Wednesday, July 02, 2008

My first paid writing job...file under ironic.

I can’t talk about details, as the script isn’t written. Once there’s a script I could say more about the process, the company etc. A few weeks ago I wrote about a pitch I had with a prominent film company here. I was very nervous since this was the first time I was doing the pitching instead of listening to a pitch.

Well the company liked my idea. I’m getting notes this week, more meetings next week. The executive on the project referred me to one of the top agent/lawyers here and he is going to rep me (I have a manager, an agent and a lawyer in L.A. but they cannot do the deal as it’s in Italian). I asked G about the lawyer before my meeting and he said, “Uhm yeah you’d be lucky to be repped by that firm.” Then he started busting my chops saying I shouldn’t bother to learn Italian since my “English speaking, just got here from Hollywood vibe” is working for me. ha

All jokes aside I can’t really put into words what the last few days have been like. I feel like my crazy career path has been validated. Sometimes people think, “Oh you don’t really work.” Hello, yes I do. A lot. Just because I don’t punch a time clock doesn’t mean I’m not working. I wish I could get a paycheck every week or every two weeks again. I miss those days. Something about pointing to a specific project will help with the “WTF did I do with my life” moments.

It’s very ironic that the first film I will be working on a writer will be in Italy where I have lived for only three months. A place that some people like to say is a mess, nothing works, everyone is broke, etc. and according to a comment left on my blog when I was thinking about moving to Rome,

“anonymous said...
forget working in the film industry in italy, if you're black you're invisible here! they might ask you to clean their house or look after their kids unless you are famous already, then they will wipe your ass for you!!”

I wouldn’t succeed (and no I am not famous). Yes it’s only one treatment. An Italian screenwriter will write the script with my collaboration so there will be no buying of a villa in Cortona. After taxes perhaps I will be able to afford the train tickets to visit Cortona. The amount is similar to what I would get on an American film at this budget.

But money is not the point. The point is I’m glad I didn’t let my negative experiences in Hollywood stop me from pursuing my goals. Simple fact there is not a single black female A-list screenwriter in Hollywood. TV is a little better, there's Shonda Rhimes who created “Grey’s Anatomy.” I see the careers of my female screenwriting friends, black and white and it’s tough. You are quickly put into a box (and god help you if you are over 30). That is why we are so happy that SATC: The Movie kicked butt maybe there will be more movies about women green lit (it’s very hard for women to get hired to write non female driven movies. Complete double standard, guys like Ron Bass or Tyler Perry can write for women but not the other way around).

One successful male black screenwriter I was talking to told me he tells his reps not to put his picture in the trades when he sells a script/gets an assignment.

Here I walked into the room with an idea. They liked it. Story is story. This obsession in Hollywood with age, gender and race is ridiculous. I grew up in NYC then suburbia with parents from another country. Of course I can write about things other than the ‘hood. Writers write. They create. If I don’t know details about a certain world there is something called research. To quote from a “60 Minutes” segment on ageism in Hollywood, did the studio hire ants to write ANTZ? Please.

Another anonymous blogger left a comment on my blog saying Rome is “an unbearable backwards city.” I can only go by my experiences. I just got one of the biggest breaks in my career in this “backwards” city vs. the “forward” city I struggled and lived in for 10 years. Not to get too new agey/Southern Californian on folks but clearly the universe is telling me something.

48 comments:

ninety9 said...

Congratulations! That is wonderful news. I wish you smooth sailing from here on out. Do you plan on celebrating?

Anonymous said...

Congrats!!!! That is wonderful. Glad to hear that your hard work has started to pay off.
G might be on to something... being "foreign" can be helpful in certain aspects. I have several Italian friends who hit the jackpot in US thanks to their hard work of course, and the fact that being foreign in certain cities is a very valuable commodity! Milk it for all its worth =)

katerinafiore said...

Hey, This is a big thing for you. Forget on what other people say about being a screenwriter in Italy. If you believe you can do it, you can! A saying I love goes like this: "Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those who are already doing it." George Bernard Shaw

Happy Writing!!

BelgianG$ said...

Wow that is wonderful news!I'm also slowly trying to make the step of moving to Rome, so it's really nice to read a very positive experience (for once)!
It gives me the feeling that what I'm about to do, is not so crazy after all! Congratz for your script!

Italianissima said...

Congrats on your break!!! Do not give other people's negative comments about Rome credence. I have found that in when it comes to Italy, as crazy and messy as it is, there is also magic and for some people a sprinkle of luck, and honestly that can be all it takes to be successful. Can't wait to hear all about your success!

