Δευτέρα, 14 Απριλίου 2008

The Amazing Bitch

How can you not love a country where ATMs promise tantalizing things such as: “Please wait. This ATM will service you in a few minutes…?”

Needless to say, this ATM didn’t service me or anyone else, even though we hopefully waited in line for more than a few minutes.

Nevermind that, I am proud to say that I have just been accepted into the Greek equivalent of the DGA – based on my 2 short films (with their festivals and awards) and 1 medium length doc, for the onetime amount of 20 euros ($30), and thereafter a monthly fee of… 2.5 euros. That’s less than 4 bucks a month.

Eat THAT, DGA!! Who needs you and your bloody several-thousand-dollars-a-year fee?!...

Moving on, I’d like to share with you the joys of trying to work in this country. I’m not talking about finding work, which I’ve been trying to do for the past 6 months. I’m talking about actually working – which frankly, is starting to seem worse.

Before you get all excited, I still haven’t worked as a film director. I have, however, been asked to turn one of my proposals into a script for one episode of that bloody “lots of sex” serial I was supposed to direct.

Here’s how that came about… I had gone for yet another interview, this time with the local equivalent of a big studio boss. (This guy actually owns the largest and only state-of-the-art studios in Athens – at least according to his prospectus. I haven’t been invited to check the premises.)

An interesting note on the way Greek execs conduct business: whereas almost all of them have insisted on giving me their cell phone number and email (just try to imagine Harvey Weinstein giving you his private number. That’s right, you can’t even imagine it. Because it would NEVER happen.), very few of them have actually sounded pleased when I used that info… Well then WHY ON EARTH would they give it to me?? Is it just to show off their brand new business cards?

Anyway, while I was waiting for the big boss to see me, I met a friend of a friend in the lobby, who remembered me from 2 years ago, when he’d seen my short film and liked it. He mentioned another friend of his, who’d also loved my short, was now working at the TV station for which the “lots of sex” serial was shot. Why didn’t I give her a call? She had other [better] serials going on and there might be something for me.

So I called her [we’ll call her Cool Gal] and got an appointment to see her the next day. While we discussed the possibility of my working on another show, [“Nothing right now, but I’ll forward your CV as soon as we have a new episode”] Cool Gal asked me how come I still hadn’t directed an episode of that “lots of sex” serial.

I said I had no idea, kept being told there were no scripts, then handed in 2 episode proposals which I offered to write, was told I couldn’t possibly write them myself because the TV station would never approve, had then gone as an “observing director” to a lot of shoots and had generally had my chain yanked a lot since then.

At which point Cool Gal interrupted me to call in her supervisor, [we’ll call her Tough Gal] who’d apparently also loved my short, and had me repeat everything to her. That’s when they told me that:

a) They had been sent a list of potential directors with my name on it and
HAD SPECIFICALLY APPROVED ME back in September
b) They had NEVER been forwarded my script proposals
c) They were DESPERATE for good scripts and would have LOVED for me to write one

Cool Gal said it was for sure the head of physical production at the production company who was responsible for blocking my every attempt. [I can’t remember if I’ve named her already, but I think THE BITCH would be appropriate at this point.]

Apparently, The Bitch hates women and only ever works with men. Cool Gal’s theory was that she’s a lesbian who hasn’t yet accepted the fact and therefore hates all women. I believe it’s just as likely she’s a man eater and resents the intrusion of anything that looks vaguely female in her male-dominated universe.

But that’s neither here nor there. That’s when I stepped into a Woody Allen movie. You know that moment where someone is discussing the movie they just saw and the director steps out from behind a bush to defend them and says they’ve gotten everything right, unlike the asshole who was saying the opposite? This is a bit what it felt like.

Without warning, Tough Gal decidedly picked up the phone and dialed The Bitch’s number. Acting as though I wasn’t sitting right there, she proceeded to cream The Bitch in front of me. I could only hear her side of the conversation, and that was enlightening enough. Here’s roughly how it went.

“Hi, Bitch” [well, obviously she didn’t call her that].

“Tell me, how come Ms Neri still hasn’t directed an episode?”

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“Not her first language? I saw her last week, she speaks Greek perfectly well.”

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“From America? Expensive ideas? I don’t think so. She seemed perfectly reasonable. And she’s been to the set, right? So she knows what equipment we have.”

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“High opinion of herself? I think not. She seemed perfectly agreeable. Not at all arrogant.”

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“Not much experience? On our new show, we use young directors who’ve only ever done shorts. That show is doing a LOT better than yours, actually.”

