#RealDeal: That time I cold called the man that bought my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property (PT. 2)
[UPDATE: Wow, didn’t expect to update this post, but here we are … relevant again (this was originally posted on May 23, 2019).]
I wasn’t at all afraid to pick up the phone and call Bruckheimer. After five years, I was ready to be heard and I was/ am INSANELY PROUD of what we have developed. It was business not personal (which is hilarious since it involves my actual life story) … and RIGHT NOW is already a win. Here’s why …
(Click here to read Part I and there was clearly only one song I could write the rest of this post to.)
When the option for Talk Nerdy originally happened with Bruckheimer, I fought tooth and nail for the “based on the blog by Jen Friel” credit.
The money? Was money!
The credit of consulting producer? I don’t know what that means exactly, but sounds fun!
Everything else was what it was, but that ONE LINE was all I was interested in.
Do you understand the value of the line “based on the blog by Jen Friel” shown on the screen of a Jerry Bruckheimer TV show?
For those that aren’t 100% familiar with who Jerry Bruckheimer is, let me ed-u-ma-cate you.
Have you ever watched a television show? (ANY television show.)
Have you ever seen a movie? (ANY MOVIE – EVER.)
I am willing to bet you, Bruckheimer had something to do with it.
Here’s a roll call of some of my personal favorite films and shows (told almost all in one breath):
American Gigolo, Defiance, Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop (& II & III), Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Dangerous Minds, Crimson Tide, Bad Boys (& II), The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Coyote Ugly (which I didn’t know was optioned based on an article by Eat Pray Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert – she is so damn cool!), Gone in 60 Seconds, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, National Treasure, Deja Vu, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and the juggernaut franchises that are the CSI, NCIS TV shows and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Bruckheimer’s name in the news carries prefixes like legendary and uber producer.
If Hollywood had a throne, Jerry would be Bran.
(what? too soon?)
Bottom line, it wasn’t just that this blog got optioned (and sold), it was the name behind it.
Since 2014, I have leveraged that FRONT AND CENTER in my digital marketing efforts (both personally and professionally).
<tangent> Well, Jerry and my dog Buster Brown who is famous in his own right after being featured in Forbes last year.
I love that not only they published this photo but also that “Buster Brown Friel” got top credit. </tangent>
Anywho, leveraging said name was its own adventure considering it’s Hollywood and a shockingly small town. (Not like island small in terms of population, but small in terms of circles.)
During the meetings after someone found out that Bruckheimer had bought my blog, they would follow up and say “oh! You must also know ‘JBE’” (aka the actual executive I spoke to in the last post).
“Nope,” I’d say, “I was on an island while it happened” – which then created an entirely different tangent.
<tangent> Last year I met with Denver and Delilah (aka Charlize Theron’s company) and the executive there happened to be at Warner Brothers at the time (WB was also part of the option) and said “your pilot made TV history as Jerry Bruckheimer’s first comedic pilot!” Letting him walk right into it, I said “I had no idea! I was living on an island at the time.” Which was also, 100% true – I really did have no idea that Talk Nerdy was his first comedic pilot – that was really cool to hear. </tangent>
I knew from those meetings that JBE was the person I wanted to speak to and not Bruckheimer. I had in my back pocket a series of mutual friends, (more on that later) but common sense/ logic said “why not pick up the phone and call the guy? You received money from these people … THEY PAID YOU – CALL THEM, FRIEL.”
So I did.
It took two phone calls, one friend request, and two Facebook messages to see this incoming call on May 7th – (22 hours after the last Facebook message read “Hey there: I got your messages. I’m just back in the office this week and will call you.”)
“Holy shit, I think this might be JBE from Bruckheimer’s office,” I said out loud again to Buster Brown (he also comes into the office every day as head of HR).
I took a deep breath and said, “Hi this is Jen.”
“I have JBE for you, one moment please,” said the assistant.
I then closed the sliding barn door locking myself inside the office pantry(to pace in peace) and stood next to the mini-fridge adorned with a “no racoon sign” for the rabbi in our office (who is on the outside of an inside joke the nerds have).
“Hello,” said JBE as I heard his voice for the first time.
“Hi, this is Jen Friel,” I said as I mentally facepalmed myself knowing that HE was the one who called so OF COURSE he knows it’s me.
Recovering quickly, I took a deep breath, and said the only thing my heart and head wanted to say …
“thank you for changing my life.”
