Are We Really This Gullible?
I’m afraid the answer is yes. We are so taken in by what we read in the newspapers and the Internet or what we hear on television, radio, newscasters and/or politicians that we just assume it’s the truth.
It sort of reminds of when I see a sign that boldly states, “Live Entertainment” and I used to add, “That’s great as opposed to the alternative Dead Entertainment.”
When I went off to start my entertainment career, I toured the country as the lead singer in a rock band. We were a bunch of misfits, or so it must have looked to those who appeared to enjoy us. Our drummer was a black kid from Chicago who never stopped smiling. Even when he had the flu, he smiled. He just loved life. The bass player was a Hispanic kid from Mexico City; the lead guitar came from France and then there was me, the tall white kid with the golden voice. We played in nightclubs, country clubs, graduations, weddings, church events and even prisons. Everywhere we went to people told us how good we were, and we believed it. Fact was we fully expected a record company to jump out of the crowd and sign us up. We were a band of brothers who could do no wrong until we played at a high-school graduation. The first set was fabulous and the kids danced, laughed and had a ball. During the break we, the four about to become super stars, ducked behind the curtains to chill out. We were having a great time until we heard two girls talking. One said: “The band stinks.” And the other happily added "So “So does their singer. Hasn’t anyone ever told him how terrible he is?” The other girl giggled and added, “Maybe we should tell them to get a real job.” We heard them walk off and for the first time in years the smile on our drummer’s face was gone. We finished the gig, but it was never the same after that night.
When I got to Hollywood, my agent told me I’d be a star. I believed her too. I appeared in plays, did lots of day work, and became a regular on the soap opera Days of our Lives and then fully expected stardom. After a few more years I realized one in a thousand or maybe that number is one in five-hundred thousand make it while the rest drift around, settle for a few jobs here and there and most eventually give up and move on. Most of those were at one time or another told they were great and would be stars, and they all believed what they were told. We were all gullible.
We all truly believe things are great until we discover they’re not.
When I wrote my first screenplay, I had others read it. They all told me how great it was. I had just written the next Gone with the Wind. Even my agent said it was great, and I believed her. She submitted it to several studios, and they all turned it down. Then I got a phone call from the head of the story department at one of the studios, she had submitted the script to and who had also turned it down. The man asked if I would mind meeting him the following day at the studio. When I told my agent about the meeting, she immediately assumed it was great news, and that they had reconsidered and I was about to make my first sale.
The meeting didn’t quite go as she thought, or I hoped it would. The man asked me to sit and when I did the first thing he said was "Your “Your screenplay is terrible.” My heart sank and for a few minutes, I didn’t hear a word he said, and then he smiled and stopped talking. Suddenly, he had my attention. I felt like I was back in school or my grandfather was about to say something important.
“You really believed this was good didn’t you?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “Everyone who read it liked it.”
“And you believed them?” He sat back and waited for my answer.
“Why would they lie to me?” I asked.
“Because they didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“If I can’t believe my friends and agent, who can I believe?”
His hesitation gave me plenty of room to think and for the life of me; I couldn’t come up with an answer. I studied his face. He was an older gentleman with a twinkle in his eyes that somehow made me relax.
“There is only one person you can trust, that you can truly believe to be honest with you.”
“Who?” I said it too quickly and wished it hadn’t slipped out.
“You,” he answered. “What you’ve written here is a very good concept for a very commercial film. You rushed the script, and wrote it without vision. Each scene needs to be seen in your head with your eyes closed. Each change must fit comfortably into the next, and the dialog needs to flow like your listening to a conversation between friends, strangers or acquaintances.”
“I’m not sure I can do that.” I said, and I knew he heard the disappointment in my voice.
“I’ll tell you what I am willing to do. You go home and re-write this from page one. The whole of your story has already created an organic structure and while it’s in skeleton form, it works. When you have twenty-five pages, bring them to me. We’ll have coffee while I read what you have done.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because you have talent that needs a little push. I can't guarantee the studio will buy what you end up writing, but I think you will learn to trust and help yourself.”
I admit it. I was and probably in some ways am still gullible.
The head of the story department critique was a wake-up call, like getting slapped in the face.
I did as he requested and over a couple of months rewrote and polished the screenplay. The studio didn’t buy it, but another production company did. When I tried to thank him for his help, he told me I owed him nothing. He told me one day, when someone else needs help, perhaps it will be your time to help him or her. It was, after all, once again a form of what my grandfather had instilled into my heart – pay-forward had resurfaced.
I hear people use that term today, but they have no idea the true meaning of what it means to pay forward. Give from the heart; expect nothing in return, and complete your mission is all it takes.
Over the years, I have enjoyed writing about many different genres, but all have a common thread of humor and humanity. I also learned not everyone will like your work or will say nice things about it. Truth is some will hate what you do and will try to discourage you and to them; I say no way. You can’t please all the people all the time so don’t try. If you believe in self-others will too, and you will eventually find your audience and the voice in which you write. I am grateful that Veronique and Murray are finding its audience, much like my Rollie Kemp thrillers are.
On the other hand.
If you believe what others say without checking the facts, you are assuming what is said or written is factual and true and then you my friends and readers are indeed gullible.
William Byron Hillman © 2012
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