There is one scene in comedian Mike Birbiglia’s new film Don’t Think Twice that really sums it up for me. The members of a struggling NYC improv comedy troupe gather to watch the long running comedy sketch show “Weekend Live” and stare at the screen with dead eyes and blank expressions either fueled or dulled by overwhelming sense of “that should be me on this show, I could do it so much better.”
Don't Think Twice, has some chuckles but it's really a bittersweet drama about an improv comedy troupe in NYC and what happens when one of the members gets a shot at a job on a show like "Saturday Night Live." It's about ambition but it has a dark undertone about jealousy, bitterness and resentment toward one time friends whose potential success might far eclipse your own.
I know people who have been nominated for Oscars, worked with Quentin Tarantino and Bryan Singer, have $4,000,000 summer houses. I have seen where my best friend from film school lives — with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park. Sometimes I wish I could resent these people but I can’t because I know all of them paid their dues, did their time in the trenches and worked their way up to where they are now. But, to be completely honest, I don’t always feel so good about it.
A few weeks ago, I saw that there was a movie in theatrical release that was directed by someone I was hired to replace as director after he was arrested and jailed. Now, I am all for rehabilitation and redemption and I guess it’s good to know that this guy caught a break, is hopefully doing well, got back to doing his thing and is having some success. Okay, at the risk of being totally self-serving, when do I get a break? Do I need to follow his lead, commit a heinous crime and hit bottom in order to bounce back? I know I cling to this illusion that nice guys can finish first but that those images are getting fuzzier in my mind.
A few months ago, a mystery novelist friend of mine brought up the idea of working on a screenplay together. We talked about it, he came up with the story and is patiently waiting for me to turn it into a screenplay. A couple weeks ago, a friend contacted me to say that he has a crew and equipment ready to make a feature in Tulsa but he needs a screenplay and wanted to know if I have anything sitting around. I pitched him a couple ideas, he liked both, we chose one and now I am scrambling to bust it out. Last night, a filmmaker contacted me on Instagram to say that he’d been hired to write and direct a film, that he has the story but is not good at writing dialogue so he asked if I was interested in doing it.
So, for now, it’s back to the trenches and tightening my grasp on hope.