I am writing this New Year’s message in between back-to-back zoom calls with family, friends and business colleagues, hence the title and the new geographical location we all inhabit in this life and times of COVID-Normal.
Welcome to “Zoom Town”!
Love it or hate it, Zoom has undermined the need for Offices, conference rooms, WeWork, Starbucks, being late for class – any class in any school or university, the series writer’s room, racing through LA traffic to make a pitch meeting in Santa Monica after finishing one in Burbank, trips to the doctor, the complications of assembling distant family members for that ritual reunion, funerals, birthdays, weddings, church services, SXSW, film festivals, lectures, speaking gigs, live concerts – did I leave anything out? Oh, yeah, Senate hearings and political debates. How can we forget those in the 2020 dysfunctional states of America elections?
In spite of critics dissing Zoom for being a poor substitute for real human interaction and connecting with live audiences [as in the lights going out on Broadway], or younger students not having the necessary in-classroom experience, and security researchers calling Zoom “a privacy disaster” and “fundamentally corrupt” as allegations of the company mishandling user data snowball, the demand for Zoom has increased over 500% daily for demand.
In my house, my wife has a regular girl’s night, where their cadre of amazing women all put on pretty tops [usually tards on the bottom] and spend 2-3 hours over wine and cheese doing every week what they might only be able to do maybe 2-3 times a year in person since the group is from all over the United States and sometimes international members show up.
My writer Son’s regular Dungeon and Dragons game is a zoom event with players all over the U.S. His pitch meetings are all on zoom with 8-10 people participating. Lookbooks, pitchdecks, sizzle reels are all controlled by the writers doing the pitching.
My writer/director daughter has production meetings for prep and post on features via zoom; no traffic, no parking issues, no studio gate passes, if you have kids, that does not keep you out of the meeting. Everyone is happy.
No one is late for a zoom pitch meeting or gets interrupting phone calls from dutiful assistants.
IS THERE A SILVER LINING IN ZOOMTOWN?
So where is the “Silver Lining” for Writers in a pandemic that has killed 300,000+ in our country alone? Are we allowed to even consider the possibility of a Silver Lining? What is the role of the “Creative Writer” in the midst of this environmental disaster which has disrupted the world?
I left LA on March 11 on a Jet Blue flight where only a dozen people wore masks, and the plane was half full. Felt like the last plane to Lisbon in Casablanca. Trump gave his infamous speech while in the air and when I landed in NY the wheels had come off the world. Since March 11, I have completed 5 scripts and am 1 week away from completing my 6th; 4 feature scripts, 2 pilots, plus 2 70page bibles, and 4 treatments. I have not been this productive in years – if ever.
Apparently, not having to travel, drive to meetings, dress for meetings, prep for meetings, have lunch and dinner meetings, drinks meetings, go to festivals, do live masterclasses and seminars, or battle the traffic from Santa Monica to Burbank at 5 pm quality left time for, what else –
Imagine that. And no distractions or excuses not to. And no places to go or be late to. And, did I say something about no excuses allowed? I suddenly had 6 months of clear runway with no real industry pressure as the bottom was falling out of production, development and distribution. The only pressure had to come from me —— to write.
I arrived at our apartment in NYC where my son, Jake and his amazing Rebecca, had taken up residence from LA for 3 months for Broadway auditions and some soak time in the city, only to find themselves in lockdown and the lights on Broadway dark. My wife, Judy, quarantined me in my office, my daughter, Julia Hart’s, former bedroom, where I would also sleep during my quarantine [post leaving LA “on a Jetplane, don’t know when I’ll be back again”].
This photo of what I call “my new barn” is the desk and workspace I have holed up in since March like a fugitive doing time, complete with a sofa bed and my own bathroom–