Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Golden Gecko, Part 2

(Up until about eight hours ago, this blog entry had a different ending).


So one would've thought that having one movie (Indigo Giraffe) and another movie (Paisley Bunny) both going into production within two months of each other would've been enough.  I know I did.  I know it all happened so fast it made my head spin, to the point where all I could do was get out, "Thank you, God, thank you, God, "

I mean, just consider where I was at this time last year - August of 2011, I was writing the Golden Gecko Gymnast outline, then the company pulled the plug on it and my Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.

And while Dad still has cancer (though he doesn't look like any Stage IV cancer patient you've ever seen.  Not confined to a bed.  Still goes on morning walks.  Still has all of his hair.  Never puked once, at least, not that they told me), a year later, I have two movies in post.

So yes, God is good.  God is great.  God is amazing and wonderful, and has a perverse sense of humor when it comes to my life (which I kinda love about Him.)

But He wasn't done with me yet.

Because right in the middle of writing Paisley Bunny, right in the middle of doing multiple rewrites on Indigo Giraffe, the company that was already having me write Paisley Bunny emailed to say that they were restarting Golden Gecko, and wanted me to go through the rest of my steps left on the contract.

In other words, the Golden Gecko lives.  It LIVES!

The original plug was pulled because they didn't have any presales in place.  But over the first half of the year, they took my outline to international conferences, and with the Summer Olympics renewing an interest in gymnastics, a foreign investor stepped on board.  Whoopie!

Just one thing.

(there's always just one thing.  If you want to be a writer in Hollywood, you can start by prepping yourself to always hear that phrase, "Just one thing.")

The foreign investors are from Iceland.  So could I please reframe the story to be about a Golden gymnast Gecko who lives in Iceland.

Sure, sure, no problem.  Wait, what?

(I always say "Sure, sure no problem." Just as you should prep yourself to hear "Just one thing." you should prep your first response to be "Sure, sure, no problem.")

it doesn't matter!  I can do anything!  I can write anything if you're paying me for it!  A golden gymnast gecko in Iceland!  Nooooooo problem!  Can't wait!

Never mind the fact that I don't know anything about Iceland.  Never mind the fact that a gecko's natural habitat is someplace, well, warmer and according to wikipedia, "There are no native or free living reptiles or amphibians on (Iceland)."  I'm sure geckos, if they knew that Iceland existed, would want to go visit, right?  They've gotta be bored with jungle climates at some point, and want to see the rest of the world, specifically Iceland.  Just slap a parka on them for outside, and the gym where they'll do their training will be indoors, and they can shed the parkas.  My friends joked that, in order to properly capture the flavor of Iceland, "land of fire and ice," the company would simply HAVE to spring for a trip for me to visit the volcanic island, or to join them during production.  I doubt that's gonna happen, but it was nice to indulge in that fantasy every so often, especially now that L.A. is melting under a sweltering heat wave.

I didn't know anything about geckos before I started writing the outline last year.  But I researched and researched and grew to appreciate them enough to write one as a main character (They don't have eyelids, did you know that?  Not that I could use that as a plot point.  But they literally lick their eyeballs to keep them moist.)  Never mind that fact that I'm not really a fan of reptiles in general and refuse to go near the reptile house of any major zoo.  All you gotta do is pretend that you're the gecko, and write the character with the same hopes, fears, and dreams that you do.  Then everyone will be able to relate to this little golden reptile with the sticky toes that helps it land any vault with the precision of a jacknife thrown into a wall, quivering with the motion but stuck solidly at the point of landing.  BOOOOIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGG.

The one small saving grace I had was that the company wanted me to write Paisley Bunny first, and then work on Golden Gecko in between drafts of Paisley Bunny.  But for the month of May and June, I was consumed with Indigo Giraffe drafts and Paisley Bunny drafts.  Those two months were fueled by caffeine - Diet Coke, Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (I let my Mt. Dew affinity go for the sake of my face.)  All in addition to my dayjob.  I would write on breaks, during my lunch break (which is only a half hour), I would get up early, I would stay up late.  I was losing my mind, but so so happy to be losing it for a paycheck. 

But soon enough, Indigo Giraffe and Paisley Bunny were filming, and I could start writing in earnest on Golden Gecko in July.  And again, the persistent tiny drumbeat of How do I sneak in God's truth in here without tipping anyone off and without being heavy-handed about it, and still being entertaining within the framework of the story.

