Get Off My Lawn You Goddamn Kids!

The following is a rebuttal to my last post “Hollywood, the bunk movie dealers.” These are not my words and have not been edited in anyway (except for this intro). if you would like to join the discussion comment below. –Matt
By Stephen Wolthuis

Matt and I have spent hours, and I mean HOURS, discussing every imaginable topic, mostly while drinking of course. What I love most is that we don’t argue, nor do we just agree with each other for the sake of it, we discuss; it’s quite nice to be honest. So, when he sent me a link to his newest article, I happily set about reading it, expecting to agree with most and disagree with parts, but generally enjoying it. However, this was different. While I still enjoyed reading it, I found myself wholeheartedly disagreeing. I messaged him requesting the opportunity for a rebuttal to which he more than enthusiastically agreed to post. So here it is. Let the discussion commence!
Matt and I are close in age, about a year apart, so we grew up with the same cultural touchstones; Star Wars, Transformers, Goonies, Saturday morning cartoons, Reaganomics, etc. I am an unabashed nostalgia junky; I wear it on my sleeve and make no apologies. But nostalgia can be dangerous, it can cut you off from truly great things right in front of you and, even worse, it can create a belief that there existed this great time when all was perfect (MAGA anyone?). So, when Matt stated that 1999 was the last year movies were good, I shook my head and thought “nostalgia just took another one”.
I love the movies I grew up with! I make my daughter watch Goonies. I still think fondly of spending an entire summer in my high school years watching every classic I could get my hands on. Spielberg, Zemeckis, and Lucas defined my childhood and Kubrick, Scorsese, and Coppola brought me into adulthood. Most importantly, I remember the great year of movies from 1999. I also remember, as Matt pointed out, how it also featured the steaming pile of garbage that was the Phantom Menace (I saw it 9 times, convinced it would magically become great….it didn’t). But where Matt and I diverge is in the twenty years since.
Let go back to 2010. Christopher Nolan had come become a big name through his clever work on Memento and his fantastic take on comic book movies with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. But in 2010 he headed back to original works with Inception. I still remember seeing it for the first time. I was absolutely blown away with the concept of the movie. Visually dazzling, a story that grabs you, and writing that pops (“you mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling”). I hadn’t left a theater that thrilled since I was a preteen staring at the screen while velociraptors chased children around a kitchen in Jurassic Park. And the soundtrack, I encourage everyone to listen to Hans Zimmer’s “Time”. I agree with Matt on the power of the music of movies; John Williams is always my number one played artist on Spotify. Inception became a huge financial and critical success; and it holds up great nearly ten years on.
I want to talk about another film, dramatically different but no less incredible. Richard Linklater spend twelve years making Boyhood. He systematically filmed briefly each year to capture the coming of age story of Mason. This movie left me a bit breathless when I finished. As my wife likes to say, “it gave me all the feels”. It’s easy enough to try a new “trick” in filmmaking, but Linklater created a movie that would not have been the same without the use of the same actor. I left looking back on so many moments from growing up that I was almost afraid to watch it again. The soundtrack too should be mentioned, featuring great tracks from Wilco, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys.
I bring these two movies up for a reason, they are originals works that are distinctly modern and I believe both will stand the test of time. There are countless others I could mention, from Lord of the Rings or the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Departed or John Wick. In the same hand I could mention that every E.T. has a Mac and Me, or every The Deerhunter has Heaven’s Gate. When we dismiss an entire two decades outright and anything going forward, we miss the opportunity to truly see the great work out there or allow ourselves to simply enjoy what’s in front of us. Is the market overly diluted? Absolutely! Is there an emphasis on rehashing the same old crap? Yep! But greatness is sitting write in front of us, and it isn’t hard to find. I refuse to be the guy screaming at kids to get off my lawn, and instead give the new stuff a try……. but do actually stay off my goddamn lawn!

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Hollywood, the bunk movie dealers

