William Froug

March 8, 1973

March 8, 1973

All my dreams...What looked like my lucky break was actually a crash course in how quickly “All my dreams are coming true!” can dissolve into no one’s returning my phone calls. Sadly, this was far from my last experience with emotional whiplash, careers version.

My teacher and mentor, Bill Froug
My teacher and mentor, Bill Froug

Still, Froug was right when he advised me to celebrate. Why not bask in the potential something amazing just might happen? So what if it doesn’t, this time?  The near-miss zone is nothing to be ashamed of. Most people never get that close. Nobody gets there by accident. Somebody noticed you and said, “the kid’s got talent.” If they didn’t believe it, they wouldn’t waste their time. The least you can do is believe in yourself.

The least you can do is believe in yourself

Legend has it, the average overnight success endures twenty to fifty rejections before they’re rewarded with that first life-changing YES. What are you waiting for? The faster you rack up the no’s, the sooner your dreams come true.

What are you waiting for?

The script that earned me this near-miss – “Intimate Changes,” not the greatest title – never got produced, but it won me introductions to agents, producers and network execs, all pivotal in my later career.  What felt like loss was only life unfolding more slowly than I preferred.

 

October 4, 1972

october-4-1972

I don’t know where, when or even if Jack Nicholson made that comment but plenty of people relate. Consider all of the rock and pop songs about the anguish of running into your ex – Walk on By, I Go to Pieces, I Go Crazy and When We Were Young to name a few. The gut-crunching misery of realizing the heel who broke your heart is living la vida loca without you is timeless and universal.

On campus to turn in a script
On campus to turn in a script

When I find out an ex is getting married, my higher self wishes them well. My lower narcissistic self prefers they pine for me forever[1]. If that sounds heartless, consider this. How happy does the dude who shattered you deserve to be?

IMHO, the vengeful narcissist inside all of us roots for the bastard who dumped us to crash and burn in an epic fail. Anybody who acts overjoyed when their ex’s success far eclipses their own is a liar.

I wish you nothing but the best - as long as you don't do better than me.
I wish you nothing but the best – as long as you don’t do better than me.

My own encounters with exes occurred in or around Melnitz Hall at UCLA where our film major brought us together.  Since leaving college, I rarely run into anyone I know, not even casual acquaintances.  That’s life in the big city.

However, a motivated ex can beat those odds with an assist from Google and FB. The downside is the risk of being labeled a stalker and served with a restraining order.

I'm not stalking you! I just happen to be here.
I’m not stalking you! I just happen to be here.

I’m a crying fool for movies (Splendor in the Grass, The Way We Were, Wild Horses) in which ex-lovers encounter each other long after their breakup. It kills me how they make awkward chit chat to hide the depth of their true feelings. Does it work this way in real life? Sometimes, probably.

What gets to me is the message that even though it’s over – their great passion is gone and it’s never coming back – the remnants of love remain in a new shape. It might manifest as love from a distance or devotion to a memory. It could come in the form of compassion, affection, concern or the deep camaraderie of people who know each other to the core. It might not be the love we’re looking for or the love we want but a little love is better than nothing.

I'll always love the way we were.
I’ll always love the way we were.

Something about that always makes me cry.

[1] In the interest of full disclosure, even when I was the heartbreaker, I wanted them to pine for me forever.

August 24, 1979

To put this in context – I’d just learned that my spec script, which had been optioned by Steve Friedman’s Kings Road Productions to be a feature film, was going to be re-written by another writer. Bill Froug was my screenwriting professor and mentor at UCLA.

THE LATE GREAT BILL FROUG
THE LATE GREAT BILL FROUG

 

August 24, 1979_edited-1

DRINKING IS A SHORT-TERM SOLUTION
DRINKING IS A SHORT-TERM SOLUTION

My agent and my mentor were correct. Having your work rewritten by someone else is part of a writer’s life in the film business (less so in television but it still happens).  I ended up rewriting many more scripts by other people than having my own scripts rewritten which ought to make me feel better but it doesn’t. The fact is, it always sucks to be told you’re off the project – especially when it’s your own original spec script.

I suspect other professionals would react the same way if this was routine practice in their business. Imagine a surgeon being told that a new surgeon in town had been hired to  remove the heart he’s just transplanted in order to insert a better one – or an interior decorator who gives her best only to learn all of her work is off to Goodwill and a new interior decorator will start from scratch. It hurts to be replaced. And it never got easier, although I did get better at hiding my emotions. (Hint: It is considered bad form to cry like a baby when – not if – this happens to you.)

AS YOU DRINK,, BROOD ABOUT REVENGE
AS YOU DRINK,, BROOD ABOUT REVENGE

I understand why it sometimes has to be done. Sometimes it even works out for the best. It’s easy for a writer to get tunnel vision and see only one way to solve a problem. New eyes spot new solutions. Given the fortunes and executive jobs attached to the success or failure of a film, no wonder so many execs play it safe and bet on the flavor of the month instead of a newbie. If the “hot” writer tanks, at least they had a reasonable basis to believe he’d succeed.

If and when it happens to you, remember it’s not personal. It’s only business. And then cry your eyes out in solitude.

Cry your eyes out