It's one of those Hollywood rules that most meetings are a waste of time. However, I'm still between jobs in L.A., so when my agent told me he wanted me to "take" my first meeting with a studio executive, I didn't mind. My meeting was to be at Dreamworks SKG, the studio that produced Shrek, Madagascar and most recently the hit film How to Train Your Dragon (I'm told there's a porn version called How to Drain Your Lizard).
Dreamworks recently built an animation studio in Glendale that resembles an upscale Italian monastery, complete with an arched gateway, tiled roof and a big courtyard in the center. It looks like the college you wanted to go to, but didn't because your parents weren't going to shell out for out-of-state fees -- not with your grades, buster. Not only that, almost everyone on the studio lot looks like they're still in college or at least still have decades to go before they pay off their student loans.
My meeting with the studio executive went just fine. He was a nice guy and his office was decorated with lots of cool toys and pictures. I drank a lot of Diet Pepsi and he told me about the kind of thing they did (make animated movies), then asked me about the kind of thing I did (not much at the moment). After we agreed that we both liked each other a lot, the meeting was over.
So I'm walking though the middle of a beautiful campus on a sunny day, and I see a lot of young people sitting at tables under the trees, eating. I'm a fan of studio food. It's often good and it's always cheap. I veered toward the tables hoping that none of the fresh young people would point their forks at me and say, "He's too old to be here. Kill the intruder."
I got safely inside the Dreamworks commissary, and the first thing I noticed was that the food was amazing. It looked like it should have been on the cover of a "Gourmet" magazine. There were seafood ceviche tostadas, turkey shawarma, pork stir fry, vegetable basmati with curry, gumbo soup, grilled Greek salad, tomato basil foccaccia sandwiches, whole wheat penne pasta with tomato sauce and, my favorite, lots of cookies.
The one thing I didn't see was a cash register. None. Not in the front, not in the back, not anywhere. The food was free.
My initial reaction was to go get my car, back up to the cafeteria and tilt the dessert bar into the open trunk. But then I got to thinking, suppose the studio executive I'd just taken a meeting with walked by and saw me slurping up a bowl of fettuccine, my chances of ever seeing a paycheck from Dreamworks SKG would dissipate. Most executives don't want a guy who steals pies off the windowsill to punch up their next $50 million dollar animated feature.
So I put my tray down and head toward the door. However, just to be safe I nabbed a turkey sandwich and three peanut-butter cookies, tucked them in my windbreaker and ate them in my car.
Who says meetings are a waste of time?