Archives for posts with tag: Brad Pitt

Fire Island Dawn

For centuries great artists have been isolated, opportunities withheld for being homosexual, women and people of color.  Amazingly, black, gay and female artists are still side lined, deliberately obscured, forgotten.  One of them might have been Robert DeNiro‘s gay father, Robert DeNiro Sr. who is currently having his gay moment in the sun… albeit posthumously.   His famous son and names sake pledges that he isn’t going to let the establishment forget his father’s name.  DeNiro keeps his father’s studio like The British National Trust keep Vita Sackville-West‘s tower.  In aspic.

DeNiro cries because he regrets not forming a loving relationship with his father.  Why now?  Why is DeNiro telling us now about his gay dad?   Because he can.   DeNiro is rewriting his personal history to include his previously forgotten father.  Yet, it turns out that it wasn’t just DeNiro who erased his father’s memory for so long… predictably, so did the arts establishment.

For hundreds of years the male-dominated arts establishment didn’t want women written into art history, as recently as the 1930’s painter Gwen John, the more talented sister of Augustus.  Side lined.  Ignored.  Considered an acquired taste.  Black directors of theatre and film… considered inadequate.  Gay men passed over for straight directors or their gay films/scripts/stories ignored… often by other gay men in positions of power.

You know, gender/race apartheid still happens in Hollywood.  Fine directors, black, women and gay… side lined, excluded and maligned by otherwise ‘liberal’ or ‘forward thinking’ agents managers and studio heads… in favor of straight white men.  Most of the decision makers, ironically… are gay white men.  Colluding with the status quo.

We all have our Hollywood horror stories, I used to think my Hollywood story was unusual but sadly I share my experience with black directors, women directors and fellow gay and lesbian directors.  I used to think it was just me, Duncan Roy… the ‘difficult one’ but I have met some really nice people, some really talented folk who share this Hollywood experience word for word, blow by blow.

I’ll tell you my story.  It’s a true story.  I have not disguised the names of those I met.  Here it goes.  Get ready.  Ten or so years ago after the initial success of my British Academy nominated film, AKA  I found out that old ideas about who should succeed based on gender, sexual orientation and the color of your skin flourished in Hollywood…

I made a feature film.

Making an independent film is difficult.  Making a gay, independent film is almost impossible.  After shooting the film we had no money to finish it.  Margaret Matheson the award winning Producer came to our aid, she took the film to The Briitsh Film Council who reluctantly agreed to finish the film.

I was told by Paul Trijbits at the UK Film Council that “No one will be interested in your film… only you and gay people.”  He spat the word gay at me.  Paul was a renowned ladies man.  He had slept with Gulshan Jaffery the producer of my previous films.  Paul could get away with that kind of homophobia ten years ago.  Both Margaret Matheson and I were, by that time, used to snide and homophobic remarks from straight men like Paul Trijbits.   We learned to ignore them.

After the film was finished we realized that we had a cult gay hit on our hands.  AKA travelled the world opening and closing gay and lesbian film festivals winning many awards.  We were invited to Outfest, the LA gay and lesbian film festival.  They offered us a prime time screening at The Directors Guild if we could provide them with a 35mm print.  We agreed.  Until that point I had never seen my film on a huge screen.  I had never seen it projected on 35mm.  I had never experienced it in Dolby surround sound.

The weeks leading up to the screening I was camping at the sprawling, un-renovated home in Santa Monica of writer/actor Brandon Boyce and his Italian child bride Roberto.  The film had been winning awards but I did not expect the cynical film industry to respond very well to a gay film told (think Abel Gance Napoleon) on three screens running simultaneously throughout.

Paul Trijbits’ remark lingered like an acrid fart and I wondered the night of our Hollywood screening if Paul’s prophecy would come true.   As it turned out, he was completely wrong and completely right.

As Brandon and I arrived for the screening  he said, “God, the entire velvet mafia are here.” I had no idea what that meant.  I wish I’d asked.  The film played to a hushed crowd and after the final credit the audience erupted.  Applause like I had never known.  In the lobby afterwards I was assaulted by every one who was anyone but I had no idea who anyone was.

That night Jason Weinberg from Untitled took me to dinner at The Chateau Marmont, he said he wanted to be my manager but Stephen Macias from Outfest had already told me that he was my manager and so, not realizing what a terrible mistake I was making, declined Jason’s kind offer.  Macias, as it turned out, was going to be one of the worst people I ever let into my life.  A more conniving, drunk/drug fucked and foolish man you ever did meet.

During dinner at the Chateau people were coming to our table and congratulating me.

That night I took a taxi home to Santa Monica and even though this had been the most triumphant day of my life I had never felt more alone and uncomfortable.  I learned a great lesson that night, for all their foibles Americans believe inherently that they are destined for greatness so when it happens to them… they are prepared.  They graciously accept the award, the money and the plaudits.  I had, that night, in my greatest hour… only the lingering promise of defeat.  Paul and men like him poisoning the moment with their homophobia, their doubt and their jealousy.

During the next few weeks I met everyone who was anyone in Hollywood, Leonardo DiCaprio came to a screening of the movie, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston had a screening at their house and I was invited to meet every major agent, every studio, every independent production company.

