Brought to You By

originally a short script. Adapted as a short story format.

A Long Island Shopping Mall. The mall is crowded with shoppers meandering aimlessly through the labyrinth of stores, ads and fatty food carts. On one corner just before the elevator that takes you to more of the same is a fantasy bookstore, THE TREASURE CHEST.
It’s a relic from yesteryear when people still clamored for the latest fantasy fiction in physical form and so unsurprisingly the store is offering a “BLOWOUT, EVERYTHING MUST GO” sale ahead of its permanent closure.

Inside, Terry, a 30-something bookish young lady works the cash register. Only a few patrons wait in line, with one lady adamant about her interpretation of the stores signage. “It says everything must go, shouldn’t that apply to the Fabulous Four comics too? I want to see a manager!”

Terry calm as ever, “I am the manager, and I’m sorry but we don’t set those prices.” She points to a display table. “That is the table that applies to the comics and fantasy novels on sale.”

Not having it, “you really need to change your sign then, because this is false advertising, I’m not paying 10 Blipcoins for that when I can watch 15 ads and get it on Amazon for free!” The lady leaves in a huff, immediately on her phone – to complain most likely.

James, the other clerk on shift gives Terry a look that implies this is the regular interaction they’ve come to expect from today’s customers. “Pretty soon, we’re just gonna barter with each other for Blipcoins or ad-hours to redistribute for our very survival.”

Terry is half-joking, “your cynicism depresses me… I’m leaving for break, be back in fifteen.”

The pizza place is the least crowded line compared to all the cheaper chain eateries. As Terry waits in line, an overly enthusiastic man approaches her with an unsolicited pitch. “Hey there, do you have a moment to talk about women’s health issues?”

Terry is visibly annoyed, “no, I’m actually on break.”

Pleading, “it’ll only take a minute!”

Adamant, “I only have ten of those left…”

The man frowns, walks away to find another woman to prod. Terry lines up her phone under the scanner to pay. The zit-faced pizza boy speaks up, “I can save you an extra blipcoin if you watch two ads?”

Almost exhausted by the intrusion at this point, “no thanks.”

Terry finds a seat next to a family of four, the kids treat the food court like the playground. The parents keep to their phones. Terry leans back, working her own phone. A new text pops up from Allison, “I can’t believe he died! OMG.” The link is jumbled into a sketchy bit link format, not revealing its site name. She clicks it anyways.

On screen, an ad page half loads before spitting out a video ad on top of it. An extremely obnoxious Muscle Head of a man starts shouting before a cheesy parking lot background of a  family-style restaurant:

BIMBOS!
Do you like big boobs? Do you like hot wings? Do you like beer? Of course you do! So come on down to
BIMBOS!
Wednesday night is dumb blonde trivia night, the guy with the dumbest girlfriend gets free-refills
ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
BIMBOS! It’s fun to be dumb!

The ad closes out to reveal a three sentence long paragraph about the death of former internet sensation, Grumpy Face cat: “Meme celebrity, GRUMPY FACE is dead. Sources say the cat died of natural causes. Check back for more updates!”

The kids smash a chair to the ground. People look up from their smart phones, then return to business as usual. Terry scrolls down to read the comments section even though she knows better, reading them in her head…

NANCY67 (V.O.)
I made 6,700 blip coin and two hundred ad hours in one week with this amazing work at home trick! CLICK CLICK CLICK NOW !!!!

Terry takes a sip from her soda, more comments…

PATRIOTBOB (V.O.)
This is what happens in Democrat America, we care more about dead cats than dead patriots fighting illegal immigrants on our border! Your dumb!

CONCERNEDCITIZEN101 (V.O.)
*you’re

PATRIOTBOB (V.O.)
*you’re Gay.

Terry closes out the phone screen when an alert pops up: “Break Over In Five Minutes” — She gets up throws her plate in the trashcan, which is also covered in several ADS…
KEEP AMERICA GREEN, AMERICANS FOR CLEAN COAL, AMERICANS FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY, RECYCLE YOUR OLD JUNK.

