As a quick recap – I wrote a short comedy based on my life. I went right to the top of my list and asked John Cleese if he would narrate it. He read the story, liked it, and agreed to participate. So exciting! We were making final arrangements to travel and then John’s Hollywood agent got involved. I had heard stories of agents being incredibly annoying and plain awful to work with, but I didn’t have any direct experience. I’ve also thoroughly studied human behavior and social psychology. I work very hard not to fall into any of the thinking errors that are so prevalent in society. Because of that, I know better than to believe any stereotype about any group.
But, agents like Jim (John’s agent at the time) are the very reasons why I’ve heard horror stories. I went into the conversation with an open mind. Turns out he was even way more of a tool than I could have ever imagined. He exceeded any negative agent stereotypes I’d ever heard! I will try and do my best to give you both a summarized depiction from my point of view of the call, as well as a more detailed one.
Jim is was an agent from CAA, the Creative Artists Agency. If you’re not familiar with talent agencies, the CAA is one of the biggest.
The overview: Hello rat trash. I am a big talent agent for very important and famous people. You are worthless and have never done anything worthwhile. I wouldn’t even hire you to shine my shoes or clean my toilet. John Cleese would never work with you. Get real. Goodbye.
Detailed: (the best I can remember)
W: Hello, I am Wes Lapioli calling you back about a project I am working on with John Cleese.
A: Right. (Some papers move around in the background). So… what is this?
I am confused at his question here. The PA gave him detailed emails that included the script, who I was, and anything this guy would need to know about the project.
W: Um… it’s a short film.
Silence. Silence. Silence.
W: It is a short film that we will be submitting to some film festivals.
He takes some unapproving breaths and other weird noises.
A: Is this a union job?
W: No, not at the moment. Just an indie film.
A: John Cleese is not going to do this.
W: Well, he already agreed to do this 5 months ago. We have just been trying to work with his schedule. John’s PA….
A: I am his agent, I don’t care what his PA said.
He asked some other questions that made me feel like garbage and then somehow got to this:
A: John never read your script. He will not be involved in a project like this. Goodbye.
That went well. If “well” means it sucked rocks covered in ferret crap. I can’t convey his tone, other than to say – think of someone who has spoken to you in the most condescending manner you have ever experienced – this was Jim. Maybe he’s actually a nice bloke, but I can’t imagine he talks to his super important famous clients as he addressed me or he wouldn’t have a job.
As you can imagine, I was crushed. Another creative dream slips out of my fingers and I become Lord of Almoster Land, again. After the disappointment wore off a bit I had to follow up with Billy and tell him about the conversation. Billy had been really awesome to work with, and I needed to know if this really meant it was all over.
I just had a very disappointing call with Jim from CAA. He basically informed me that it is not going to happen. He said that John has not read the script and this is not something he would do. We have been waiting and pushing out schedules, and we have been working hard on this project based on the confirmation we received that John would do it. I am really shocked with the conversation I had with Jim – and I really hope what he is saying is not true.
Can we work outside of CAA on this? Please let me know what we can do to make this work. Without Johns involvement, a huge amount of time and money will be wasted that we have put into this.
It’s true that not for the want of trying CAA has become involved late. However, just a day ago John read the script again and I believe he is still planning to proceed.
I am meeting John on Sunday so will try and sort.
Hang on for my response. Sorry about confusion.
Jim kept saying things like – “well I am Johns agent – not Billy” I think he is going to try and convince John not to do it. I understand that it is an independent film, and I know how big of a celebrity John is. It was a very frustrating discussion because I figured getting Jim involved was just a technicality.
I feel that we have received an agreement from you and John, and we have been happy to wait. So having Jim come in and tell me to forget it was quite annoying after all this time. We made it clear from the beginning that it is an indie film. Anyway – forgive me for venting a little. Please let me know how the discussions go.
A couple days past and…
Were you able to have a conversation with John on Sunday? Either way we would like to know how it is looking so we can start making other plans if necessary. Thank you for all your help over these past months.
John has agreed to proceed. However, because of his very tight schedule, he insists on spending the least time. He is not prepared to travel to Soho for the recording…adding a couple of hours travel etc.
This means that the Sloane Square Hotel option has to be considered. You mentioned this was difficult…but..can you handle it?
My apologies for the long protracted process to get this far!
Yes! Now the DCMW rollercoaster was fun, awesome, and in my favor again. I was deeply honored that John would continue with the project despite his agents reactions. It felt like we were “sticking it to the man” – not conforming to the system, rebels man, rebels. Sticking it to the Jim.
Great news, thank you. That is no problem at all. What date is best for John? We have all the audio equipment and everything we need already – we just need to get our flights lined up and we will be good to go.
Wes, Monday 15th April at 11.30 am at the Sloane Square Hotel.
Please send copy contract a.s.a.p.
Please see the attached agreement. We will book flights, and we look forward to coming out.
More time passes by and we bought a bunch more stuff because realized we actually didn’t have everything we needed to record John professionally since we were doing it at a hotel and not a studio. Billy sent a few revisions to the contract, which were fine. We made them and got the document back.
That wraps up part 4! Check out the finale of the 5 part saga, HERE.
VIDEO version of this episode HERE
PODCAST version of this episode HERE