<tangent> I have only ever said that exact phrase two other times on this website.
The first time was to Scott Monty and the Ford Fiesta Movement. Had it not been for Ford, I would not have been able to give up everything that I owned to move into the back of the Fiesta and begin bartering social media to live (aka executing influencer marketing nine years before there was a term for it).
… and to the Modern Day Shaman, @realityadjacent for helping me with my emotional unavailability. I still laugh that when we first met and I saw the massage table in the office, I thought, “well, I’m either about to feel the efforts of a shaman, or I’m about to die.” There was literally no in between.
Eight years later and I’m not dead!!!
Words carry weight, and that sentence came from a very grateful place. Til the day I die, I can use the phrase “Jerry Bruckheimer bought my life rights” and win any conversation or room that I choose.
This call was more than that. I wanted them to know that I was ready and I had spent the last 19 months re-developing Talk Nerdy into the show I saw, and I’d be honored if they took a look at it.
I can’t remember if those were the exact words I said or not because mentally I was a goner after I got to say the phrase “thank you for changing my life.”
It’s 50 Shades of Gray meets Silicon Valley and based on the most popular series of posts on the site.
(I actually said this) “I still get slave requests SEVEN years later!!”
Here’s the most recent slave post.
I haven’t written about the more recent ones since they weren’t worthy.
“Who are you repped by?” he asked.
I then told him about the packaging and that I wanted to find the writer first (to establish the tone). I did however keep CAA in the loop the entire time, and mentioned that I had the blessing of Jim Toth (as he is the agent to my business partner’s little brother).
I had done most of the talking up until that point, but after I mentioned my strategy with packaging politics he replied with one word – “smart.”
“I have an attorney though!” I said super excited.
“Great,” he said. “Have your attorney send it over and I’ll be traveling but will read it in about two weeks.”
At that point my heart stopped as I attempted to process the words he just said …
I. WILL. READ. YOUR. SCRIPT.
<tangent> Remember, when I first got the life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property back, executive after executive kept pushing me to write the script. Read the full story here. I may be a writer, but I have ZERO concept around character development, and arcs … all I knew was logically these were the most popular series of posts – so this what the show should be.
I WOULD NOT ALLOW my name to be on a script (as a writer) that Bruckheimer’s name was previously on – I was adamant about that.
And bee tee dubs, my sister/ badass partner in crime Heather Rutman and I made that decision BEFORE the #MeToo movement. We wrote the story that was one, truthful and two, what we wanted to watch. It’s the ultimate feminist fantasy hitting (pun intended) at a very interesting time culturally. </tangent>
Thank you, I will send it right over, I said in shock.
I have no idea at that point if I uttered the words “good bye,” or if I just hung up the phone … I just remember crouching next to the racoon sign taking as many deep breaths as I could.
Crouching nerd hidden vulnerability could be a thing, right raccoon?
Sometime later (time also stopped existing), I pulled open the barn door and began fist pumping my way out of the pantry. (I actually did this.)
HOLY SHIT, I SAID LOUDLY!!!
I actually took my passion and made it happen.
I’m a first time producer and the man who bought my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property who is also THE MOST POWERFUL PRODUCER IN HOLLYWOOD is going to read my script based on what it was like discovering my own power.
I hung up the phone and shared the news with Heather, who was (as you can imagine) equally excited.
I then had to go for a walk because walking helps me think and breathe – both of which I needed in this life moment.
En route Heather texted as I broke down the analytics of what had just occurred.
Had it not been for the depression I’ve been feeling, I wouldn’t have been in such a clear state (thanks to self-care) and WHO KNOWS if I would have ever seen the MOST OBVIOUS NEXT STEP.
Depression not only started this website, it allowed me to take action yet again to go to … well, wherever the hell is next.
What a blessing, I thought!
When I got back, I messaged my attorney who was utterly shocked and equally thrilled.
See, before I cold called, I had asked if he knew JBE personally, he said no.
I didn’t tell him what I was going to do, I just did it. I really do at first follow protocol, I’ve just discovered 9/10 via my own network there’s a simpler route.
“Jen this is huge,” he said later that evening.
