Panels. No, not the type you beat but the kind where you sit in an auditorium hoping against hope that the experts in front of you will dust you with their wisdom, are a popular way to lose a couple of hours in Hollywood.
As an aspiring screenwriter I’m happy to go where the knowledge is – my theory being that if you situate yourself near greatness, some of it will eventually rub off.
Over the past couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to bathe in the starry glow of William Goldman, Aaron Sorkin, Peter Jackson, Ron Moore, Steve Zaillian and many others whose shelves are groaning under the weight of awards.
My very first panel event a couple of years ago was at Writers Boot Camp in Santa Monica with the writer/director Nancy Meyers. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room as such a successful movie-maker and that she was actually answering our (mostly) daft questions. (Sample: ‘Do you use a pen to write?).
Since then, she’s had a special place in my heart so I jumped at the chance to hear her speak again after a screening of It’s Complicated, her new movie starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.
In person, she’s petite but fiery and I like the way that although she often depicts idealised lifestyles in her movies (have you seen Meryl’s vegetable garden!), she always writes strong roles for women – and she’s great at what she does. If you’ve seen The Holiday, What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and even Private Benjamin, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
But this is the thing. At a screening or panel you have to act like you couldn’t care less. This is Hollywood, so no-one slobbers over the talent because we’re all too cool for school, which is why it’s unfortunate that when I’m in the presence of greatness, I have a hard time holding back.
But what do you say to someone you admire without coming across as a deranged numpty? Unless, the person in question knows you, or someone they know can personally introduce you, no matter how you approach it, you will always come across as a blithering fanboy (or in my case, girl – no, wait, woman).
I shouldn’t have said hello but I did. I mean it’s not that difficult to slink out of a side door and head home but no, I enjoyed the movie and I wanted to tell her as much.
So, I bounded up to her, butted into a conversation she was having with a couple of friends and blithered on about how much I loved the movie, some other guff about her writing great roles for women of a certain age, ending with ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, I’m so grateful!’
Ugh, Lisa, really?
Bless her, she smiled and politely said ‘Thank you very much’ but with a look in her eyes that also said, ‘Where’s my car?’
I don’t blame her, I must have come across like some kind of lunatic Tigger crossed with a forelock-tugging Jeeves.
My New Year’s promise is to act more cool but you know what, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. I like the way this stuff still excites me – and hey, aren’t New Year’s resolutions meant to be broken anyway?