I shouldn’t be surprised by the negative reviews coming out about the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, if you can call it that. It would appear that the lobotomized prostitution of everything I enjoyed about my childhood is complete and that there is nothing else left to ruin, that I can think of anyway. Star Trek was rebooted with the same old characters brought to a long, slow, painful death in a world that I don’t recognize. Star Wars had the shit fest of bringing back characters who wanted to stay dead and didn’t bother creating any new ones we would give crap about. GI Joe, hell, I don’t know if that one is worth mentioning. I think it all started with Transformers, that was where this all started. It all started with a douchebag named Michael Bay.
There was a time when movies were good, when you could go to a theater and spend a couple bucks and not hate yourself after you left wondering “what the hell am I doing with my life?” or “how can I get my money back?” The world has changed in the last twenty years and for some reason Hollywood has no interest in investing in anything that is new or imaginative. Its like they have given up because they know we, the public, will continue to dish out cash on whatever shitshow they put on the big screen. It’s as if they are counting on us being too dumb to care.
There is substance that is missing from movies today. We traded classic culture for modern trivial trash hoping it would connect better with the new generation. Instead of having the mood of the movie brought out by classical music they resort to bad hip hop and pop music trash that will not stand up to the test of time. I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, hell I can’t list all the great movies from then but I can tell you it all stopped around 1999.
In my old age of 40 years old, I have grown fond of classical music. There isn’t a message being pushed, no stupid repeating lyrics that run through my head over and over again. There are moments when I hear sounds, the rise to a crescendo, the roar of trumpets with cannons in the background, a piano telling a story, and sometimes a flute taking me to a wooded forest far away with creatures I will never meet. Sometimes when I listen to that music, I hear bits and pieces of the movies I loved growing up.
George Lucas listened to classical music when he was writing the original scripts for Star Wars and when he had the movies in production, he told John Williams the pieces he was listening to for certain scenes. They didn’t steal the music from composers, they used the feelings that they gave the audience. To watch a movie these days is to feel like you have driven through traffic at the five o’clock rush hour and almost got into an accident a half dozen times. There is no rhyme or reason to it, the plot usually doesn’t make any sense. Keep the audience watching and don’t give them time to think.
The worse offense that Hollywood is guilty of these days is pushing a political agenda that the majority of the population is tired of. It leaves these movies to be quickly forgotten and no longer standing the test of time. Instead of touching on a subject that all generations go through at some point they instead concentrate on subjects that nobody will be talking about a year or two from now. A New Hope was based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, a mythical story telling model that worked for thousands of years, one that everyone can connect with. Now we have… nothing. It’s hard to tell what writers are working with, things seem to happen for no reason and when the going gets tough they throw something in that just keeps the story going.
When Spielberg worked on Jaws he had trouble getting the lighting of the water and sky just right so the scenes matched. Every installment of Star Wars were three years apart with enough time in between to get things right. Hollywood has become lazy, unwilling to put forth the effort to gain the audience respect expecting them to fork over their money just because you made something. That’s not how this works, you have to give us something we want to see, where we say “thank you” in the end and want more.
I watched the Phantom Menace three times in the first week it came out because I couldn’t believe how bad it was. “It seriously can’t be that bad, can it?” It was. I viewed Attack of the Clones once to figure out it was trash and I never saw Revenge of the Sith in the theater. My money wasting habit was over. I would not be fooled again. I did eventually try to see Revenge of the Sith, picking up a copy for $1 used at a second hand store. I put it in the DVD player and fell asleep the three times it tried to watch it, always waking up to some guy screaming and crying with his legs missing and his body on fire. By that point I didn’t care.
