“Not Trying to be a Dick” (definition of narcissism)
I’m going to keep the true identity of this “friend” a secret. He will know who he is, if he ever sees this, but you won’t find links or photos to any of his work. That’s how he would want it, if it’s compromising to his self-image.
Let’s call him Mr. 660. He’s a guy who I know from high school. He was determined to be a movie star in Hollywood after high school, but it didn’t work out that way. He has had some B Film success since giving up his dream of being behind the camera. And other than my best friend’s wife, who is an attorney for Sony, he’s the closest thing I have to an insider. So, 5 or 6 years ago, he contacted me after a high school reunion gathering to ask me to write a tv series based on my blog, The Off Parent. I was flattered. I was excited. I worked for the next 9 months to give my insider a project he could pitch. Turns out, we didn’t really find the pilot either of us needed. I am not a screenwriter. He’s not all that bright. Oh, sorry for the slam. Let me jump forward several years to the last Thanksgiving. We were back “on” in our collaboration. He was going to help me, once again, get my show produced. We were both going to finally become famous creative forces. Together.
That’s not how it worked out. Initially, I welcomed his new interest in my show. He had done a few more b movies, he had “sold” his poorly written pilot, and was hoping the new production company would have success in selling and producing his original show. Problem was, the show, the pilot, the writing, are all awful. The protagonist, much like Mr. 660 was an also ran. He had a hit song, women, money, and it went to shit. The “show” is a call from a high school friend wanting him to recap his rockstar hit at a concert for his dying father. The problem with the show, the pilot, and the lead character is this: it’s all about him. While there are others involved: a jilted lover, his high school friend, and quasi-non-binary lead singer, the stakes and consequences for the dude, in this show, were merely his ego and his return to his hometown.
Reading the initial script, that my buddy was super excited about having written, I had a lot of questions. But the main question was WHY DO WE GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE MAIN CHARACTER? And the reality, even after the production company took another shot at sweetening the pilot was that we didn’t care about the main character. We didn’t want him to win. He didn’t have any real motivations. He was a narcissist who was looking to reclaim some of his former glory. Much like my friend, who admits “I’ve had a pretty charmed life,” the lead character provokes no empathy. Do we care about his previous lover/wife? Are we rooting for him to find himself and pick up the shards of his wrecked Hollywood life by returning to his hometown? The answer is an emphatic no. I couldn’t make it through the initial pilot. I also couldn’t make it through the enhanced pilot.
Back to the present situation. Over the course of three months, we had three meetings, all of which Mr. 660 had to reschedule several times. We were building some connective momentum, and then it would be three weeks before we could get together again. It all culminated in January when we had most of the afternoon to get into my project, my show, my baby. But what happened, is we spent the entire 2 hours with him whiteboarding me all of his business ideas, show ideas, family ideas, basically, showing me what a genius he is. Except he’s not a genius. He’s not really a writer. And his latest effort, a real movie, will probably never show up on your pay-per-view playlist. It’s just not all that good.
At the end of this tour de force about him, we ran out of time and had to get to my zoom meeting for my day job. He said, “We keep running out of time to talk about your show.”
“Funny how that keeps happening,” I said, doing my best to remove any snark in my voice.
Today, six weeks after our 660-is-awesome session, he texted me. I had let the conversation grind to a halt.
“Where the fk did you go, John,” was his text message.
I sent him a response just this morning.
I left him with some encouraging words, that I’m certain he won’t be able to hear.
“Not trying to be a dick” might be some sort of apology. And I think he was saying, “All of them disappear,” but Siri messed it up. He’s a lot like the Michael Keaton character in Night Shift who has all the big ideas. Mr. 660 is an idea guy, just not a very compelling one.
Read more Short-Short Stories from John.