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dateline : los angeles, california : 12 november 03
: r o d g e r j a c o b s
"So, how did a producer get attached to the project?"
"He’s not a real producer," I explained to Jack, pouring two
packets of sugar into my coffee. "He’s a wanna-be producer but
he’s attached to some major projects, and my agent works with him
in packaging scripts. He has a supposed instinct for making screenplays
The small bar at the Marie Callender’s on Pacific Avenue was growing
increasingly dark, not owing to any problem with the restaurant’s
lighting but due to a gathering storm over the mountains to the east. Only
two weeks ago those very same hills almost fell victim to the wildfires
surging through what the local newscasters call "the southland".
Jack shifted his bulky girth in the wood-slatted chair, took another
bite of his slice of sugarless apple pie and shook his head. "It’s
always the same shit. This business never changes. Never."
A few weeks before, Jack had some kind of diabetic seizure that the doctors
said stemmed from poor nutrition. Now, he was taking his illness seriously.
The sugar-free apple pie, for instance. He was a producer on the Universal
lot back in the Seventies when Spielberg was making his first TV movie
for the studio. He failed to hitch onto Spielberg’s star, though,
and wound up, all these years later, a producer of direct-to-video B-movies.
As for me, I am what I’ve always been for the last twelve years:
a hack writer, a profession that is not be looked upon with disdain when
you consider that at least I have paid the bills through word slinging.
Or so I’ve been told.
"This getting older stuff is no fun," Jack announced, polishing off
the last bite of pie. I signaled the waiter to freshen my cold coffee.
A sign in the restaurant lobby announced that they now "proudly serve
Starbucks coffee." Directly across the street is a Starbucks outlet,
a local haven for the local Armenian and Korean teens. Glendale is nothing
if not a shining emblem of L.A. as a polyglot melting pot.
"If twenty years ago, you knew that you would wind up where you are now," Jack
continued, "would you have done anything different?"
"The law was always my second passion. I studied pre-law. If I knew this
is where writing was going to lead me, I might have chosen to become
a lawyer. And I’d probably be very rich and writing your contracts
for you at three-thousand bucks an hour but I’d probably be bitter
because I would’ve always wanted to be a writer instead."
It was getting even darker now. The storm clouds were clearly visible through
the plate glass window. Jack looked at me as if someone had just punched
him in the gut.
"My God," he announced. "You would’ve been a great
I suddenly didn’t feel so good and was in a hurry to get home. We
finalized the details of our impending production agreement on a $100,000
movie deal and I hurried out the front door. The thunder off in the distance
sounded like artillery shells booming over the Verdugo Mountains. I paused
to study the sky. It was a sickening shade of purple-black. I’ve
witnessed what storm systems like that can do in Northern California
and back east.
But storms with that kind of intensity never hit L.A., I thought. Later
that evening, as the erratic weather system moved south-west over the L.A.
skyline, a remarkable view of which I have from my fifth floor balcony,
I was reminded that a lot of things happen in L.A. that you never thought
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