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September 19, 2005

How Hard Can it Be, Part 2

By Harley

I left off last Monday with my friend Wendy and me trying to turn my novel, DATING DEAD MEN, into a TV series, and meeting with TV producers: executive producers, writing producers, non-writing producers, Old Boyfriend producers.

(FYI, the Old Boyfriends weren’t in the same meeting. The last time that happened to me was in 1996, at the Sports Club L.A., where I found in the weight room three men with whom I’d had sex.)

So let me start with the big question, one not addressed in my TV how-to book . . . namely, what to wear to a pitch meeting. What attire conveys the impression that one is intelligent, yet fun, wacky, yet responsible, dynamic, yet flexible, wildly talented and syndication-worthy?

Hell if I know. Susan McBride has shoes that say all that. I don’t. I considered wearing a grass skirt with hundred dollar bills pinned to it, but ended up in jeans and a blazer. My friend Wendy favored lovely, antiquey-looking blouses. But forget us. Here’s what THEY wore:

Old Boyfriend #1: dark suit (Armani?), white shirt, collar unbuttoned. He looked great. A lot like he looked twelve years ago, except that in his job back then, he wore a tie.

Old Boyfriend #2: jeans and orange and green T-shirt (Armani?) An outfit you’d wear to Costco, or to clean out the garage, if the T-shirt weren’t . . . Armani. He looked great. A lot like he did eleven years ago, except that in his job back then, he wore only black. Black T-shirts. Black jeans. Clearly, his Emmys have unleashed his Inner Crayons.

The other producers, with whom I have no sexual history, wore jeans too. Probably Gap, because these are writing producers, as opposed to the kind of producers who run studios.

All the meetings go really well. While they're happening. Then a secondary reality sets in, wherein "I’d love to work with you” turns out to mean, “I’d love to work with you, contingent upon a bunch of other things, some of which will occur to me three days from now, after I’ve talked to some
other people.”

My friend Lee Goldberg warned me about this.

Conversations ensue, with Wendy, the producers, the producers’ people, our people, our people’s colleagues, Wendy’s husband, various assistants, Other Producers Whom the Networks Love Who Might Be Right For This Project. Our agent announces that Person X, who was so fabulous yesterday afternoon is no longer desirable today, because of something having to do with UPN. Or not. (The exception in all this is Old Boyfriend who sends straightforward and unambiguous e-mails directly to me. But he’s considered eccentric.)

I think I’m following it all until someone—e.g., my literary agent from New York, where they speak English—says, “how’s it going?” and I find I have no idea how it’s going or even what “it” is.

Paging Lee Goldberg.

The process reminds me of my kids, when they nod off during bedtime stories and let me skip pages, or read one sentence per page, or say whatever pops into my head to describe an illustration, like a Rorschach inkblot test. If they suddenly regain consciousness, they realize the story is impossible to follow, that it’s missing transitions. Coherence. Logic. Like this blog right now.

Welcome to television.

As for me, I’m gripped by unaccustomed insomnia; I lay awake nights confronting my own ambivalence about going down the Dark Path of TV Development. I miss my husband, who’s in Telluride at a Blues Festival, leaving me to deal with this, along with the corpse of a rat rotting somewhere in the basement.

To Be Continued.


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» Harley's Adventures in TV Land from A Writer's Life
My friend author Harley Jane Kozak shares more of her adventures in Hollywood as she trying to sell her book DATING DEAD MEN as a TV series.All the meetings go really well. While they're happening. Then a secondary reality sets [Read More]

» Harley's Adventures in TV Land from A Writer's Life
My friend author Harley Jane Kozak shares more of her adventures in Hollywood pitching her book DATING DEAD MEN as a TV series.All the meetings go really well. While they're happening. Then a secondary reality sets in, wherein I’d love [Read More]

» The Lying Scum from A Writer's Life
Reading about Harley Jane Kozak's TV meeting misadventures, I was reminded of a meeting Bill and I had many years ago with a Major TV Producer. We went in to pitch a series adaptation of a property he owned. We [Read More]


To be continued? Again? That's really mean.

Seriously, looking forward to finding out how this all comes out in the end. Either way, I'll keep reading the books.


I'm really enjoying reading this. A little vicarious thrill and potential wish-fullfilment. Is that spelled right? Anyway, keep us posted.

If they buy it, do you plan to keep writing the show, or do are selling the concept?

