Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 38

with 2 comments

When my writing partner and I split up seven years ago, I thought that would mean an immediate doubling of my salary (writing teams typically split a salary).  The problem is, while my partner and I were well-respected together, nobody knew how we would fare separately. I’ve used the Simon and Garfunkel metaphor before so I’ll switch it up to say, if Wham! splits up, you want to make sure you’re putting your money on George Michael, and not, um… Other Wham! Guy.  My hope of having a huge pay jump quickly switched to me hoping to get a job.  My agent sent out a spec script that I had written the hour after my partner and I broke up (I needed a writing sample that I had written by myself) and wasn’t getting that much “traction” (people didn’t like it).  My life as a solo artist was an immediate disaster.   One of the low points– and there were a few, the absolute low point was when my sister was getting brain surgery (she’s fine!) and the surgeons came out and told me that they were bummed because CBS passed on their pilot (and I’m not kidding).  Right after that, my business manager, who got paid by the hour, told me that I was about to run out of money.  Me: “When?”  Him: (BEAT)  “Now”.  I told him to borrow money on the house, I couldn’t talk right now because my sister was about to go into surgery and her surgeons didn’t get their pilot picked up.

My other low point that season was when my agent called and told me that the “gatekeeper” (the person who decides whether or not a producer will like a script, ie: whether it has “traction”) of one of TV’s hackiest writers thought my script was too broad and would not be passing my work on to this hack so I had no chance to work on his hacky show.  It was at that point that some hidden rage was triggered within me.  I proceeded to write my agent a six page email telling him who I was and what I deserved and how he should A: never send my script out to a hack and B: never tell me that the hack passed on it.  I proceeded in my grandiloquence to explain to him that I was starting anew and needed to establish myself as an elite writer.  That season I had read three scripts which I absolutely loved: “My Name is Earl”, “Everyone Hates Chris” and “Old Christine”.  I told him that I needed to work on one of those shows because they were A-list shows and I was an A-list writer.  The subject of the email was, “My Name is Jeff”.

I never sent that email.  For some reason, right as I was about to hit “send” I had a prophecy that I would receive the “My Name is Jeff” email from five different people– two of whom wouldn’t even know I had written it– within ten minutes of my sending it.  It was a rare case of good judgment on my part.  Instead, I called him and told him everything that was in the email.  He said it was good to know and would help him direct his focus.  I wound up meeting on only one of those shows– all it takes is one– “Old Christine” and worked there for all five seasons and the rest is history– and by history, of course I mean, here I am again.  Of course, a lot has changed since the almost famous “My Name is Jeff” email: I’ve established myself as way more of a George Michael type– actually, I’m not sure this metaphor is holding anymore, but my point is, I’ve worked consistently since then.  But every off-season brings its challenges.   Today’s challenge was that I found out that a deal I had been offered may be being blocked by a studio that didn’t offer me a deal.  Anyway, I’m sure it will work out, but in the meantime, it inspired me to write another email to my agent– and send it– that is probably in my Inbox right now forwarded from six other people.

So, that’s pretty much how my day ended, putting me in a pissed off mood.  To paraphrase myself, “I’m constantly surprised by how surprised I get” by the crappy things that happen in this business.   Surprisingly, the start of my day, as it is almost every Tuesday, is the opposite of business– spirituality.   This morning, I took my weekly class on spirituality and the focus was on having faith.  I consider myself a man of faith, but thankfully my faith has never been fully challenged.  (I’ve heard it said that everyone is given only what they can handle which means I can’t handle that much and I like it that way).  My wife and I, over one of our two-plus hour lunches where we tell each other how much stuff we should be doing instead of having lunch together but how it’s nice that we can have lunch together, spoke about faith and how we thought we would react if we were ever really challenged by something big.  The truth is, you never know until you’re there, and the goal is to prepare yourself for the day when it comes (or just live in denial which is a very comfortable neighborhood for me.)   What I do know is that these little challenges along the way tend to piss me off, and maybe by being annoyed by them, I’ll keep the big challenges at bay (I’m not sure that’s how it works, but that’s how I operate, so there).  But I also do know that these little problems are just that: little problems.  I’m very aware of all my blessings, and I try to keep them in mind at all times.  It’s just sometimes the Blessings are bratty or say they “hate you” because you won’t let them watch another tv, or the other Blessing doesn’t necessarily find it sexy when you stick a soy dog in your butt crack to make the little Blessings who hate you laugh and like you again.  Whereas the Blessings often hide, the Annoyances always make themselves known.

I was reminded of this today as I choked the dogs up the hill in the late afternoon.  I was expecting the hike to be a muddy mess, considering I had fish living in my basement.  Basement flooding= a huge Annoyance.  But while there was mud there were also flowing streams and blooming trees everywhere.  I don’t know if it’s because the rain here in L.A. is now radioactive, but I can’t remember when the hills ever looked this green before.    Reflecting on my spiritual morning, it made me realize that the annoying rain yesterday led to this Oz-like environment.  Then, on the way back from the hike I got a text from my wife which was a picture of my shy little daughter holding a medal she had won at gymnastics (I did the thing where I called my daughter and asked who won the medal and guessed every single other person we know before finally giving up forcing my daughter to say it was her– not realizing, of course, that that’s a really insulting game if you don’t take it the right way).  My wife then told me that today my daughter also stuck up for a girl who was being made fun of by some other kids in the school (I did the thing where I said, “I don’t believe it!” way too many times to the point where she probably now thinks I didn’t believe it.)  And at that moment, it didn’t take a lot of faith to realize how good I had it, it was right there in front of me, the way I like it.  And it was at that exact moment of family bliss when my cell phone rang.  It was my agent with annoying news….

As George Michael said, “You Gotta Have Faith”.

Bronson Canyon doing its best impression of my basement



Written by 100daysoff

March 22, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thanks Jeff! Remembering to remember how lucky we really are is not always so easy. We practice every day! Love the blog!

    Marni Heller

    March 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

  2. Had to post your line on Twitter (think it got cut off) about radioactive rain making the hills so green. Too funny!

    Marian Merritt

    March 23, 2011 at 9:54 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: