D-Girl at Costco in Culver City

CostcoThough she will not admit to it, Sharon (not her real name) is a “D-girl” over at Sony in Culver City. She hates this shorthand for “development girl”–these days, though, the “girl” part gets to her more so since she turned 29 yesterday–that has long been used to describe a certain lower-to-lower-middle tier of worker bee in the development stage of the movie biz, an indecisive cog in the extraordinary machine of the pre-greenlight process, who no matter how much effort they display, no matter how smart they look in Prada, no matter how much they put out, how many scripts they find that do $30-45 mil in 3-days, will not advance careerwise beyond an unspoken threshold of power, into the realm of the VP’s and P’s.

We bump into each other (not literally) midsummer midweek midmorning at the airplane hangar that is the Costco at Lincoln and Washington. Idling around a stack of the latest Harry Potter doorstops, her cart contains 2 cubes: a case of Smoking Loon red and the Monty Python 14-disc DVD boxset. My cart has a lone box of a dozen Uniball pens that slides along on the floor of my cart. Sharon, dressed down in ponytail and expensive sweats, is taking a mental health day. It seems she has been told by The Powers That Be that she does not “get the current humor” and has taken the day to unpack this statement word by word, an unexpected accusation. What the hell is “current humor”? Isn’t there only funny and unfunny, etc. After a month of reading through abysmal scripts with no gems harvested, her abilities have been called into question.

Her boss, some asshole producer on the lot, wants her to find the next “Something About Mary” or “Wedding Crashers.” Even Sony’s own “Deuce Bigalo 2” will go into the black with the DVD. And so it was helpfully explained to her that these are all based on guy’s humor, apparently. Furthermore, not only are women not funny themselves, apparently they also do not get funny when it is presented to them. The way she tells me this in a precise sentence makes me know that this is exactly how it came out her boss’s mouth and echoed in her head since. Apparently these guys, the Judd Apatows, the Adam McKays, the Farrellys, Ben Stiller, they worship SNL, SCTV and especially Python. Hence the DVDs in the cart. So she has been advised to get inside their heads and understand this humor, lest the next “Anchorman” slip through her fingers. Hence the box of wine.

The thing you have to know about Sharon is that she loves capital-C Cinema. When I met her, she was an usher at the Nuart. For some reason, I was going to see this Whit Stilman (what the hell happened to that guy?) flick “Barcelona.” She advised me not to waste my money on it and that stands as the only time someone at a theater tried to talk me out of seeing the movie. It’s not that bad a movie, really. So she’s way into film–Godard, Bergman, Antonioni, all those guys. Ha, all guys. She could not get a degree in film, so she wound up Poli-Sci. Obviously. So when it came time to graduate, sliding into Sony was actually the path of least resistance, already an intern there for easy senior year units. All those delusional desperadoes trying to break in, taking extension classes, writing unsolicited scripts, and applying for menial jobs inside the studio gates, would surely resent the ease with which fell into what appears to be a plum spot from the outside. Six years on, the gig is losing its luster fast. The metaphorical-but-very-real Glass Ceiling is near unless she can find a breakout. Can you Windex it while you’re up there? Thanks, hun.

I flippantly say, “Why don’t you just tell this job to fuck off then.” Holding up a bottle of some $12 Coppola merlow, “You are at least as smart as this asshole’s daughter, a better actress, and you had the good sense to not go out with Spike Jones.” (Other stories altogether.)

“How about this. Write your own movie, get some friends together, shoot it on the cheap. We can buy everything right here in this goddamned Costco, right now. Let’s get a $500 camera, some DV tapes. I’ll do kraft services. What aisle are the Red Vines? I’ll get a bootleg of After Effects, cut it on your Mac, burn it to DVD, send it around. And we should definitely get those goldfish crackers too. For the kraft services.”

I find myself doing these two things all the time: 1) advising others to throw their own lives into chaos, and 2) loading down real ideas with dumb humor to create an out, an airbag against rejection, not being taken seriously. You thought I was serious? I was just kidding. Myself mainly. Self-fulfiling prophecy, I know, yada yada. But this is not about me.

So we reach the checkout, but do not reach any real resolution for her situation. My idea is humored about as much as it deserved and of course not taken seriously, as expected, as intended. I have, however, added a firm pink pound of vacuum-sealed imported lox to my 12 Uniball pens. I always get this lox and never finish it before it goes bad. I vow silently to myself to finish the lox this time.