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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another repost, funny stuff

This email circulating around Hollywood was sent by a DreamWorks floater. Last names have been deleted to protect the Semitic-challenged:

Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 5:09 PM
Subject: RE: SWP Mtg. Kristi w/ Kristin and Matthew

Hey Ryan-
I’m sorry, b/c I’m covering for Lindsey’s usual asst., could you tell me, who’s Rosh Hashanah and why would he/she affect Kristi’s meeting with K and M?
Thanks! I really appreciate it!

From Nicki Finke, DHD.

His death at age 83 following a long battle with cancer was described as just as private and discreet as the way he had lived -- surrounded by family and friends at his farmhouse home near Westport, Conn. I had the opportunity to interview him for the cover of the old Los Angeles Times magazine during that most elegant of moments when every Oscar contender is bound equally by hope. Seven times a contender, never a champion, Paul Newman was still waiting for his Best Actor Oscar at the time. That year, he was being judged not only for his nominated role as "Gramps" Fast Eddie Felson in 1986's The Color of Money but also for four decades of playing anti-heroes. He thought his moment had come and gone when he was earlier awarded an honorary Oscar recognizing his personal integrity and dedication to his craft. He told me it was "for people who are already up to their knees in weeds. But at least I was working at the time on The Color of Money, so I knew something that they didn't know: that the pasture was quite a bit in front of me."

Newman lamented the passing of "the golden age" of Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s. It's as if this son of a Jewish sporting-goods store owner from Shaker Heights, Ohio; this Navy Pilot Training Program reject and World War II torpedo-bomber radioman; this stage and television actor who married the understudy (Joanne Woodward); this father, movie director, racecar driver, cook, philanthropist and political activist wanted to tell the world that no one knew how well they had it back then. Then there were films. There were plays. There was quality television. "Boy, there was work," he said wistfully. "You got a week off and you could be right back in a film or on television or in a play. But I'm not driven to the extent that I will take up a bad script in order to work," he told me. "Although I don't know. I may have to do that if something doesn't show up. After a while, you simply have to keep an instrument oiled. You can't just throw it in the garage and pick it up every four or five years and expect it to work." Yet he still turned down the part of playing Superman's father for the Salkinds even though he would have earned millions for just a few days work.

He was always an anomaly in Hollywood, choosing to live on the East Coast, and refusing to read the trades, and stayed married for 50 years. In an industry noted for cost overruns, he prided himself on bringing his pictures in under budget, and once he became famous acting in or helming only important or original films. And how rare for actors and how fortunate for Newman that his dotage brought him some of his most memorable characters -- Michael Gallagher in Absence of Malice, Frank Galvin in The Verdict, Fast Eddie in The Color of Money and he received Best Actor nominations for all three. (Newman's other nods were for roles in Cool Hand Luke, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hud and The Hustler. He was not nominated for two of his most famous movies: The Sting and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.) So what if Newman wound up his career playing near-geezers whose spindly legs and watering eyes and sunken cheeks were part of his new screen image. He claimed that he never cared about being a sex symbol anyway. After all, he told me, "if you can get by on your baby blues, then what does it mean to be anything in the profession?" Newman suspected that he was giving an Oscar-quality performance under Marty Scorsese's direction. But anyone who expected Newman to come right out and say, "Yes, I want the Oscar," was going to have to wait until those blue eyes turn brown. Newman darted around the issue with me while still managing to convey the absurdity of his winless condition. "Oral Roberts has said that if he doesn't raise [enough] money by the end of March, God is going to call him home. Then whatever will He do to me? So if those guys out there don't tap me for this, I think I'm going to go to that great rehearsal hall in the sky." Now Hollywood can console itself knowing that he was much, much more than a Best Actor Oscar winner: he was an interesting and thoughtful and special man.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Later.

In LA for this September 11th, the anniversary of that day. First time not in NYC for the day. Anyway, I want to remember what happened, and so I repost my recollections today.