The sanitized off-white corridor is so saturated with ads, it’s a wonder any of them actually makes an impression. A wireless stand catches Terry’s attention: “NEW IFruit IN STOCK!!!” A mass of people are on line for it. Two adult men argue over who was in line first… “I slept in my car last night, you’re just gonna cut me?!”

Terry reaches the safety of THE TREASURE CHEST, empty but for a single Chinese man in his 40s. “Hi do you work here?”

“I do, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to buy your entire inventory, how many Blipcoins?”

Terry stares at the man, wondering if he’s joking. “I’d have to consult the owner on that…”

“Can you? Oh that’d be so great, in China, where I am from, people will pay five times the price online for American comics and merchandise.”

Later on, Terry sits in an empty store except for a few remaining fantasy novels and old stuffed animals of Pikaman, a Japanese anime animal popular over ten years ago.

James is back from his break too, “so do we just close up shop now since China bought our whole inventory?”

Wishing it weren’t so, “we still have the Castle Invader series and a few plushies for sale, so we’re still stuck here until 6.”

“Great… A Game of Palaces knock off and two more hours of work. Plus we’re gonna be stuck here for Ad-Blitz.” James slumps even deeper into his cynicism.

Terry dusts off some shelves with a paper towel, the towel also has an ad: Get 50% Off Wings At Bimbos By Presenting This Towel. “What if I cleaned up dog shit with this towel, you think they would accept the coupon?”

Snapping out of it, “their wings taste like dog shit anyways, so probably.” James laughs at his own bad joke when a  YOUNG BOY enters, looking around bewildered at the absence of stuff.

“Hi do you have The Fabulous Four comic?”

“Uh I think we just sold them all to a 40 year old dude.” James can’t believe it himself.

“What about the Star Saga action figure set?” The boy isn’t going anywhere just yet.

“Also sold to a 40 year old dude. Sorry little man.” The boy frowns, walks out — when IT hits.

Out in the Mall corridor, A CARNIVAL SIREN fills the halls and several DRONES fill the halls air raid style. Several people try and run for the bathroom, as the drones drop ad-barriers in front of them —

The ad-barrier blurts out: “Watch this ad before you pee, or insert 10 Blipcoin to skip.”
One man happily complies, while a woman punches another barrier, which forces it to replay the ad — “Replay ad selected, three more ads will now show before admission to restroom.”

Caught off guard, “fuck — it’s ad blitz! Quick, make for the back room, maybe we can get out of it again.” Before they can move, an overly bubbly AD-DRONE enters the threshold of the store.

“50 Blipcoin to skip ad-blitz today, OR 10,000 to avoid ad-blitz for the rest of the month.”

Terry is furious, “what kind of shake down is this?! We already paid our ad-blitz fees!”

“I’m sorry, did you say replay ad?” Resistance is futile.

“No, I said we already paid the 10,000!”

“Now playing, 10,000 ads.” The ad-drone gears up for the long haul. Ads shoot out like rapid gun fire… Terry looks at James, they both nod — and split quick.

The two make a mad dash through a cacophony of THOUSANDS OF ADS playing all at once — Ads for paper towels, floor cleaner, classic rock tunes plastered over car commercials, kids toys, adult toys, movie trailers — James chimes in, “I don’t know why we can’t just go back to the model of paying actual rent to the owner of Smithson Malls, this ad-blitz crap is insane!”

The two round a corner when Terry slams into an AD-DRONE. “Featherweight is the leading brand in feminine hygiene –” Terry punches the drone out of the way, continues toward AN EXIT…

“We’re almost there!” Four Ad-Drones surround James in a glass box —

“I can’t get out of it, it’s a three-dimensional video ad!”

“Please wait 30 seconds before continuing to exit.”

Hopeless, “just leave without me, it’s OK! I have ad-block!”

Terry makes it out, THE BUZZ of ad-blitz can be heard from inside, it’s a lifeboat perspective of the sinking Titanic. Thirty seconds of running and Terry begins to wonder whether James has made it out, turning back toward the door from the parking lot, distant screams mixing with anxiety drug ads… “Come on James, use the ad block.”  Terry waits, fixated on the doors, but nothing.