Roam2Rome said...

I cannot say how much I love this post :)

Especially because I know exactly what you mean about those bitter, negative commenters who tell you it cannot be done...

I find it interesting that many bloggers *only* come out to play when something bad about Italy is being said. Why? Boh!

Mentality is everything. Your mindset is helping you overcome the challenges we face every day and it speaks very highly of you. I like that :)

I, on the other hand, have only good wishes for you and I hope you continue to open your very own path, in your very own way...

Girl in Giro said...

Congratulazioni!!! e Complimenti! That is really great news. You must feel great and excited.

Kataroma said...

Congrats caribbean ragazza!!!!

It is ironic that you had your big break here in Italy where the job market/pay in so many fields is so terrible. Obviously, not in yours though - or, rather, your sheer talent won them over despite the job market. :)

In my field (law) things really are terrible (unless of course you're the relative of a prominent lawyer) - but I do know a few people who are making it work even here.

Tina said...

That's awesome! You kept your mind to it and you did it! :-) Thoughts become things, chica! ;-)

Besos from South America...

erin :: the olive notes said...

YAY! Congrats and a big 'whohoo' to Rome, the backwards city.

sfashionista said...

A-LO!!! I am so proud of you! That is FANTASTIC! It's just a matter of time before you are making your own movies there - I hope you invite me to the premieres!!!! It will be my excuse to come back to Roma and eat salmonella-free tomatoes... and to see you of course!!! Although all this talk about your success there is making me sad that you're not ever coming back... :)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ninety 9 - thank you. An expat friend and her husband treated me to aperitivos the day after I heard the news.

anon - grazie. G was one of the people here who told me to focus on writing not physical production. He was right.

katerinafiore - thanks. that is one of my favorite quotes. I didn't make this move lightly, I really did my homework and spoke to quite a few expats. I heard about the good, the bad and the ugly. So I do get annoyed when I meet people who assume I just uprooted my life because I saw the movie Under the Tuscan Sun or something and that I'm naive regarding what Italy is about.

belgian$ - thank you. Good luck with your move. The best advice I can give is to come here with eyes wide open. There is so much great accessible information available regarding making the move and what to expect.

italianissima - grazie. Before I moved here I had become so jaded it was sad. Magic? What was that? This sprinkling of luck made my day.

roam2rome - thank you. The thing is I know so many people who are doing well here (most are in the creative fields, non profits/NGOs or lawyers.) Do they complain about the things that are wrong here? Of course and many of them are involved in local or national politics. So when I read an anonymous comment saying basically the entire city is backwards and unbearable I have a hard relating to it.

girl in giro - grazie! Still kinda processing the events of the last few days.

kataroma - thank you! ha....I don't know about that sheer talent thing. Luck and timing had a lot to do with it. I am curious learn more about my new lawyer.

tina - grazie. you will be here soon right? September? I like the idea that thoughts become things. hmmm

erin - ha. thanks. Really "backwards" is kind of harsh, no? I mean there is Internet and ATMs.

sfashionista - thank you! Of course you would be invited. If I were in L.A. you know we would have to stop by the Barneys shoe department then get drink at L'Ermitage. Instead I will treat myself to a gelato for two euros because thanks to GWB the dollar is so low I can't afford to buy any shoes.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I recently found your blog and I can't wait to go back and read it from the beginning. I don't usually post comments on blogs as I don't have a blog yet and always feel like I'm crashing some private party. Plus the fact that I'm a complete stranger. :) I've been meaning to leave you a comment for several days but haven't. Then, I read your wonderful news this morning, was going to comment and didn't. But I was raised that if somebody is doing good, you tell them they're doing good. So...you are doing good! You and your blog are an inspiration to me. I think you are incredibly brave and positive and, as I am a writer as well (though not in the same genre as you), I love how you try to block out those negative people. Congratulations on your wonderful news, but even before that, congratulations on living and breathing your dream.
Sue
PS-There will ALWAYS be naysayers. 'Some see mountains and say they are too high. Others wait until they have reached the top to decide.' Keep on climbing!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

anon/sue - thank you so much and for stopping by. Good thing I did not start this blog earlier. It would have been one loooong negative rant that wouldn't have been inspiring at all. ha.

There are days that are tough of course, mostly having to do with language/communications issues but so far I have no regrets about my move.

Anonymous said...