This pattern has repeated over and over again especially after 1999. I don’t know what it was about that year for movies but it appeared to the last movement of hope for Hollywood. We saw the likes of The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, and American Psycho. Somehow these movies had stayed in our minds for two decades now while others that have come along are laughed at, snickered, sneered, and some people won’t even admit they watched. I had hopes over the years. Ready Player One could have been something special, but what should have been a long mini series on a platform like Netflix was instead butchered to be a two-hour movie losing much of the world created by the book.
Technology has taken away the creative effort it takes to make something truly great. Why figure out how to make a creature pop out of somebody’s chest when you can do it with a computer. When Sam Raimi made Drag me to Hell I thought it was going to be something special, bringing back those funny creative special effects that takes a crew to pull off. Instead, it was all done on computers losing the magic he had created thirty years before. There was no single frame animation, puppets, or bucket of fake blood. Drag me to Hell didn’t describe the movie, it described what the audience felt like when they watched it in the theater.
The majority of films Hollywood has released in the last twenty years deserve to find themselves at the bottom of a Walmart 10 for $10 barrel. The most horrible offender of recent years has been Netflix and their low budget garbage that doesn’t even pull off being entertaining. Bloodsport was a low budget movie that didn’t have much going for it but it told a story and everyone from the crew to the actors at least tried their best. These days you’re lucky if one person doesn’t look like they have been medicated on Xanax for half of their life.
Film makers of recent years are the worse of the millennial generation, not taking time to learn, thinking they already know how to do everything, and expecting to be paid even when they deliver a pile of burning dogshit to the screen. The great movies of the past had culture behind it, something that would connect to the audience for reasons that even the audience wouldn’t understand at the time. There is something in our DNA, a hidden code, a message that resonates with all of us to a point that can be unlocked when it is done right. That has been lost in this industry and I don’t know if we will ever get it back. Maybe that time has come and gone and it is our moment to move onto something else. I’m burned out of trying to find something good on Netflix, I can’t remember the last movie I watched in a theater, and the last DVD I viewed I popped out after twenty minutes realizing it was just another 90 minutes I was never going to get back of my life. I’m not sure where to go from here, if I should keep hope alive only to require medication later to fight the depression Hollywood has forced upon me or just give up all together and call it quits. The Last Jedi is making more sense to me now and I don’t know if I should be concerned. Luke drinking the blue milk from the lactating walrus and being a grumpy old codger makes sense all of the sudden. As someone who used to love movies, I feel betrayed and let down too much to care anymore. People try to tell me why the new Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel movies are good but I can’t listen anymore. It shouldn’t have to be explained, I should be able to walk out of the theater and feel excited about what I saw and want to see it again. Instead I feel my wallet lighter, less time to do something meaningful with my day, and horribly depressed.
As the Critical Thinker said on his recent YouTube review for the Rise of Skywalker “movies are not to push a political or social agenda. They are meant as a form of escape from the world we live in. It’s why we desire to go to a galaxy far, far, away. It is a form of escape.” There is no escape these days. There is no getting away. Everything is propaganda. Everything is simple minded trash. Maybe the punk rockers were decades ahead of their time and had the right idea. Smash your television. Free yourself from the man. Reagan, Trump, the devil is always that man in a suit who tells lies and pushes an agenda. I found these things called books. Maybe it’s a way out, a portal to another world that I have been seeking. They might not cure all of my desires but it’s a start. David Foster Wallace warned us of this, the horrible desire of Infinite Jest, a movie that doesn’t exist and if it did it would slowly kill us all. If Hollywood was a drug dealer it would be that kid on the corner always selling Oregano as hydro weed. Eventually, you stop buying.

