteered their time, their resources and their shared love of film to breath life into THE DARK OF NIGHT. I can’t believe that a goal I set for myself when I was fresh out of college turned into a ten minute film with this kind of pedigree. The director of photography, Dave Dunlap,the costume designer, Jessica Wenger McPhail, the editor, Alphonso Carrion, the set decorators, the sound guys, the stand ins, the production assistants, the first AD (Todd Halvern), the UPM (Sharif Salama), and the caterers – everything about this production was beyond anything I could have ever comprehended.

And what’s crazy is that every single person who worked on this film took the time to thank me, and the man who really made it happen, Michael Witt (an executive producer on the film as well), for the chance to work on this movie. I feel like I didn’t do anything, that I wrote as few words on a page, and a bunch of really talented people swooped in and made MY dream a reality.

I owe every one of them a debt of gratitude. Movies are a collaborative medium and too often you hear horror stories about prima donas on a film set, but the crew from House of Cards, the amazing cast and most of all, Nini Le Huynh and Robin Wright, turned the dream I’d waited so long for, into the most remarkable experience of my life.

And now I get to take in the spectacle that is Cannes. The funny thing is? I feel like I was born for this moment. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Women’s History Month and the Myth of the Female Writer

arrayI was inspired by a campaign launched this month by director Ava du Vernay regarding Women’s History Month and #ArrayToday, #ArrayNow and @ArrayToday and @ArrayNow to share my thoughts on how the history of the accomplishments of women have impacted my life and “career” as a female screenwriter.

I grew up in a family that felt marriage and motherhood were what every young woman should aspire to.   I didn’t know that women could be race car drivers, pilots, firefighters, doctors, or inventors.  I didn’t know that a woman in her fifties became one of the most respected criminologists of all time during the 1930’s, or that a black woman born and raised in the South moved to Paris to become a  pilot in the 1920’s.  I didn’t know about the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or the only known female stagecoach robber in American history, or the all girl bands in World War Two.  I didn’t know about Elizabeth Blackwell,  Hedy Lamar, Bessie Stringfield,  Jackie Cochran or countless other women  who forged a path through a male dominated world because they wanted the chance to live the life they chose.  Not the one they were expected to live because they were girls.

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For the past thirty years, I have researched and written about the lives of remarkable women because I persist in believing that if young women today knew about the accomplishments of the women before them, they would start their lives with the same building blocks men take for granted.  Instead of being asked “Who are you wearing”, they should be asked, “What mountain have you climbed lately, what new app are you developing,” or “When is your new movie going to be out?”

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When people say there aren’t enough female writers or enough good roles for women. I want to cry.  Actually, sometimes I do.  I’ve been told the reason I still don’t have an agent or manager, why I have never sold a script, or why I haven’t been a writer for hire, is because I write about women.    Yet, in the past three years, I have been selected as an Athena List winner AND Finalist (in the same year), I won the screenwriting competition for the Atlanta Film Festival (2017), I was a finalist in both the Nashville Film Festival (2016) and Diverse Voices (2016), I placed ninth in the Emerging Screenwriters Contest (2016), was a semi-finalist for the American Zoetrope contest (2015), have placed in the top fifteen percent of the Nicholl Fellowships twice, won the Grand Prize (Shorts) for Table Read My Screenplay Austin (2015), was a Second Rounder for the Austin Film Festival (2015) and am currently a finalist for the Female Initiative sponsored by Seriesfest and Rose McGowan.

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The last Table Read My Screenplay winner was nominated for an Academy Award and is now directing his first film.

I still work in the RV business to put food on the table.

I hate the fact that its 2017 and we are still trying to convince Hollywood that we are here and we are not going away.    I am not going to stop writing about amazing women.  And  continue to hope that someday, when someone says, there are so many great women writers out there with such fascinating stories to tell, one of those female writers they will be talking about, is me.

So here’s an idea, Hollywood. Stop talking about the problem and start hiring women.  You can start right here.

 

 

You’re No One in Hollywood…

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.   brillstein

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.

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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”.

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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.

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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…..

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Waiting

clockPatience 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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But in the meantime, I wait.

And I really hate waiting.

Don’t Tell Me No. Seriously. Just Don’t Do It.

