I have a friend who is an independent film producer, which is another way of saying "I have a friend who is about six weeks from bankruptcy." But he's a real friend of mine - as opposed to the hundreds of people I know in the entertainment business whom I call "friends" merely because there isn't a phrase to describe people I'm tired of despising. But this story isn't about me. It's about my friend, the independent film producer.
Not long ago, he called up someone he's known for over 20 years. They had a meeting a few weeks ago about a project my friend was working on. The guy he's known for such a long time is in the talent management business - although, when you get right down to it, everyone in the entertainment industry is in the talent management business - and the meeting went well: everyone was happy to see everyone else, everyone was excited about the project, everyone was going to follow up.
The meeting ended on a high note, with lots of excited and enthusiastic chirping from all sides. But the real test of any meeting in Hollywood is what happens afterwards, when the follow-up phone call is placed. When my friend did, in fact, follow up a few days later with a phone call, he expected to get his call returned. Which it wasn't. At least not immediately. Now, what happened here isn't all that hard to understand. The follow-up phone call wasn't really all that necessary - the project in question is about six weeks away from requiring any action on the part of the talent management side - but often if you're trying to get a project off the ground and into motion, you spend a lot of time sitting around making calls and not much else. Except, of course, waiting for those calls to be returned.
When they're not, the echo chamber inside your head keeps sounding different reasons why. Left to his own imagination, my friend conjured up all sorts of betrayal scenarios. He twisted himself up into a lather of paranoia, which gave way to wounded anger. Angry because: "Hey, this guy is my friend. Or was my friend," he shouted to me over lunch, when he was unburdening himself. "Why is he being all high and mighty and unreachable all of a sudden?"
But the anger ran deeper. My friend had suddenly learnt a very important lesson about the way Hollywood, and everywhere else, works: in life, in love, and in business, it's all about leverage. Whoever has it, has the upper hand. Sometimes it's unclear who, exactly, has it and who doesn't. But in my friend's case, there was no confusion: if you're waiting for a guy to call you back, then that guy has the leverage.
And here's another way to tell who has the leverage: the guy who's mad doesn't have it. It didn't matter that there was a perfectly good reason why the telephone call was delayed. His friend, who is in the talent management business, was busy trying to talk one of his most successful movie star clients - many of whom are clinically insane - from investing in an underwater restaurant and iPhone app. He was busy, in other words. He had a lot of fires to put out. He'd get back to his friend when he had a spare moment.
Meanwhile, his friend was spinning himself into wilder and wilder furious torrents. But, see, here's the challenge: eventually, you're going to get that call. Eventually, the friend of 20 years is going to call you back, and the key at that point is to drain your anger and resentment away so that the call, when it comes, can be productive. Actually, that's the challenge for almost everything - from driving on the freeway to dealing with your children - but it's hard to do, especially if you've been stewing.
What you don't want to do is sit down and dash off an angry e-mail about your old friend's rudeness, his highhandedness, his lack of loyalty, and his generally unprofessional behaviour. "So what did you do when you thought he wasn't calling you back?" I asked my friend at lunch. "I dashed off an angry e-mail about his rudeness, his highhandedness, his lack of loyalty, and his unprofessionalism." "So when did he finally call you back?" I said.
"He actually had. I think my SIM card was somehow dislodged," he said. "Which was OK, because I felt so bad about it that I insisted he let me take him to lunch to apologise." "How did that go?" "Haven't had it yet. I'm still waiting for him to get back to me with some dates." He could be waiting a long time. Rob Long is a writer and producer in Hollywood