Friday, May 26, 2006

Ups and Downs

Boy, talk about the ups and downs of life for a disabled guy in the entertainment business. Last night, I was at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, talking to Shawn Ryan, the executive producer of "The Shield", one of the stars of this season, Forest Whitaker, and I set up an interview with the star of the show Michael Chiklis (doing a hard-ass Vic Mackey face) that I'll be writing for Emmy Magazine. There were a lot of Hollywood celebrities around and the food was terrific. When I went to bed last night, I was looking forward to spending Memorial Day with my family at a reunion in Bakersfield. This morning, when I went to pick up the rental van that I would be using to get up there, I found out they no longer provide insurance.

It's up to the Insurance Company of whoever drives me. My friend who was going to drive me has insurance that doesn't cover a rental van if it's set up with a wheelchair ramp and other necessary adaptive devices. I called around to other insurance companies, to other van rental companies and everyone else I could think of. The fact that it's a holiday weekend makes finding an answer impossible. The bottom line is I'm out of luck. Rather than let it irritate me to the point of not being able to function, which it could have easily done, I've been focusing on working that much harder to finish scripts and make vital industry connections that will result with me working on a show and able to afford my own van.

I have an opening day now for "Color of the Cross;" October 13th, in four or five hundred theaters nationwide. If all goes well, I will be embarking on a publicity campaign for it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I meet next week with ABC/Disney to decide the next step with my pilot script for "The Outsiders," and I am planning to attend the Fangoria convention, a horror convention next weekend to promote my script "Hip-Hop Zombies".

My advice to anyone thinking about getting into the entertainment business is, "Don't do it!" It is a suffering profession. I have been warned by several longtime entertainers that success comes at a very, very high price. If you're not willing to pay that price, to put aside everything else, often including a family, you may not ever make it. And, even if you do sacrifice all those things, chances are you still won't make it. But, if your belief in yourself is incredibly strong, and you will give up anything, within reason of course, then by all means do it. At least try it. The last thing you ever want is to look back ffrom the end of your life and wonder what if ...

It's weird. Here I am whining about how my plans for my weekend were dashed by an insurance company's policy when there are people out there, people with exactly the same disability I have, who are stuck in nursing homes, stuck inside homes with abusive relatives, or trapped in some similar situation. I understand what they are going through because at various times in my life I have been in exactly that same position. I had a physically and emotionally abusive wife, I spent a year and half in a rehabilitation hospital with nearly every aspect of my care out of my control. I lived with people who took advantage of me and stole from me on a daily basis. I can honestly say I have lived through a lot in my almost fifty years. I can only hope that what I have gone through floats around out there and maybe encourages somebody else to get themselves into a better situation. Believe me, when I was fifteen years old and the therapist told me that I would never walk again or be able to use my arms or hands again, I never in a million years thought I would be in the position I'm in today. A position where my biggest complaint is that I'm not going to be able to attend my family reunion. I thank God I'm in this position. It's funny how the sudden onset of a disability can completely change your perspective on life.

My ultimate goal is to dramatize some of the situations I've been in, and that others people are currently in. I want to let the world know the daily plight of a large number of our population. It is my hope that people with disabilities will become increasingly empowered in the very near future. We have lived at the whim of others for far too many years.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It Ain't Gonna Happen

That's Hollywood! As terrific an idea that "Special Unit" is, it is not going to be picked up. Unfortunately, a TV pilot is all it will ever be. The whys and wherefores don't really matter, the bottom line is, one of the coolest things that could have ever happened to bolster the image of people with disabilities isn't going to be. It has nothing to do with the fact that it's a show about people with disabilities. I just spoke with Christopher Titus and he is greatly disappointed, as am I. Suffice it to say, he did everything he could possibly do to make it happen. My hat's off to him for coming up with the concept and taking it as far as he did.

I could easily go into a tirade about a it, but, as Avery Schreiber once told me, the best four-letter word I can use in this situation is NEXT!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Writing. Writing. Writing.