Hi again,
Oh, I meant to write that I'm sure there are days that are beyond tough and that you just want to scream (or have :) ). I didn't mean to imply that everything was rosy all the time. I'm sure it is really tough. But, saying you have no regrets is very profound and says a lot.
Have a good one!
Sue

Texas Espresso said...

that is great!! congrats! very exciting...I can't wait to hear more about it when you finally can say more. all that hard work is paying off!

wordtryst said...

Congratulations! I got goosebumps reading this. The universe is definitely telling you something...

As for anon: if we all concede defeat before we even start no one would ever achieve anything. (I think Barack Obama said something along these lines too.)

Btw, the ageism thing is creeping into the other kinds of writing too (commercial fiction). It's about selling the image rather than the story.

This post endorses many of my hard-earned beliefs about life. You have to do what's right for your soul, and leave the rest to God.

Ms. Violetta said...

Congrats. Not to get all new agey on you either but some places on the planet just work for some. Rome is working out quite well for you.
All the best in your career.

Rose in Cali said...

Complimenti! You go prove those naysayers wrong! You're an inspiration is so many ways. Follow your heart and things will always work out. Go forth and conquer, I say!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This is amazing, fabulous news! How wonderful to be in a place where TALENT, not race, gender or age, is what is valued.

This really made my heart sing to read this.

Yay, yay, and a million times YAY.

Congratulations. I'm so, so, so absolutely happy for you!

dmarie said...

Congrats! That's wonderful news :)

glamah16 said...

Full speed ahead.Keep the blinders on and dont leisten to peoples negative experinces. We know the deal , but there is always room for change. Im so so excited for you . You listened to you intutiton and have folllowed your dream. This is ment to be.

LuLu said...

I'm SO thrilled for you. I'm glad you didn't listen to all the negative crap out there. This was such an inspiring blog entry!! I know how hard it is to work in a male dominated industry (i was in that boat once), but you stood your ground..knew what you wanted to do and went for it. That is how TRUE success is found!!

You have helped strengthen that little glimmer of hope in me that's been fizzling out over the years. Thank you and I wish you nothing but continued success on this journey...I can't wait to hear all about it!!! YAY!!!!

Sherry said...

Fantastic news!! To use a trite very 90's expression, "YOU GO GIRL!!"

Elisa and Patricia said...

Hi - I'm delurking to say congratulations! Getting work in Italy I've heard is challenging, but obviously they were really impressed with you! Auguri!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

sue - I know. I was just thinking out loud. :)

texas espresso - grazie mille.

wordtyrst - I hear what you are saying about commercial fiction. My manager and my agent are still trying to find a book agent for my novel. Some didn't respond to the novel but those who did said they couldn't sell it in this climate and passed. I remember reading a review about this hyped debut and it said "so and so at 40 is old for a first novel." I was thinking "are you freaking kidding me?" It's a novel, isn't some life experience a good thing? It's crazy.

ms. violetta - thank you. Now I wonder if I think good thoughts about a man will that manifest itself? (again not to get too new agey) :)

rose in cali - grazie. I tell you doing the opposite ala George Contanza has really work for me this year. ha

jen - thank you. I get why people in front of the camera have to go through all this drama but for writers? It's either on the page or it's not. That other stuff shouldn't matter. My agent friends say they don't want to take on older writers because how long will they have a career? Women and minorities are limited so agents try to not have too many of those type of clients on their roster either. sigh.

dmarie - thanks!

glamah16 - grazie. I try to just focus on the work and not worry about the other things. I don't always succeed and have a sleepless night or two but this news has definitely motivated me to finish my latest spec script and to start the next one.

lulu - thank you. I must be a glutton for punishment. Before working in film I worked in politics, another intense male dominated field. ha
Now I look back and think all these experiences will help me with my writing.

sherry - ha. thanks. I think some people are still using it and not in an ironic way. I'm trying to bring back "oh snap!"

elisa and patrica - thank you and thanks for delurking! I hope they like the next draft of my treatment. No pressure. ha

Romerican said...

WOW- congrats!!!
All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together for you, I'd definitely agree that you & Rome were meant to be!
As for the negative comments: everybody has their own experience in Rome. Some people adore it, some people hate it, some people adore & hate it. I myself have plenty of negative things to say about Italy because I've been here for a very long time and I've seen/put up with a lot of crap that shouldn't really happen in a civilized city (in my opinion) BUT that's just my POV. There are lots of factors that make or break a relationship with a city, and a big part of that has to do with perspective & what phase of life a person is in. You had your fill of LA while I'm sure someone else just moved there, loves it, and is living their own dream. I don't think it's as much about the city itself as it is about us- where we are in our heads & hearts.

