Businesswoman legs with laptopI don’t hold grudges. Really, I don’t. They’re an enormous waste of energy and emotion. But just because I don’t hang onto them, doesn’t mean they don’t linger beneath my skin like a cancer, mutating while I sleep, waiting to remind me that cells have a memory too.

It was while ago. My agent had moved on to the greener pastures of an executive suite at a movie studio, leaving me afloat but untethered at the big firm where I remained a client. At the suggestion of my attorney, I decided to interview prospective reps at other top tier agencies. I was still pretty young, unproduced, but a writer on the come, so to speak. Green-lit movies were just around the corner. Or so I hoped. I wasn’t quite flavor of the month. There would be no feeding frenzy for my business. But still I might’ve been worth more than a lick.

“Remember,” said my lawyer. “Meet with all of them. Hear what they gotta say. Don’t make any decisions until we talk.”

“Got it,” I said, no longer wet behind the ears. This was not my first dance and I’d learned that just because they blow smoke up my ass didn’t mean I was on fire.

The meetings took place over a couple of weeks. Mostly over dinner or sit-downs at cocktail hour. Nearly every second of it was flattering as hell.

Then came my last meeting at one of the big three-letter houses. The lady agent with whom I was scheduled to interview decided to add a colleague to the mix—an attractive woman with more than a few hard edges. Memorable. From the moment I sat down, I could tell she wasn’t impressed with me. Then again, why should she be? Who was I, anyway, but another unproduced script jockey riding a warm wave of Hollywood hype?

The conversation eventually swirled around to my representation.

“You understand,” said Ms Memorable. “That this agency represents the most ridiculous talent in town. We’re all about the cream. Best writers. Best directors. Actors.”

“Yes,” I said, waiting for the kiss-ass sentence that ordinarily followed the pitch…

Which is precisely why we think you’d fit right in.

I recall Ms Memorable was leaning up against a bookcase, arms crossed, her Armani suit looking as if it was tailored precisely for that power pose.

“Knowing that,” said Ms Memorable, “Why would you think this is a good place for you?”

Wait a minute. Was that the question she really wanted to ask? It sounded an awful lot like she was auditioning me. And I thought I was interviewing them!

“I don’t know,” I answered, clearly bolloxed by her reverse-psychology-Jedi-ninja-mind approach. “Sorry. I was told you were interested in repping me.”

“That so?” she said. “But we don’t rep just anybody. We trying to figure out what makes you special enough to belong here.”

Despite the reverse in tack, it was a fair question. One everybody should ask his or herself from time to time. I can sufficiently say I was caught a wee bit off-guard. I’d had seven prior meetings in the past week, all of which were populated by agents selling me on what great and wonderful things they and their respective agencies could do for me.

“You’re untested,” she continued to hammer me. “You have no credits yet. And what have you written that makes you stand out from the other almost thirty-year-old guys with development around town?”

I don’t recall how I answered Ms Memorable’s white hot spotlight query. I’m certain it was some unimpressive blather about what my plans were for my not yet illustrious motion picture career. From that moment on I was cowed. I knew I wasn’t signing at that agency. They clearly didn’t want me and I certainly didn’t want to be with them. The meeting itself must’ve been nothing more than a courtesy to my lawyer.

“They auditioned you?” asked my attorney when I reported back to him.

“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty uncomfortable.”

“Well, at least we know they’re not the right place for you.”

“Really? How do you spell “duh?”

“Sorry. (Ms Memorable) had no business acting like such a bitch.”

“Don’t be,” I said. “She has a right to her opinion. The bar is high over there. So good for them.”

After all that, I ended up staying with my current reps, choosing from the more familiar agents who’d already worked on my account.

Over the next few years, my career took a somewhat sharper trajectory. I’d written Die Hard 2, sold a spec script for a million dollars and booked quite a bit of well-paying assignment work.

Oh, and I’d gotten married. But I wasn’t the only one. As it turned out, Ms Memorable had also celebrated her nuptials. While mine was a magical, black tie affair at Boston’s Old South Church, Ms Memorable somehow managed to have hers splashed across the pages of Vanity Fair. Millions ogled her wedding pics. Oh, to be in showbiz. Impressive, yeah?

