April 10th, 2009


Notes from the Front Lines: You Are Not a Special Little Flower

Here's another one for you.

Even in this age of instantaneous electronic mail, once in a while we still get people cold calling the office to pitch projects. It's our own fault for having a public phone number. Most of the people who call turn out to be loonies, like the guy who claimed to have made all the costumes for Saturday Night Fever before becoming a government assassin for the past thirty years, or the guy who demanded we sign him as client before he would show us his screenplays. These two, by the way, are authors who have called the office more than once. In fact, they've called numerous times, each time acting as if they haven't called already. Seriously, folks, not only would you be surprised by how many people think they can write books and movies, you'd be surprised by how many of them are completely off their rockers. It's not without reason that I say all writers are crazy, it's just that some show it more overtly than others.

So a couple of months ago an author calls up. I was unlucky enough to answer the phone. She wasn't one of the crazies, not exactly, at least not in the same way as the Saturday Night Fever government assassin. She sounded middle-aged to me, and über-enthusiastic. She said she was working on some real cutting edge stuff.

"That sounds great," I said. "Can you send us a query letter detailing what you're doing?"

"Just go to my website," she replied. "You can see everything there."

"I'm sorry," I said. "We don't really have time to take cold looks at author websites." Not a lie, by the way. Also, we try not to stay on the phone with non-client authors very long, since we're so damn busy. Of course, they love to keep us on the phone for as long as they can, not picking up on any of the verbal cues that in polite society mean "this phone call is over," because they think they're making friends in the industry. After explaining to this author that we don't just go to websites that people call up and tell us about, I continued, "Can you send me a query all about what you're doing? Be sure to include that website address for us."

"Can't you just look at my website now?"

"No, I'm sorry. Can you send--"

"What's the matter, you don't have a computer?" the author asked, presumably unaware that she was coming off as an asshole. Or maybe just not caring.

"No, it's that I don't have the time. Please send us--"

"Just look at my website. It'll only take a second," she insisted.

I think I sighed audibly. She could probably hear my eyes rolling too. "That's not how we do things. Please send us a query with all the pertinent information."

Eventually this circuitous conversation came to an end. She's lucky I didn't hang up on her or give her a fake email address to send the query to. Anyway, this was months ago and her query still hasn't arrived. She wanted me to break the rules for her and do as she said, and because I didn't she moved on. It's just as well. But the truth is, if you're trying to woo a good agent or manager, why wouldn't submit your work to them in the manner in which they request? Why on earth would you want to make life difficult for -- or flat out annoy -- someone you're eager to work with? Why would you want to come off as a spoiled princess for whom the rules don't apply?

You're not a special little flower. No one's going to change the way they do things just for you. And if you want any chance at all of working with them, you won't ask them to.

Parks and Recreation

Mid-season TV is upon us, with new shows sprouting up left and right to take the place of the canceled and the ran-their-courses (goodbye, ER, you should have gone off the air five years ago). Among this new crop of shows is NBC's Parks and Recreation.

This new, semi-improvised series is brought to us by the same folks who made the U.S. version of The Office, and like that show it follows the same mockumentary structure. Unlike The Office, though, Parks and Recreation is not all that funny. A lot of the jokes fell flat. They're desperately in need of a Dwight Schrute character, and Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope is no Michael Scott, though they're trying hard to make her as oblivious as he is. Too hard, really.

Some of the rest of the cast is good, though. I can already tell Nick Offerman is going to be a hoot as Knope's boss, the government employee who hates government, and the show also features my beautiful girlfriend forever Rashida Jones, whom I won away from the evil and unworthy pgtremblay. Rashida Jones can do no wrong.

It took a while for The Office to find its voice, and when it did I think it became so good it surpassed even the classic British series it was based on. The same could happen for Parks and Recreation, given time it could become a great comedy. The question is, do I -- does anyone -- have the time or the patience anymore to watch a show that might be good someday? (I mean, aside from all you suckers good people still dutifully holding out hope for Fringe and Dollhouse.)