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Dayan Ballweg @DayanBallweg
, 47 tweets, 17 min read Read on Twitter
Okay. I'm doing this. If no one reads this, at least it might serve as therapy. After years growing up in Ashland, OR and being exposed to pretty much the entire Shakespeare canon, I went to acting school in Seattle, WA. #MyBrilliantCareer
I had always been a movie kid. Watching the Oscars since I was god knows how small (on a 10" tv). Tuning into Siskel & Ebert religiously every Sunday. Harassing my local theater to program Raising Arizona and She's Gotta Have It and Baron Munchausen. #MyBrilliantCareer
So I get to Seattle - and see Do The Right Thing. My mom had taken me to NYC for my high school grad present - and that's it. I'm all in on NYU. Started attending in fall of '90. #MyBrilliantCareer
I quickly realize that I CAN'T AFFORD TO MAKE STUDENT FILMS as an auteur - which at that point is all NYU wanted to produce. I remember showing up to my Senior thesis class and announcing my role on the project was "writer" and getting "Yeah, but what else...?" #MyBrilliantCareer
So, going to the shared NYU computer lab - because no one had a computer yet at that point, I poop out my first feature BUCKSHOT SERENADE -- which was a contempo remake of Cyril Tourneur's The Revenger's Tragedy - set at an Alaskan fishing camp. #MyBrilliantCareer
It was... terrible. To say the least. But I immediately started my second feature, THE GODZILLA DIARIES, which was a weird, Zelig-y mashup of Andy Warhol and the Godzilla timeline. I entered it in the Nicholl Fellowships and made the Quarterfinals. #MyBrilliantCareer
Greg Beal, the program director, wrote me a nice personal note saying it was one of "the weirdest scripts he'd ever read - in a good way". So the following year, I submitted my third feature, the hit-man comedy, YOUNG AMERICANS. #MyBrilliantCareer
It was Tarantino-esque before that was a thing. A hit-man "temp" and a first gulf war vet go to war over an apartment in NYC. It made it all the way to the final 10 at which point, JACK FUCKING LEMMON and Eva Marie Saint apparently voted it down in the room... #MyBrilliantCareer
Because it was "too violent". Which was fine until I found out they only gave four out of five fellowships they could have given out. Oy. Anyway, I came home from work to a FULL ANSWERING MACHINE. The first call I returned was to [REDACTED] at CAA. #MyBrilliantCareer
After 30 seconds on the phone, she says "You're not one of those 'artist' types are you? How do you feel about making lots of money?" No really. That's verbatim. Like some bad indie film protagonist, I crawled under the covers and rocked until I calmed down. #MyBrilliantCareer
I flew out to L.A. - staying at an upcoming movie star friend's house and spent a week on the water bottle circuit. Returned to NYC and decided to sign with the first NY based agent I met at WM (no E). #MyBrilliantCareer
I spent the next 2 months writing a fucking Christmas rom-com called 'TIS THE SEASON and called WM (no E) to tell him it was ready only to find out that the agent had passed away from AIDS. I got placed with ANOTHER WM agent on the left coast - and away we go. #MyBrilliantCareer
I did not know how tenuous my connection to the agency was. And then I got sent to meet with a "Producer" at a NY Hotel - who 10 minutes in, told me it was his fantasy to meet someone at the hotel and "go upstair and screw our brains out". They pimped me out. #MyBrilliantCareer
I decided it was time to make the leap. I loaded up my dog and shared a drive across country with a friend - all based on the promises of another "Producer" who was going to hook me up. #MyBrilliantCareer
I spent nearly three months crashing in her Uncle's office - that used to be Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond's ACTUAL office in BH. I was squatting and had to sneak in and out when no one was looking - while showering at a gym nearby. #MyBrilliantCareer
I eventually got wise - and found a sub-let and my first "real job" working for a up-and-coming personal Publicist who now rules the city with an iron fist. It was... damaging, but educational. #MyBrilliantCareer
During this time, I met a client, Kasi Lemmons, who I immediately recognized as an amazing artist and possible mentor. I told her that I would love to come work for her if the opportunity ever came up. #MyBrilliantCareer
During the years that followed, I moved from job-to-job including spending 6 months as a long term legal temp at New Line Cinemas. Despite having no credentials, it was my job to copy and distribute some of the most confidential information in the company. #MyBrilliantCareer
I was there for during the development of LOTR, during production on Magnolia, Town & Country and Austin Powers 2. The people at studios don't realize just how much info passes through legal. Even I knew where the bodies were buried. #MyBrilliantCareer
And then Kasi called to ask if I was serious. I spent the next two years working on THE CAVEMAN'S VALENTINE from development to release - and eventually attended Sundance as her + 1 to put a bow on the experience. #MyBrilliantCareer
And then... I was adrift. I went to work as a researcher for a production designer, working on THE DUPLEX during 9/11 - and then I got a call. A year or so previous a producer with at least one legit credit had optioned my Nicholl script for 1K. #MyBrilliantCareer
Nothing had come of it - and I didn't really expect it to (other than a brief delightful run at it with the indomitable Stacy Title). They were bringing on a new director named Richard Pearce to meet on the project. #MyBrilliantCareer
