Have you ever wanted to beat yourself up over something you did that is so unlike you but that comes out at an inopportune time?
It’s not that it’s never happened before, but that it happens from time to time in stupid ways really bugs me, especially when it’s in front of someone I want to impress.
I remember the time I met Bill Murray. Bill was filming the movie that would later be called “Larger Than Life” (which he is or was), the working title being “Nickle and Dime(s).
I was working for a talent agency in Colorado at the time and we were in charge of filling the request for extra’s of Native American descent and because of the shortage of NA’s, some Hispanics were used. I was not there for the entire filming. I had studied acting for years so my job had been to coach the young actors that were later selected and not actually be in the film. Besides I was told they didn’t need anyone my age. However for the last day, my boss asked me to dye my hair black, so I could pass for NA since they needed more for a particular scene, so I did.
Needless to say, I was terribly excited at going on my first movie set. As usual, there’s a lot of waiting and because it was out in the desert, I could wander around. I met the cinematographer, who was from Italy. Very nice. then I met the guy in charge of all the technical stuff. It was amazing. He took me around the set and showed me how everything worked. (If you know film, you know that things are not as simple as they appear.) He had evidently been in the business a very long time and he described different aspects and jobs of movie making. I was enthralled by it all. I guess I must have appeared to him like a wide eyed child because when we parted, he smiled and said “You’ll be back!” He was right. I was in love. I didn’t know how or what my niche would be, but I had it bad.
In case you’re wondering, at the time this transpired, I was over the hill for the usual acting jobs that came around. I was considered old when I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts briefly for their summer program at the age of 50, yet they accepted me for the program. So even though I was no spring chicken, I’ve never looked my age. Good genes make me look way younger than my years. When I was a kid I’d had my chance briefly to be in show business, but life got in the way and I had pretty much laid my dreams to rest, now they were sparking again but I digress. I’ll save that story for another time, since I’ve strayed from my subject. Still, I wanted to be a part of the business, I knew that.
So here I was, way out in the desert of Moab, Utah. All the extra’s had talked madly about what a wonderful and pleasant guy Bill was. They said, he was friendly, would sit and banter amicably with them and all this stuff. So when I got in line for an autographed picture of him, on a rail car with an elephant behind him, I was expecting “Mr. Congeniality”.
Well, he isn’t a smiling type, at least not with me. He only took my picture and asked my name. I gave it to him and by this time I was terrified. Yes, a grown woman, terrified and I started babbling trying to make conversation. I have no idea what I said, but he winced and that made it worse. I kept wanting to put a zipper on my mouth but it just kept spewing. I don’t know who was more uneasy, me or him. Finally, I walked away, chagrined that it hadn’t gone better. I wanted to be his friend. Well, at least I wanted to see this convivial person everyone had been talking about. So, I asked myself, “Did I come off like I was hitting on him?” Oh my God! That’s it!
Nothing could have been further from the truth of course. Either way. At first I felt bad, then I got angry, because if that was it, then that was an arrogant assumption. But how would he know otherwise? I’m his age and attractive. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure family men in his line of work and stature must stay guarded. But, I never forgave myself for the misstep.
Well, I did it again and again. Not with movie people necessarily but people with titles. Stupidity looms up from time to time. I have a friend, well even my daughter who’s an actress says, “they’re just people mom!”
But I say, it’s not my fault. Really. I grew up being told that “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard!” Sadly, we were never allowed to interact with adults or engage in any type of adult conversation. In fact, any one of authority was addressed with deference. Here I am of age and I still regress from time to time. If someone had power to help or slay me, I fall apart.
It happened this past weekend. I got snubbed. I think it may have been in part because the speaker said from the onset that everything counts for something. That we all make judgement calls the minute we see someone. So, how we dress and how we look IS important. First impressions count. He said that even he made a judgement about individuals the minute they walked in the room. (He was looking straight at me when he said it). Like Bill, he was not a smiler. So, it was hard to “know” him.
He talked about doing your due diligence before meeting someone you knew you would meet and I thought DAMN! I forgot to look him up, his background. Could he see that on my face? At break, I pulled up his stats, but it wasn’t enough for me.
As it was I had not slept much the night before, nervous about meeting people in the business and what do I say? Did I have any screenplays ready should I meet someone who would ask or want to see my work? So, I didn’t have hard copies, but I had them on a zip drive and since so many carry laptops with them anymore, I could download a PDF copy if they wanted one. Also, the ones I have on there were already registered, so that was good too! It was a last minute decision to go anyway so it was all good. Nothing to worry about, I told myself.
Still I worried. This is not like me. I had pins and needles all up my legs and I kept jiggling them to still the sensation, so I could get some sleep. I had just started working out with a personal trainer this past week. She asked me how I sleep. I told her I sleep hard generally. Was that it? All that stimulation has got my circulation going. It was no wonder I couldn’t sleep. I had a two hour drive to get there, but being LA, I would give myself an extra hour to offset accident delays on the road etc. So the alarm is set for 5 am, but I didn’t get to bed until 2:30 or was it 3? Do I even bother trying to sleep, sometimes that makes me tireder? No excuses! In this business, there are no acceptable excuses. The show must go on!
So when I went up for him to sign his book, I jabbered. I sunk into “the hole” I dug once before. It seemed like a hole because I noticed that with everyone else he asked, what do you do? He didn’t ask me. Me, I had to make conversation and it was horrid, he responded tersely, not amicably nor did he ask questions back like he did the others before me. It was like, “Next!”. I knew I was dressed well. I bathed before going. What was it?
For two days I stewed about whether this was for me. Can I survive? I know there will be more people like that, but it obviously would not be them I’d be working with. The self talk was incessant. I didn’t have this problem at the pitch fest and everyone I spoke with loved my pitch. So why this time? Then I remembered that one of my dearest friends in Hollywood was someone I had had a rough start with. We eventually became fast friends and when I moved back to California, she demanded she be the first person I would call and visit and she was.
What I do know is I need to get back in there and not give up. I’ve got a lot going against me and age is the biggie and everyone tells you that. What has stood out and is certainly relevant to me is, if something gives you trouble, keep putting yourself out there until it’s no longer a problem. What I have going for me is the texture and color I can bring into my work that comes from life’s experiences. So, here I go again. I’m going to another workshop with people in the business and let’s hope I do better this time.
As they say in Italian, salute! Cheers!