Arrested development

A day in the life of a development executive, who may or may not lose her job in the Hollywood writers strike.


Liz Hackett
May 1, 2001 12:00PM (UTC)

5:30 a.m. Rudely awakened by jarring buzzing noise. Have programmed alarm clock to Draconian AM setting in the hopes of going to power yoga class. Unplug alarm and throw at wall. Go back to sleep.

8:30 a.m. Wake up in cold sweat. Have had bizarre dream in which I am a contestant on a CBS reality show, "Stop, Drop, and Roll!" On show, contestants are taken to a variety of exotic locales and then set on fire. If they can extinguish themselves in less than 10 seconds, they win a Chrysler. Decide that this qualifies as a workout.

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8:31 a.m. Enthusiastic about gymless day. Stand up.

8:32 a.m. Sit back down. Pick pieces of alarm clock out of foot.

8:40 a.m. Drive to office. I am becoming increasingly worried about the impending Writers' Guild strike, afraid that I will lose my job in two weeks because of it. If no scripts, development executives like me will have nothing to develop.

8:41 a.m. Stuck at stoplight of Olympic and Bundy. I invent a new reality show: "Staring Contest." TV contestants stare down the viewers at home. Possibilities for cheating are endless. Scrap idea.

8:45 a.m. Think about story I read in Variety last week. According to article every studio has a list of employees who get fired the minute the writers strike. Suddenly remember that last time I was unemployed I collected pledge money for a fake "12K Walk/Run Benefiting Beaten Women." Pretty sure I can't get away with that again.

9 a.m. Arrive at office.

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9:01 a.m. Spend three minutes clearing Diet Coke cans off desk.

9:04 a.m. Read important stories in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

9:05 a.m. Decide to check Internet horoscope. Internet horoscope predicts financial troubles. Find another zodiac prediction for day. "Do not equate delay with defeat. Romantic interlude with Aries. Large asteroid heading toward Earth."

9:10 a.m. Spend 10 minutes in office kitchen with work friends K and M discussing possible Aries match. Do I know any Aries men? Hope that romantic interlude with the mysterious Aries happens before the large asteroid hits Earth.

9:15 a.m. Time to start working! Must cultivate appearance of busy office. Must look like motivated development executive ready to take on world. Embrace my job as a generator of story ideas and inventive movie premises -- even if only for two more weeks.

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9:30 a.m. Plan going well: Receive five phone calls in 10 minutes, including two besides the ones that come from cellphone under desk.

9:40 a.m. Boss drops important script on desk. Needs extensive notes by end of day.

9:41 a.m. Spend 19 minutes on phone with friend H, discussing pros and cons of selling my own eggs for money. Can make upward of $5,000 but may someday be the subject of a Judith Light Lifetime Channel special, "Her Eggs in One Basket."

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10 a.m. Begin reading script.

10:03 a.m. Put down script. Receive amusing "Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd:" e-mail with a test to see what my name would be if I were a hooker (name of my first pet plus own middle name). Hooker name: Bouncer Bentley.

10:45 a.m. Start tracking specs. Strange absence of spec scripts. Impending WGA strike has reduced flow of scripts greatly. I am worried that I have nothing to prove that I am doing my job.

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11 a.m. Make a list of things in my apartment that I can sell on eBay.

11:02 a.m. Phone call from literary agent calling from his mom's house. He's sending out a last-minute spec script to producers. Could I send a messenger for it?

11:10 a.m. Cancel lunch with short male studio executive. Because he is short.

11:20 a.m. Quiet. Too quiet. Decide to invent fake spec script with awful title that bosses will hate. Can justify job without having to produce actual results.

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11:21 a.m. Fake script plot: a comedy about a high-stakes poker game between rival washroom attendants. Title: "Straight Flush."

11:26 a.m. Have Diet Coke to celebrate ingenious plan.

Noon: Shit. Double shit. Bosses think "Straight Flush" sounds hilarious. Want to read it tonight.

12:10 p.m. Retreat to office for panicked visit with flask of Belvedere vodka, hidden in desk drawer.

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12:22 p.m. Fax résumé to random numbers.

12:30 p.m. Early lunch. Drive aimlessly with reckless abandon. Realize that if I don't lose job in WGA strike, "Straight Flush" will get me fired. Decide that Bouncer Bentley has a nice ring to it.

12:32 p.m. Review employment skills. 1) Can file. 2) Have an excellent phone and fax manner. 3) Can type 80 words per minute, provided they are words with fewer than five letters.

12:35 p.m. Have business lunch at liquor refrigerator in back of 7-Eleven.

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3 p.m. Lunch over. Bit drunk. Amstel Lights and sugarless less than satisfying.

3:02 p.m. Wait for phone to ring. Invent new development script notes. Throw out "heighten the character arc," "raise the stakes of the danger in the 3rd act" and "let's give our antagonist a motivation." At next story meeting will use "puff out the narrative schooner's jib," "invert the climax" and "what's inside our protagonist's internal paper bag?"

5 p.m." Boss calls for update on "Straight Flush." Is it tracking? Anyone interested?

5:01 p.m. Decide to break "bad news" to bosses. "Straight Flush" preemptively sold to an obscure German-financed company for mid-to-high six figures.

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5:02 p.m. Bosses buy it.

5:15 p.m. Walk to kitchen for Diet Coke. Pass a male bike messenger. He winks at me.

5:16 p.m. Pause for brief internal monologue in front of office fridge. Did bike messenger wink at me? I think he did. Stunned. Slightly repulsed. Not altogether offended. Decide to walk by messenger to see if he does it again.

5:17 p.m. Walk back through lobby with Diet Coke. Bike messenger on lobby phone. Winks again. Hurry into office and shut door.

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5:18 p.m. The nerve! Who is he to come into my office and make suggestive winks? Wonder if he is an Aries.

5:19 p.m. Open office door. Bike messenger gone.

7:10 p.m. Finish writing notes on script for boss. Hand it in. Feel intelligent and accomplished. Rather proud of note, "Let's make the grandmother deaf." No grandmother in script.

7:20 p.m. Leave office for high-powered business drinks. Meeting plucky roommate E to see how many martinis we can consume before they affect our penmanship.

7:23 p.m. At stoplight of Third and Crescent Heights, come up with new idea for Emmy Award-winning television show. An hourlong, character-driven dramedy about the relationships, fetishes and torrid affairs of priests. It's "Sex and the City" meets Brother Cadfael.

7:24 p.m. Decide not to tell boss about "Sects Life."


Liz Hackett

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