#RealDeal: That time I cold called the man that bought my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property
[UPDATE: Wow, didn’t expect to update this post, but here we are … relevant again (this was originally posted on May 18, 2019).]
My brain processes complex problems quickly, but if it’s in front of my face?
I’m 9 times out of 10 oblivious.
I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this sooner and yet I also can’t believe it actually worked!!!!
I’m still in shock, but enough talking more doing.
As I said in a previous post, I’ve recently been in a depression. Instead of being hard on myself though, I’ve been focused more on my own self care taking extra spinning classes, pool days, and making sure to not overwork myself.
“A delay is not a denial,” I kept saying to myself worried and frustrated that the ATA/ WGA debacle forced the writer of the pilot (Heather Rutman) to fire her agent … aka the adult in the room that knew what they were doing.
While I agree with what is happening, the timing of this 43 year old contract ending is less than stellar.
When are things ever “stellar?” I thought laughing to myself.
I’ve gotten as far in life as I have BECAUSE things were less than “stellar” and instead of being sad or upset about it, I took action.
Why am I waiting for others to do something and feeling depressed in the process? The ball is literally in my court right now – and it’s my turn to make a move.
On Monday April 29th, while zoning out in front of the TV watching Jeopardy (one of my favorite ways to de-stress), with a clear head and heart, I said out loud to my dog:
“I am pitching a TV show about power. Why have I not picked up the phone to call the most powerful man in Hollywood?”
…. who I have access to via him buying my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property TWICE!
The “access” part was still a bit in question, but he does at least know my name since he signed the checks!
Well, technically speaking the check came from CAA but still … he signed something at some point.
Remember, when the Talk Nerdy announcement came around the first time – I was living on an island. I had walked away from everything choosing love (which was all I was after in the first place). That love unfortunately (or fortunately) did not last, and as I was standing in my new apartment’s kitchen on June 30th, 2014, I got an email from my agents (who I had not talked to in over a year) asking if my blog was for sale.
My first thought upon receipt was that “dramatic clichés ACTUALLY exist in life.”
It’s not only that this is happening, it’s happening when I’m thousands of miles away from the life I created and lived so transparently for years.
My head and my heart were in SO MUCH PAIN wondering what was next – and then POOF! Enter stage right magical genies in the form of CAA agents (that I still to this day haven’t ever met).
The day the news came that NBC was interested in purchasing Talk Nerdy I had just broken into my exes father’s house (to try and get a contact book) and was in the middle of helping to set up his Celebration of Life. He passed very unexpectedly and the landlord had put a lock on the door before we could get his belongings.
We needed to tell his sister whose only known number was located inside the address book that was inside the house. Without thought, I added light breaking and entering to my resume special skills as I was the most logical (and smallest) person that could go in and find it – quickly. (Read the full story here)
Do you know how unbelievably strange that was supporting the family as best as I could with their own grief to immediately shift my own to tears of JOY physically dropping to my knees on the dock (we celebrated on the water) not even knowing the pilot was being taken out – LET ALONE that a major network had purchased it?
Fortunately, the family and I got along great (they were very appreciative of the help considering my ex and I had broken up). To my surprise they were very happy for me and true to the word classifying the day, we all celebrated not only his life but also my now successful life story THAT ACTUALLY SOLD!
You can read the full version of what happened here. For those that already know the story, I came back to LA not only with a big announcement in the trades …
… but one week later (unplanned timing) an appearance as an entrepreneur on the CNBC show The West Texas Investors Club.
Having ghosted my life and being gone from LA for over two years at that point meant that I wasn’t just casually coming back to the city I lived in for nearly a decade … much like the man who bought my life rights, I was coming back with a big bang in the form of a sold show (in a four way bidding war) and an investment from business partners (that have become family).
I don’t know why it never occurred to me to reach out to the producers, or even GRAB A LUNCH WITH MY AGENTS … but I didn’t. Through online dating apps though, I did connect with the guy who wrote my life rights agreement (as in his actual name was on the email exchanges), who was INCREDIBLY surprised at the actual back story …
The ball was in Bruckheimer’s court, and in Hollywood he is considered MVP.
