Like a lotta folks, I didn't look far beyond the cover of Vanity Fair's big Hollywood issue a couple of months ago. I thought both Scarlett and Keira were photographed in the most unflattering ways possible, and Tom Ford nibbling on an earlobe doesn't help that picture much. Truth be told, I've never been a huge fan of the magazine, although I do check in with writers like James Wolcott via the web.
I met Zach in 2003 at New York Stage & Film. I was prepping a workshop reading of my play, The Planet on 158th Street, and he was in rehearsals for Last Chance for a Slow Dance, a desert-set murder mystery starring John Heard. Our paths crossed at the Beech Tree Grill, a gourmet restaurant and bar that serves as the unofficial hangout for the festival.
He pumped me for info on Planet, clearly intrigued by any attempt to put sci-fi on stage, and said he dearly wished he could attend my reading. Unfortunately, he was locked into a tough rehearsal schedule that pretty much precluded him from seeing any of that week's staged readings (Tanya Barfield was there that week, too). I told him I hated I wasn't gonna be at the festival long enough to see his eventual production. But we shared a drink and a few laughs and overall he seemed like a great guy.
Later someone who'd seen us talking said his girlfriend would be at the festival the following week. I was supposed to be impressed but didn't know why. "She's Lucy Liu!" my friend informed me. And indeed, the following year Ms. Liu starred in Zach's play, Good Canary, at NYS&F.
Well, they're not together anymore, as we learn in this article, but that's neither here or there. The fact is, what we see of Helm's manifesto (does anybody have the entire thing?) sounds like it's working for him. It also seems like the sort of thing that may work better once you've established yourself in the industry, as he has. As a newbie, I'm told by agents, managers, and producers that the best thing I can do right now is stay as flexible as possible, and they're not talking about my yoga classes.
But Zach obviously got tired of working hard with no credits to show for it. He's taken his career into his own hands and now lives by his own terms. He's directing Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman in his debut film, and Will Ferrell's starring in another script he wrote. So good for him.
What the hell should my personal manifesto say? Other than: write write write! Maybe that's something every writer should think about ...