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Letters to Harrison: 7

Your movie Wolf was about cocaine, right? I haven’t read the book of the same name but I have to assume that with your discontent for Hollywood and the drug seen that the reason Jack Nicholson is running around feeling good, able to smell everything, have a boost in unwarranted confidence, and sleeps for 20 hours after a bender isn’t a coincidence. I have never taken the drug myself but know a few who have. The last man I ran into had just received his disability check and snorted the funds up his nose in one day. All of the Narcan training that people had been given was useless, his heart had stopped from the opposite of heroin. The woods visited me last night, a giant two-hundred-pound deer with a rack that would have made Dolly Parton jealous was standing in the neighbor’s yard when I came home.

We exchanged some snorts and he didn’t seem to care about my presence. It wasn’t until a few trucks drove by that he decided to leave. Before entering the swamp across the street, he turned at me and grunted one last time reminding me that he was the boss. I’m surprised that the neighborhood cats haven’t tried to take him down but it would be like the democratic party trying to take down a republican president. Cats do not form an army well and a liberal party with thirty agendas doesn’t accomplish much. When my non-disclosure agreement expired with my old Hollywood job, I wrote a book called Golden. Maybe it was to burn some bridges and not become caught up in the glitz and glory of a false god. Things must have been different back in your day because if I tried to live off of what I was paid I would have been homeless eating an endless supply of Top Ramen noodles. The last two days have been good except for the endless assault of my daughter who doesn’t have an off switch. The terrible twos is a horrible name for this disease. Maybe it should be called the traumatic twos or the terrifying twos, or the Trumpian twos. the last one might be considered a low blow but there isn’t too much to aim for down there from what I have been told. How is a writer supposed to make a living in a world where people don’t read anymore? Even I have been guilty of this, pulling out my voluntary bugging device and looking at the latest mind-numbing content on the internet. Before we clean up Washington, we should do a thorough flushing enema of the internet first. We can start with rotten tomatoes first who gave your movie between a 62 and 43% rating. I guess the audience didn’t see the point. I will have to grab Wolf from the self sooner than later and see for myself what your first novel was all about. These days good literature doesn’t get publish because nobody reads it and if you want to make a buck these days you have to conform to one or several options for prostitution that are available to be exploded by. I’m tired of getting screwed these days. You spend your time and effort trying to create something real and in the end all you end up with is a bill, lost time, and a sore ass in the end. That reminds me, I need to pick up a new cushion for my chair.