I've already posted this, last September 11th. Its a difficult day for me, one that continues to make me examine my priorities. And because I now live across the street from Ground Zero, its not very much a situation of Out of Sight, Out of Mind. I havent even been downstairs today, but I'll go take a look at it soon, the news trucks, the spectators, and other tourists of sympathy and disaster. Im not casting aspersions, it is what it is. And every year, as it becomes more chronologically remote, it becomes something a little bit more and a little bit less for me. More of an arrow, and less of an anchor perhaps.

******Previously posted, Sept. 11, 2006********

I used to work in law, in finance. These are jobs that may be exciting for some, a thrill for some. Others may fancy that they do these jobs for the good of the economy, of the world, in some way.

I did my jobs for the money, and for the freedom that the money would eventually, supposedly, purchase for me.

I was working for Deloitte & Touche, which is one of the largest consulting firms in the world. I sold and developed tax product for companies. Basically, I used my knowledge as a tax lawyer to design and implement tax strategies whose primary aim was to lower the world tax burden of some of the world’s richest companies and families. I’d previously done similar jobs at Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, a white-shoe firm that is the oldest in the U.S.A, and at Ernst and Young, another monster-sized multinational consulting firm. I’d also worked a year in banking for Barclay’s Capital, the investment banking arm of one of Europe’s most venerable banks. Working for Barclay’s, I had made almost 400,000 dollars in one year. That year was perhaps the least happy year of my life.

My rise since graduation from law school at Albany Law School and Union (for an MBA) had been nothing short of meteoric. I spent two years in Boston at EY, before moving to New York. I was doubling my income every two years of so. I was following a path towards what I had originally set out to do.

A few years before, when I was attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, I had an epiphany. I was following a course of only liberal arts: history, film, language, etc. I had no real career path, I was studying liberal arts. And my realization was that I should, at the age of 19, follow a path that would allow me to use what talents I had to make as much money as possible in as short a period of time as possible, which would allow me to do whatever I wanted to do with the rest of my life, on my own terms.

And what I wanted to do with the rest of my life was make movies. What I had wanted to do, from childhood, was make movies.

I left Wesleyan without even having applied to another school. I saw no point in wasting my parents money continuing to study things that wouldn’t pay off when I graduated (I thought – whether that assumption is right I don’t know, but I met an awful lot of people who went to liberal arts schools on Wall Street). I had to sit out a semester but transferred to SUNY Albany and began to pursue a path towards becoming a lawyer. I skipped through college, law school and business school and had completed the first step towards my eventual freedom.

Now, years later, working for D&T, a job I absolutely hated, a worthless job in my opinion, one that made no mark in the world, I was collecting money for my freedom. Of course, I was so bored with my existence that I often spent almost as fast as I earned. But that was just part of making my existence livable until I was free, could go and make movies.

On September 11th, 2001, I had an early conference call with London. Some project we were doing with a law firm over in London, and because of the time difference, the call was scheduled for 8AM. I normally got to my office right about nine AM more or less, which put me on the train from my then Chelsea apt. at 8:30 or so, and in the basement of the WTC (on the 2/3 train) at about 8:50 AM. I’d go up the escalators, and walk across the platform, and cross the walking bridge to 2 World Financial Center. It was a trip I made every weekday (unless I was on the road, which I was maybe a quarter of the time).

If I had done this at this time, on this particular morning, I would be dead right now, crushed by falling debris like the others who made the commute at the time that I always did.

But that morning I grudgingly made the trip an hour early, got to WTC around 7:50AM, up the escalators, and across the bridge to my office in time for the 8AM conference call.

The call was rather short, and was finished by eight thirty. I was probably hitting baseball scores on the Net when my phone rang. A friend from work, Elizabeth, was calling, which I thought was funny cuz she was always late for work and since she was calling me after 9AM, I thought she was just late again.

She asked me – Whats going on down there?

Me: What do you mean?

Her: A plane just crashed into the WTC?

Me: (incredulous) – What?

