We Don’t Make up Things Here in Hollywood

“We Don’t Make Up Things Here in Hollywood.” I overheard a studio exec saying that in a hallway at Paramount. I don’t know what he was talking about… but I can imagine…

The other day, I found myself lying to executives in a pitch meeting. That is not unusual. I don’t find it unethical, either. This business is built on lies. In fact, I never let the truth get in the way of a good story. But here’s the interesting thing about it, truth never gets in the way of a good story anymore.

Let me explain. I was pitching this idea. A comedy. As I pitched, they smiled politely. Just courtesy smiles. That happens with executives sometimes. In fact, you can’t be discouraged and assume that you’re bombing in these situations. Good sales can come from a coldly stoic and straight-faced room of executives.

One of the executives stopped me and asked, “Is this real? Did this really happen?”

I saw their eager faces. They wanted this ridiculous story that I was telling to be real.

“Yes,” I said. “It really happened to me.”

They all laughed.

There it is. We want everything to be real, now. Even comedy. If it isn’t real, no one seems interested anymore.

It’s a strange thing to lie about an imaginative story being reality-based. I actually took credit away from myself… from my own imagination… and I got the laugh. Now, I do it all the time. I preface everything with, “True story…”

But why does everything have to be real? What’s happened to our imaginations?

Borat is a very funny comedy. Jackass has it’s moments, too. But, particularly with the latter, since when is this material for a feature, motion picture? Reality comedy.

A lot of my friends have been fans of improv comedy for quite a while. Is improv comedy really that great? Let’s be completely honest with one another. It usually sucks. Really bad. I’ve seen enough bad improv to last a lifetime. I don’t want it anymore. I hate it. It’s painful to watch untalented comedians panhandle an audience for courtesy laughs. Or worse, those silly improv audience members who guffaw at every inane plot-twist and joke that were really created because the actor doesn’t know what the fuck to do next.

I want to see well-scripted, well-acted scenes with thoughtful direction. I think we can still laugh at material presented this way.

Do we have to sit and watch unskilled, hyper contestants open suitcases every night with dollar amounts inside? And honestly, don’t the contestants seem to be more interested in being famous for their TV appearance than walking away with prize money?

Okay, I’m not gonna’ harp on it too much. But really, we are more interested in people’s used experiences than creating imaginative scenarios on our own. People will sit and watch a webcam of someone talking about stupid shit rather than read a novel or play an instrument. I read that non-fiction books outnumber published fiction titles, 4-1. We’re also obsessed with memoirs.

Enough of real life. We should be sick of real life. I pitched a TV comedy about repo men (based on the film I shot, The Almost Guys). The networks weren’t biting. But now I keep seeing advertisements for a Spanish language show, Operation Repo, a reality show about repo guys.

Basically, you can get any family or group of jackasses to allow cameras to follow them around and document their real but manipulated lives. It’s exploitative, cheap production and forgettable fluff.

C’mon guys… C’mon Hollywood… make some shit up… let writers write stories. Let actors act. Allow the imagination back into storytelling.

I got an idea for you. True story…


2 responses to “We Don’t Make up Things Here in Hollywood

  1. I recently finished a memoir of sorts, ‘a work of extraordinary genius’ I got hooked by the prologue, if it makes me laugh in the bookstore like that, it just might be worth reading all those pages… but there is only so much memoir I can handle…
    This poor guy’s history is something else, but I don’t really think he’s lived long enough to have enough perspective to make the memoir worthwhile. But then again who am I to know? I’m kind of nerdy and maybe I don’t get out much (or maybe I’m not bored enough to watch all this foolish reality tv stuff). It’s a fad, and will pass to something else, hopefully not lower on the food chain of entertainment.
    It’s sort of like, if Dr. Phil is really a therapist, can he really believe that its best for these people and ethical for him to do therapy on tv? Will that ever leave those people, how horrifying to have everyone in the world know your history and maybe that person interviewing you for that job saw the show? Where do you go from there?
    Now I just saw Stranger than fiction… and laughed a lot, and thought it was clever… and a great story… but it couldn’t have ever happened to anyone for real – could it?
    When there is so much out there to really make you laugh, I’m not sure that people being human is really where I want to be… I’d prefer The Fourth Hand, now that really made me laugh!
    Thank God there are people out there still using their creative genius like you…

  2. Eric:

    (c) 2006 – Steven Derek Abrams

    Here are some pitches for you, let me know if you are interested further.

    RS about all the stuff that gets pitched but doesn’t make it.

    Contest, how long can you live homeless?

    Better Yet, I like these ideas because they improve society at the same time.

    How many people can you take from homeless to success in one year.
    1 – The sponsors win the grand prize.
    2 – The homeless get a better life.

    Target several comparable small communities the first community to fill up their empty mainstreet businesses wins the grand prize.
    -Sponsors: SBA, American Express, others?


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