That’s what happens when you option your life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property. It sounds strange that I wasn’t more aggressive in terms of involvement, but in my heart I instead focused on how lucky I was/ am.
Who walks away from LA, moves to an island, and stands in their kitchen one day (nursing a broken heart) only to receive LIFE CHANGING news and their OBVIOUS next step/direction?!?!
Knowing what I had signed, I did the most logical thing I could think of, and leveraged my social network to do outreach in social media.
Who would have thought that the Modern Day Shaman was personal friends with Morgan Murphy (aka the pilot writer)?!
::whispers:: Shamans really do know everyone.
Thanks to his help in the form of a single tweet – she followed me, where I was immediately able to DM asking the most obvious question to a fellow Irish woman …
A couple more weeks went by, as did the announcement (in the form of an email from my agents) that in the 2016 pilot season, CBS did not pick us up.
Not understanding the industry, I asked a friend (I met at the Wonder Woman Orgy) for an independent evaluation of my situation.
I was thankful for all the help, but more determined than ever to keep this project going. In July of that year, I received an invite to the Marijuana Don Mansion (courtesy of a friend running the party).
Having yet to IRL connect with Morgan meant this was a PERFECT opportunity to reach out again.
Success, I thought excited to stop by her place en route to the Don’s.
Like a good nerd, I was one of the first people there, and with an insane amount of pride, we took this photo.
Writer to writer I not only respected her work, but I was thankful for everything she had done. (click here to read the full story)
Over that year, Morgan and I exchanged texts, DMs, and I even showed up at her Halloween/ birthday party with a lampshade on my head.
That’s not a euphamism, I wore an astronaut onesie with a cooler backpack and the lampshade completed the costume.
By Halloween of 2016, I had gotten my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property back (as the option hadn’t been renewed). I’m not sure if this is normally the process, but common sense to me (having never done this before) was to find the writer.
Unlike Bruckheimer, I couldn’t pay, but in my heart I knew if people heard the whole story they could better understand the FIRE and SHEER WILL/ MOTIVATION that everything Talk Nerdy has been from day one (which may or may not sell it).
My goal in coming back to LA was to work my way into the writer’s room with Morgan – so why not directly ask her if she still wants to work on this together?
I did, and unfortunately (or fortunately for her) she was already in the works of a big reboot for a popular 90s sitcom.
I then took meeting after meeting trying to find not only a writer, but an idea of a direction to go in.
Thanks to the announcement in the trades with Bruckheimer, and the success of the CNBC show, I was able to pick up the phone and call just about anyone I had known or wanted to know.
It definitely worked, and through an intro to my then attorney, I was connected to Girls’ Guide to Depravity author Heather Rutman. Her book had previously been turned into a show on Cinemax and at our first meeting (in Silverlake at a place called Dinosaur Cafe because obvi), we were even wearing the same overalls from Madewell.
Heather’s blog was the analog version of Talk Nerdy. It isn’t easy to be open and vulnerable while at the same time sex positive in an honest manner (while also avoiding crossing over to “crass” territory).
It took only one meeting to know that I had actually found “my person” and our new direction.
The WGA/ ATA disagreement(one of the primary reasons) is over the fact that agencies are making a killing off of “packaging fees.” I was lucky with Bruckheimer that I was repped at CAA, and the TV people sat with the lit department (one fateful June day) and said – “we want to option this!” I got picked because of my agency placement and a clever blog name.
This go around, finding the writer was everything. Again, the tone had to be JUST right. To beat the packaging politics, I needed to stay agency agnostic.
Now that I found her, I could sign with her agency (if I needed to) or just keep the entertainment attorney and operate through him (there’s a process in actually sending/ submitting a script).
Not wanting to piss off the magical genie in the form of agents at CAA, I made sure to keep them in the loop as well.
