When You Least Expect It

All of those meetings in LA last week, and still no one is calling.

The "hurry up and wait" is the worst part of this business.

I have to remember that sometimes success is not linear. Sometimes success comes after years of preparation and often times when you least expect it.

When I left my job, at one of the big networks back in 2000, one of my bosses said to me, "Why would you ever leave a broadcast network to go to a cable channel? They don't even have any shows on the air." I responded by saying, "If I put just one successful show on the air, I will be a hero. If I fail, I will be out of a job in two years and no one will remember I was ever there."

At that time, basic cable (USA, TNT, Lifetime, FX, etc.) were not remotely competitors to broadcast television (ABC, NBC, CBS & FOX), which was still king. 

When I went to head up Scripted Programming at that cable channel, I took only one script with me. A script that we were unable to find the right lead actor for. I was betting that my old network would eventually give up on the script. Two years later, my new cable channel acquired the script and turned it into a series.  That series broke all kinds of records for basic cable. It was a huge hit and ran for several seasons.

The following year that lead actor was nominated for an Emmy. The cable channel had never been nominated for an Emmy in such a prestigious category. It was a big deal.

While I had been to the Emmys a number of times, this was the first time I was going alone. I was going through a divorce, so I was not offered a "plus 1" ticket. My bosses were married, so they brought their wives and sat together in the same row. I was in a separate row in a completely different part of the auditorium.  Sitting alone.

As I have mentioned, award shows are stressful enough. You start getting ready (hair, makeup, manicure, pedicure, the right dress, the right shoes, the right purse) hours before you go to the actual event. Then you have to leave at least two hours early because of traffic. It is truly an all day and all night event.

But dressing up in black tie attire and driving yourself in bumper-to-bumper traffic is another level of stress. My "best friend," who worked for another network, had offered to take me in her limo, but then changed her mind at the last minute, so I had to drive myself.

I arrived by myself. Sat by myself. Feeling quite out of place and alone.

When they announced our star had won, we all jumped up. He went on stage to give his speech and then I heard MY name. He was giving a special thanks to me. 

As I exited the auditorium, dozens of people were congratulating me on my "shoutout." For a moment, I was famous too. My "best friend" called me and said, "If I had known that you were going to win the Emmy, we would have taken you in our limo." (Yeah.  I thought that was tacky too.)

The "shoutout" probably did more for my career than all the years that preceded it. Success is not always linear and sometimes it happens when you least expect it. I had told my former boss, at that broadcast network, I only needed one hit. I finally had one. Ironically it was because they passed on the script that enabled us to make it as a hit show and win our very first Emmy!

So as I wait to sell my first project, I have to remember that it took almost three years for that first hit to come, when I made my big move from broadcast to cable 16 years ago.

But today the phone is not ringing and my projects are not selling, so I am feeling very much alone in that single seat in the metaphoric auditorium of Hollywood.