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Golden: part 11

After a week of disappearing, Nick finally reappeared. Sam was able to reach him, and just as we had thought he was in California, but not in the way we were hoping. She girlfriend’s divorce was being finalized, but this only came up after a long and elaborate story about meeting with producers and the show being bought by a studio. Sam passed us word and a meeting was scheduled a few days later.
The Skype call was pointless. Nick was walking around a house with his iPad and kept losing signal and there were large patches of the conversation where we couldn’t hear him and wondered if the call was lost. We couldn’t hear the information we were being given and as far as we knew the job was almost done. We sat back and waited.
Nick said the meeting had been cancelled. He retreated back to Bellevue and the project continued. In the meantime he continued to pressure me to write the novels for him, the book versions of the show we were working on. It didn’t make any sense. The plot and the season weren’t even near completion and he wanted me to start writing a book that wouldn’t fit the end product of the show. After my last refusal Nick found someone else.
Two people were brought in around this time, a man who had worked in television doing commercials for different companies and a writer like myself. The director I was not familiar with and had never seen any of his material. He seemed to be a nice guy that knew what he was talking about and was very professional during our meetings. He also, to his credit, made it a point during the meetings to reduce time by cutting off Nick and focusing the conversation on the task at hand. Nick did not like this at first but the risk of losing someone who currently did work in television was too great. A few weeks later, with too many projects on the table, the director left and things started to unravel.
The writer was a retired gentleman who had written over 30 westerns on Amazon and was doing well for himself. Nick had never read any of his books but thought a western was a close fit with the show we were making. It wasn’t the writer that pissed me off in the end it was Nick trying to get rid of me.
“He has over 30 books Matt, how many have you written?”
“12.”
“How many did you say you have sold in a day?” Nick asked the new guy.
“Oh, I’ve seen a hundred sold in a day.”
Nick acting like this guy was Stephen King compared to me. I couldn’t compare myself to this guy and Nick shouldn’t have been either. He was retired, money coming in that he didn’t have to work for anymore and all the free time in the world to continue writing without the worry of bills being paid. And yet, Nick acted like I was a failure because I was not like this guy.
I couldn’t believe how agreeable this new guy was. He was excited to be brought into the project, he kind of reminded me of myself when I started. The real kick in the pants came when Nick assigned me to show the new guy where all the files were in the system with character profiles and the several versions of the plot that had never been finalized. Everything was up in the air and waiting for Nick’s approval until he had some moment of genius on the toilet changing everything again.
“This isn’t the time to start working on a book.”
“This is exactly the time.” Nick argued. “I want to have this out when the show it about the air.” Even if the show had been bought weeks ago the soonest it could have aired would have been a year and most shows are shelved indefinitely for years until they are forgotten about. Nick couldn’t publish a book because the studio would have bought those rights as well. He had no idea what the fuck he was talking about or doing. The meetings had gone back to Nick’s rants about AA and his capitalist ambitions. My own book sales had dwindled and I wasn’t close to having anything new in print.
I never showed the new guy where the files were. Sam was in charge of organizing the information and he lived with Nick. The only purpose of Nick doing this was to rub it in my face that I had turned it down and I am still glad to this day that I had.
I sent an email the next day that I was done, going back to writing on Amazon, I would no longer be working on the show. For once Nick was humble in his response. An email was sent to the rest of the group, remember I was being carbon copied for all emails, wishing me the best. After that everything went downhill.
For over a year I was still getting emails about the project, meetings, and possible investors. Pictures of Nick with middle eastern men and white guys with gold chains hanging just above their hairy bellies started to appear in my email. Then silence.
Sam contacted me a year after I had left the show. Nick had disappeared again and wasn’t returning emails or phone calls. Todd was still working on the script but without the leader there was nothing they could do. Sam tried to bring me back into the project to have Nick’s attention and finally finish things. The night we were supposed to Skype and play catch up I became violently ill and canceled less than an hour before the meeting. It was never rescheduled and a week later there were emails about Todd leaving the show.
“If that guy thinks he doesn’t need our money while he’s driving Uber to pay bills he’s mistaken.” Nick wrote in an email. “I understand that things are tough but he’s not worth what he’s asking. Low ball him, he’ll fold and take what he’s offered. He’s desperate.”
To Todd’s credit he didn’t fold. He made his offer to what it would cost to stay on the show and when they didn’t agree he left. Todd was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet and that was his downside as well. Things might have been changing for him. As someone who would always agree to what was being offered being in a financial hotspot was making his spine grow and I knew that he had learned something while working on this project.
There was a long list of insults and complaints once Todd left. The shit talking had reached epic proportions. Suddenly Todd was the worst human being on the planet and wasn’t worth the work he had put in. Nick was convinced they would find somebody else and they would be a real professional this time, but it never happened. That was the end of the show. Emails continued, mostly sending questions about the cable bill to Sam. The show was never mentioned again and soon the emails stopped as well. Either Nick was no longer using his email or he stopped linking me and everyone else to his account.
The show was never bought, it was never completed, and while I had worked on it for years, I have to admit it was something that I never would have chosen to watch if it was on television. I learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way. When you smell bullshit run away. Know what your time is worth. Do not work with people who can not focus on the task at hand. If you find yourself feeding someone else’s ego run away. Don’t work for someone who knows less than you.
Nick’s advice for life would boil down to one thing, marry rich. Out of all of his stories, comments about his hot daughter, the gaining and losing of money over the years, the one thing he always went back to was not marrying the rich Jewish girl. Nick had a habit of directing his attention to anything other than what he should be working on. I could only imagine what that would have been like if you added your dick as a wingman to the situation. These days you can find Nick on a cruise ship or in southern California. The show is a forgotten relic, Walden has been abandoned, my writing career is still recovering. Nick had dreams of being a Vegas star at one time, memorizing the American song book and recording his own album, and while he gave the appearance of being a man of the world it became obvious to those who knew him, he was more like Dolemite than Sinatra. A human tornado came to down, upended my life, filled my head with promises and fantasies of greatness, and in the end left with little to show for it.
In the end all I got was this blog post and a flannel shirt.

