Monday, January 21, 2008

Me Love Some Crazy (Not Really)

I haven’t been talking a lot about where I’m working these days. It’s in the reality department of Unnamed TV Network. As such, there’s about a bajillion nondisclosure things I have to be careful that I don’t let slip.

But something happened on Friday that demands a sit and spin. But let’s dress it up in some fictional fancy pants.

Therefore, I now work in the reality department of The Miniature Golf Network (TMGN)! It’s huge, people, we’ve got a bunch of shows on the air, including Who You Callin’ Mini!, a nationwide search for the top miniature golf champion under the age of 10, Kitchy Kitchy Koo, a miniature golf design contest, and Putter Up, A Real World-esque docudrama about a group of seven strangers picked to run a Goofy Golf in northern Texas.

(the above paragraph is quite plainly fiction, in case anyone stumbles onto here looking for a real Miniature Golf Network on TV. No such thing exists. Move along, and have a great day!)

I’ve been at the TMGN network for a few months now, and I can say that this is not where I thought I was going to be at this stage in my life. God’s a crackup, that’s for sure. Me a writer, working in reality. But it’s ironically the safest place to be with the writer’s strike still going on. Remember how last year I was working in Event Planning at Unnamed Movie Studio and they wanted me to work the Golden Globes party, and I said no way in hell? I wouldn’t have that job this year, because of the strike. There were no Golden Globes this year. There’s a company I temped for two weeks last year that I wish would’ve hired me on, and their studio deal got force majuered because of the strike. So there’s evidence that God is protecting me, albeit using the strangest ways possible.

Because He’s a crackup, He is.

Reality programming isn’t where you think you would find God lurking about. Much easier to find Him in scripted programming. You can have your Touched By An Angel show here, a Seventh Heaven show there, a Lostaway has the audacity to invite another one to pray on the first season over here.

But Reality Programming is chock full of chuckleheads who don’t want anything more in their life than to be famous. And I’ve been bouncing away like a Plinko chip at the pegs of my reality landscape, going, “Why am I here? Why am I here? What’s the game plan? Where are you, God?”

Now there’s a series that TMGN already shot and was in the can before I ever showed up. It’s called Hole In One, and it’s a dating show, where 10 women compete in various miniature golf events to win over Ted Tallywhacker, the heir to the gigantic Pocket Balls miniature golf franchise. It hasn’t aired yet. When I first started this job, I was told three things: “We don’t accept unsolicited submissions” , “Don’t schedule more than three pitches a day if you can possibly help it” and “watch out for Moira from Massachusetts.” Moira from Massachusetts was a Hole In One contestant who had a habit of calling TMGN, wanting to know when the show would be airing. I was told never to engage her in any more than a swift “No, we don’t have that information yet.”

So I’ve been toiling away at TMGN, and discovering that wow, I do need God’s help a lot more than I think I would, because it takes the grace of ten thousands angels in order to deal with the mountain of phone calls from random people who start out the conversation with, “I have an idea for a reality show, and I want to know how I can pitch it to The Miniature Golf Network.”

Guess what? You can’t. Just like you can’t write a script, call up your favorite director, and submit it to his production company. There’s a wonderful barrier called Agents And/Or Managers that you have to go through. If you don’t have one of those (and it has to be a recognizable one, not your Uncle who’s a lawyer in Des Moines) you can’t submit it to us. There you go. Plain and simple.

I wish I had a more calloused soul, so that I could turn these people down left and right without blinking an eye. Given a few months more, I probably will. But right now, it pains me to dash the hopes of the Random Folk, “We don’t accept unsolicited submissions.” “How do I get solicited?” is the follow up question. And I want to hang up on them, they’re dumb, they’re stupid, they’re wasting my time and theirs. Who WANTS to pitch a show to TMGN anyway? People who want fame. Fame is fleeting, doesn’t anyone know that?

So I need God’s grace to pick up the phone when I look at the caller ID display and see that it’s an out of state area code, which means that it’s somebody from Middle America who wants to pitch us their unsolicited idea. Because in God’s eyes, these Random Folk aren’t dumb. They aren’t stupid. They’re just, um, well, very passionately misguided.

This is what I try to remind myself every day I’m there.

