Last month, I attended Robert McKee's Story Seminar in San Francisco. For those that are unfamiliar, McKee is considered the "guru" for aspiring (and working) screenwriters and has created a cult-like following. I've read his book "Story" and decided to treat myself to travelling across the country on Northwest Airlines (whose motto is a tie between "Bags? What bags?" and "We've cancelled your flight, isn't that funny?") for his 36-hour, three day seminar.
I can't even make a joke about it. It was an amazing, profound experience. I unsuccessly tried to explain how great this weekend was to a friend, but he kept asking me "Are you sure that you didn't get laid out there?"
Anyway, Pixar reportedly sends a bunch of people to the seminar when it's in SF. It's not unusual for well known screenwriters, directors, producers, etc. to attend along side wanna-be's like yours truly. I saw a couple of people that looked familiar and I thought were in the industry, but there was one that I had no doubt about.
On the first day, I noticed a guy in the class that looked very familar. I leaned over to a guy sitting next to me:
"Wait a minute, is that...?"
"Yeah, it's the guy from Freaks and Geeks."
It was Samm Levine, who played Neal Schweiber on the late lamented Freaks and Geeks, a cult favorite show. Ok, not exactly A-list, but there is something weird about seeing someone "famous" in an intimate setting (no really, I didn't get laid on the trip).
So for the rest of the weekend, I tortured myself about whether I should introduce myself to him. My internal dialogue was like this:
Wow, I should say 'hello'. But what do I say? That I liked Freaks and Geeks. I could say that I enjoyed his work. No, that's too trite. I bet everyone says that. Besides, it wasn't like he was my favorite character or anything. That would be Bill Haverchuck. What if I said that I thought he was good on that episode of Entourage. Maybe even "That's so Raven," I bet no one has ever said that. He doesn't seem to be interacting with anyone. Maybe he doesn't want to be bothered.
Later that day:
Screw Samm Levine! Thinks he's too good to say hello? It's not like he's ridden to a high level of success after the show tanked. Not Another Teen Movie? Please. Freaking child star. Who does he think he is, anyway? Look at him sitting there, all aloof.
The next day:
You know, he's probably a decent guy. No one is approaching him, maybe they don't know who he is. Not that many people watched Freaks and Geeks. But wait, would I even talk to him if he wasn't on a television show? Probably not. So I'm supposed to drop everything to kiss his ass? Forget that! Well, I guess I could pretend like I don't know who he is, and let him tell me. And then I could play it off, like "yeah, I watched Freaks and Geeks, you were on that? Really, who did you play? No, I don't remember you." You know, put him on the defensive and make him do the work.
Hey, a couple of people are talking to him. He's making conversation. He's telling them a story. Boy, he's really getting into it. He's really animated. A little too much if you ask me. That's so sad, he's like relieved that someone recognized him. Maybe I've got him all wrong.
I'm embarrassed to say that I tried to make eye contact with him during breaks. You know, then smoothly open up with a line. Who knows, maybe we'd hit it off, you never know, right? But nothing. I think by the end of the seminar, he was starting to get a little scared of me.
So yeah, in addition to attending an incredible seminar, I spent the weekend unsuccessfully trying to "hit on" a guy. Then again, I was in San Francisco. When in Rome, I guess.