Time passed and I came to realize I didn’t feel comfortable with my agency. I needed to move on. Only this time I didn’t want to engage in another all agencies tour. That’s because I’d already quietly struck up a relationship with an quality fellow at that snooty, three-letter firm. We both knew it was merely a matter of time before I moved my business.

Upon my signing, a grand meeting was convened at the offices of my new agency. I recall that nearly the entire motion picture department of the three-letter firm had gathered in a massive conference room to commemorate my arrival. Now, mind you, I had no illusions about this dog and pony act. I’d heard plenty about the agency’s ability to woo. They were masters at parlaying their collective might into grand shows of unity in the name of client morale. I had no illusions. I’d made the jump for the particular acumen of the agent who’d convinced me to move. For me, the rest was just window dressing.

With some thirty agents gathered around the super-sized table, I found a seat next to my new proxy. One by one the collected reps introduced themselves, offering assistance, insight, and an invitation to call them personally with any issue or idea. They wanted me to know that they were all my agent. Some presentation, huh?

There was, though, one empty chair at the table. I hadn’t noticed it until the literary team was mid-way through its introductions. The double conference room door swung open and in swept none other than Ms Memorable. I recall her as equally tailored as when we’d first met, wearing a smart pants suit and striding in as if each step landed on a handmade pillow of air. She quickly clocked the empty chair, made sharp turn to her right, and bee-lined for her seat.

I noticed an odd hush to the room. As if the delicate feng shui had all-of-a sudden been disturbed. The agent who’d been interrupted by Ms Memorable’s entrance, glanced up and to the right, giving Ms Memorable a knowing glare. One, I might add, that she ignored.

She eventually sat with a flourish. That’s when I said it. It was one of those deliciously, unfiltered moments that I so wish I could bottle.

“Finally,” I blurted. “Someone I recognize from Vanity Fair.”

I can’t exactly calculate the number of seconds which passed. More than two, less than a five. But what followed was such a spontaneous tumult of laughter from the three-latter collective that it betrayed any sense of decorum. All the while, Ms Memorable sat there, staring back at the lopped-off heads of her compatriots, none of them able to choke back their uncontrollable guffaws.

Okay. I know funny. Well, at least sometimes I’m funny. Just not that funny. No, sir. This response was way bigger than me. As if a finger had been firmly epoxied into a dyke and, by my removing it, the damn had burst in a single, overwhelming and sustained wave. Though I’d only quipped, somehow I’d struck a workplace nerve.

Yes. It might’ve been the biggest laugh I’d  ever gotten.

At some point, Ms Memorable chose to laugh along with her colleagues. Yet I could tell the stinger was still attached. When the meeting finally wrapped, hers was the only hand I didn’t shake. She had vanished as quickly as she’d entered.

“Wow,” I later confided to my new agent. “Maybe I hit that funny bone a little too hard.”

“No worries,” he said. “I don’t think any of us had realized how much internal rancor the whole Vanity Fair thing had created. It’s like we were all loaded and ready to go off.”

With that, we all moved on.

I was a client at that famed agency for roughly five years, during which I never once so much as bumped into Ms Memorable. Not that it was by design. I doubt very much that Ms Memorable put a second thought into the new client who’d so accidentally ripped her in front of her peers. I’m even more certain that she never even put the pieces together that years earlier I’d been the no-name nobody whom she’d insulted after I’d deigned to wonder if I was three-letter client material.

Like I said. I don’t hold a grudge. Really, I don’t. But if slighted, there is a pet demon inside of me that might not be so forgetful. Every so often, that demon might need feeding.

Doug Richardson
Doug Richardson
Author and screenwriter. Books: THE LUCKY DEY THRILLERS: BLOOD MONEY, 99 PERCENT KILL, AND REAPER, THE SAFETY EXPERT, AND THE SMOKING GUN. Movies: HOSTAGE, BAD BOYS, DIE HARD 2.
  • James Hornsby

    She might have had a bad day, a bad phone call, who knows, but it’s good to know that the demon’s under control. It almost sounds like someone I knew at ICM, but she was nice…really.

    Thank you for another great read that brings me back to earth.

    • I’m sure Ms Memorable was nice too… to somebody. Thanks James.

