The Pointless Delay

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

You don't say &quotno;" to things in the entertainment business. You say, &quotlet;'s have a meeting."

People out here have a weird kind of faith in the personal meeting, the eye-to-eye exchange. It's as if the material you didn't respond to, or the actor you don't think is right for the part - or, really, any number of intuitive decisions you're called on to make day-in and day-out, can be reversed by &quottaking; a beat," .

&quotCan; we take a beat and talk about this?" a studio exec will say if you tell him you don't want to rewrite some terrible - and unrewrite-able - piece of material. Or the really alarming phrase: &quotI; think you guys need to get into a room together," which is what an agent will say when you don't want to hire his client.

&quotGet; into a room together?" And then what? Beat each other with tiny fists until one of us emerges either employed or dead? How big does this room have to be? In the Buddhist sense, of course, we're already in a room together, and it's actually a little too small, as rooms go.

What they're hoping, I guess, is that somehow, in the room, love will blossom. The resistance you felt will melt away as you gaze into the other person's eyes. Energy and electricity will flow between the parties, and the very project that you didn't want to do, the script that couldn't be fixed, the actor that just wasn't right, suddenly, by getting into a room together, becomes the very thing you can't live without.

&quotGet; into a room together" is another way of saying, &quothey;, just don't say anything right now. Let's just all agree to a pointless delay."

A year or two ago, a major star was thinking about doing a television show. And worse, he was thinking about doing ours. He wasn't really right for the part, and, as is always the case in these situations, when a big movie star decides to do a television sitcom, there are lots of...other issues...that come into play. Like his anger and resentment and fury at having slipped so far that he has to do television - emotions that were sure to play themselves out over the course of production, ultimately interfering with my chief career goal, which is to go home.

&quotJust; get into a room with him," the network said, eager to have his name on their marquee. Which we did. The meeting went well - he's a movie star, after all; he's professionally charming - but after the meeting, when we reiterated our resistance, it was hard to explain to the agents, executives, and casting people that getting in a room together isn't some sort of magic spell. It was a pointless delay that didn't change anything. We had fun being in a room together. Once. Let's not make it a regular thing.

A while ago, a network called and asked us to read a script they hated. But they also liked. They wanted us to redo it. &quotThere;'s something there," they said. &quotIt; needs a total rewrite, but...well, read it and tell us what you think." &quotOkay;," we said, because we're cooperative guys. &quotAlthough; we're inclined to pass, we'll read it and then make up our minds."

&quotDon;'t do that!" they said. &quotDon;'t make up your minds. Just read it."

&quotAnd; then?"

&quotAnd; then let's all take a beat," they said.

&quotAnd; then?" we asked.

&quotAnd; then let's all get into a room together." So we read it. And they were right - it was awful and unfixable. There was no way we were going to do it. But because this is Hollywood, the land of the Pointless Delay, so we took a beat. And then we all got into a room together.

And then, for some reason, we agreed to do it.

Oh, I forgot. Sometimes, when you're taking a beat and getting into a room together, your agent gets a call from business affairs with an offer that doesn't really require a beat, or a room, or anything but an &quotare; you kidding? We'd love to do it!"

That's it for this week, next week, we'll talk about failure.

For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long