ZaZa, that's the question of the moment. Am I willing to write the show full-time, 24/7, for the next 7 years? I mean, I'd be rich, but I'd be . . . well, dead. Of course, that assumes the deal gets made, the pilot gets written, then shot, then picked up, then renewed, and watched, and renewed and watched, and on and on and on . . . oy vay.

Harley, you may borrow shoes from my collection any time you need to pitch a TV series. Although, they may pinch your toes a little, 'cuz I don't think we wear the same size. Which reminds me, I got a coupon from DSW in the mail which I must use. I'm thinking boots for fall, ones that scream, "I will look hot with your BCBG brown velvet jacket!" I know they're out there, waiting for me.

Er, so what was it you were talking about on the blog again? (I'm kidding. I know what it was. Shoes. Is there any other topic that truly matters in the world? And I know Michele Martinez would agree with me.)

three thoughts my sweet:
1) unleashing your Inner Crayons is a phrase I adore and hope to steal and use. A LOT. I can see its value in SO many places.
2) How in heck can you tell a tee-shirt is "armani"? Do I really want to know - it's a TEE shirt after all. and
3) you really really really used "how hard can it be?" in connection with Hollywood? with ANYthing having to do with Hollywood? And you've BEEN through the wars, you KNOW. I mean sheesh, anywhere it matters that much WHAT one wears (oh god so much worse than a first date. No worse than "seeing him after years when it's been all over and you want to look content and happy BUT you still want him to think what a fool he was for letting you slip away")
Okay 4) you've had three KIDS and you can still utter the phrase "how hard can it be?"
Susan - I don't care how hot those boots are- can they top Cornelias gold cowboy boots? Which I KNOW Harley wants. WE all do.

It's true. Cornelia has a pair of boots that rival anything Elvis ever wore. Also, I can't be sure that the T-shirt was Armani, because there was no moment where it made sense to reach across the table, grab the producer by the collar, and squint at the label --even for the blog.

Thanks for the story of the saga, and I can't wait for the next installment -

Finally, an important topic to discuss. There are some brown mid-calf boots at Banana Republic that I am just dying for, but my friends have been able to drag me away in time so far. But we'll see (hey, I've got a job now, I can afford it) (sort of).

Daisy! Muchas gracias for the tip. I will have to check out those boots for myself. You are so good to refrain. My friends just encourage me.

I have a thought that being a parent probably trains you well to deal with Hollywood. I mean, I ask my son, who is 11, did you have a math test today. This would, to my adult mind, seem to be a question to which there were only two answers: yes or no. But the response is something along the lines of, "We went through the book, that's on chapter 6, page 5, and there weren't any questions, and we didn't have to deal with the section on story problems, and Mrs. Bennett said our leaf-project wasn't due until next week, and so I went to band and got my bassoon today and I need cork grease, and then Mr. C in English gave us an assignment to write about last summer, but he wants all the drafts and don't we have karate tonight, and what's for dinner, and..."

Mark Terry

As for shoes, they're one reason I will never watch "Sex and teh city" or whatever it's called as it realy seems to be about shoes. I don't get the obsession but er, um, well in my closet, I've had the same shoes I wore when I lived in Boston,and we moved from there in 1990. I don't work any more so they don't get used a lot but between having had foot surgery as a kid and having back problems, I never got into the whole "uncomfortable shoes are sexy" thing, the whole closetful thing. Ok, I do love those little sandals I bought, but I bought them like 5 years ago. IF I had money, it would be, let's see BOOKS, barrettes, jewelry, shawls...nope I can't go down the list low enough for shoes to appear. Actually, using the scooter probably means that I could get away with the rattiest old things because NO ONE looks at your bottom half when you use a wheelchair-type thing. Okay, so I CAN go find those bunny slippers I saw. (oh they were SO DAMN CUTE!)

Andi -- I'm with you re shoes. My husband is the shoe fanatic. One has to twist my arm to go shopping for clothes/shoes. Steve-the-Nonreader has a MILLION pairs of tennies that all look similar -- he's definitely got a look he likes so there's little discernable variety that I can see. I was once forced to buy shoes for something with him along and well, when we got home, uh, er, nevermind.... Shoes, who knew? Money is much better spent on books and book-related items. Groceries come in second. Maybe.

Yes, Andi, please, go get those bunny slippers. Your feet will love you.

PK, my motto is: You can never have too many books or too many shoes. Though a stocked fridge is nice, too.


