If you’re not “on”, don’t go to the party
by Maresa Pullman
Circa 1999, I was living at home with my mother in New York City about three months out of college. I thought I wanted to be a theatre agent. The day I got a job in the WMA NY mailroom, I came down with the flu. I was given the choice to start the next day on a Friday or the following Monday. In my excitement to jump in immediately to this new job, I loaded up on over the counter meds and chose to start that Friday. I walked into the mailroom to meet seven — “I’m a lawyer, why am I not promoted yet?” — trainees who sized me up and down. They were looking sharp in their pressed suits, while I was clutching a snotty tissue. Not a good look.
That afternoon, the theatre department was the first stop on my mail delivery route. A high level agent stopped me, noticing my gold Scale of Justice necklace that I was wearing. My father had brought this good luck charm to me from Israel when I was a little girl. The agent asked me, “Are you a lawyer?!” I was so happy to have someone of her stature respond to my presence, even talk to me no less. In my haste and excitement, I said, “Nah. I’m a Libra!” She looked at me puzzled and needless to say, she never spoke to me again.
After that humiliation, I realized I shouldn’t have jumped in so quickly. If I had known better and stayed home, maybe my path would be different. Theatre agent certainly wasn’t in my ripe 23-year-old cards.
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Twelve years later in Los Angeles, I found myself in a conundrum. At Scott Free, Ridley and Tony Scott’s production company, where I had worked for over seven years, I’d just completed the supervision of an animated short for Coca-Cola. This experience offered great exposure into a very different creative process than my live-action background. How could I incorporate this newfound knowledge into my everyday work?
I scheduled several meetings around town connected to this curiosity. However, my mother had recently passed away and grief is not without its mercurial nature. Some days were good, and some days were bad. At the time, I was feeling especially down and foggy. I definitely was not “on”. I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of the meetings that were set, but I kept hearing my first L.A. boss, talent and literary manager-producer Margaret Riley, in my head saying, “If you aren’t ‘on’, don’t go to the party.” The answer to my problem was simple.
I canceled my meetings.
Several weeks later, I found the “Libra” necklace hidden inside a bag at the bottom of a box. I put it on and ran to the mirror. I felt an immediate reminder of my ambition the day I started at WMA in my twenties. Making this connection gave me the boost I needed to snap out of my funk.
Two weeks later, I felt refreshed with clarity and ready to take on the world.
Meetings rescheduled, I visited various agencies and executive offices. The goal was to meet different talents who shared similar interests to my own.
Not only was the advice good because I was “on”, but by rescheduling my meetings I was able to meet Carlos Saldanha, who was serendipitously in town the day of one of my rescheduled meetings. Carlos had recently started his own company, BottleCap Productions, and had garnered himself a five-year overall deal with Twentieth Century Fox for live-action and animation. At our first meeting, we talked about various movies and stories we both admire. This led to my current position at his L.A. annex of BottleCap where I get to develop and shepherd domestic and international projects with him. I’m working in a job I love, with an incredibly talented and genuinely amazing person, and his fantastic team at BottleCap.
The first time someone meets you sparks the impression they will always have of you. Don’t go if you’re not “on”. You never know what can come to fruition if you go when you’re at your best. Thanks for the advice, Margaret!Tags: BottleCap Productions, Breaking into Hollywood, Carlos Saldanha, Entertainment industry, Film and TV executive, Film development and production, Hollywood, Maresa Pullman, Margaret Riley, Scott Free, Timing