  • Deaf Ears

    Outstanding. Did her marriage last?

    Peripheral topic – the latest Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair was pretty disappointing.

    • Clueless if her marriage lasted. For all I know it’s awesome and on track for fifty years.

  • Monique Mata

    I hate it when you’re coy (name names, dammit!) but I love it when you’re gossipy. Thanks again for a fun read.

  • I think the tactic Ms Memorable used of reframing the pitch during the first meeting can be a good one. However, it has to be executed with humor and good will. It sounds like her abrasive personality got in the way.

    • Personality, ego. Ever see Swimming with Sharks? Usually that behavior is learned. She was probably abused as an assistant. Learned to belittle those she deemed unworthy….

  • Pingback: Doug Richardson On Holding A Grudge In H’wd « Movie City News()

  • paul

    Hilarious, Doug. That more than 2 second but less than 5 window is such an amazing thing, no? At least when people laugh like hell at the end of it. I could totally picture this scene and hear the laughter amp up.

    • It was pretty special. Can’t forget the look on her face. “What just happened?”

  • Cat

    Thank you for another ace post. While it is a good exercise to be questioned on personal strengths, it can be done with velvet glove just as easily. Glad you were able to do what many can’t, and spark a room. Names aren’t needed, we all learn from this.

  • Ryan

    Really enjoy reading your stories of Hollywood rica-ma-row, gives me insight as to what I can expect myself in dealing with the in this town. For that, I thank you!

    • Glad you see it that way, Ryan. Navigate around my errors.

  • Now *that* is a well-placed stinger. What’s the opposite of “esprit d’escalier”–thinking of the perfect comeback at the perfect time?

    Side note: Have you thought about writing a TV pilot with these stories as the inspiration and pitching it to cable/premiums/netflix/ hulu? TV because the writer has more control, cable & premiums so you don’t have to worry about network pressures.

  • Ooh, trust me…people like Ms. Memorable take names and keep score. It’s possible to charm them into your camp but it takes a very long time. You know, as opposed to offending them which takes no time at all because they’ve already been hurt.

    Almost every other job interview is about what you can do for the company. It was probably just a matter of time before finding or being accepted by an agency went that way as well. Glad you found success.

    • Oh. Guess I offended her. Or if I didn’t, well, suppose I’m doing so now. Whoops. My bad. Moving on.

  • Michael Chomse

    I love these stories, Doug. But more than that, I relish the way you write them.

    • Appreciate it, Michael. Imagine how great they’d be if I drank the whole bottle of tequila.

  • All I can say, is that it’s “A Good Day to Laugh Hard”. Thanks for making me smile. 🙂 What do ya think of next week’s new Die Hard?

    • You’re welcome. As for next week’s release, I haven’t seen it so I haven’t a clue. Fox wanted Tom Moore to direct my version of DH4, but they were going to give him too little time to prep. So I’m curious.

  • Jay Zabriskie

    Doug, I started reading your column as I strike up the nerve to write. I so much appreciate the insight into the pain and laughter that seems to follow you. Is it like this for all writers?

    • Jay. For pros in Hwood, we all pretty much have these stories. Not just writers. Plenty of crazy to go around in the dream factory.

  • LK Toepfer

    Awesome and Entertaining story. I’m currently in finance (writing on the side), and I’ve been lucky to have one of these zinger moments (makes me smile to think back on it – the caffeine probably kicked in at the right moment). As I started thinking of transitioning my career, I was afraid Hollywood was this strange and foreign land, but apparently it’s populated by the same “twits” as the finance world. Good times!!

    • Yes sir. Money plus douchebags makes for Hollywood, Wall Street, Politics… you get the picture. Same characters, different faces. Upside is the women here are often prettier.

  • Thomas Ballard

    This is about the fifth story or yours I have read today. Love the insight and humor.

  • Just found your site and this story via Scriptmag during a writing break. Have already bookmarked it and moved to the top of My Favorites. Can’t wait to read more battle stories from a gifted, professional screenwriter (allow me to remove my nose from your ass). Wish more would do as you have and put it all out there.

  • Pertinax

    Princess Blackhole. Insists, if not demands, to be the center of attention, and at the same time sucks the life out of everyone around her. Can call her PBH for short, we did with the one in our universe.