"What would you say is the... Target audience for this script, Mr. Anderson?"
I think the movie Barton Fink is generally unbearable, but one scene in particular redeems the movie for me. When the pretentious and neurotic playwright Barton Fink bumps into his literary idol W.P. Mayhew (a boozy, irreverent F. Scott Fitzgerald analog played by Frasier’s dad), the two strike up a conversation about writing that perfectly describes why I do it:
Barton Fink: “I’ve always found that writing comes from a great inner pain. Maybe it’s a pain that comes from a realization that one must do something for one’s fellow man – to help somehow to ease his suffering. Maybe it’s a personal pain. At any rate, I don’t believe good work is possible without it.”
Mayhew: “Mm. Well, me, I just enjoy making things up.”
I am incredibly passionate about making things up and I pretty much always have been. I think a lot of the reason I have so much trouble with numbers is because I daydreamed through a lot of elementary school math lessons and as a result have a pretty unstable foundation of math skills.
I remember the day in fourth grade that I doomed myself to never fully understand fractions. I remember the word ‘FRACTIONS’ written on the board, I remember my teacher beginning to explain to the class what fractions were, and then I remember an extensive fantasy I had about how cool it would be if my best friends and I all had dune buggies that we could race and use to fight aliens. Eight years later I got half the math questions on the SAT wrong.
Sitting around making stuff up is clearly all I want to do with my life, which is why I think writing is a good career choice for me – that and the fact that it rewards people who spend a lot of time indoors and sitting down, which happens to be my favorite combination of location and body position.
After two years of sustained, concentrated making stuff up I’ve finally finished two TV pilots. Normally, this is the point in my writing process where I say, “Wow, these are great! I guess I should figure out how to sell them!” and then put them on my shelf and forget about them forever while I start writing something new.
I’m really good at writing stories, but I’m terrible at doing anything with them afterwards. It’s not that I don’t want to see my work come to life; it’s just that convincing somebody to invest a bunch of time and money and energy into something that I thought of requires extensive and well coordinated self promotion, which, like fractions, is something I find far less interesting than sitting around making stuff up. I’d rather be dreaming up new stories than begging complete strangers to read my old ones.
Unfortunately, I made the questionable choice of moving to Los Angeles specifically so I could make a career out of selling things that I made up. The fun part is over. I need an agent.
I’ve avoided the agent-getting process so far because I’ve always felt like it was a stereotypically LA thing to do, like yoga, or not rolling your eyes when somebody talks about yoga. It seems like every creatively minded person in town is on a quest to find an agent – or a better agent – and maybe it’s some deep-seated hipster instincts I picked up living in Portland but I don’t want to join the herd.
The problem is that an agent is the only way that my scripts will go from things I made up to things that actually get made. Right now I could have written the best two pilots in the world (I haven’t) and it still wouldn’t mean anything because accolades from my parents and writing buddies aren’t enough to get production companies to read them.
As a matter of policy, pretty much every production company only reads scripts that come to them from agents. To get an agent, I need to find a talent agency that’s currently looking for new writers to represent and send my scripts to them instead. As I’ve found out, there are a number of talent agencies that will now only read scripts that come to them from managers. The entertainment industry has really maximized the number of rejections you can receive.
Even just trying to figure out which agencies I might want to get rejected by is difficult because a lot of them have websites like this. Do not adjust your browser; that’s actually what their website is. No submission guidelines, no ‘About us’ section, no accolades from clients – just a big logo, as if to say, “Fuck you for wanting to pursue a career in entertainment.”
I mean, the whole reason to have a website is so that potential customers can access information about your business! The only information I get from this website is that an entity called ‘Benderspink’ exists somewhere on Earth.
Maybe the real reason I’ve lollygagged on getting an agent is because, like fractions or dating, it’s a largely fruitless uphill battle. These agencies have given every indication that they don’t want my business – they’ve built walls out of bureaucracy and cryptic web design to make it more difficult for clients to find them. I guess it’s not hipstery, nonconformist rebellion – it’s just that I really hate when people play hard to get.
Of course, if it really pissed me off that much I could get rid of my apartment, pack my bags, move back home and get a job as a cashier at the Honeybaked Ham at Salem Center. It’s not like I’m the only guy who likes making things up; the world is not in danger of running out of neurotic writers with poor fashion sense. The agencies put those walls there so that people will climb them; the ones who make it to the other side are the ones who are really serious about this.
That said, please note that the website for a Honeybaked Ham kiosk at a mall in suburban Oregon furnishes way more information about the business than the website for a world class talent agency. I’m just saying, is all.
Truman Capps wants any Benderspink employees reading this update to know that he totally wrote this on opposite day.