On my second day in Hollywood, I set off to meet my mate Jonny Paterson. Jonny and I have a wonderful backstory: we first met in Burbank back in 2013, where I rather unmemorably pitched him a cli-fi script I’d written, then had breakfast together whenever I came back to town (at Le Pain Quotidien on Melrose, where Jane Lynch once memorably followed me into the bathroom — after I was done, people — where are your minds this morning?). That location has sadly joined the growing list of COVID closures, but our friendship remains. And one day in September 2016, while chatting in a Boston hotel lobby (Jonny had come east for a wedding), he made a suggestion that has dramatically impacted my screenwriting life. “You know, Adam,” he said, “I’ve always thought you should write a National Treasure-style script.”
In retrospect, it seems obvious — I’m the son of a historian, I majored in American History at Harvard, I have a tattoo of Nicolas Cage on my left bicep. . .but at the time, it was something of a revelation to me, who was then known in Hollywood principally as a purveyor of sci-fi. The script that resulted from our conversation, The Louisiana Conspiracy, is one of which I remain very proud and which Jonny and I still hope to sell. And I have done several other history-inspired scripts since (as I joke, I write about the future and the past — the present is far too scary to contemplate!).
Jonny is a tribute to the virtues of talent and tenacity, having risen from independent producer of such marvelous films as Halfway (starring Quinton Aaron, whom you know from The Blind Side), to now heading development at Tommy Oliver’s company Confluential Films, which is responsible for the TV show Black Love and the powerful recent HBO documentary 40 Years a Prisoner. Jonny has been a wonderful friend, always happy to read my scripts and share his considerable insights with my Emerson students, and it was really good to see him.
From Jonny’s I drove to Pasadena to break bread with my sister-in-law Emily Miller Blaney, whom I also hadn’t seen in ages. Emily is the principal of an elementary school in La Canada, so you can imagine what her year’s been like, but she always brings warmth and caring to every conversation. Today, she also brought pizza, and it was an absolute home run.
You see, growing up in DC, there were two or three places that my family tended to return to again and again when eating out: Yenching Palace for brunch (where part of the Cuban Missile Crisis negotiations occurred, now sadly closed); the Thai Room, DC’s first Thai restaurant, for dinner (also now closed); and California Pizza Kitchen, for, well, whenever we liked! I’ve lost track of all the times I ate their signature BBQ Chicken pizza growing up, but it had been decades since I returned. And without knowing any of this, CPK was the place Emily had chosen!
We had a great time catching up (Emily, like Jonny, is fully vaccinated), tension only creeping into the conversation as news emerged that the verdict was about to be announced in the trial of Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd. Emily can confirm I was fairly confident Chauvin would be found guilty of something, but even a split decision might have meant protestors blocking the freeways, so we decided it was best to wrap up and for me to head to Sherman Oaks, my next destination. Fortunately I got there just as the verdict was announced, and far more fortunately, it was guilty on all counts. Thank God. If what Chauvin did to George Floyd wasn’t murder, then nothing is.
In Sherman Oaks there lives a lovely house owed by a lovely actress who is a friend of Deb’s, whom you will remember from my last post. Since the actress and her husband were in NYC where he works on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, she graciously allowed Deb and I to use the house to do some revising of our script STELLOOLA (and, to be fair, also some pool lounging). It was awesome.
After that it was off to Encino to eat at the tasty Veggie Grill https://veggiegrill.com/locations/encino/ with my fellow Masshole Dwain Worrell (Dwain’s from Stoughton, just a couple towns south of Milton, where my mom grew up). Dwain and I first met in 2014 or so when he and I were two of the great unknowns who had been plucked from obscurity by Amazon Studios https://studios.amazon.com. Of the 30,000 (or was it 300,000 — none but Jeff Bezos truly knows) submissions received, Amazon picked about 30 features to put into development, and of those 30, Dwain’s script was the last one standing and the only one to be made: The Wall, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena and directed by the amazing Doug Liman, who also directed one of my favorite sci-fi films of the past decade, Edge of Tomorrow (or, if you prefer, Live. Die. Repeat.). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if only one script could have been made into an Amazon film, I wish it had been mine (I’m not a martyr, people!). But if it couldn’t have been me, I’m glad it was Dwain.
The next day, my last in Hollywood, I met by the marvelous Meridien pool with my new producer friend Louis Spiegler, who has kindly shown interest in my recent script DEBATING X; then headed off for lunch in Venice with another friend Cecilia Soghikian, whom I met when I was last at Sundance in the great before times of January 2020. https://www.ceciliasoghikian.com. During that fateful first week in March 2020, I attended a tech rehearsal of a play Cecilia was helping put on. . .and I was one of the only folks to ever see it, since COVID came and the show never actually ran. Cecilia’s working on a pilot, FSL, that will blow Hollywood’s socks off. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, she’s awesome, she’s fully vaccinated, and it was really good to see her again.
That afternoon I had two all-too-short meetings with other friends: the amazing music composer Julia Sokolowska https://juliazuzannasokolowska.com, whom I had also met at Sundance and who recently sent one of my favorite texts of all time (“I’m in Zanzibar atm.” — top that!); and Nicole Saad, one of the most talented writers it’s ever been my pleasure to befriend, who is killing it in the Sundance Lab and who just finished being staffed on a Taylor Sheridan show! (I love Taylor Sheridan’s work and think Wind River has one of the best third acts ever written.) I wish there had been more time, but I was really glad to have had the whirlwind 72 hours in LA and the chance to see (and hug) so many friends. Now it was time to red-eye back to Beantown for a few days with my family and some R&R before the next adventure.