The Golden Gecko is a girl gymnast and her name is Gloria.  And Gloria Gecko's family has moved from Vietnam (where Golden Geckos are usually found) to Reykjavik, because Gloria's dad has a new job.  Gloria is lonely and misses her friends but finds a gym where she can still continue her training as a gymnast.  Naturally, she's the only gecko in the gym, and all the other animals - the Arctic foxes, the puffin birds, the snotty minks - make fun of Gloria because she's different and has no eyelids.  KIDDING.  We gave Gloria eyelids for this story, otherwise it would just be freaky.

So the script's theme is about appreciating who you are and what you can do (because it's a gift from God, a subliminal theme, not on the nose), even if you're different from all the other Icelandic animals, overcome adversity in the form of teasing animals and how they might not be your biggest enemy compared to your own inner demons, especially the one that says You Can't Do It.

And there's one scene where Gloria is trying to master a difficult tumbling floor routine.  She can do vault with no problem.  Same thing with beam and bars, because she can grab and land with no issue at all.

But the floor is her least favorite, because it's supposed to be a mixture of dance and skill.  Her sticky hands and feet put her at a disadvantage.  And she hates it, but it's not like you can just skip an event in gymnastics.  You have to do them all.  Even the ones you don't like (I hated the bars myself.)

Gloria's coach gives her a bit of advice, which I cribbed from my own Aerial Coach, which I wrote about here :  Only instead of "spot the bar and close your eyes" it's "you have to trust enough to let go," because Gloria keeps closing her eyes when she tumbles.  My tiny tiny metaphor of faith, inverted and spun around.

You have to trust enough to let go.

My tiny tiny way of getting in God’s truth in a silly little story about a Golden Gecko gymnast.

So I turned in the first draft.  And got paid for it.  And waited for notes.  Finally, I could breathe!  Two projects in post, and one project I’m waiting for notes so I can do the second draft and polish, they say they want a draft by the end of September to turn in to the foreign investors.

And then today happened.  Today.  Today was the day I got the email from my creative executive that says because this movie has turned into an international coproduction that has to play in more than the English language (Icelandic and Danish) and for multiple international markets, it’s gotten very complicated, and the foreign investors want to bring in another writer with a better understanding of Iceland.  I’ll still receive credit when or if it ever gets made.  But once again, my participation with Golden Gecko has been unplugged, a little over a year to the day where they unplugged me LAST year (That was August 8th, 2011).

 I get it.  If the tables were turned, if there was an Icelandic writer trying to write about an American gymnast, he’d probably screw up some cultural details too.  Best to get a writer who knows the lay of the land, so to speak.

And unlike last year, where everything was falling down around my ears, this year, I have two movies in post.  It’s almost an embarrassment of riches.  I can’t really be super bummed that I was dismissed from the FOURTH movie based on a script I wrote.  So many writers don’t even get ONE movie made.

Hell, you can even broaden the horizon.  I can’t be super bummed.  I live in America.  I have industrialized plumbing.  I have a job.  I have a somewhat working car.  I can pay my bills.  I’m not a minority living in an oppressed nation and running for my life from mercenaries with guns or ancient patriarchal outdated laws.

And there’s always a faint light beaming from another door.  The creative executive likes me, and likes another Easter idea I pitched her back when we were kicking around Easter ideas that produced Paisley Rabbit, so we’re gonna start working on that.  So it’s definitely not, “Good bye and good luck, you suck.”

Maybe my tiny little metaphor of “You have to trust enough to let go” will survive subsequent writers.  Maybe it won’t.  Maybe Gloria won’t even be called Gloria anymore.  For all I know, she may not even be a gymnast anymore.  Hell, at the rate we’re going, I could get a call in another six months saying the other writers haven’t worked out and they want to bring me back.  So many stranger things have happened.

When I read the email and got to the line, “we are not going to be asking you to do another draft.” My knee jerk response of Thank God for everything, good news and bad kicked in.

So I took a couple of moments and sincerely thanked God for the opportunity.  Thanked Him for opening the door.  Thanked Him for closing the door.  Thanked Him that my dad is still alive. 

It’s very possible He’s protecting me from future crazy foreign investor notes.  This was never an opportunity I was chasing, it was just something that fell into my lap.  Twice.  Again, stranger things have happened. 

So many other things could happen or not happen in the future.  All you can do is thank God for everything, good and bad.

And trust enough to let go.

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