In the end, all the negative comments probably prepared you for the worst which is much better than coming here with little or no info on the "darker side" of Italy (which does exist). You knew what you needed to do and you were going to do it despite the comments... you followed your head & heart and it paid off. Brava!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

romerican - thank you. I agree that where you are in your life matters. I'm older. If I was 25 and moving here I might have a different perspective regarding my career and opportunities.

That said I still think a love or hate for a city has a lot to do with that city. Every city has a vibe.

To be honest my race and what I do for a living plays a role too. My experience is that America is not a meritocracy, that I'm an outside despite being born in America, and being a first generation black American see a side to America that others may not see or relate to. The shit I had to deal with when my family move to the 'burbs? Sorry I don't see America as being that civilized. I really can't get that worked up about a long line at the post office here after some of the things my family has been through. Actually this comment is too freaking long. I'm going to stop now and write a post later. ha.

Romerican said...

"That said I still think a love or hate for a city has a lot to do with that city. Every city has a vibe."

Dunno, I really think it depends more on the person. I'm sure the vibe I get from Rome is different from the vibe you or someone else might be getting. We're all coming from such different places and mindsets so we're tuning in to different vibes.

"My experience is that America is not a meritocracy"

Wow... I've heard it said about Italy (from Italians and non) a million times and I myself happen to agree, but I personally don't think that about America, or at least my work experience has always proved otherwise.

"and being a first generation black American see a side to America that others may not see or relate to."
Absolutely. I'm a first generation American of Italian origin so things were different for me. I'm basing my opinion on my parents' experience (going to America penniless, without knowing English, and with very little education and managing to build a great life for themselves) and on my own work experience. I guess I have a very different view of the US workplace (mine is limited to NYC and to the handful of job markets I've worked in), I've always felt meritocracy is alive & well there and to me it seems that hard work is more appreciated and more rewarded there.
But again, that's just my own experience ;)

homebody at heart said...

Congratulations girl! I am so happy for you. I believe that you get back from people, most of the time, a reflection of the vibe you give and your vibes are good! Most of my personal experiences with Italians were more than pleasant and people were very helpful, even when sometimes my "italian computer" wasn't working that well. Don't overthink it all, just enjoy, you're doing great!

lele said...

Congrats ragazza. Do your thing girl. All those baby steps add up.

Confessions of Cleopantha said...

Fantastic news, congratulations!! The universe is definately speaking to you:)

Whilst people share their experiences, they are "their" experiences based on their beliefs/ conditioning and true for them.

However, as we are all unique it is essential that we also remain open to creating our own unique experiences, as you have. l think it is good to have awareness but not to make it your truth unless it feels right.

All the best!

J.Doe said...

congratulations. I'm sure it WAS a matter of talent.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

romerican - exactly your parents experience was very different from mine. While Italians esp. in the early 1900s had to put up with much discrimination they are white. My parents came to America (esp my dad), well educated, money in the bank (there was not way they would have been able to get a visa otherwise) and had to take a pay cut. When they went to buy their house (this is in the 70s near NYC , not the deep south in the 50s) the next door neighbor tried to buy the house out from under them because he didn't want black people living there. I have been thinking about your comments and I realized maybe I am not so over all this stuff. (ha) It def. impacts how I view my life here vs. back in the states.

homebody at heart - thank you. I do tend to over think things and I'm trying to go with the flow more.

lele - grazie! yes baby steps do add up.

confessions - thank you. Yes that is true. I try to empathize with people and understand where they are coming from. At least the negativity did help in that I was expecting the worst so I'm pleasantly surprised when things go well. :)

j.doe - thanks you're sweet.

Michellanea said...

You've had more success in three months here than I've had in eight years, so brava!

I haven't had the best experience here but I would never want to discourage anyone else from taking the plunge. And as for your views of the U.S., I find it really interesting and would love to see you write more about that. I grew up white in whitebread Middle America where we did the pledge of allegiance every morning and had it drilled into our heads constantly how "great" the country was and how we were all equal, yadda, yadda. I can honestly say I was raised to be "colorblind" and to have few prejudices, and as a child I guess I thought that's how all Americans were because weren't we all just one big melting pot? Obviously once I got out of there and traveled my own country and the world a bit, I realized how naive I had been growing up and just how flawed the U.S. is. I still think it's a great country (in concept) and that it is more of a meritocracy than Italy but it certainly 'aint perfect. I can't speak to how it would be to be black and an immigrant (though aren't we all immigrants?) in the U.S. but your experience is obviously valid. A black model friend of mine who stayed with me for a while here in Milan told me that back home in Chicago if he goes around in baggy jeans, they target him as a shoplifter in EVERY store so he feels he must be "clean cut" and well dressed at all times. As a petite white blonde woman I could probably go around everywhere in baggy jeans without a problem. Sad.
Michelle

joanne at frutto della passione said...

