Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

Oddly enough, we wound up playing basketball together on a semi-regular basis. I would come out of the little cubicle that I had co-opted and play hoops with the people who were Mark's assistants, friends, partners, and so on, and he ended up offering me a part in this movie about drug addicts and homeless kids called Mere the Day Takes You. My first response was to turn down the offer, but then I agreed to do a cameo. I was trying to figure out what he was doing, and whether he had a real script, a real budget, and the ability and resources to put together a legitimate project. I had my doubts.

"It's union scale," Mark said."That's the best I can do"

At this time I knew almost nothing about the fine art of negotiation. Id had a very complicated relationship with my representatives at CAA, trying to figure out how money was made and eventually coming to the realization (obvious to anyone with a bit less naivete) that they were more interested in making money for themselves than for me. So I was really grappling with the dynamics of what negotiations were. I was learning on my own the way things work in Hollywood that multiple sets of books may be kept, and that on virtually every movie a quiet sort of compensation can occur. The studio has contractual obligations with the network or the producers or the distributors, and cash goes under the table, behind doors, and so on. It seems to happen on virtually every project. You just have to decide how much you want, what you think you can get, and what you're willing to not know.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a fairly innocuous little story about a very small, independent film, a director seeming to do whatever was necessary to get his movie made, and a young actor trying to figure out how to make deals and keep his integrity while profiting at the same time.

"I can't give you any more money," Mark said, "but is there anything else you'd like that would make you consider doing this? Can I give you a birthday present?"

My thoughts turned to my younger brother, Mack, also an actor. He'd made quite a good living working on the television show The Facts of Life. Unfortunately, he'd spent most of what he'd earned by spending crazily on such things as renting an indoor hockey rink in Los Angeles just so he and his buddies would have a place to play. Mack was always begging me to join them, but there never seemed to be enough time, and anyway, I didn't have any of the proper gear. I'd grown up playing baseball, football, and basketball. Hockey? In Southern California? It didn't make much sense. Now, though, as Mark Rocco asked me if there was something I might need, the thought of Mack and his ice rink buddies flashed through my mind.

"You know, I could use some hockey equipment."

The next thing I knew, I was in Mark's office, hoisting a huge black hockey bag over my shoulder, filled with top of the line gear: skates, helmet, mask, pads, stick, everything. I remember the weight of that bag felt like the exact weight of compromise; it felt like the weight of having sold out. I wanted the bag and everything in it, and yet I wanted somehow to keep a firm grasp on my own integrity, and it occurred to me then that perhaps it was possible to do both. The very idea of that possibility, that moral ambiguity, confused and bothered me.

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