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Golden: part 10

I met my wife through an online app, no joke. I was working for the county and while cleaning the old Nazareth College campus I hid in the main ballroom, watching the deer eat from the lawn and opened the Tinder app. It didn’t take long for her picture to appear. She was cute with dark brown hair and green eyes. There was only the one picture and her name with nothing written in the profile. I swiped and moved on. Twenty minutes later she popped up again. This had never happened before.
There were five pictures this time, a written profile and the words American Splendor popped out. Not only did she know of the classic American comic book but she added it into her profile. I had to meet this person. I swiped again and we instantly had a match. The rest of the night we messaged back and forth. Working opposite shifts it would be a while before we could meet in person. This waiting game would become our regular routine.
With an increase in Skype meetings there was talk among Todd and I about a pay increase. Nick didn’t like it at first, treating the topic like we were forming a union. We were receiving the same low pay for ever increasing hours and a rise in verbal abuse. These days nothing seemed to be satisfactory. Todd and I were assigned to put together character profiles with little more to go on than the characters ethnic background. We were expected to create a character out of thin air that would fit with the show. we Skyped a couple times that week, went down some profile sheets to create a background, strengths, and weaknesses. When it was time for the next Skype meeting, we spent 20 minutes going over the profiles and explaining who these people were. In the end, Nick expected more.
Here was the trick with Nick. What he wanted was what he envisioned in his head. He didn’t want to put it on paper but have someone else do it. To be slightly off from his image was to be completely wrong. That was the meeting where I told him “do it yourself next time.” Todd and I had worked to squeeze in meetings for this one project and all we heard was “I was expecting better. It’s flat. There is no substance. What the hell were you guys doing?” That was when we started demanding more money. It came slow at first. Nick was trying to assigned a number of tasks to us and as if we had the same thought, we started saying no.
There was a long list of uncompleted assignments that kept lagging behind and Nick would move ahead as if the scene in question didn’t really matter. Each of us would be given three to four assignments and the more we were given the sooner our next meeting would be. We were coming close to have full time jobs with this project on $300 a month. We had better things to do.
“If you could rewrite that scene, do these three characters profiles and clean up that file folder by the next meeting I think we could make some headway.”
“No.” I said. “I’ll rewrite the scene but the other stuff needs to go to someone else.” Sam had a knack for creating his own task and Nick went along with it. We were constantly changing online storage systems and switching to different programs for things. It was confusing and just as we became accustomed to using one platform it would change because “this is better.” The explanation never fit and we were left using something that was completely foreign to us.
The books I had uploaded to Amazon before joining the project were starting to sell. I had money coming in from several places and this was paying the least amount from them all. I had some leeway on what I wanted to do and should be doing.
I met Sarah at a local bar downtown. Her friends were going to a concert for the Fried Egg Nebula and when I arrived, I notice the boyfriend of the other girl was someone I went to high school with. Casey was a character straight out of Dazed and Confused and the first thing that popped into my mind was having a music class with him. He had done a report on The Doors and while giving the oral presentation he jumped off a table and yelled “Mom, I want to FUCK YOU!” according to him this was an actual event in Jim Morrison’s life. We shared stories and before the first hour was over, I knew that I wanted to see Sarah again. I wasn’t fully confident of my bullshit meter but a common thing that would happen with meeting someone new was the cringe of hearing someone talk. Was there substance, was her IQ higher that her shoes size, did she watch reality TV? In the first few words I could tell if this was someone I could have a conversation with. I had friends in the past that would say “you don’t fuck her mind.” These people now have kids with people they can’t stand, life is not going well for them.
Few months later I was being paid a little more. Things were going well with Sarah and the show. There was talk of a meeting with producers to have it picked up. Nick made promises of working as a writer after it was bought but I did my own research, rarely did the people who created the show work on these things. The company writers were brought it to make necessary changes, it became company property and the last thing they wanted was someone else coming in and telling them what it really was. I just wanted out.
Sarah and I were hanging out with my friend Steve one night. He asked how my books were doing and when I looked it up on my phone, I was about to receive a $3000 payment from sales three months prior. Things were going really well. This should have been a news flash. I should have quit the show and went to writing novels full time. There were a lot of things I should have done. After investing so much time, a trip to Seattle, and putting up with incompetent leadership how could I walk away with nothing more than a small paycheck?
Every week we heard the same thing, the meeting was coming. It was like watching Game of thrones every week and waiting for winter to arrive. This was starting to appear as a bullshit gimmick to motivate us to work. Then Nick disappeared.
We didn’t hear from him for a while. Sam thought he had gone to California to make a deal but how could we know for sure? With our jobs done until the next meeting there was nothing else to do, we sat back and waited.

