I think I may have said this before, but what sucks for Christians and screenwriters and Christians who are screenwriters is that we spend an inordinate amount of headspace anticipating that magic phone call.
Maybe the call’s from God, inspiring us with a vision of what we’re supposed to do with the rest of our lives (go build schools in Africa, go work as a bank teller in Florida, go wrangle blood drives at your church), or giving us an answer to a particularly thorny problem (what do I do with the guy? What do I do with the crazy boss? What do I do with the friend who needs help?)
Or maybe the call’s from a creative executive wanting to take a meeting and shoot around some ideas, or the call’s an email from an exec responding to one of your loglines.
In either scenario, it sucks because you can’t sit around and wait your whole life for the call. You gotta go out and live your life, try out different roads, freeways, on and off ramps. You gotta sit down and write some stuff.
It’s a tricky line to walk between doing your part, and looking to God, hoping He’ll meet you where you’re walking. Because when you don’t get any call, you’re wondering if you’re supposed to keep going, because it’s now learning to persevere in faith, or whether no call means you’re not on the right road to begin with.
So in the middle of Damien’s Reign Of Terror a few weeks ago, I got the call. Except I didn’t know it was the call. In fact, I grabbed the ringing phone off the counter as I was chasing Damien around the first floor, because he had an oven mitt in his mouth in another one of his misperceptions of Catch Me! Catch Me! Catch Me If You Can! Because This Is A GAME! I answered the phone completely distracted, literally on the run, because my number one priority was Get The Oven Mitt Out Of Damien’s Mouth.
The assistant on the other end of the phone was talking a mile a minute, probably because it was nine p.m. and he desperately wanted to go home, and I think my call was the very last on his list of priorities.
But his mission was to set up a breakfast between me and his boss. I didn’t know why, I didn’t ask. The executive and I had been trading emails about a potential project, so I assumed the breakfast would be about that. I quickly checked my calendar, said what date worked for me, and that was that. We hung up, I wrestled the oven mitt out of Damien’s mouth, and life went on for another week.
I prepped my notes on the project, I prepped my list o’ other ideas in case she wanted to hear what else I had in my bag of tricks. I didn’t bother to stress, because I still didn’t really know what the meeting was about, and I was too embarrassed to call and ask the assistant a week after the fact, when I should’ve asked him when I had him on the phone the first time had I not been dealing with Demon German Shepherd jaws.
So I go to breakfast all cheery and ready with my iphone notes app, and pens and a pad o’ paper just in case we’re kicking it old school. The creative exec shows up, all laid back and cheery, and proceeds to pitch ME an idea. That she wants ME to write. And they will pay ME money to do so. All I have to do is say yes.
This is not how I was imagining this meeting was going to go. AT ALL.
Turns out that harried assistant was supposed to send me a pitch document before the meeting. Oops. BUT! It just so happens that the idea is about…
(I CAN’T REALLY SAY WHAT THE IDEA IS ABOUT BECAUSE OF CONFIDENTIALLY STUFF SO EVERYTHING I SAY NEXT IS CODE CODE CODE!!)
… a Golden Gecko who does Gymnastics.
And while I didn’t have the pitch document in my hot little hands, while I didn’t have a WEEK to prepare my responses, one thing I DID know is gymnastics. Because I was a gymnast as a kid. And if your main character is a Golden Gecko who enters the crazy world of competitive gymnastics, then yes, I can totally relate. YES I CAN.
So I talk to the exec about how I think the story would go. About how this little Gecko already has the deck stacked against it because while this Gecko isn’t flexible at all, this Gecko has no fear. Which is totally how I was as a gymnast, and it was surprising how far courage could outweigh an inability to do the splits.
As I’m talking to her about how your choice of music to do your floor routine to can reveal so much about your personality (my routine was mostly to the non-speaking parts of New Order’s “Shellshock.” Totally true. Just take a listen: It was impossible to keep up that pace.)
… And I see the light bulb go off in the Creative Executive’s eyes. It’s the look you want to see the person on the other side of the table get. Because that lightbulb, that look is the person on the other side of the table seeing what you’re saying playing out on a screen. And liking what they’re seeing.
Even so, I thought it would go poof, as so many other opportunities have. There have been many people who have come alongside me, promising this, that, and the other thing, and then blip out of existence without so much as an explanation for why they went poof. They just went poof. Poof is a part of life here in Los Angeles. You learn to live with it, and even though you saw a lightbulb go off across the table, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. She pays for breakfast, she tells me not to start writing on anything until we sign a contract. Oh, okay. No problem. I’ve got a bunch of other things I’m working on anyway.
Then a month goes by. And just as I’m about to chalk it up to Poofery, a contract comes through the email. For me. With a writing schedule and a payment schedule, in four steps. And an email from the Creative Exec wanting another meeting, where we nail down a few story details about the Golden Gecko.
That meeting happened. The contract is signed. And my outline, the first step, is due on Friday. I am officially a professional writer who’s getting paid for writing.
I can honestly say that Golden Gecko Gymnasts are the last thing I thought I would be writing about. And I’m not quite sure why God wants me to write about them. But this has unfolded in such a bizarre manner, that it can’t possibly be anything but God pulling the strings behind the scenes.
I just hope He likes what I come up with.