The previous year I had been in Cannes and met John Lesher who is now a fine producer with exquisite taste but was at that time an influential agent at Endeavor.  So, when it came to choosing an agent I was clear about who I wanted representing me.  Brian Swardstrom, Tilda’s agent, had seen the film and had reintroduced me to John.  I made the decision and told Steve Macias.

Macias told me that it was Hollywood etiquette to take every meeting.  So, I was forced by Macias to go to CAA, William Morris,  UTA and ICM even though I had already made a decision to sign with Endeavor.  The agents I met were utterly appalling.  At every agency I was introduced to the token gay agent and every one of those gay agents told me definitively that if I wanted to make further gay themed films I should kiss my Hollywood career goodbye.

It was like being forced back into the closet.

My favorite line, delivered by lesbian agent Rowena Arguelles at CAA, was said with such gravity I thought it was a joke.  I told her that I had already made a decision to go with John Lesher at Endeavor.  She told me that Endeavor was going bankrupt, she told me that I would just be another director at Endeavor but if I chose CAA to represent me I would be a star.  I laughed out loud.  Not because I was being a dick… but because I thought it was a joke.  Because nobody had ever spoken to me like that… not seriously.

On the way out Rowena looked scathingly at my Smythsons, black leather diary and thinking it was a bible asked me what chapter I was reading… I opened it and said, August.

As it turned out, my representation at Endeavor was short-lived, deliberately upended by then ICM agent Nicole Clemens.  Nicole made a particular nuisance of herself in her attempt to sign me, coming to Brandon’s house in Santa Monica at 7am and calling 24/7 begging for a meeting that my ‘manager’ Stephen Macias insisted I take.  After the third unsolicited call to my home Nicole delivered this apocryphal line.

She said it through the letter box.

“You and I have to work together because we have so much in common.”  I opened the door.  “What,” I asked, “Did we have in common?”

“Well,”  she spluttered, “We both love being fucked in the ass.”

I slammed the door.   That incident really happened.

I told Stephen Macias but he insisted that I meet with her and her boss at ICM even though I was already represented by Lesher.  When I finally met Nicole at her office I told her again that I had signed with Lesher.  She tried to persuade me to change my mind.  She told me that I would end up like Ken Loach if I didn’t change my attitude.  I laughed.  I told her I couldn’t think of a better way to end up.  I told her I was leaving, she picked up the phone and had her assistant call Swardstrom,  she told him I was at ICM taking a meeting with regard to representation.

Brian, understandably, went crazy and that was that.  No more Endeavor.

Finally, I signed with Bobby Thompson who had discovered and nurtured Tim Burton… but it was over for me in Hollywood.  Between the rabid homophobia, my lack of experience, Macias and Clemens I kissed my Hollywood career goodbye.

During the next few months I met all the above again, firstly at Sundance where the film played to enthusiastic audiences and at the British Academy Awards where I was nominated for a best new comer award.  I didn’t win.  I stayed in the UK.  A very long way from Hollywood and the homophobia, conniving and lies of the people I met there.

At Sundance I bumped into Paul Trijbits, he looked sheepishly at me over a dinner that was thrown by my agent for me and Tilda Swinton.   He was wrong that nobody was interested in the film… but he was right that at that time gay product was worthless.  Ten years later all of that has changed.  I, of course, was in the gay film making vanguard.   I often wondered if I stumbled so young gay directors could flourish?

No.  That hasn’t happened.  Gay directors are still sidelined by gay agents and gay studio executives.  Gay projects hijacked by established straight directors… Liberace, Dallas Buyers Club, Brokeback Mountain… to name but three gay themed films made by straight directors and producers.  The work we all put into changing attitudes toward gay film making and gay story telling worked… but not for gay directors.

Homophobic people like Nicole Clemens who may very well have ‘evolved’ since then… put the kibosh on that.

The 35mm print shown that extraordinary night now rests peacefully in the vault at UCLA as part of the Outfest Legacy Project.

 

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This is far better than the original…

I JUST REREAD THIS POST.  IT IS SO BORING!

Hahahaha

Without intensity and drama what becomes of me?

I woke up feeling really positive.  I am really beating this one.  Really.

A simple day.  I am losing weight.  I saw my reflection.  It gives me great pleasure to see a flat tummy.

I decided to give Manhunt a try as I had paid for that account to snoop on u know who.  It was good to get some interest from cute looking men but I felt as if I had come full circle since I was last living here.  At least I am being myself on Manhunt rather than disguised by some fake profile just to hear the reassuring ping of interest.

Almost immediately two men recognized me from the show and two friends.  It was fun.

Talked to realtor about what he wanted me to do to the house before we put it on the market this November.  He said nothing.  He said whoever bought it would probably tear it down.

I made jam.  I made a jam.  Strawberry jam.  Tomorrow I am going to finish up after the gardeners.   Today the little dog ran around after me in the garden.   We drove to Venice and ate breakfast at Sauce.  How quickly the staff get to know me.  They remember after just two visits what I have and how I like it.

I like that.  I like being taken seriously.

