I said this week would be entirely devoted to LUCKY DUCKS as the DVD is coming out on Amazon and well, we need to PUSH IT. It’s going to take some fancy footwork on my part as I’m going to have to mesh the filmmaker with the author, with the mom and the blogger. And oddly when I think about it they all sort of dove tail into each other.

THE UCK IN STUCK OR HOW LUCKY DUCKS CAME TO HAPPEN

Mar 15, 2010by tracey Comments

The Perfect Morning
The Perfect Morning

I said this week would be entirely devoted to LUCKY DUCKS as the DVD is coming out on Amazon and well, we need to PUSH IT.

It’s going to take some fancy footwork on my part as I’m going to have to mesh the filmmaker with the author, with the mom and the blogger. And oddly when I think about it they all sort of dovetail into each other.

At the same time I don’t want to wreck the interview Deb Eckerling is doing this Sunday for her website writeonline.com..

But a question she asked me last night spawned a whole line of thought that I realized might be somewhat helpful or not, to people who are stuck in places in their lives where they need to move forward and not only don’t always know how, but often don’t know in which direction.

How was Lucky Ducks born? Very simply out of necessity.  If certain events in my career had played out differently and by differently I mean how I wanted, thought, anticipated and quite frankly worked hard for them to, I never would have made this film.

I would have had no need.  I would have had no time and I would have remained on the same path I had been on for close to twenty years.

And while it was a path I had chosen, stuck with, liked, was good at and gave me quite a hefty salary, one day not of my own choosing it sort of vanished.

While I always knew it would; screenwriters unless they are superstars by forty to forty-five have a shelf life and that shelf life is forty to forty-five.

I was considered quite successful, less than some, more than many.  And while I had just come off of two big projects where I felt I had hit the ball out of the park, I woke up one day for the first time in eighteen years and I didn’t have a job waiting.

My loyal, beyond loyal, then agent, now manager Richard Arlook said it would be a month or two, that went to six, the six turned to eight and on and on.

How did this happen? I have asked myself that many times.

In the beginning I played everybody’s favorite game when life isn’t dealing the hand they want, I was a victim. I was a victim because Hollywood was stupid and didn’t appreciate my talent. I was a victim because I was a woman in a man’s world. I was a victim because I was getting older and the hits didn’t come at the rate I thought. The films got made but by then made wasn’t enough, they had to gross hundreds of millions. I was a victim because I was ahead of my time, that’s one of my favorites. I was a victim because I lived in NY; forget the fact that I had made a conscious choice to move there.  When one is playing the victim you can spin it anyway that perpetuates your misery and thus inability to move.

There are  many real reasons the jobs dried up and few had to do with me. The business shrunk,really shrunk. I did get older. I did lose a certain hunger. I was not on the cutting edge of comedy any longer. Comedy is young person’s game for the most part and the face of comedy had changed.  A writer’s strike was brewing.  There was a hiring freeze.

But hindsight often times being clarity I now like to think I was simply not meant to do it anymore. I did it. I did for close to two decades.  I did it well. I had my time.

The universe wanted me to move and when the universe wants you to move sometimes it just sticks you in one miserable, confused place until either you tire of it and want to move or for a myriad of reasons you have no choice but to move. But you are stuck until you decide uck and get yourself unstuck,  after a certain age no one can do it for you.

But it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in work.  It doesn’t happen in relationships, it took me five years to leave my first marriage. Aside from uck,  there is a real stubbornness that comes with  stuck.

So when I stopped working I opted for impotence, misery and daily tears. That was my coping mechanism of choice.
I would still come to the office as that is a life long habit.  But I would close my door, put my head on the desk and weep. Then I would write e-mails to everyone and bemoan my fate. This went on for I would say a good nine months.

During that time every now and then I would go up for jobs, and lose them, which would only plummet me into a deeper sense of despair, misery and victimization.  I was fun to be around.

Lunch dates started bailing.

Even my overly patient husband was getting fed up with me.

Nobody likes to hang around someone who spends their time complaining about their life while doing nothing to change it.

