Upon moving to Los Angeles in September 1993 with the aspirations of being a special makeup effects artist, stuntman, actor, digital artist, and writer I searched every possible employment venue I could get my hands on. This was pre-internet so most of the time was spent searching the trades, newspapers, and specialty magazines.
Having special makeup effects experience with Optic Nerve Studios and Tom Savini as well as digital art for computer gaming company EVENT HORIZON SOFTWARE when I lived in Pittsburgh gave me a great foundation but I also included 5 complete screenplays in my arsenal and tackled every opportunity I found. Some fell flat and some lead to opportunities while others made stories.
This is one of those stories:
I’m not exactly sure where I found the posting but I believe it was in the LA TIMES help wanted section for writers for video games. I sent a letter and synopsis of my screenplays then a few weeks later received a call saying they were interested in reading my vampire action script called BLOOD. I made a copy and sent it off. Within a few weeks I landed an interview in a small town just North of San Diego.
At that time I had a beat up Toyota pick up truck with no power steering that was used by the Navy. It was super reliable for $1200 and having it landed me a job with Greg Cannom which I will write about in another blog entry.
I was not aware that the interview would be with Rick Dyer the inventor of the technology behind DRAGON’S LAIR and the Hologram Time Traveler game. The town (that I have forgotten the name of) left quite an impression on me to this day. High in the mountains, it was snowing, and looked very rustic with a small town feel. I was early for the appointment so I got to explore the town and found a great little used book store with some great paperbacks that I stocked up on.
The old Thomas Guide Map placed me properly to his office which was on a lonesome road on the second floor of a very unassuming plain building that smelled of fresh concrete. As I got into the office it seemed empty and devoid of accolades like a startup business that just got the keys. Only two people were in the building.
His assistant that spoke with me on the phone greeted me so we talked about my script and writing. He liked what he read and stated my style of writing would fit perfect into the new interactive video games they were planning. A live action “choose your adventure” game and I was shown some test footage of teens with poor acting abilities in a haunted house. My makeup effects knowledge and portfolio also came in handy because he didn’t understand the process of practical effects nor any idea of costs that could be involved. Another “you mean you can’t just pull this out of a box and put it on an actor” routine.
When he came across magazine articles and ads of computer games I worked on he questioned the validity of them. The cause for concern was how could something like this be done in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania with no money. It was getting more stand offish and my instincts were serving me well because being involved in the gaming industry working for $3 an hour on a no budget project that was very ambitious while working with a lot of people with undeserved egos I felt like this was the same territory.
There was a lone tv stand in the conference room and he put on a video documentary of Rick’s life. It felt like I was being indoctrinated into a cult but poorly so due to the incredibly sappy piano music intertwined with completely uninteresting bad story telling. They certainly needed a writer in their employ.
Afterwards Rick was briefly introduced to me. Although he had some energy in him it seemed like he wanted praise from me or to get excited to work for an “icon”. Sure it was cool to meet the guy who was a technical genius and millionaire but I am far more impressed by my friends in the effects business so he seemed butt hurt I didn’t care.
There was no talk of the company’s goals, future projects, pay scale, benefits, or work environment which made me believe this was like a student project looking for free work.
The interview simply ended without any excitement on my part and the premonition that I was wasting my time but at least I discovered an interesting town. It didn’t matter to me if I heard from them again unless it was a surprising super sweet deal.
Because this was a time before cell phones I gave them my work phone number to contact me which was at Greg Cannom’s shop Cannom Creations. The excitement behind MRS. DOUBTFIRE was still in play and the success of the remarkable creatures and makeup for Francis Ford Coppolla’s DRACULA were still freshly on display in the shop.
Although there were issues with some of the management at Cannom’s there were times I was given decent advice and this was one of them.
Dyer’s office called me during the day and one of the managers listened in during my conversation. The call was to congratulate me on being chosen as one of the writers to compete for the job. I was surprised to hear this and curious of when the next interview would be but this wasn’t the case. Usually another more extensive interview process is involved and more details of the position are revealed…but not this time. He went on to inform me I would have to meet at their offices once a week and compete in a weekly contest with other writers vying for the job.
“Let me see if I heard you correctly” I asked then repeated the situation out loud so my supervisor could hear this ridiculous offer. His face immediately became quizzical and shook his head “no”. My feelings exactly.
The drive would have been exhausting and I mentioned I have a job I need to be at during the day so I can’t take a day off every week for something I may not potentially land. He asked if I was serious about the position so I asked about the possible pay scale of the job simply to check if it was even worth considering and he had no answer. I then asked if this is a project based job and he couldn’t answer that either.
I told him, “sorry I can’t jeopardize my current job for something that even can’t answer what potential pay might be or if it’s a permanent position.” He seemed taken aback that I would address him in this manner and I felt an intense butt hurt scramble for words on the end of the other line. “You’ll be competing with other top writers and it will be a great experience to finally work with an industry leader.” So I answered, “thanks for the opportunity but I’m not interested.” He responded, “well don’t expect a call back from us.” So I answered, “thanks for your consideration let me know if anything changes” and hung up.
My supervisor couldn’t believe the audacity of this kid on the other end of the phone or the gall of competing for a gig like this. Mind you this was pre-reality TV. It only added to my discomfort I felt when I was working in the gaming industry. Although that seems to have changed somewhat. Maybe because there is a console in every household and not just the recluse creeping with a role play floppy disk on a garbage computer that required a genius level to operate?
I never looked into whatever became of the projects or the company until now due to the recent interest in the DRAGON’S LAIR live action film in talks. I found a few extremely high budget games they developed including the HALCYON system which they didn’t even mention to me. Reading about the multi million dollar budget they had I can tell it didn’t go into the writing or the artwork.
Just because you may be a tech wizard it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great artist and have amazing ideas let alone an honest business. It looks like he was looking for lighting to strike twice by rehashing his work on newer systems. Lucky for me I’ve already been working with great talents that have integrity and I continue to do so.