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Golden: part 9

It took time to recover from the journey home. It was the weekend and I didn’t return to work until Monday. I went to the local brewery and people were curious about my trip, wondering if I was going to be moving anytime soon. Samantha, one of the bartenders and a friend at the time, asked about the trip and all I could do was shake my head with a look of disappointment. She asked if I had seen the space needle, the troll under the bridge, Pike place market… the list went on and on. I continued to shake my head.
“What the heck happened?” she asked, thinking I was going to have this great story.
I wen through the process of obtaining a passport a few weeks prior to leaving with the hopes of going a few places and starting to see the world. Things were opening up for me and yet I was still at home. That passport still sits in my dresser, unstamped and soon to expire.
I told her everything, all the things you read until now came out. I never saw the one place I wanted to go and the places that any tourist would have been taken to remained a mystery to me after a week. After drinking my beer, I went home feeling like a disappointment to myself. I sat at my computer in my dining room turned writing studio, and looked at a blank page. Instead of working on the show I decided to focus on something different, my next book.
Later that week, after going back to work and returning to the grind of cleaning courtrooms and offices, we had another Skype meeting.
“We are scrapping the season. We’re going to focus on the pilot and make sure that is fine tuned to perfection.”
If I had hair, I would have pulled it out. The cameras were off. Skype was a glorified conference call. I shook my head in disbelief and wondered why the hell I was brought all the way to the other end of the country to begin with. We were literally backing up to a place before my trip to Seattle.
Even with my frustration I decided to stay. The extra $300 a month wasn’t bad for a few hours of work but I would learn later how much Nick was expecting from me. What was a few hours a week turned into more meetings, more projects assigned and soon he was trying to add more shows when we couldn’t get one moving along.
Nick wanted to add more characters, add some random thing for no reason here and that’s what we were working with. Everything had to be in the first season. Before I knew it was working more hours on the show than I was on my own books, the real money makers and I wondered what the heck I was doing. A script writer was brought in and Todd was in charge of writing the pilot episode. I felt bad for the man, not knowing what he was getting involved in. during our meetings a came across as a good man, someone who was agreeable but didn’t stand up to unrealistic expectations. He was a father with two kids and while he was trying to become a television writer, he worked other various jobs to get by. What he was being paid wasn’t worth the time he was putting in. during our emails back and forth on certain topics I tried to warn him about what he was getting into but like me when I first started, he was promised the glitter and glory of Hollywood. Neither of us could see the forest for the weeds.
It was around this time that Nick started to have the project funded by his girlfriend, the wealthy soon to be divorcee, he had met on a cruise the year prior. She was unhappy in her marriage and started shacking up with Nick to get away. California laws were tricky so they kept their affair a secret until the final papers were signed. She received a 3-million-dollar payout along with annual alimony. Convinced by Nick to invest some of the money they started a company that only existed on paper and payroll was set for the next few years. Nick had finally corrected his mistake from decades before by nailing a rich woman to set him for the rest of his life. At the time it appeared that the project would move forward and we would eventually sell everything and move along to something else. As time went on the expectations became unrealistic and we here running around with our heads cut off trying to figure out what the hell Nick wanted. He was becoming harder to contact and when he did pop up there were frustrated tirades about nothing being done. Meetings would go on for hours, the majority of the time spend listening to Nick talk about some story in his life we had already heard several times before. I didn’t want to hear about Norway, the textile factory, the production company, his AA meetings. That ended up being the last straw.
After 2o minutes of hearing Nick talk about the everything but the project he started discussing his time in AA and how it turned his life around.
“Glad it worked for you. It doesn’t work for most people.” It was three am and I wanted to sleep. I knew that AA would be another 20-30 minutes and my time was being wasted.
“It works. How would you know if it works or not?”
“the success rate is 13% and AA wouldn’t know that because anyone who doesn’t stick with the program isn’t tracked. They have false statistics to make themselves look good.”
“that’s bullshit. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I needed a higher power to get me through and come out sober in the end. AA saved my life and you think you know better than someone who was in it? Where do you come across saying these things?” Sam and Todd were silent. A button had been pushed and all I wanted to do was go to bed already having nothing to work with from the meeting.
“You said yourself you had to stop smoking to stop drinking. That’s not a higher power, that’s thinking.”
There was an eruption on the other end. Sam jumped in trying to calm Nick down. While Nick went on a rampage I sat back and listened. It was the only joy I would get out of this meeting and it all happened because he could only focus on himself and not the show.
“we’ve been on this call for three hours and for the last 30 minutes all you have done is talk about yourself. I don’t know what you do during the day but I need some sleep and I have to go to work tomorrow. Stop wasting my time!” I finally said it. I was expecting to be fired. I wanted to be fired. I was begging to be let go. For once Nick listened.
“You’re right, I’m not respecting your time. Let’s wrap this up and start again in a few days.” There was a sigh of relief from Todd’s end and I signed off without saying goodbye.
The next morning, I started receiving the emails. Nick had added me to his carbon copy list at the beginning of the project and I would receive emails about everything from bills to be paid and the show. It also included messages back and forth with Sam. Shit was starting to get real.
“If that son of a bitch starts that shit again, he’s gone.” The messages continued all day as Nick and Sam discussed what to do with me, and I read everything. I wasn’t the only person they were talking about. Todd was viewed as the suck who was working for less money than he was worth. Nick started looking for other writers to replace me, and I was glad. I would continue to receive payment until the last day, at least that was the plan.
“I’m bringing another writer into the project,” Nick said at the next meeting. He was in contact with a woman from the Seattle area that he wanted to hire. The next day he was bitching through email that she had told him to contact her agent to arrange a deal for the job. Nick lost his shit when he demanded to negotiate with her directly and she stopped responding to his messages. He didn’t handle rejection very well. I was still the only writer he had to work with and the demands I was making were viewed as obscene. Don’t waste my time. Focus on the show. Finish one thing before going onto the next. No, I’m not writing your books for a show that hasn’t been thought through yet. If I’m working on more than one show then you are paying me an equal amount for each show. we had come to a crossroad and neither of us would budge. We stood there going nowhere and that was where the show would stay until something changed.

