Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Peter Berg broke his promise...

Over the years in my chequered career (barmaid, reporter, news reader, kids' TV presenter, script editor, writer) I've done some bizarre things to get folks' attention. Not I might add, in some weirdo way - like those deluded folks who charge the stage at X factor auditions, convinced they can sing and perform like Queen Bey, only to unleash a sound like a strangled Banshee and gyrate like my Dad on a wedding dance floor.

No, I mean the lengths I've gone to, to get my CV on the right desk, or (in my presenting days) my showreel on the producer's list. (Oh and quell your dirty mind - I don't mean any casting couch shenanigans either - no one ever tried any of that. Which is good. I think. Or maybe I had the face for radio after all...).

Anyway, no matter the showreels stuffed in boxes of muffins hand delivered, or the CV attached to a helium balloon, or the time I attended a Q & A and doorstepped the speaker afterwards, CV in hand - nothing has come close to my determined efforts to get a Parenthood spec script into the hands of Peter 'FNL' Berg, to pass on to his buddy and Parenthood Showrunner, Jason Katims. The whole thing was planned with military precision. I'm not a gal to do things by halves. I knew that his film Battleship would, at some stage, be doing the promotional rounds. So, my Parenthood script was written, re-drafted, polished and ready by the time his plane hit Heathrow. But how to get near a Hollywood god, when I am but a lowly writer?? If in doubt - ask your mates for help. My theory in life has always been, that if you don't ask, you can't possibly ever get. So old buddy Max, head of a news showbiz desk, agreed to let me slip on my reporter shoes once again, and cover the junket.

Junkets are always great - lots of pastries, and pasty looking journos scuttling around, occasional freebies (NB the worse the film, the more freebies one tends to get) and as much still or sparkling water as you can shake a stick at. I did have to sit through Battleship - which was perhaps the toughest part of the challenge - but it was all worth it, back in March 2012 - when I climbed up the steps to the Manderin Oriental hotel, my questions in my sweaty palm. My script - a PARENTHOOD spec, on a USB stick in my pocket.

Another bonus of this quest, was the mere fact that as well as interviewing Mr Berg - I'd also have to interview the star of the movie - one Mr Taylor Kitsch. What a bind eh? 15 minutes with Tim Riggins himself, where after a cursory question or two about the movie, we settled down to a great chat about the merits of Friday Night Lights: the great writers, wonderful direction, on set gossip, etc etc. I did get a bit carried away and tried to coerce him into a rousing 'Clear Eyes, Full Hearts....' but he laughed and let me finish it all by myself...

*Sighs at the memory*

Where was I? Oh yes. I was escorted by terribly serious looking people in black suits, with Madonna-esque headphones around the hotel - from one incredibly hot light-filled room to another. They would open a door to the dazzling Brooklyn Decker and her amazing pins and then send me back to the journo hub, for yet some more mineral water. After a wait of a mere 4 hours, they said, 'Please come this way to meet Peter Berg.'

With a deep breath, I entered the room and shook his hand. He looked tired, thin and seemed slightly delirious. (After about 100 interviews that day, I'm not surprised). We did the obligatory Battleship chat before I launched into my un-ending praise of FNL. I told him how I loved the writing: Kerry Ehrin (New York, New York and After the Fall, Texas Whatever) and David Hudgins (Hello, Goodbye) and of course Jason Katims (Always) being my favourites. At this point it could have gone either way: Berg happy to talk shop on another project or keen as mustard to get back to all things Battleship. Thank Gawd he was impressed, (delighted even) to talk about something other than 'what made you think of creating a film from a board game' chat; saying 'she knows her stuff,' - especially when I noted he had only directed 2 eps (the pilot and the first ep season 4 in case you are interested).

As the interview was being wound to a close (which is nice speak for a PR making signs of my throat being cut behind Berg's back and tapping her watch furiously) I could feel my heart hammering in my chest. I said how lovely it was to meet him and then held onto his hand a moment too long. I asked him a favour, then carefully gave him my USB stick, explaining that I was massive fan of Parenthood, that I'd written a spec script (mid season 2 - just stopped the DVD and then wrote the next ep) and would he be so kind to pass it on to show runner Mr Katims. He smiled, impressed (again - yay!) with my chutzpah and agreed to do so. I made him promise. He did. I stopped short at the whole pinky swear thing, just.

Then I stepped out into the unseasonably warm March evening with a massive grin on my face. Mission accomplished. As I trained it home, collected my children from helpful friends and bathed them, I imagined Berg jetting home and finding the little USB stick in his inside jacket pocket, many moons later and remembering our chat. I'd stuck my name and details on it - for fear he would just bin it. I let the universe take my hope and crossed my fingers a mysterious email would pop up in my in box one day.

It never did. Peter Berg, you broke your promise!

Meanwhile I heard from an American friend that Katims would have never read it anyway - in the US they refuse to look at specs on their own shows - for fear of lawsuits decreeing plagiarism if a similar idea was ever aired.

But would I do it all again if I had the chance? Absolutely. Because asides from the bonus of getting to talk with Berg (and did I mention I met Kitsch?) the whole thing gave me something that as a new mother of two, I desperately needed: hope. Hope that I'd somehow get to write for TV shows, hope that all my experience as a script ed on UK dramas wouldn't go to waste. Hope that the little USB with my Parenthood ep is stuck in Berg's jacket pocket, or in a drawer in his office, that he will discover one day. You never know...

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