As I spoke to her, the second plane crashed into the WTC. It just looked like an explosion on the television I was watching, nothing but a fireball. You didn’t see the plane at all (until they replayed it later at low speed).

We left en masse from the building, and were basically herded out to the harbor that sits behind the World Financial Center. Huge crowds of people were standing, looking up at the burning towers, watching, stunned. Talking in disbelief.

I looked up and saw a piece of lumber falling from near the tops of one of the towers. It tumbled, thousands of feet. I asked someone about it. They told me that it was the tenth person they’d seen jump from the top of the tower.

Not eager to see anymore, to have these images recorded in my memory, I headed north. My best friend Drew lived on Chambers then and I thought I would try to get to his building, give my parents a call from his place to let them know I was OK. I’d spoken to them very briefly as I walked out of the building, but now my cel wasn’t working because the networks were overcrowded.

I got to Chambers St. and Drew wasn’t home. A neigjhbor of his let me into his apartment but the phone lines were busy and I couldn’t get my parents. A bunch of people were milling around in his lobby, including a young woman and her child. She was looking for her husband. He was in Midtown, she thought, but had been trying to get down to find her in the chaos. As we were talking, swapping rumors about more airplanes, we hear the first tower go down. But because we couldn’t see the towers from where we stood, we could only hear what sounded exactly like another airplane flying low in the sky. The sonic boom of the tower coming down exactly, cruelly, mimicked the sound of an airplane overhead. And because of the rumors of more unaccounted-for jets in the air, that’s exactly what we thought it was.

This young woman, I don’t even remember her name, grabbed her son from his stroller and we all took off north up the bike path which fronts the west side highway. The sound of the tower stopped and my heart stopped beating like it had been, in a way that I thought was going to give me a heart attack.

We walked north along the highway. We had nothing else to do. I carried the little boy, as he was too big for his mother to carry too far. We walked for ten minutes, until the first miracle I witnessed that day occurred. Walking perhaps a hundred yards away, in the opposite direction, on the other side of the highway, was this woman’s husband. And somehow, out of thousands of people, they spotted each other and were reunited. Everyone in our group stopped and stared. Seeing these people reunite under these circumstances was simply an event I will never forget for the rest of my life. I don’t remember her name, her face. But I will never, ever forget that moment. Its clear in my mind, five years later.

I got home perhaps an hour later. I lived on 29th street. I think I put the film Animal House on video. I needed something light, I thought, but I couldn’t really watch it.

I never really went back to work in the same way. My heart was never really in it after that. I worked from home, with disinterest. My firm relocated to a hotel in Times Square, but I hated going there, working in a hotel room. I hated most of my bosses, most of the unhappy people for whom I worked. I started looking for something else to do- a friend had opened a restaurant, and that was a business I had always found interesting. As I lost interest in D&T, I spent more and more time at the restaurant, until I began to manage the restaurant. It was merely a temporary thing, but in some very important ways it represented a huge step for me. It was a step away from living for tomorrow, a tomorrow that 9/11 made me realize might never come, and towards living for today.

While I was running the restaurant, a few things significant to my life’s journey happened. My relationship with my then-girlfriend, someone I thought I would spend my life with, fell apart. We were going in different directions, and the relationship shattered into pieces under the strain of these changes. It isn’t about fault, it just happened.

Another thing that happened that day was that I started a film festival. It was my first step into anything film related. The first festival was three films, none very good. About twenty people or so showed up. It has developed into a festival that receives perhaps six hundred entrants a year now.

But what really happened, what really started from the events of 9/11 in my life, was that I decided that all the things that I had put off for later in life, I began to do. I started looking for work in the film business. I started the festival. I got a motorcyle. I CHANGED MY LIFE. Because I realized that you can’t always count on tomorrow and, because of that, today is very, very precious.

I was very fortunate to survive that day. I've been fortunate to have a little bit of wisdom in following the path I probably should have followed from the beginning, one that isnt about financial gain, but about gaining everything else for myself. And I've been fortunate for the support of my true friends and family in making the transition in my life.

Thanks for your time.