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

Day 89

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The act of looking for a job has become my job.  The hours are long, and so far the pay is zero.  And it is actually more exhausting than the actual job I will ultimately (hopefully!) get.  The irony, of course, is that I have pushed my agent non-stop to get me as many meetings as possible.  And then when he gets me a meeting, I send him an email either saying, “Try harder” or “That is a good meeting.  Now let’s get a great meeting.”  My agent claims that my “funny” emails are motivating him to work even harder.  I think it is no coincidence that he is making sure my meetings are booked as physically far from each other as possible.  Speaking of funny emails, I sent a good one this morning to a friend of mine who is running a show that has a lot of buzz right now and is likely to get picked up.  He asked me if I would be interested in working on it if it got picked up.  I told him I’d love to come in and watch the DVD of the pilot and he said when I come in, it would be great if I could bring in some story pitches.  Keeping in mind that I have worked with this friend before and have proven myself over the years, I thought the proper hilarious response would be to send him an email essentially recommending that he “shove it”– in words slightly more flowery than that.  After I sent the email, I came home and told Shawni who’s face got really small.  “What’s the matter?”  “I think that was really mean.” “Of course it wasn’t mean, it was funny.”  “I don’t understand why it’s funny.” “Because it’s so mean.”  “I think it’s going to hurt his feelings.”


A– Was Shawni right– was the email offensive to a friend who was trying to reach out and give me the best possible chance at getting a job on his show and resulted in that friend having his feelings hurt?

B– Was Jeff right– the email was taken strictly as a joke because the friend knows that Jeff is famous for his outrageous email responses and the friend was more likely than ever to hire him?


A– 99.7%    B– 0.3%  Margin of error +/- .3%.

Well, for all you pessimists, I will tell you that the correct answer, of course, was A.  In fact, not only did the email not get my point across, but it arrived as he was rushing his wife to the hospital with severe abdominal pains.  It has long been a desire of mine to create an email service that when I hit “Send” immediately sends the email to Shawni who can either change it completely or delete it.  Should I get another 100 days off, that will be the focus of my time.

After a series of apologetic emails to my friend, I seemed to have smoothed things over– and will go in to meet him tomorrow with several ideas for his show which, if this were a movie, he would tell me to “shove them”.   But first it was off to meet with two friends whom I had recommended as writers on the show Friends after I left and who stayed with the show through its entirety– not bailing in the nick of time like I did after Season Two– and who now have two pilots that are up for contention.   There are pros and cons to taking a meeting with people you already know.  The pros are obvious: you have a certain comfort level with them and shared history.  The cons are equally obvious: they have seen you drunk and naked in Hawaii.  The worst part of any meeting, whether or not you know the person you’re meeting– is sitting in the waiting room outside the office hearing the muffled conversation happening in the meeting before you.    Worse still, is when you hear nothing but raucous laughter coming from the other room.  And the absolute worst is when the door opens and out walks other people you know, who also know the guy you’re meeting with, but who was never drunk and naked in front of him in Hawaii.


Was that the case today for me?

A- Yes

B- No.

POLL RESULTS: Of course it was.

But it didn’t really matter, I had what I considered a good meeting with my friends, even though the acoustics of the room that seemed to provide the echoing laughter in the meeting before, must have changed when I got there.  From that meeting it was off to another meeting on the exact opposite side of town.  This time with someone I did not know.  As I entered the office I noticed an eerie silence with boxes being packed up.  It turns out, shortly before I got there this production company had learned that one of their shows just got cancelled.  It was hardly fodder for a good comedy meeting.  It wasn’t the worst set up I’ve ever had for a meeting; that honor belongs to my partner and my very first movie pitch.  We were brought in by an old army buddy of my partner’s father who had made a billion dollars producing the seven (!) Police Academy movies, to pitch our take on a cruise ship comedy.  We were waiting and waiting for the head of the studio, who finally arrived twenty minutes late with an ashen look on his face.   As he slowly sat down in his chair he said somberly, almost trance-like, “I just got robbed at gun point.  The robber stuck the barrel of the gun in my face and threatened to kill me.  It happened in front of my house.  All I can see is the barrel of the gun.”  As he looked off with his thousand yard stare we began our pitch, “Okay.  So picture ‘Stripes’ but on a cruise!”  That movie never got made.

So, this meeting wasn’t that bad, but it suffered from the cumulative effects of all of the other meetings I had had up until this point.  I told them honestly that this was the funniest pilot I had read, but when they asked which draft I was referring to, I could only muster something like, “The one with the guy.  In the office.”  I then had to backtrack on so many subjects– a hazard of not knowing my audience in advance– that I almost got dizzy.  Producer: “How do you handle network notes?”  Me: “Look, I’ve been writing for almost 20 years, I know whether or not there’s a problem without having to hear it from an executive.” P: “I think network notes are an important part of the process.”  M: “Exactly.  That’s what I’m saying.  As much as you think you know, it’s comforting to have the network there to give you their thoughts.”  P: “I just hate when they pitch their stuff.” M: “It’s the worst.” P: “Unless it’s a good fix.”  M: “Then it’s the best.”   That conversation went on for about ten minutes, followed by ones very similar to it, until I wasn’t sure exactly what I thought, except that it was exactly one step behind what the producer thought.  Thankfully, we found common ground when it was discovered that we used to go to the same bar on Long Island and growing up and both used our fake ID’s to get in.  M: “Hey, I wonder if we were ever there at the same time?”  P: “I don’t know.  Hey, were you ever there when that drunk guy got naked?”  M: “Er… um,  no.  I should go.”

I drove home from the meeting completely spent, my eyes burning with smog and fatigue.  I instinctively checked my email from my agent.  “How was the meeting?”  “Do better”, I wrote back.  But I’m not sure if I was writing it to him or to me.  Three more meetings set up for tomorrow.  I can’t wait until I start work so I can relax.


Written by 100daysoff

May 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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