Back in the mall nearest the exit, a pile of drones towers all the way to the ceiling, blinking and repeating their moniker: “Illegal contraband detected. Ad-Block forbidden…” There’s no sign of James, or anyone in the immediate area. The Drones moniker and beeping FADE TO….

A suburban living room. Terry sits on the couch, a worried expression on her face as she watches the local news. Several pop up ads appear over the INTRO THEME, before falling away to reveal the Anchor Desk. In the usual melodramatic anchor voice, “Ad-Blitz has claimed another four lives, bringing the death toll to 146 during the controversial programs operation in American Shopping Malls.”

The Broadcast is interrupted by a COMMERCIAL, abruptly — A legal ad: “Have you or your loved one by assaulted by ad-drones?”

Terry tries muting the television, a prompt appears: “mute not available during this program.”

“FUCK IT ALL TO HELL!” Terry picks up the television, ripping the chord from the wall, and SMASHES the TV. Her mother rushes in…

“Do you realize how many ads I’m going to have to watch to replace that TV?!”

“Maybe if we actually went back to paying for things in physical currency instead of watching ads people wouldn’t die!”

Like this is reasonable, her mother retorts, “it’s cheaper, Terry. Blipcoin is hard to come by these days.”

“You don’t find it even remotely disturbing that only the wealthy Silicon Valley elites who program the Blipcoins on their servers can afford to avoid ad-blitz?” Check mate.

“They spent their entire lives programming currency, redistribution of Blipcoin is socialist nonsense, I didn’t raise you to think like that.”

“Sometimes I’d rather live on a deserted island…” Terry thinks about this for a moment…

****

A beautiful land of palm trees, foliage-laden mountains and white-pearl sand in a oasis of tropical blue water. Terry has found herself in a makeshift hammock, beside a camp fire roasting wild meat. She rolls over to see: A SHINY OBJECT on the shoreline. She squints, but can’t quite make it out, so she decides to walk toward it…

A calm island breeze mixes with the rhythmic motion of crashing waves, waves which have washed ashore: A BOTTLE. Terry picks it up, it’s a bottle of BUDWASTED, she notices something blinking inside — when dread overcomes her, she CHUCKS the bottle but it’s too late!

An AD-DRONE escapes the confines of the bottle. “Please insert 50 Blipcoin to pass ads, or watch two ads to drink your next two BUSWASTED absolutely free!”

Terry falls to her knees… “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

END

Nothing Left to Lose

Sometimes in life, our only option left is to take a great risk in order to succeed…

Complacency is something which has come natural to me, like many others. You get into a routine, of financial security. There’s never a good enough time to take a risk because you’re secure. The thought of abandoning comfort for uncertainty seems irresponsible. That’s why there’s no greater time to take a risk than when your back is up against the wall.

I wanted to save a certain amount before going to LA. I knew I would hit my target by the summer. I didn’t get the chance. At the end of my office’s busy season, I was laid off six months after being hired. Instead of getting upset, I actually felt relief. I’m 3/4 to my savings already. Besides, in my complacency I was already talking myself out of a summer move because I told myself “you should save even more.”

The reality is that nothing was ever going to be enough.

I hated my job with a burning passion – I hated that job and it’s shitty culture more than anything I ever did for a living before. But I did my work without complaint. As they say, last to be hired, first to be fired. I wipe my hands of it now. Yet before this unfortunate event, I was almost growing used to the suffering because I was saving a lot of money.

Yet what good is saving if you don’t plan to somehow use those savings to better yourself? That’s where I find myself now. I have no choice but to escape complacency. I have no choice but to take a great risk or be left to take some other shitty job or low paying NY film job with no advancement opportunity. So without hesitation – before I could even talk myself out of it, I put the gears in motion for a move to LA.

I feel physically sick just writing it. I am terrified. I have no job when I get there. There is no security in this decision whatsoever. It feels financially reckless. Yet, it is my only option less I wind up in the exact same place I have been since I moved back from LA five years ago.