It took me a minute to process him saying that considering his client list includes another familiar face …
tangent> There is a process in sending out a script. I’m not familiar enough with the legalities, but to submit it to Bruckheimer I had to have either an agent or an attorney send it on my behalf. That’s why I had an attorney lined up – and not an agent. </tangent>
“What’s JBE’s email,” he asked via text still in a client dinner?
Oh fuck, I thought …
I didn’t ask for his email address!! I can’t believe I didn’t ask for his email address!!
I then put down my phone and walked over to my computer where I pulled up Facebook Messenger seeing JBE’s judgey-mcjudgerson-face as I typed the following (full disclosure he doesn’t have a judgey-mcjudgerson-face but in that moment to me he did) …
WHO DOESN’T GET AN EMAIL ADDRESS BEFORE THE END OF THE CALL?!?!
DO I EVEN REMEMBER THE END OF THE CALL I THOUGHT?!!?!
WHY MUST I THINK OF ALL OF THE THINGS!?!?! THINKING IS HARD.
Sixty seven minutes later I received this …
and I immediately forwarded it on to my attorney.
Before my attorney could send the script, he had to make sure his own ducks were in a row. That included the messaging (meaning approved log line), and he needed something in writing to make sure Heather was also okay with the submission (which OBVIOUSLY she was).
The next day, I had a scheduled lunch with a long time journalist/ writer friend of mine. We met in Silverlake (this is apparently a theme), and I sat down at the outside cafe with a confession that I was surprised I kept the lunch.
“Jerry Bruckheimer is reading my version of Talk Nerdy To Me,” I said still completely in shock – “I can barely tell you what’s real right now and what isn’t.”
Well, you look really AMAZING, she said – so I’m not surprised that you have news like this.
Thank you, I said blushing as we then caught up for a bit.
Somewhere around mid-vanilla-latte, a woman stopped and approached the table.
“I just have to tell you how beautiful you are,” she said.
“Come again,” I asked surprised at everything in life right now.
“You look so beautiful sitting here, and I love everything about your outfit. I love people that “go for things” like you do, and I used to wear costumes out like this when I looked more like you.”
“Thank you so much,” I said touching my heart as she wished us a good day.
“I did not pay her to say that, also does she think this is a costume?” I said laughing.
Ten or so minutes later, yet ANOTHER woman approached with her friend saying “I like your hat” as she walked by.
“Man, I really am on fire today,” I said jokingingly.
The words barely escaped my mouth before she asked in broken English (she’s French), “can I take your picture? You are too beautiful.”
I awkwardly half-smiled questioning if I really had escaped my own reality and entered into an entirely different realm.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no slouch – but to have TWO RANDOM PEOPLE APPROACH AND ONE TO TAKE A PICTURE OF ME meant that I truly was ready to shine, and now was my moment.
My girlfriend laughed, as she said “whatever that ‘it’ is in people, you have it! The universe is obviously showing you that you’re a star!!!”
I got back to the office and DMed the photographer (as I had pulled up my account on her phone to follow so she could tag me in the photo).
As I did I saw an email from my gf …
I laughed leaving the office for the day, and made sure to take a selfie (with Buster obvi) for further analysis. This face = happiness …
Even Buster is smiling in this photo! Oh, and don’t mind the dog hair, I’m an actual dog owner and don’t just play one for likes on the Gram.
Later that evening, at 10:15 PT/ 1:15 ET (but who’s keeping track), Talk Nerdy To Me™ was officially sent out.
Seeing the receipt of the forwarded message to JBE felt like all the accomplishment I needed. I repackaged a TV show that was based on my life to the people that developed it originally. Having never done that before, I was feeling pretty proud of myself.
The next morning at the office, I reached out to Jerry Bruckheimer’s business partner (and fellow creator of the Amazing Race) Bertram Van Munster.
Second on the call sheet here, directly north of the Cheetos stain.
I met Bert (just about) 10 years ago through a guy I was dating on OkCupid. Bert needed help writing his online biography and maintaining his online reputation management. The early days of social were NOTHING like it is today, but I remember meeting him at his offices in El Segundo, and hearing all about his INCREDIBLE LIFE while sitting at a long informal style table (Bert sat at the head).
Bert is responsible for not only the Amazing Race, but also Cops (and the creation of the cinema verite style filming), AND he revamped National Geographic from the stuffy scientists to the “in the field” style capture. I remember writing about the fifth seated President he’s homies with, and wondering “how does one lead an epic life?”
Does “epicness” just happen? Is it nature vs. nuture? Or maybe a little bit of both.