Scrambled, tomatoes..grilled.

To all the young men and women who arrive in Hollywood looking for stardom, this post is for you.

It’s not the very thorough advice I give my students at UCLA nor is it as involved as the conversations I have with young actors I meet daily at coffee shops all over Hollywood.

I don’t want to piss on your dreams, I merely want to help a legion of unprepared youngsters before they arrive in California.  To help them avoid the wholly avoidable traps so many young people fall into when they arrive in Los Angeles expecting to ‘make it’ in the film industry.

Firstly, listen to this.  How ever brave you may think you are, Hollywood is not for the fainthearted nor for the under-prepared.

Read this:

Film INDUSTRY.  Show BUSINESS.

Remember these two important words:  INDUSTRY and BUSINESS.

The youngsters who make it Hollywood, those who get to make movies (of any kind) are naturally inclined businessmen and businesswomen.  These serious men and women want to do business with the like minded and make it their business to sort out the winners from the losers.

Business.  Money.  Industry.

Young film maker/actor/actress there are a few things you urgently need to know:

Firstly, if you live outside of the greater LA area don’t even think about packing your bags and coming here unless you are:

a) Invited by a reputable agent/manager because you have ‘made it’ else where.

b) You have thoroughly researched your move to Hollywood before you arrive.

Too many people arrive in LA thinking that life is just one long episode of Entourage punctuated by Entertainment Tonight type red carpet appearances.  They believe that they will be ‘discovered’ in an instantaneous ‘America’s Got Talent’ kind of way and become household names within a year of moving into what is one of the most heartless cities in the whole world.

Remember this:  You Will Not Be Discovered.

Let me say again:  Don’t come to LA and expect to be ‘discovered’.   It won’t happen.

Oh, actually, you will be discovered but not by the people you expect to be ‘discovered’ by or in a way you’ll be writing home to mother any time soon.  It is sadly true that for every young, good-looking boy and girl who arrives in Hollywood there is a predator waiting to fuck you. who will mercilessly lie and cheat you out of your integrity and your virginity.

This post, I hope, will help you keep your dignity and your virginity intact.

These perfectly charming predators (with fabulously important jobs) will show you their huge houses, take you to premieres and parties but the outcome is always the same:  Another suitcase in another hall.

Prepared to be totally washed up in no time at all if you fuck anyone who promises you anything.  Even people who should know better end up having clandestine dinners with well-known married producers discussing projects that will never, ever happen.

Of course there are some aspiring actors/actresses who think that blowing the occasional producer in their hot tub is a perfectly reasonable trade.  Indeed, they may think that it is the driving force behind Hollywood’s star making machine.

They site Marilyn Monroe as the archetypal ‘career for sex’ success story.

This reciprocal arrangement is both rare and undignified.  It seldom leads to anything other than STDs and a stint in the rooms of AA.

If you feel you have acting talent… think about taking acting classes before you get to Hollywood.  Any advantage you have over the thousands of willing hopefuls who arrive in LA everyday will get you closer to your goal.  If, say, Brad Pitt is your hero, study his life and how he got to where he is today.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES!

This information will help you decide if Hollywood may work for you.

If you genuinely want to be an actor or actress be sure, before you get here, that you have researched the industry you want to be part of.  Read these trade papers/web sites: Variety , The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline Hollywood.  From these publications you will learn everything you need to know about Hollywood, the way it works, what is being made and where.

Get yourself a copy of The Hollywood Creative Directory and read it.

If you want to be a film actor research the directors you like, find out who produced their films, the casting directors who cast them and what they are doing next.

If you want to be a TV actor learn the names of all the casting directors at all the Networks.

See how you can get close to the people you want to do business with.

My low budget film making students at UCLA laugh at me when I tell them to precision bomb when making decisions about their careers.  Carpet-bombing is expensive, risky and often misses the mark.

EXAMPLE:

(This applies only to those of you who have demonstrable talent.)

I tell actors to print 500 head shots and 500 resumé, buy 500 envelopes and 500 stamps. Address them to all the usual film industry suspects.  Reserve all but ten.  Take the 490 stamped and addressed head shots and resumé and tear them into tiny pieces and put directly into the trash.

At least you get the satisfaction of throwing them away rather than some bored assistant.

With the ten reserved head shots and resumé take them directly to the industry people you want to do business with.

It works, it really does.

I used to say to actors, “Never take no for an answer.” I don’t tell them that any more.

I reserve that advice for directors and producers.

Remember, actors/directors, you are the only asset at the company you are about to create in your own name.  To make your dream come true requires tenacity, an encyclopedic knowledge of the film industry and a keen sense of direction.

Life in LA can be very lonely.  You may be surrounded by many ‘friends’ but you will not be able to trust any one of them.  Nobody but you wants you to succeed in Hollywood.

If you have been kicking around LA for a year or so waiting tables, don’t have an agent or a manager and have not been seriously considered for any sort of acting role in a legitimate film production:  go home.

Most roles being cast in Hollywood today are for actors between the ages of 35-45 years old.  Go home have a decent life… then, if you are still hankering after Hollywood, return when you are 35.

Frankly, you will have more chance of making it then.

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