“You called me!” (A Conversation with my LA Agent)

My agent was short and well-connected.  He was bald, badly-dressed and had a Napoleonic complex larger than Toulouse.  He scared off a lot of writers.

“That’s s—,” being his favorite assessment of anyone’s work or ideas.

For some reason, I liked him.  For an altogether different reason he liked me – or rather my big- budget, action adventure script.  He once put his hand on my shoulder.  I believe it was affectionate.

He wore a baseball cap.  (They all did for a while.)  He scuttled a deal on one of my screenplays by trying to glum on as producer.  (They all did that for a while too.)

I used to put our conversations on speaker for anyone else present.  Just so they’d believe me when I told the stories.

In that spirit, I recreate below a phone conversation.  It’s as close to verbatim as I can get.  That is to say, I’m not making this up.  Why would I?  This truth being somewhat stranger, cruder and more clichéd than fiction.

The agent’s name has been redacted to protect the innocent, which would be me.  Also, the agent is extremely litigious.

The Phone Call

David:  Hi Agent, it’s David.  How are you?

Agent:  Know how many David’s I know?

David:  Hogan.  Your client?  The one whose screenplay you were all excited about.

Agent:  The f— you callin’ me for?

David:  You called me.

Agent:  No, I didn’t.

David:  On Friday, you did.

Agent:  It’s Monday.  Three f—ing days go by and you call me!

David:  I didn’t get your message until Friday night.  I thought if it was really important you’d call back, otherwise-

Agent:  -I wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important.

David:  Not to see how I’m doing?  I’m hurt.

Agent:  F— that.  Hold on…

Papers shuffling in background.  Mumbles.  A phone ringing in the distance.  Eventually…

Agent:  B—– wants to read your script.  He’s an a—hole, but can get a movie made.  Why didn’t you call me sooner?

David:  Why didn’t you remember?

Agent:  Weren’t you supposed to change the location?  You finish that yet?

(Note: The agent had requested that I change the location.  He thought it’d be easier to raise international financing if the screenplay was set in a large European city.) 

David:  I’ll have it by the end of the day.

Agent:  That’s why you’re my favorite client.  The rest are all s—, believe me.

David:  I bet you refer to me like that when I’m not on the phone.

Agent:  Not to your face.

David:  I’m rehurt.

Agent:  F— you.  When you’re done, send it directly to B—–@BigProdco.com.  Write that down.  Put my name and the title in the subject line so it’ll get through and ‘cc’ me.

David:  Isn’t it your job to send it?

Agent:  Won’t be here.  Send it … and stay in touch.

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END NOTES:

B—— the a–hole passed on the screenplay, which remains unsold.

The agent still hasn’t grown hair … or taller.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

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Sunday Morning Comin’ Down (in Greece)

On a Sunday morning in the large amphitheater of my Greek Island village, the male voices of the psaltis from three distinct churches could be heard concurrently.  In the Carnegie Hall-like acoustics of the village, their unamplified chants arrived at nearly the same tone and volume to the house, located high on the village curve.  The effect, however, made the timeless medieval melodies discordant and jarring.

But there were rewards for the patient xenos eavesdropping from above.  If you listened long enough, there came times when the trinity of chanted prayers harmonized unexpectedly and melded into something more sublime and beautiful than any single one of them could have been.

And I thought, there it is in a song: the history of this island, a place where fishermen, cooks, wives, builders and farmers lived together for 5,000 years, sometimes in competition, sometimes in harmony, but almost always in an unenforced and organic equality.  They ate and drank with each other, bought and sold from each other, and married each other.  Their lives were limited, perhaps, but contentedly circumscribed.**  But that was before the European Union and, later, Hollywood discovered the island, before the drachma became the Euro, before the new port and trawl nets and so many pale tourists with fat pockets.

There aren’t enough fish anymore; the few small fishing boats that remain are largely ornamental.  Successful tavernas swallow their less sophisticated rivals, bringing in food and even fish — fish! — from the outside.  Rooms that were once rented by local families have given way to hotels.  In short, the interdependence of the villagers is gone.  A few grow rich, while others, having lost their livelihoods, go to work for them.  It is what we in the restless West understand as the way of the world — almost without thinking about it.  And it is what many call progress — again, almost without thinking about it.

I’ve been coming every summer for over 20 years and have seen the changes in snapshots.  The hope is that one day the tide will, somehow, rise in the tide-less Aegean and lift all boats — but so far that isn’t the case.

So far, the changes have made the villagers like those discordant psaltis on Sunday mornings.  They compete with each other in way they didn’t have to previously, knowing that in the future there will be a few amplified winners and many more losers.  And the not-so-small miracle of the resounding harmony that was this island for 5,000 years will be lost forever.

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** I suppose I could be accused here of romanticizing village life from a safe distance — but I take my lead from two novelists, Leo Tolstoy and Nikos Kazantzakis, who both concluded that the so-called simple villager lives a full life and knows all one ever needs  to know.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

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