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I started my film career in 1983, a few months after graduating from college.  I knew exactly two people: a woman I had met through the mail who worked for Michael Douglas, and, coincidentally enough, his brother Joel, who was the unit production manager on “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”.  I met Joel when I was 15.   We were reading “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” in my psychology class in high school, so I decided to call the production office one day and ask if anyone would mind speaking to us about the film.  Joel Douglas showed up a few days later, and after class, invited me to visit the set any time.

They were filming at the Oregon Mental Hospital where the severely deranged were housed on the third floor.  The first two floors were no longer in use.  I showed up day after day to watch filming, until one afternoon, Joel tried to have sex with me in his office on a pile of coats in one corner of the room.  It makes for a funny story now, that my first real kiss was in an insane asylum, but the truth is, I was fifteen, and I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to “show my appreciation” on floor of his office.  I even sent HIM a card to apologize for refusing him, and never went back to the set again.

I was 23 when I got a job with Judy Scott-Fox, a literary agent, at the William Morris Agency. I honestly thought I could get to the top through hard work and determination, but Hollywood isn’t built that way. I was not and never have been the “fuck my way to the top” kind of girl , and besides, I was living with another assistant at the agency so I was “off the market” anyhow.  Even if I had entertained the idea of becoming an agent trainee at the time, the men who ran the agency thought it was “cute” that girls wanted to do jobs that were clearly meant for the sons of their friends.  Some women did become agents of course, but most became “D” girls (development girls) and that was the end of that.

I started writing screenplays as a way to get ahead, but I wrote about women, and no one wanted to take me on as a client.  Actresses, back then, were easier to get to, and I had enough contacts in the industry at the time to get my work in front of Demi Moore,  Molly Ringwald and Meg Ryan, but I also wrote a lot of ensemble pieces, and actresses (back then, anyway for the most part) didn’t want to share the screen with another woman.

After 12 years in “the film business” I shifted gears and became an artist.  My medium of choice were gourds, and I was told right off the bat that I clearly had talent as an artist, “but why on EARTH gourds?”  I’m sure the feeling was that I went out of my way to pick the hardest thing in the world to do, but I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing. I had myself to answer to at the end of the day, and that was what mattered to me. It made for some rough years and more than my share of self doubt AND self abuse along the way, but telling me no is a surefire way to get me to do what people feel can’t be done.

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I became the top selling gourd artist in the nation within the first five years, and eventually sold a single piece of gourd art for $22,500.  My work was in books and magazines, on TV and in museums, and when the economy started to turn, I switched gears to become a wildlife artist and then a handbag designer.  I auditioned for “Project Accessory”, and even though I didn’t make it through the first interview, let alone the first round, I went on to sell my one of a kind handbags for up to $2500.

lucypurse

Then the economy bottomed out, and I took every job I could get my hands on just to survive.  The dream of a career in film was further away than ever, and my passion for art all but died along the way.

I went back to writing screenplays without much hope it would ever amount to much.  By then I was “too old”, I lived in a fly over state, my “connections” in the film industry ran things now, but I couldn’t get a single person on the phone.  And then, I won an eight week screenwriting scholarship at the New York Film Academy, and even though I was the oldest person in class by a long shot, I finally felt as though I had matured enough as a writer and a person to be able to write the way I always wanted to.

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I still wrote scripts about women, but I did it with conviction.  I also “grew a set” and backed away from a shopping agreement with a huge producer because he wasn’t that interested in the script I’d sent him, and his director of development didn’t have any real power to make it happen.  I recently told the head of a motion picture literary department who has been stringing me along for months and who made it clear he would never promote my passion project even if he did sign me as a client because he has a “competing project” of his own, that I was going to look elsewhere for representation.  And then, I got a movie made thanks to Nini Le Huynh and Robin Wright.

I am not where I want to be yet professionally. Not by a long shot.   I work a 60 hour week at another business and write when I can, sometimes on the way to and from my job, or late at night when the house is quiet.  I don’t have an agent, or a manager, but I’ll be goddamned if anyone is going to tell me I can’t do something.

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This is my life.  And I am going to lead it the way that I please.  So go ahead and tell me no. Because proving people wrong is what I do.