You think you’re out, and you get pulled back in, to something not exactly the same, but it feels very much like it.
When the opportunity arose for me to compose the wording for Anna and Colby’s wedding invitation, my mind and emotions – not always in sync – combined for the identical response:
“I can do this.”
So I did.
I went upstairs to my office, and wrote the invitation, in a simple and natural style, consistent with the overall “Wedding Concept”, designed by the couple, with the help of their wedding planners, specifically to their tastes.
The invitation felt like them. And, after several tinkering reworkings,
It was done.
I then took it downstairs, and I showed it to Dr. M, to see what she thought.
And that’s when it started.
The exact same feelings.
The feelings I felt every time I handed in a television pilot script for consideration as a series. I was never nervous while I was writing. It was the “Submission Stage” when the butterflies arrived.
When I was under contract, there were two harrowing stages to this process. The first step was to get the studio I worked for to sign off on the script. Receiving “Studio Approval”, the script was then sent to the network, for final consideration.
In the case currently in question, Dr. M was ”The Studio. “
I handed her a lonely, single sheet of paper, and as she started to read. Reflexively, I turned nervously away. I always dreaded it when people read my work in front of me, leaving me inevitably trying to decipher every facial expression, hesitation, alteration of breathing pattern, and, when it was a comedy, the vaguest intimation of amusement.
Against all my self-protecting impulses, I turned back, and I looked at my wife’s face.
I found it melting with satisfaction. Which really means something. Dr. M is the toughest of markers. Winning her approval is the opposite of easy. To my enormous relief, and my bottomless need for reassurance, she sincerely
thought it was good.
The first hurdle had been surpassed. “The Studio” had approved.
It was on to “The Network.”
In this case, my daughter, but it was “The Network” nonetheless.
That evening, I overheard Dr. M on the phone, telling Anna, who lives a block away from us, that she was bringing something over to her. As she left, I asked if she was also taking “the ’words’ thing.” She said she had it, and then she left.
I detected a familiar catch in my throat. My submission was going to “The Network.” All I could do now was wait.
I was looking forward to receiving a call:
“Dad, I love it!”
There was no call. Two hours later, Dr. M returned.
“What took you so long?”
“We were chatting.”
Normally, I do not ask people what they think of my efforts. That’s only asking for trouble. This time, however, I could not restrain myself. So I asked,
“What did she think of ‘the thing’?”
To which the reply came back,
“She liked it.”
Two immediate “red flags.” Dr. M’s report of Anna’s response was not close to matching her own enthusiasm. And
Anna had not told me herself.
This was not, as they say, my first rodeo. These were definitely not good signs.
The next day, there was still no word from “The Network.” I tried to keep myself busy, but the mind…the mind! I knew one thing for certain. Though I was still hoping for it, I knew that Dr. M’s report and the ensuing passage time now made “I love it!” an extremely remote possibility.
Finally, there’s a call from Anna. Okay, here we go. “The Network” is on the line.
But it wasn’t about that.
Anna had called to remind me that a Federal Express package, containing her “Save The Date” cards, had been shipped to our address. She wanted me to alert her when it arrived. I read nothing in her tone of my submission. Though aware of the dangers, I was impelled to take the risk.
“What did you think of what I wrote?” I inquired, with measured casuality.
“I liked it,” she replied. “But I think we need to work on it a bit, to give it a little more color.”
And there it was. A B-minus. That’s the “Report Card” version. The “Network” version?
“There are only so many scripts we can ‘green light’ to pilot. We are still currently weighing our options
Over the next few days, some clarifying criticisms of invitation wording emerged, comments like, “It’s too vague” and “It feels more like an invitation to a barbecue.” I knew there was no use defending my effort. In a way, I was not surprised. “Simple and natural” never gets the acknowledgement it deserves. Its difficulty to pull off is often invisible to the untrained eye. It’s like movie stars playing themselves.
I felt the faint, but familiar, trickle of “flop sweat.” And a whisper of irritation. I was a professional, after all. Anna’s response reminded me of a wonderful writer who’d submitted a pilot script to his, now, network president daughter, where she told him,
“It’s not your best work.”
But, of course, there’s a difference. Networks notoriously pass judgment with little or no idea of what they’re looking for, or of recognizing it when it appears. Anna and Colby, on the other hand, know exactly what they like. They had a total right for their wedding invitation to be exactly the way they wanted it.
Of course, that was my head speaking. My feelings, by contrast, were in dithering disarray. I told Anna that there were a million ways to write the invitation. I assured her I could do better. I suggested a collaboration, to guarantee that the work would meet with her approval.
The response was ambiguous.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
I think they’re bringing in another writer.