It was unexpectedly handy having one of the biggest Hollywood movie stars (who is also repped at the same agency you were) be your business partner’s little brother …
In addition to reaching out to my agents directly, I called in a favor and had an email sent to his agent Jim Toth on Talk Nerdy’s behalf.
I might have had the ducks in a row in terms of propelling the project, but it took my own self care to understand the most obvious next step.
Why haven’t I called, Bruckheimer directly? I asked clearheaded and out loud to Buster (who didn’t respond because he is a dog). How have I not thought of the most OBVIOUS person to send this to?
The next morning, on Tuesday April 30th, I wrote down my morning call list …
At 2pm I closed the barn door to my startup’s pantry(we have open offices and I needed to be able to pace in peace) and picked up the phone to call Jerry Bruckheimer.
Having worked at his office before (my first job in LA was as a PA through their temping agency), I knew the system. (After two weeks I got offered a job, but I turned it down to work at a smaller company where they let me listen to the radio.)
First, you have the main receptionist and then all the executives have their assistants (which is obviously standard protocol at like every company ever).
I then pulled up the Deadline article (that mentioned all of the executives names) and asked for the executive listed (that based on a google search seemed to be the person I wanted to talk to).
“Hi, Jen Friel for (we’ll call him JBE) … JBE.”
One moment, said the first receptionist.
Whew, step one down, I thought as I continued to take as many deep breaths as I could hoping I could have the balls to say the next sentence.
“JBE’s office, how can I help you?” said the second assistant.
“Hi, Jen Friel for JBE,” I said cool, cold, and collected.
“Can I ask what this is in regards to?” said the second assistant.
“It’s in regards to OUR project (careful choice of words) Talk Nerdy to Me.”
“One moment,” she said.
HOLY SHIT, I JUST SAID THAT SENTENCE!!! I thought but fortunately didn’t say as I continued to breathe as deeply as I could successfully executing (and not stepping in) step two.
“JBE isn’t available right now to take your call. Can I get your name and number to have him call you back?”
“Yes,” I said with pride and my number.
Then, using something called the internet (and specifically IMDB Pro), I looked up Bill Wrubel’s information (also mentioned in the Deadline article), and also cold called his attorney. Bruckheimer may have his name behind my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property, but it takes a village to make a TV show.
I then repeated steps one and two leaving word and message for Bill as well.
Nerd girl, nerd blog, I said sitting back down at my computer. If I want to reach someone, why not try Facebook? The project is called Talk Nerdy To Me – IT’S FITTING!
I then sent JBE a friend request and 12 hours later, I not only had a new friend, but I had a call from Bill Wrubel’s lawyer’s assistant (wow that’s a mouthful).
He indicated that due to the problems with the ATA/ WGA, his work load has increased. He asked if I could email him the info – which I immediately did.
Next, I used access to JBE’s main inbox on Facebook (as you have to be someone’s friend to send them a message – and have them see it), to send him this:
Within 24 hours of declaring that I was going to connect with these people, I was two for two in at least getting some kind of a response!
48 hours later (Friday for those keeping track), I then placed a second call to JBE and left a second message to his assistant. I didn’t know what my next move would be, but placing two calls after he accepted my friend request still seemed in the “motivated” lane and not quite entering “stalker” territory.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to make another move, JBE was up to the plate, and at 4:07 on May 6th he sent me this on Facebook …
To say I was over the moon at this point would be an understatement. All I needed was access to this person; I wanted my chance to take a shot. I knew by him even agreeing to a call meant that there was some sort of interest – and that’s all I’ve ever needed in life … a slight chance at a cracked door.
(Or technically, I could just pop the lock and climb through as I’ve learned from my light breaking and entering skill set.)
22 hours later, I took a deep breath as I saw an unknown Santa Monica number appear on my phone.
“Holy shit,” I said outloud, “I think this might be JBE from Bruckheimer’s office.”
“Hi this is Jen,” I said answering the phone.
“I have JBE for you, one moment please.”
It was him.
After five years, two option renewals, and a four way bidding war, I was talking to the man responsible for purchasing my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property.
She shoots … she …
Click here to read part II
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