[TAKE THAT, BITCH!]

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“Lots of questions about the available equipment and lighting? Well it seems rather positive to me that she’s that interested in the process.”

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“You know what? We really want to try new people to see if we can bring that show around. No, we don’t want Mr. BLA for the noir script. We’d like you to try Ms Neri.”


[Pregnant pause…]


[Then: another inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“Oh, she’s helped you a lot on set?”

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“She’s been there from morning till night?”

[Slightly exaggerated, but anyway.]

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“She’s even worked as an extra without being paid?”

[True. With my clothes on, might I add.]

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“I see. So it’s not your fault. You actually really like her.”

[Inaudible answer from The Bitch.]

“So YOU’re not the one blocking her way. It’s someone else. Sure. I’ll talk to the boss. Goodbye, Bitch.”


Hanging up, Tough Gal looked at us and said: “She really thinks we’re retarded. After spending ½ hour trying to convince me that you’re worthless, you have suddenly become the angel of the second coming. Wait, let’s keep this ball rolling.”

While I was still reeling from that conversation, Tough Gal picked up the phone for the second time and called the production company’s boss [we’ll call him Teddy]. Here’s how that conversation went:

“Hello, Teddy. Why hasn’t Ms Neri directed an episode yet?”

[Inaudible answer from Teddy.]

“We’d like to try new people, since that show isn’t doing well. And how about trying a feminine approach for once? This show wasn’t supposed to be a porno series. It was supposed to be subtle.”

[Inaudible answer from Teddy.]

“No, we’re not happy with the show. And neither should you be. We have about 8 episodes left, let’s try to make something out of them.”


Needless to say, I could have hugged both Cool and Tough Gal. I remember thinking that even if nothing came out of this, it had been a moment worth living for and I would feel forever thankful I was allowed to witness it. It’s a good thing I’m happy with little things, because it looks like that’s exactly what will happen.

Frankly, after that scene I was expecting the production company to call me right away. Maybe the next day or the day after. But a week passed, then 2, then 3. It’s now been 6 weeks. This country is weird, as you know by now. Apparently, even the TV station [who is paying for the serial] cannot order the production company to hire who they want.

So the only positive thing to come out of this (other than a very welcome balm for my ego) was that the TV station asked me to forward them my proposals directly. I emailed them the very same day. A week passed, nothing. I asked whether they had received the proposals. Yes. Another 2 weeks, then 3. I concluded that they weren’t interested. Then I got an email saying they liked the second proposal. Nothing else. I tentatively asked whether they wanted me to write it. Well, yes, was the answer. I had 10 days.

So I started feverishly writing, for although my spoken Greek is good, my written Greek leaves much to be desired [think, “Eef ahi was riting eenglish layke thees”] and I had to go through hell to get my script corrected by the deadline. [That story will be for another time.]

Anyway, I sent it to the TV station last week and am still waiting for an answer. But hey, if it took them 1 month to approve the proposal, think how much longer it may take for them to approve the script/suggest changes. I’ll probably be back in the US by then.

The other question is this: will I ever be paid for this work? Probably not. They could:

a) Decide they don’t like the idea after all and simply discard it – no pay (very likely)
b) Decide to use something similar rewritten by someone else (although this is more of a Hollywood thing, really)
c) Decide I am new and inexperienced and only need to be paid some peanuts (very likely)

Next time, I’ll tell you all about my other [unpaid of course] Greek job. We can always find plenty of those, apparently…

Take care people, and think positive.

If I can get used to this, you can deal with traffic jams and smog. Think Greek: instead of grumbling, just go get a coffee, spend 3 hours on a terrace and enjoy the sunset.

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SOME FEEDBACK ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER:

Katy F:
You are amazing. I pray that you are keeping these stories for your memoirs. It's incredible.

Wes K:
For some strange reason, this email really turned me on. lol. Is that creepy or what? I'm glad there is some measure of justice for you in the encounter.

Christophe N:
Haha!!! Tu m'avais parlé de cette conversation! "Ravi" (ahem) de voir que ça n'a absolument pas avancé...... Bon courage en tout cas, et j'ai hâte qu'on se retrouve à LA!!!!!

Sasha VK:
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How the hell do you live in that country, is it possible to earn money if you have been educated or is it better to just marry a rich guy and be a house wife? I would explode..... Do a TV series abour job searching in Greece!

Melissa E:
I think this is my favorite so far. : ) I am wishing you luck!

Amy T:
Yikes! All of that energy from the network to get you a show and they don’t get you a show. It sounds like Hollywood!?!!