Film Scouts Comment

Hollywood Outsider I: Outside the Box

by Richard Schwartz
Outside Hollywood, November 1999 – These days, one of the biggest buzz phrases inside the creative industry is thinking "outside the box," writing "outside the box," creating "outside the box."

The fact that "outside the box" has become such a cliché is a great example of how "inside the box" outside the box actually is.

Regardless, in these parts there is still a premium on the notion of being an "outsider," very similar to how politicians attempt to paint themselves as "Beltway outsiders." (See Al Gore's "K Street to Kmart" comment when he moved his campaign headquarters to Nashville). It worked for the Blair Witch boys, so it should work for everyone.

But the real story is that the great majority of us out here are really, truly "outsiders" (that doesn't include Soda Pop, Pony Boy or Matt Dillon). Indeed, we've fallen and we can't get back in. And there's nothing maverick, avant garde or Sundance about the whole thing.

We'd be on the inside if we could. In fact, we'd gladly switch places with all those tortured artists with million-dollar development deals on the inside who long to be on the fringes instead.

But every time we get a taste of life on the inside, we are thrust back to the outside.

It's kinda like that "Godfather" cliché parodied by "Saturday Night Live," but turned on its head:

"Just when you think you're on the inside, they keep pulling you back out."

That's the story of entertainment (and please beware of people who use the phrases "this business," "the industry," "this town," interchangeably).

You finally make it there in a career sense, you finally make it there in a physical sense (the "there" in this case, and all subsequent cases, being Hollywood), but still you're really not there.

It was not supposed to be this way. You made it on the other coast and, as Frank said, "if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere."

But, out here in the smog, there are more people inside show business who are really outside show business. Actors. Directors. Writers. Agents. Producers. At least that's what their business cards claim. God bless Kinko's.

Rumor has it that up to half of Entertainment Weekly's power list, the epitome of Hollywood "insider-ship," is still actually on the outside.

It's most obvious in social circles, and, after all, isn't that what its really all about out here? Your reservation is confirmed at Mr. Chow's, you make the guest list at Skybar, you're on the inside... but yet you're still on the outside. You think you've finally made it when you score an entry to that Puffy Combs VIP Grammy party only to find that your invite is not good for Puffy's VIP room. You receive an pass ("plus one" - now you can really impress!) to a major movie premiere but, due to "fire marshal regulations," you're seated in a separate building across the street with a closed-caption feed.

"Access Hollywood?" Yeah, right.

But its not limited to the nighttime scene. Witness the creative world as well. You secure a high-profile post-production gig but your name is misspelled in the tail credits. You finally sign with an agent but you've never met him face-to-face. A network options your sitcom idea but instead assigns you to research duty on one of their five game shows slated for midseason.

These are all legends and stories floating around town. We can't really tell which are truthful and which may be apocryphal, so we'll pass them on unadulterated. All of 'em.

And that's the mission of the column that will fill this space on a monthly basis until we leave Hollywood (c'mon, it's just a matter of time) and get an honest job in something like, oh, new media. In the meantime, we will convey a sense of life on the outside to those of you that are, well, outside the outside. In other words, Orange County residents.

And, remember, this is not meant to be a jibe at the entertainment industry or its fine people. And, for that matter, this is not some guerilla-like underground take on Hollywood a la Harry Knowles or his many imitators. The difference: if we were fortunate enough to be invited into test screenings we wouldn't blow it for lack of discretion; rather, we'd happily sell out and play the studio game as we'd just be blissful to be on the inside.

For the time being, however, we'd be happy to cut you a deal on "Maps to the Stars' Homes."

Stay tuned… next month: an outsider inside the studio gates.

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