That pretty aptly describes my life this past week. I finished "The Outsiders" and am now in the middle of writing "Hip-Hop Zombies". I will be shopping my skills around Hollywood this week and next using "The Outsiders" and an episode of WITHOUT A TRACE I wrote last year as my writing samples. It's a long process with the goal of getting a staff writing job on a TV series. I swear, this business beats the hell out of you sometimes. It demands a lot; discipline, salesmanship, networking, wit, charm, the ability to communicate well verbally, assertiveness, and, as I was reminded by a friend the other day, being bold. Many of these assets I've had to learn through trial and error. Up until about fifteen years ago, I was a devout wallflower. If I went to parties or any kind of a large social gathering I tended to stay on the side and hope that somebody would come over and talk to me. If I hadn't changed that behavior I wouldn't be anywhere near as successful.

For example, last night I was at a function at the TV Academy for the FX show "Rescue Me", starring Dennis Leery (left), written and produced by he and Peter Tolan (right). In the old days, the only way I would have talked to either of them would have been if they came up talk to me or if they had specifically wanted to meet me. Now, I have no problem going up and complimenting them on their show and then promoting myself in some way. Last night, I spoke with Dennis about interviewing him for Emmy Magazine, and he was very interested. My conversation with Peter was mostly about getting him to feel comfortable around me so that if and when I meet him or work with him in the future he will feel more at ease.

Speaking of interviews: I was interviewed last week for Backstage West Magazine, the text of which can be read by clicking the link in the right called interviews. It was one of the first interviews in a very long time where the writer actually quoted me correctly.

By the way, I am still waiting to hear if there is any news about "Special Unit", I am still hoping that no news is good news. When it goes to series though, you will definitely hear about it here as soon as I can put it up.

I was thinking again last night and this morning how blessed I am to be in this position. Believe me, a lot of God thanking goes on around here! I'm not only thankful him, I thank the thousands of people who have pointed me in this direction either directly or indirectly. Because I surely could not have made it by myself.

Monday, May 01, 2006

That's Hollywood (Revisited)

I guess that's something Hollywood and the military have in common, hurry up and wait. I told you last week that I would be finding out last Tuesday or Wednesday about "Special Unit". I have long since learned to stop losing hair waiting for something to happen that I have no control over. "Special Unit" is one of those things. I haven't heard a thing. I'm hoping that no news is good news. The other situation is that the head of the talent development program at ABC/Disney, Carmen Smith, the woman who I have been working with this whole session, and someone I have known for years, has moved onto another section of Disney. That leaves those of us in the program scrambling. I'm always one to look at a situation for the positive that can come out of it, so I concentrate on the new people I'll be working with, and the fact that they might be in a better position to put me into the staff writing job I'm looking for.

I tell you, if you're going to make it in Hollywood, you'd better have a thick skin because you will face a lot more rejection than in almost any other business. And you better believe wholeheartedly in yourself, and in your abilities. And you better be your own best cheerleader. In addition, if you're not in for the long-haul, forget it because success comes easily for only a chosen few. It is, in every sense of the word, a lottery. There are well over one hundred thousand actors in the Screen Actors Guild. At any one time, only about four thousand are working. And as for those who thinks that Hollywood actors make loads of money, the average actor makes five thousand a year or less, and in order to get benefits through the union you must learn close to twenty thousand.

I've been wanting to include this picture for while, but couldn't find it. This is me and one of my favorite actors, Joe Montagna. He was nice enough to take a picture with me at a function I was at about a year ago. That's one thing I have noticed, something that tabloids probably wouldn't have you believe. The majority of the big celebrities that I have met over the years, people like Michael Landon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Lucas, even politicians like Senator Robert Dole, have been very nice people. I know you will be able to cite instances when each of these people and others have been horrible, but imagine if you were in their position. Because I have been there on a somewhat smaller scale. I might be having a bad day when you come up to get an autograph and I might not be as cordial to you as you might like. From that point on, you tell everyone you know that Jim Troesh is an asshole. I remember being stopped by fans in the lobby of the hospital when I was on my way up to see my mother who just had a heart attack. These people insisted that I pose for pictures with them. I did, and I'm smiling in the picture, and my mother was OK, thank God, but imagine what you would do in that same situation. Then multiply that times a thousand if you are a big celebrity.

Thank-You to all of you who send me e-mails in support of what I'm doing. I may not have a chance to get back to all of you, but I assure you that your support means a great deal to me. Believe me, when something big pops for me, you will hear about it first right here!