Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Nightmare on Memory Lane

In the 1995 movie Swimming with Sharks, Kevin Spacey plays Buddy Ackerman, a cutthroat, intimidating and successful Hollywood executive who makes life miserable for his neophyte assistant Guy (Frank Whaley).  This film is as much required viewing for aspiring Hollywooders as Citizen Kane and Battleship PotemkinSwimming with Sharks, which only grossed $383,000, has influenced numerous projects like The Devil Wears Prada and characters like Ari Gold in Entourage.  The film also spawned an army of Buddy Ackerman wannabes, most of whom ended up on the Least-Liked Executive portion of the 2009 Brown List.  But as we all know, Hollywood is also the land of make believe.

For every one Buddy Ackerman running around this town, there are probably ten who make Brick Tamland from Anchorman look like Stephen Hawking. The only problem is these other ten are unaware the hamster is off the treadmill.  So these people scream, yell and go through the motions they believe they should.  But what comes out is just amusing, frightening and more than a little dangerous.

How do I know these species exist?  I've interviewed with them, I've read about them and, most recently, I worked for them. Following are actual examples of things done or said by executives at my former employer:


  • Asked for directions to ICM from CAA.  [Note to non-industry people: The two biggest agencies in town have been ACROSS THE STREET from each other for nearly three years.]
  • Requested no fewer than 63 library books to review as background information for a one-page treatment due in three days.
  • Explained, "My therapist said 'it sounds like you schedule work around your work outs.' And it's kinda true."
  • Asked, "What's 3200 divided by 8?"
  • In discussing aspirations to write and produce TV drama said, "I think the half hours are my sweet spot." [Note to non-industry people: Dramas are an hour.  Half hour shows are comedies.]
  • Wrote a treatment featuring a chase scene where the antagonist -- piloting a canoe -- narrowly escaped the long arm of the law.  Yes, the paddler (a mere mortal) was faster than a speeding bullet.

The one thing I will say is Hollywood execs are smart enough to avoid scripts where they are made to look the fool.  I still can't explain that.

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