I took meeting after meeting inspired by every minute of his life and it consciously brought me into an analysis of my own.
I had just started this blog, I was waiting tables at a kosher restaurant in Beverly Hills adjacent (which later got raided by the DEA – the manager was selling meth to the rabbis out the back door … long story), and I had my two social media consulting gigs (one being for Bert) and the other in this SUPER dodgy printing shop off La Brea and Pico (behind the 7-11) for a customizable photo album company.
I can use this website as an excuse to do epic things, I thought, I’ll document everything along the way.
Everything Bert has/had done is his version of “epic.”
What would mine be, I wondered?
A few short weeks later, I had my answer and first adventure – I crashed the 2010 Grammy Awards to meet Mashable founder Pete Cashmore. He (at the time) was the King of social media, and every King needs a Queen, so I livestreamed and live tweeted the entire thing, executing not only getting through SIX checkpoints (but the really surprising part) was when I actually FOUND HIM ON THE RED CARPET …
Only to then go home and do laundry because what else was I going to do at that point?
Award shows are boring.
<tangent> The first time I crashed anything was when I was 17 at an SNL after party. I had finished high school when I was 16 and moved to NYC a year later. The only person I knew there was a guy by the name of Michael Schur, who spoke the year prior at my acting class (we went to the same high school and even had the same teachers – Kathy Keith and James Gatto). You can read the full story here, but guess what Mike is up to now? He’s not only a top showrunner in Hollywood, but HE’S ONE OF THE WRITERS NEGOTIATING ON BEHALF OF THE WGA IN THE WGA/ATA NEGOTIATIONS!! ::cue It’s a small world ::
Full disclosure, I didn’t necessarily “want” to crash the SNL after party – I had previously tried guessing the SNL email exchange (as they’re pretty easy to guess), but failed. I viewed it as my only option as he wouldn’t know my name well enough to return a call.
Last time I talked to Mike was on Twitter in a convo with Will Forte. Will and I became homies after he helped out (unplanned) with my TedX talk (that was also entirely unplanned as I threw out the presentation I was planning to give the night before).
Crashing the Grammys then got the attention of Ford, which then lead to me looking around at my apartment one day and saying, “why am I doing things I don’t like to pay bills to live here? Social media was going to be HUUGGGEEEE, and (having already worked for the founder of Myspace on his startup) I saw first hand how much I not only ADORED IT but I was one of a handful of people that could actually call themselves a “social media expert” right as the word was being established.
All I wanted to do was this website …
… and without a business plan or a clue, I donated everything I owned and began bartering to live for one year (also unplanned). I never kept more than $10 to my name at a time, and I hustled morning noon and night. (Mind you, I only had two years worth of belongings. I had lost everything I owned in a massive cockroach infestation in 2007.)
I received the gift of an EPIC life because of Bertram Van Munster, who is DIRECT business partners with the man who bought it.
I hadn’t chatted with Bert since the Fiesta Movement (when Mary Parent also optioned Talk Nerdy), where I showed him the platforms and explained that reality tv could be played out in social media. I explained exactly what I was doing and even showed him the camera rigs I set up in the car. OF COURSE, I cleared out the six compartments in the back with all of my belongings beforehand. (This is when our conversations moved from the informal table to inside his office.)
On May 9th, I told him everything I just told to you all …
So what happens now?
I don’t know, it’s not about what’s next as I’m already winning. The last two days of messages in social media have been unreal. Read some of them …
This isn’t just my voice and my story, (wow, I’m completely tearing up typing this) it’s every nerd’s journey of overcoming struggles (particularly the ones in your own head), finding your identity and in it discovering your voice and power.
I masked vulnerability & intimacy digitally, only to have a slave request his own mask …
Actual photo – it was part of his kink
My discovery and exploration of intimacy happened to be through the lens of S&M – but to each their own.
I can’t begin to tell you how much this journey has meant to me – please reach out!
and let’s have an adventure, mmmmmm … kay?
I’m SO proud to type …
Oh and one last thing, JBE …
You know the Modern Day Shaman? He works at the camera store where Jerry shops and has actually helped him purchase cameras before. (Shamans really do know everyone.)
And just this past Tuesday, my little sister @lindsaymushett was an actress on set for one of your shows! We’re totally going out tonight to celebrate …
… thanks for that.