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Golden: part 6

The show was moving along ahead of schedule. We had the first season mapped out. Nick was creating new characters and we looked at adding them in season two. Profiles were being created and maybe things weren’t as bad as I thought they were.
The daytime was reserved for Nick’s normal routine and going on adventures on an itinerary that only Nick knew. I had no idea what I would see on those days, we would leave Walden and cruise around town. When I brought up Bruce Lee’s grave Nick would say that Sam would take me and he would make sure it would happen. When I brought it up to Sam, he had a look of surprise and wonder revealing that he had never been talked to about it.
The Salmon fish hatchery was an interesting place, not exactly on the top of my list of places I would have seen while in Seattle, a place I would likely never see again. There were bridges and streams running through the park. In the center was a large box shaped contraption with windows on the side where you could watch salmon who had been trapped to spawn their eggs and die, trapping their future young for release into the wild keeping the species going for another year. A ramp went around the box leading to the center tank. Walking around the Salmon treadmill you could see fish jumping to the next level thinking they were going up stream to their final destination. In the end they fell into a tank of water with nowhere to go, the ultimate Secretary of State office where you waited to die and they took your first to last born.
In the shallow streams you could see the fungus that had been decimating the salmon population on their fins and backs. These fish were kept away from the rest and for good reason. The surrounding mountains reminded me of Tennessee with houses speckling the slopes hidden behind trees. Instead of the rounded tops the points were jagged and bear from trees and green foliage. There was an Indian reservation that I didn’t know about near the salmon hatchery. We went down winding roads, through narrow passageways and found a shop in the middle of nowhere. On the racks outside there was a sale for flannel insulated shirts with shiny snap on buttons that I had not seen since the 1980s. I picked one out and Nick bought it as a gift for me. The inside was a glorified tractor supply store complete with most items a farmer would need throughout the year.
On the way back to Bellevue, Nick continued to ask me if there was anything I wanted to see, we had time to kill and all I had to do was ask. I mentioned Bruce Lee’s grave and was met with resistance. I took my phone out and looked up local tourist attractions in the area. Jimi Hendrix grave came up. Only a few miles away and located between our current location and Bellevue we made a few turns and drove into the cemetery to find a large domed stone structure with images of Jimi etched into the marble surface. I had no idea Hendrix was buried here.
In the center was the small tomb holding Jimi’s ashes. Notes and flowers were still left for him and I went through his catalog of music in my mind. Nick had never heard of him, never listened to the music, the self-proclaimed social justice advocate was not familiar with one of the foundations of hippie culture rock.
Nick had moved away from the states in the late sixties, tired of the war and wanting to live in a society that wasn’t as blatantly corrupt he moved himself and his wife to Norway. The picture he showed me was of a young man in a boat with a smile of hope for the future. The etched brow and chiseled square jaw line never changed over the years. His hair was still thick but in the black and white photo it was much darker than it was now. I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish by running away, swearing to never step foot in the states again. He started a textile company, had a feud with Gloria Steinem, lost the company to investors after years of running the company and was back at stage one. This appeared to be a pattern in Nick’s life, gaining and losing fortunes over the years, never being able to hold on to something that he had created. Once his goal was achieved it almost appeared that a self-destructive nature would take over, inspiring to start over and go through the process again no knowing how to maintain the life that he had created. In some ways I felt sorry for Nick, always the lost boy in the boat looking for adventure but never able to let go of the boat and settle down in a place and live the rest of his life in peace.
I told Nick about Hendrix life, dying at 27, only working in the states for three years before dying of an overdose. Hendrix served in the army, went airborne, and supported the troops during a time that it was frowned upon. Nick appeared to show some interest and after a few photos we left and drove back to Walden to prepare for that nights meeting of the minds.
At this point we were shuffling around scenes from the season, creating new post it notes and placing them on the board to figure out what events would change afterwards. The cast of characters were growing and with each new addition the plot would shift. The grand finale of the show was set in stone, a Game of Thrones style mass extinction event to wipe the plate clean for season two. Things were coming together and to move ahead I started asking if these changes were set in stone, something we could forget about to move ahead in the project. I received a yes, several times and a day or two later it was changed to something “better” that wasn’t presented to the group. “we are doing this instead. Start over.” The changes would bounce around from the middle of the season to the opening scene in the pilot. The pilot was what drove me nuts the most, an episode that would rewrite the whole season depending on the changes that were made.
At one point I created a new female character, a strong-willed woman who could take care of herself and was tough as nails. There were two brothers on the show and she was a completing love interest, nothing new for tv and something that always worked. While I had her as a leading role, moving along in her own story and popping in when the time was right for other characters, Nick had other ideas.
We were going back and forth on the script, changing scenes and dialogue to fit the new layout of the episode. My new character was introduced filling a role that had been left out for some interactions and quickly putting her in as an important player in the show. Nick wrote his own version where she was quick to go to bed with one of the brothers as a way to pay her way out of a tough spot. I didn’t know we were making this show for the porn industry. I read the script in horror wondering what the hell Nick was thinking. That night I brought up the script and Nick had a look of excitement on his face to hear how great it was. I said everything to disappoint him. There was no build up, nothing that lead the audience to anticipate the moment, it was thrown out there as a fleeting act with my character turning into a cheap whore. In retaliation, the next day I sent a new script to Nick in the morning, Nick spent five minutes reading the 60-page document and came out of his bedroom belittling my dialogue, the way I described the opening scene, the poor use of characters, and the list went on and on. I pointed out the time that he took to read it with no way that he could have seen all that in five minutes.
“Your dialogue is horrible” he said. “I’m hiring a professional script writer.”
“I didn’t change the dialogue,” I pointed out. “It was all the lines you wrote in the original version. All I changed was the scene description and what the characters were doing.”
Flustered he tried to come back with something of substance. “I, well, no it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter. We clearly need someone else to work on the script.”
There was tension in the air the rest of that day. Breakfast at Gilbert’s was quiet. Nick didn’t say much about plans for the day. There was a rift taking place and while we were days ahead of schedule it was obvious that the project had problems. There was a strange desire for perfection on his list of priorities for the show, he couldn’t face the fact that nothing was perfect, there was only the best that you could do and you had to accept that. I had to come to grips that nothing would satisfy this man and to continue working on this project would ultimately be a dead end with a few paychecks along the way and a lot of grief. I didn’t see it then, too focused on the disagreement itself and hoping to smooth things over while saving the show. I had to get into Nick’s head, an open book with pages he wrote himself for how he wanted people to see him. You had to learn to read between the lines and be skeptical of anything you read. The best way to get in his good graces was to feed his hungry ego and make sure he thought he was the center of your world. I would have to kiss ass.

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