It is my only option or else I will wind up just spinning my gears in perpetuity with my next ‘day job.’ I will be 29 in three months. It sounds young, but it’s not. I need to commit to something or spend my life with regrets.

Complacency is awful. It is laziness. Most importantly- it is misery. The only thing stopping you from achieving your dreams is you. The reality is, I probably have more savings than many going out West. The reality is, I’ll find something – even if it’s not in film to start. Complacency is the result of lack of confidence, and to take risk requires confidence. Believe in yourself, it’s a small first step.

I wish it didn’t take such an awful set of events to force me to act. Yet I take my newfound situation as a blessing. This is the best thing that could’ve happened to me because it’s forced me out of complacency. If you find yourself spinning wheels, acknowledge it and take power over your situation in life before some awful external event does for you.

“You’re not the right fit for us at this time,” HR said. I couldn’t agree more. NY isn’t the right fit either. I’ve known that for a while. Now I act on it.

Reject complacency or forever live life with regrets. Life is an adventure, go explore.

Gender Discrimination in Hollywood Isn’t Just a Male Thing

I worked for a production company that made it a mission to hire more female writers and directors. Prior to my start, the company had already made databases of studio-ready female writers and directors (with numbers in the hundreds for both). It was at my recommendation that we also create a database to track female agents at major agencies (WME/IMG, CAA, UTA, Gersh, ICM, Paradigm). While the producers I worked for had contacts at these agencies, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and build more relationships. And so the talent agent database was born.

The theory behind the creation of the database was that women might be more likely to represent other women – or at least care about gender representation in the industry. As I began my exhaustive three months of research into agents and their client base, the opposite proved to be true. There was no statistical correlation between male and female representation by gender of the agent. Most “super agents,” those who represent the top talent in the business were still overwhelmingly male at all agencies. The top female talent also had male agents, and many big talents had several agents listed as representatives which included both male and female reps.

Sadly, the results didn’t shock us. To understand why women are no more likely to  support and shepard other women, it is important to understand the way the agency business operates. The agents are promoted to agent status only after a grueling period of assisting other agents, and rotating desks – often while making poverty wages for long hours. During that time, they develop relationships with existing talent and attempt to scout new talent primarily through their mentors contacts. Depending on their success, they are either promoted or remain at a desk.

This may seem like a good opportunity for women to seek out female talent, until you understand the prevailing philosophy in the agency business: women don’t bring in the money.  Whether male or female, young agents by the time they reach the level of agent are jaded. They are taught that certain genres make more money, and those genres are geared toward men and male audiences. Never mind that women might also like, write and direct those films — the fact remains that there is an implicit bias when it comes to seeking top dollar talent. After you’ve been working for starvation wages for years, taking a risk seems foolish. The result? Stick to the same formula and dated assumptions.

The solution to this problem is complex simply because nobody sees themselves as part of the problem. During a Star Wars panel, female super-producer Kathleen Kennedy stated, “We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do ‘Star Wars,’ they’re set up for success…they’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.” Kennedy was roasted for this statement, since what she was repeating was the same excuse the industry always uses when scouting and pushing talent: women have no experience. This simply isn’t true. Not only that, but Rogue One director Gareth Edwards was given an opportunity with Godzilla after a single indie. So too was Josh Trank — once attached to a Star Wars film himself.

Until women are scouted and pushed the same way as men, we cannot say that Hollywood is meritocratic. Until young agents are pursuing the many women that make and write great independent action and thriller films the way they pursued Edwards and Trank, we won’t be any closer to gender-equity. Back to the database at the start of this post; I know for a fact there are numerous women ready for the next step (based on festivals, box office and other critical metrics). Unfortunately, the agency database seems to almost directly contradict that given its lack of focus on female directors except for three or four names. It’s time to stop making excuses, stop promoting dated assumptions and implicit bias. Most of all it’s time to stop being lazy and do your due diligence when scouting talent. All it takes is some research. Unfortunately, too many are not willing to do it.