First of all, congratulations. I think it's wonderful, and wonderfully brave of you to go after your dream actively. I'd like to address what you said about negative comments you received. I lived in Rome for 3 years before moving to Milan. While in all honesty I would do anything in my power to avoid moving back, I have to say that I have some wonderful memories. Not everything was good, nor was it all bad. If I had been blogging at the time my posts would have varied from very bitter tirades against everything Italian on bad days to euphoric praise of this country and culture on good ones. Culture shock happens to everyone no matter where they come from. Reading your blog I am constantly impressed by how you have taken your destiny by the reins and are steering it in the direction of your choice. If those negative comments aren't constructive, ignore them, if they are (like watch out for gypsy kids because they'll pick your pockey) take it in and move forward, just as you have been doing. You have a cheering section up in Milan. To quote The Beach Boys:
ra ra sis boom ba

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

michelle - thank you! Today's post touches on your comment a little. I know people think we make up this whole DWB (Driving while black) thing up but it does happen. There is crime and racial profiling because of crime but for law abiding people like my brother it's gets really tiresome to be viewed as a potential suspect all the time.

joanne - grazie (esp for the cheering section!). Some of the negative comments were constructive and I have learned from. I should also make clear I'm not saying people don't have the right to complain. Please I did my share of it for years. ha.
All I ask is that people try to see where I'm coming from and not think I'm some Pollyanna who has her head in the sand. I get that this country has some major problems. Luckily the culture shock really wasn't/isn't that bad for me. I think it's because my parents are foreign and I had to navigate difference cultures all my life.

bleeding espresso said...

Sìììììììììììììììììì!!!!!!!!!!

I'm so so so very happy for you, but I never had any doubts that this entry would come sooner or later...within three months though? Molto impressive ;)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

bleeding espresso - grazie mille!! I'm glad you never had doubts. I on the other hand :)

Tracie B. said...

there are a lot of people out there to tell you that you can't do something, they're always the ones that who can feel better about their own failures by predicting yours. whatever.

i've experienced a lot of that lately and it just makes me want to prove them wrong!

Tracie B. said...

and tanti auguri for your success!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

tracie b - grazie. I know you will prove the naysayers wrong!!

Curious to know what they are "naysaying" about. Is a move back to Naples in the works?

Los Angelista said...

PREACH! People are seeing your talent first and foremost, which often seems to be next to impossible in the States. This is fabulous news and yeah, never listen to those who tell you it's not gonna happen. You've got the endurance built up by a lifetime of getting kicked in the teeth by American racism. If you can survive that, you've definitely got Italy on lock!

Tracie B. said...

no move back planned, but definitely pined :)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Los angelista - you know what they say, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I know I had it easier than my parents and I hope that my nephews will have it easier than me.

tracie b - okay but I hope there will be at least a visit.

previously anon! said...

well, I'm kinda surprised that my comment has caused such a stir. I must have left it on a particularly bad day, however glad things are working out for you and that rome is as you expected. As far as roam2roma's ccomment is concerned"I find it interesting that many bloggers *only* come out to play when something bad about Italy is being said. Why? Boh!" it is really not the case, as I left what at the time seemed my very own true experience. NYCG enjoy your life and accept my appology if my comment hurt you.

Stephanie said...

Arlene! I can't believe that in the mere 7 months I've been back from Beijing you've up and moved to Rome! I'm so glad that you pursued your dream of living under the Tuscan sun, and got such a big break. I'm just in the middle of catching up on your Roma adventures and I look forward to hearing more.

It's too bad, I was going to be in LA in a month and was thinking of meeting up with you--that will be impossible, obviously =) I guess I'll have to think more seriously about planning a trip to Europe and dropping by Rome. Congrats on the job.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

previous anon - no problem. I'm not sure which one you are. Your comments didn't hurt me. Please, I spent my formative years hearing the N word dropped regularly at my jr/high school. If you said the only gigs I could get would be cleaning someone's house or watching their kids, well I don't look down on those who have to do that for a living. If your the one who said Rome is backwards, I already answered how I felt about that in my earlier comments.

stephanie - thank you! I hope all is well up No. Cali. Sorry I won't be able to see you next month.