On Friday, I get a call from the assistant to The Miniature Golf Network President. “I’m transferring someone to you. She’s crazy.” Oh YAAAAAAAYYYYYYY! “She’s got a bunch of reality questions, and I can’t answer them, so can you take care of her?” Oh sure, no problem. Dear God, please give me grace. Please give me strength. Please help me help this crazy passionately misguided person as quickly as possible.

And it’s Moira from Massachusetts. Who is NOT a happy camper. Moira, who suspiciously sounds like she’s off her meds, talks one hundred miles a minute for five minutes about why isn’t she featured in more episodes of the show. The show that hasn’t aired yet. Moira, by the way, gets the boot in episode three when she refuses to participate in speed painting various fiberglass obstacles on a miniature golf course. Moira had the purple whale, and she flat out refused, saying purple clashed with her outfit. Because, you see, Moira didn’t really care about winning the heart of Ted Tallywhacker. She didn’t really care about miniature golf. She just wanted to be on TV. She wants to be FAMOUS.

And in her five minute speed rant clocking 500 miles, Moira demands a meeting with the head of TMGN, because the show won’t be number one if they don’t put her in more episodes. The show that hasn’t aired yet. The show that she got bounced on episode three.

Dear God. This is a child of You. “I’m gonna call every day until I get an answer, Amy. I’m an Ashkenazi Jew, we don’t stop.” Dear God. This is an Ashkenazi Jew who’s also a child of You. “I’ve been a cyberbunny on Playboy’s website! I’m the best thing about this show! You’re trying to keep me from becoming a star!” Dear God, I need sooooooo much grace right now. “Just tell me this much: is your boss straight?”

(Yes, she really did say all of the above. That part is not fiction.)

I try to shut her down as quick as I can. I suggest she send an email, “I’m not writing an email. I’m shaking right now.” I tell her I can pass her number and message to my boss, “I want a meeting. 15 minutes.” I tell her I can pass her number and message to my boss, “I have no problem with going to the picket line and telling reporters how you’re not featuring me in more episodes,” I tell her I can pass her number and message to my boss. The network president’s assistant IMs me in the middle of the conversation, she’s been listening the entire time, “You’re really good at this.” Just God’s grace. Getting me throooooooough.

After repeating myself 18 times how I can pass her number and message to my boss, and with a small assist from another VP who loudly calls my name so I have an excuse to put Moira on hold, then come back saying I have to go (the whole office is listening to this conversation now.) I finally finally get Moira off the phone.

Dear God, I know Moira is a child of You, in addition to being a Playboy Cyberbunny and an Ashkenazi Jew. (hey it rhymes! It must be a poem now!)

Dear God, I know Moira is a child of You
(in addition to being a Playboy Cyberbunny and an Ashkenazi Jew.)
Thank You for Your Grace In Getting Me through

And if I may be so bold to ask for more,
Please don’t let there be any more Crazy Calls in store,
I know it’s impossible, but miracles, you can pour.

Banish these hateful thoughts running round my brain
About how these people are stupid, idiotic, or otherwise lame
Because I feel bad, guilty, yes, I feel shame.

Thank You for a paycheck, thank You for a job
Thank You for a constant income in the midst of a striking mob
I trust You, I trust You, Yippee Skippy Bob.

Love, Amy The Writer.

1 comment:

Richard T said...

Amy, you have managed in one entry to explain in the clearest way possible exactly what's wrong with America now. It is more important to be Famous than good, talented or even merely useful. And sadly, many in Hollywood and people like TMGN only play into it. And a large number of the American public is largely too ignorant or bored to turn away and make these people think twice. The result is an army of people like Moira. I've had to deal with them, too. Not. Fun.

May I make a suggestion based on years of experience with crazies on the phone: hang up when they don't listen. YOU'RE in the power position in the conversation. You will never convince them they are wrong, you will never convince them that their behavior is inappropriate and demented. The only way to get their attention is the same way you would with an animal who isn't doing as it's told: smack them on the nose. Hang up. They might call back, but the moment they aren't listening to you, you hang up again. They want something you have: access. By hanging up you are taking their chance away. They will learn faster than you can imagine.

Just remember: the phone works in two directions and YOU'RE in control.