This being the day after Fourth of July, my Mom called.
Mom knows I write a column now, but wanted to know if I still had any movies of my own coming out that she could tell her friends about. Sadly no, I told her. And things do slow down in summer. But, I added, the studio would be calling next week to let me know about a new script of mine for sure!
Then Mom made a brilliant observation:
"Is that Next week-next week or Hollywood-Next week?" she asked.
At that moment I realized how very differently we mark time in Hollywood -- and I don't just mean the standard "I'll get back to you's" that result in never hearing back again. I'm talking about how we view the passing hours, months and years, and how even our internal clocks are set on "Hollywood Time" without our knowing it. So, as a guide for those outside "the business" who wonder why their loved one's deals happen so slowly, as well as those in "the business" who don't yet know how Hollywood time flies, some insight:
What time is it?
One of the biggest myths about Hollywood is that things ever get done here "on time and under budget." This is false.' In point of fact, no one in Hollywood actually owns a watch; thus, getting things done "on time" is, by definition, impossible. This also explains why all those promises to "call back next week" or sincere intentions to "set something up" never happen. Here in Hollywood, time is not only relative, it is a relative of someone you don't know.
How then does Hollywood tell time? Answer:' They don't need to; for savvy Hollywood-ites don't require a watch to know the hour.' Indications of what time it is all happen byphone. Let's say, for instance, that the phone rings and the caller tells you that you've just sold your screenplay for a million dollars.' What time is it?' Easy. It is before noon. How do you know? Because all good newshappens before noon.
Rumors are reserved for just after lunch. So if you hear that Sylvester Stallone is the new spokesman for Viagra, you know that you have overslept, and damn Consuela for not waking you in time for your noontime mimosa on the terrace!
Urgent news all happens at night. When the phone rings and Robert Downey Jr. has been arrested for DUI, it's after nine.' Weirder news, like Robert Downey Jr. climbing into a stranger's bed, occurs after midnight.' Early morning calls are reserved for Robert Downey Jr. not showing up on the set. In fact, until he "went on the wagon," most people knew the time simply by asking "Have you heard from Robert Downey Jr?"
What month is it?
Another false rumor circulating about Hollywood is how hard everyone works.' This is a lie propagated to lessen the envy in those who imagine that being Mel Gibson or Steven Spielberg is fun. It is fun! Not only that -- it's easy!' But this is countered by promoting the fiction that there is effort involved -- there is not.' In fact, Hollywood is only open for business four days a year!' Don't believe me?
In the "real world" one's year begins on January 2. By contrast, Hollywood's year starts when? "After Sundance." But after Sundance come more film festivals and after that comes TV pilot season. Thus, the first day of the year is the day right before the Cannes Film Festival, a day known as "Spring" in the industry as in "Call me sometime in Spring."
You really want to do business now, but can't because you're waiting for everyone to get back from Cannes. But you better be on your toes because right after Cannes, there is a second day of business in Hollywood called "Summer." But this is only a half-day, so if you want to get something done in Summer, you better call before noon -- and with good news!
After that, Summer Vacation starts. And thank God because everyone's exhausted!' This lasts through Labor Day or until Martha's Vineyard freezes over. Now it's Fall; but just as you get a third business day, it's Yom Kippur which, depending on the year, can close Hollywood for up to a month.'
Now you have to hurry to get something going. The year is almost over! There is a fourth business day just before Thanksgiving, but at this point the town stops working and all decisions are put off until next year. Workaholics can squeeze in a few hours before New Year's, but this involves talking to Jeffrey Katzenberg via your cell phone from Aspen.
What year is it?
The recent announcement that actress Geena Davis is going to star in more family movies is an example of how Hollywood marks longer periods of time. Like counting the rings of a redwood to know how old it is, and how old you are, bigger chunks of calendar can be noted by how the span of your life relates to that of another, more famous, person.
Geena Davis's career is, in fact, a perfect way to see how such time can be marked.' Let's start with Geena's first appearance in Tootsie.' This is followed by her co-starring
role in The Fly, requisite marriage to and divorce from Fly co-star, Jeff Goldblum, starring role in that baseball movie, requisite marriage to Finnish director, divorce from Finnish director after requisite pirate movie disaster (what was she thinking?) requisite segue to family films and, finally, a TV series for that bag of career-capping, MurphyBrown bucks.
Thus, using the sliding Geena Davis Scale, a quick way to tell what year it is and, more importantly, how old you are, is to ask the significance of these events as it relates to you. If, for instance, when you think of Geena Davis, you think of her as that nice Mom from Stuart Little, then you are under twenty. If you think of her as the gal who was married to that guy from Jurassic Park, you are over thirty. If, on the other hand, you remember her posing fabulously in her underwear with Dustin Hoffman, you're over 40 and retiredfrom show business or producer of "The New Geena Davis Show".
Well, that's it.' I hope this little treatise has helped you understand how time works in Hollywood. And by the way, if you find yourself running half past Ted Danson one summer afternoon, I hate to tell you, but it's later than you think.