What's going on with that deadline of yours? Thought we'd forgotten, didn't ya? All I want to know is if I need to send those fermented soy beans to St. Louis or not.

Naomi, who carries a mean whip and is madly trying to meet her own deadline (coming up in two days, help!)


I had to take a break to correct galleys, which I just finished and will head to FedEx to ship off ASAP. The revisions are coming along great, I just need a few more days. So I swear on Andi's pink bunny slippers that I will be finished by next weekend. Now let's talk about YOUR deadline. Two days, huh? Should I send Mark to L.A. to stare over your shoulder and make you feel guilty for not writing faster? (He's good at that.)

Isn't it advertisers that pay the freight for TV shows?
Are those TV people thinking whether or not your series could be sold to advertisers?
Maybe you have to jump in and tell them the series would be a sure thing and many advertisers would jump on the bandwagon.

i really did tear out an ad from the paper a few weeks back with the bestest bunny slippers. Alas it was NOT an ad for bunny slippers, so i have no way of knowing how to get them but I recall thinking of them as the "Aristotelian ideal of bunny slippers". Now I guess it's off to ebay and to see if "bunnyslippers.com" exists. All spottings welcome. It's obviously going to be my new fashion statement.

And a fun and fuzzy statement it will be!

Doesn't Mark live in Southern Cal (not that I know you, Mark!)? So he COULD conceivably look over my shoulder. Wow, that got me moving, McBride.

When I get stressed, I start going into my former high school basketball coach's habit of addressing teammates by their last names. Sorry. (I won't go into origins of my other nickname, Beav. This is a PG-13 blog, right?)

And Harley, looking forward to installment #3! TV show pitching reminds me of the Seinfeld episodes on making a show about nothing.

As long as you don't start assigning laps and telling kids to "go soak it in Epsom salts" (a "Return of the Secaucus Seven" reference, that latter.)

Naomi, you're right. Mark does live in California. So keep your nose to the grindstone, or he might hunt you down. I'm a lot safer here in St. Louis. He can only ask me to imagine him standing over my shoulder. Um, "Beav" was your nickname? Was that for not wearing undies beneath your cheerleading outfit? (An understandable mistake, really. I sympathize.) Oh, boy, I need a nap.


I probably have seen all of John Sayles's movies aside from that one. He is my ultimate fav director. Imagine my reaction when he walked into the green room for a cable TV show on books. I didn't want to act like a starstruck nerd so I said nothing except hello. I missed my opportunity!

May I just say how delighted I am that my poor TV series possibility has provided an opportunity for so many talented people to discuss shoes, bunny slippers and Middle School leaf projects when they could be writing their novels and making other important Life Deadlines? I am honored.

Okay, we have to get John Sayles to direct the series and tie it ALL together.
Naomi - Secaucus Seven is my FAVORITE movie of all time. hard to explain but it's just MY movie. And I would have tried SO hard to come up with something clever to say in that green room but probably would have ended up with "Oh my god you're my favorite director" and done a line from S7 and totally embarrassed myself. Not exactly erudite, but who doesn't like hearing "you're my favorite"? IF i could have said it without like, spitting or something.
And he HAS done tv, so this WILL work. He created a wonderful totally forgotten show called "Shannon's Deal" which starred the excellent Jamey Sheridan and the great Elizabeth Pena.
Okay now I have important things to go do. Like, um....um...oh yeah, go to the bread outlet, and the post office. Wow, huh?

Three straight guys in a gym at the same time?

Now THAT is something to note on the calendar/

Kathy, it's L.A. Every drivers license issued comes with a gym membership.

I FINALLY have an answer when folks ask me why I won't/don't move to a warm place like LA. "I can't use a gym".

It's like going with a bunch of friends skiing - sure I could sit in the stupid lodge all weekend by the fire, but I can do that at home. Ok, so we do't actually use the fireplace. But it's there. I could get a video or something.

All I know about pitch meetings I learned from "The Player," so at least I have some context. What did you say it was that met something else?

And it could be worse. In the movie for which I relunctantly and under great family pressure signed the release (I did not write the book and disclaim it), my story got changed quite a bit, and I turned out much worse as a composite character than I actually am as a real single person. Plus, and this mattered the most to my children, I drove a Dodge--a rental car, while my sister drove a BMW.

Josh: Sex in the City meets Murder, She Wrote.

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