Richard called my "manager" -- a friend-of-a-friend - to say he wanted to hear my thoughts on another project, an adaptation of T.C. Boyle's TORTILLA CURTAIN which was under development with an indie producer. #MyBrilliantCareer
I tracked down the book before our lunch - read 3/4 the night before - and sat down with Richard - where it quickly became clear that he had already decided I should adapt it for him. Two days later we were in Malibu talking to undocumented immigrants. #MyBrilliantCareer
Let me just say -- THIS IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. Suddenly, I had my WGA card, insurance - I signed with Kasi's agent. I was a "real writer". Even with scale, I suddenly had more money than I'd ever had before. I used it poorly. #MyBrilliantCareer
I didn't pay off my college loans. I didn't put it aside for a house. I ate a LOT of really expensive sushi. I met the woman who would eventually become my unfortunate wife. I turned in the script and the producer called saying he didn't want to change a word. #MyBrilliantCareer
I leveraged my old PR connections to get a write-up in Variety. Richard was replaced on the project - but was incredibly happy for me. Even as the project began a long slog through a series of directors hands - during which A LOT OF WORDS CHANGED. #MyBrilliantCareer
Said Producer wanted to lock me in for a second project while he could still get me cheap. I reluctantly took on a "sexy thriller" called JAKE AND MIMI. One day I went to the Producer's office and he took me to meet his "partner" on the project: Gene Simmons. #MyBrilliantCareer
We drove up to Gene's compound in my beater '85 Honda Civic - where I met the man. Out of make-up he was more like a Woody Allen extra. A Jewish Uncle in sweatpants. I then proceeded to do every possible thing to lose the job. #MyBrilliantCareer
I remember saying "The problem with the protagonist is that he's a sexual predator"... Gene looked up at me with his basset hound eyes and said "As men, are we not ALL some kind of predator?" I "got" the job. #MyBrilliantCareer
It was the most miserable experience of my career. The lead tied up and tortured women - BUT IT WAS OKAY BECAUSE THEY CAME REALLY HARD. There's more to it - but it's not worth going into. I was the wrong writer, and the script was a dud. #MyBrilliantCareer
OWA #3: My agent at Gersh brought me in to meet with another producer who was spending his father's gameshow millions. He had bought a book called NOBODY'S SAFE about a cat burglar who breaks in to the wrong house and the wrong time. Hijinks ensue. #MyBrilliantCareer
The book was a non-starter - and I said the only way I could take the meeting was if I could go in and say "the only thing worth keeping is the first 50 pages of the book". So I went in and said that. And I got the job. #MyBrilliantCareer
Suddenly I had to concoct 95% of a new action movie (which is not my milieu). I introduced parkour for the action beats. This was 2004 - so that seemed like a loopy idea at the time. I turned in my draft. And another. And a third. #MyBrilliantCareer
It was a situation where the producer said "It should be like The Italian Job AND Three Days of the Condor"... without recognizing the wildly different tones there. It became clear that he would bankroll more drafts - but there was no clear direction. I walked. #MyBrilliantCareer
Now bear in mind, the first three jobs had pretty much fallen into my lap. So I assumed that would continue to be the case. My agent told me to find a property to pitch to an up-and-coming movie star repped by the agency. #MyBrilliantCareer
I found the perfect book. Went in and pitched it to the exec who loved it in the room. And then the movie star left my agency - and my agent decided to turn his back on it all in solidarity for his fellow agent who had been dumped. #MyBrilliantCareer
Despite that, we progressed up the chain. I pitched to the movie star (who actually smoked a fucking CIGAR) through my pitch. We set a date to go in to the studio where his deal was. Meanwhile my agent was ignoring the whole thing. There was no package there. #MyBrilliantCareer
The producer and I go in to the studio where we pitch to the #4 Exec. She likes the material but has specific notes in terms of what her boss will not respond to. We come out and producer reveals that THEY WANT THE STUDIO TO PASS so they can take it elsewhere. #MyBrilliantCareer
So I do exactly what I am asked: I IGNORE HER NOTES. We go back in for a second pass - and pitch it exactly the same. We walk out and two days later I get a call from my agent that the studio is buying the project but not if I'm attached. #MyBrilliantCareer
The producer and movie star ditch me - and set up the project at the studio - bringing in an A-List Writer to replace me. And my agent is still just sitting on his hands out of his dislike of the movie star. No one was in my corner. #MyBrilliantCareer
During this time, my script for TORTILLA CURTAIN makes the inaugural Black List - while the script for said property also makes it with about twenty times more votes - and is set up at a studio as a reteam of movie star with a previous co-star. I eat my spleen. #MyBrilliantCareer
I'll continue this tomorrow for anybody that cares #MyBrilliantCareer
You asked for it @johngary
For all the people that liked this tweet - if you haven't seen it...

Pt. 2 of an I-have-no-idea-how-many-parts-series:

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