Keeping my mouth shut
by Brian Horiuchi
I came down to Los Angeles because my dead best friend Tony directed a music video for a slightly faded ‘80s star, who had a connection to get us into the coolest Hollywood clubs, at a time when I was sitting up in the northern California countryside, in my parents’ basement, trying to write a novel and getting wasted at sports bars.
And also, maybe incidentally, because Tony and I had a great idea for a movie, developed over years of teenage road trips – a strange, surreal Kubrick-meets-Wizard-of-Oz story called Oskur Fishman.
When I told my friends and family that I was moving down to Los Angeles to write a children’s story for slightly warped grownups, they all nodded slowly, treating me with the kind of abashed pity usually reserved for burn victims and schizophrenics.
So it was with great joy and furious self-affirmation that I was able to tell the folks back home, just six months later, that Tony and I had optioned Oskur to Oliver Stone.
Then followed months of blur, with Tony attached to direct, Oliver producing, new managers, agents nipping at our heels, and an article in The Hollywood Reporter that I photocopied and sent to just about everyone I’d ever met.
And then the check – the first check for anything I’d written – the first living proof of my lifelong dream – every dollar worth a thousand dollars I’d earned doing anything else – and Tony and I found ourselves driving to Parker, Arizona, to rent a hotel room and polish the screenplay.
I’d say it took me every single notes session ever since to learn how to deal with producer notes, but that would imply that I know how to deal with them now. At best, I have a vague idea of how to keep my mouth shut when I get them and take as long as I need to wrap my head around what do to about them. But, suffice it to say, my first Hollywood job pretty much consisted of screaming arguments with Tony, punctuated by feverish visits to local bars and frenzied phone calls with the producers.
Amazingly, the devastating fights and ridiculous creative paralysis didn’t ruin Oskur Fishman. Since those days, a great number of talented and amazing people have been involved in Oskur, including Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, producer Michael London, and director John Cameron Mitchell. The script has gone through dozens of rewrites, changed into a cartoon, circled back around to live action, and yielded more than a few paychecks – although, as yet, no film.
So what did I learn from my first job in Hollywood? How to do a rewrite of a movie that never gets made? How to cherish a friendship that ended far too soon (Tony died in a fire less than a year later, but that’s a story for another time)? Or was it a series of lessons, in how to deal with producers, co-writers, stars, Hollywood hotspots, press attention, and the sudden gaping silences of an abandoned project?
Or was the real result of that first paid gig, rewriting Oskur Fishman for Oliver Stone, the bestowal of some kind of golden ticket that enabled me to get representation, make a living as a writer, and finally to direct my own first feature film?
I’m not sure, but no, not all that, or not just all that. What I ultimately got from my first Hollywood job was the knowledge that I could be paid for the privilege of telling stories. That producers, actors, directors, and writing partners come and go, but that there’s a way to keep body and soul together while learning to transmute my feelings, inspirations, and intuitions – the private moments that can often make us feel so alone and ephemeral – into something that other people want to see.
With many, many, many bumps along the road, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since, and it’s hotter than the hottest Hollywood club, and it’s lasted longer than the best best friend. From my first Hollywood job, I found my lifelong calling.Tags: Breaking into Hollywood, Brian Horiuchi, Hollywood, Inspiration, John Cameron Mitchell, Life lesson, Lifelong calling, Michael London, Oliver Stone, Oskur Fishman, Producer notes, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Screenwriter, Storytelling, Writer-Director