Tuesday, February 09, 2016

delicate creatures in awards season

We are delicate creatures, we humans. We require certain things to ensure that we function properly. Food and water, of course. Sleep, and plenty of it (catnaps are not counted, though my grandmother swore by them, and my ex-husband has a siesta every afternoon on a rickety old canvas camp-bed he keeps behind his desk for this very purpose). Communion with nature (or you may call this a spiritual connection; I believe in AA they might call this a belief in a higher power but for me just being in the trees is enough to stop me in my tracks; it is the thing that takes away the ego, the leveler, the great gobsmacker.) And creativity. We make and do as human beings. We read or write, we knit or sculpt, we plunge our hands into the dirt and wait for tomatoes to grow, we nurture life (in my case I find it hard to kill anything, even ants or spiders), we express ourselves, sometimes even through sport. And we need to love and feel loved. I am not sure that a life without these things is possible, nor whether it is desireable.

It is a relatively modern notion that the job we do is supposed to be something fulfilling to us. Jobs were what you did to live, and work is supposed to be hard. Driving on the 118 today, one of my very favorite freeways, I noticed a large truck with the license plate ILV2PLM. He was a plumber. I took a good look at him as I drove past, an admiring look. How lovely, I thought, that you like your job so much that you've chosen to declare it on your license plate. I'd like a plumber like that, I thought, someone who adores their work, because then, surely they'd do good work.

I love my work, mostly for the camaraderie of it. Yesterday was the Oscar nominees luncheon and while all the nominees were crammed into the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, having had their pictures taken and being screamed at by adoring fans on the way in "Leo, Leo, LEEEEOOOOO!" they sit at little round tables with fellow nominees, feasting on rubber chicken. Downstairs, in the restaurant by the pool, my people, the publicists and press agents, some from studios, some personal, eat salads and burgers, and drink ice tea and generally catch up. I adore the people who do what I do. I had lunch with an old friend and we talked about the job. "The job." It's a strange one. It's an intimate one. In order to do it well, the relationship has to be extremely close. One has to live and breathe the vision of the client, especially in the case of writer/directors. Our job, this very specific job we do with our sometimes grumpy, sometimes mercurial, often brilliance-glimpsing director clients, is to try to get inside their heads, so that we can advocate for them, so that we can understand the artistic vision and articulate it for other people. This is not suited to everyone. For some, the sheer ickiness of having the mantle of someone else's vision around one's neck is too heavy. It comes with its own unique set of problems, of course, but in order to really do the job, it is necessary to absorb the imagination and the inspiration of the artist. And yes, I'm aware how mindblowingly pretentious that sounds.

And then there's the getting them into the parties part of the job. And the picking them up off the floor and dusting them off when they're blindingly drunk. Let's not forget that.

However reluctant a member I am sometimes, we are part of our own little community, a community where photographers and security people and journalists and pr folk know and respect each other. It's our little eco-system. We're all trying to do our job as best we can, sometimes under the most ridiculous of circumstances.

The Hollywood Reporter has a party every year after the nominees luncheon at Spago, the ritzy Beverly Hills restaurant owned by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Why the day of the luncheon? Because the actors are all in town, and it's strategically placed in the voting period that even the most reluctant of talent is willing to go out and have his picture taken. I'm always amused walking down red carpets with directors. Let's face it, they are the most interesting of all talent (there are of course some notable and wonderful exceptions, some of them my friends, but by and large, most actors aren't that interesting or, to be fair, particularly bright, but they do shine like diamonds, and dress divinely and wear pretty jewels, and have gorgeous, toned, bodies) but directors and writers are interesting. They think about the world, they have a perspective. They read. They are able to hold two opposing views in their heads at the same time. So it is quite interesting when the more fluffy (I'm trying to be kind here) decline to interview the directors when the question is asked. "I don't think so. Not today, honey," they say, scooting very close to vocal fry.  Exceptions are the rock star directors, but they have to own that status. I'd say that Tarantino is a rock star, and, this year, Iñárritu has earned his glamrock status. The party is fantastic. There are glittering gold curtains and cute waiters, and tuna tartare in little brandy snap cones, glasses of fizz and custom cocktails, photographers, starlets, old Hollywood glamor, and a fair amount of gorgeous Swedish interlopers. Last night, Sam Smith performed. He was a not very well kept secret, but as if on cue, the Hollywod crowd surged towards him, glasses in one hand, mobile phones in the other, recording his every quivering tremor. (My brilliant moment was to try to hold the phone and a glass of champagne in the same hand, drenching my friend Chris in a shower of bubbles). It's a good party, an A-list event. You catch up with people who haven't replied to your emails, and you kiss each other and forgive. You see people you have no intention of seeing until next year and find yourself saying "we must have lunch." And sometimes you're surprised by the sweetness of genuine conversation and proper human connection. It's funny how it's blaringly apparent, isn't it? It gives you a rather lovely warm glow afterwards.

And it makes it all worthwhile really, doesn't it, that warm glow, that acknowledgment that we are delicate and fragile creatures, but that we're not alone in it. That everyone is playing the same game, behind the fierce Adele eyes and the large signature watches, and the right Manolos, that there is real humanity and genuine kindness.

Of course the whole thing is ridiculous. We just wink at each other. We should have our own special ring and handshake, really, like Pierre and his freemason friends.

Onward, as I say to my clients. Only onward.


LPC said...

I imagine this is why you are as successful as you are. You do all the kiss-kiss, wear heels, glitter a bit, at the same time that you relate to all the shiners in a way that reminds them they are real. And human. And part of nature.

Katherine C. James said...

What LPC said. I'd add that I think the directors and the writers are fascinating, and I'd love to know more about their work and how they did it. I'm also clinging to the hope that there are smart actors out there. (I recently watched a film "based on a true story" as they say, and found a photo of the real parents next to the gorgeous, foot-taller, substantially more beautiful actors who played them in the film. I was thinking what a strange phenomenon that is. Actually, one of the actors was David Duchovny, who is obviously an intelligent man based on his Princeton and Yale credential. Emotional intelligence being a different category.) All else aside, your writing here is beautiful; it made me happy to read it.

tedsmum said...

such a while since your previous post - felt like I was in a desert- thank you!