The thing is I really did not know what to do. I had been Tracey Jackson screenwriter for close to twenty years.  If I wasn’t that what would I be? I didn’t go to college so that eliminates a ton.  I was forty-seven that eliminates a ton more.  If I wasn’t a female romantic comedy writer, well, I didn’t know what I was.

I was also stuck in something else, I really, truly believed writing movies was all that made me happy. I could not imagine myself doing something else that would give me the same pleasure. Except for the fact that aside from the money and the first draft, the rest made me miserable. I was always on pins and needles I would get fired.  Every job one fears is one’s last, talk about zero job security.  Anything remotely good I turned in was handed to someone else to pulverize. I was always looking over my shoulder to see who was coming up behind me.  Does that sound like fun to you?

It was the devil known.  And it was a generous devil in terms of a salary, limos,  suites and trips with movie stars.  But in terms of real creative satisfaction it was Faustian with a double F.

Of course I didn’t know this until I landed on something else.

But I was stuck, where could I go?

Finally as often happens I got sick of myself and that is the only way one does move.  This is true with any kind of maladaptive behavior or relationship; the drunk has to reach rock bottom and seek help. You have to wake up one day so miserable in a relationship that you decided life is too short.  Sometimes you have to take the big, bold, brave step and realize your dreams have worn out their welcome and it’s time to create some new ones.

And finally one day that is what happened to me.

Either I was going to be miserable and torture those around me or move forward with my life, somehow, someway in some direction.

I had to own that I was  unhappy and somehow only I was going to make myself  happy again.

And I think this is one of the great life lessons we learn: if we choose to learn it.

I personally don’t like being unhappy and I don’t like being unproductive.   I have a lot to say and clearly waiting around for someone to hire me to say it was not going to happen.

So eventually the uck in stuck got to me and I decided to do something on my own.

I was reading a lot of quotes around this time.  I do that when I wallow and I happened across a wonderful quote by Robert Lowell.

~ Fate Loves The Fearless ~

Just pause for a second and breathe that one in.  I did – many times.

I actually took a big black marker and wrote it on my white board that was once was covered with my story beats.

And by day three of staring at that quote I stopped crying, complaining and blaming others and decided to do something I had been saying I wanted to do for years – I would direct my own film. If no one else would hire me, I would hire myself. Forget the fact I couldn’t afford myself.

And I would work in the genre I find the most interesting non-fiction. And since I couldn’t afford me, I certainly couldn’t afford actors, so I would make a film using my family.  And what was there to make a film about in my family?  My teenager was driving me nuts, in fact everyone I knew who had a teenager, was being driven around the bend by them. I went with what I have always gone with when coming up with stories if it’s happening to me, it must be happening to others as well.

During the summer of my continual discontent I had read the book The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine.  As I was reading it it  never crossed my mind that this would be an interesting jumping off point for a film. I was still too attached to my misery for that.

But once I got unstuck and I started putting the pieces of my new career together, it came back to me, oh yeah, that book. And then this other idea came back to me, the idea that had been percolating in my brain for several years, but again not as a film, but merely as a way to get Taylor unstuck from the life she was leading that we felt was not getting her where she needed to be.

And then it dawned on me, what if I put those things together?  What if I take my spoiled, somewhat malcontent kid and plunk her in a slum school in India to teach ? And then what if I make a film about it?

I have a slum school I have been helping with for years, so we had the place, we had the kid and  all of a sudden I couldn’t think of anything else.

I’m one of those people who are always looking for signs, signs that will appear to me and only me that this is the right path.

When I was attaching myself to the idea of making the film, there were still all sorts of hurdles to clear, but at least at that point I was on a track.

I went looking for my copy of The Price of Privilege.
My husband deals in books and we read a lot of books and god knows we have more books than you can imagine.  Many of those books live in our basement in Sag Harbor.

One weekend we were out there and I went looking for my copy of Madeline’s book. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Me being me, I took this  as a sign, I wasn’t meant to make the documentary. So I dove back into my dark hole of I have no career for several hours.  But I climbed out so we could meet our dear friends Jonathan Burnham and Joe Dolce for dinner.

Now Jonathan runs a big division of Harper Collins and Joe is big in PR. So when they asked what I was up to instead of breaking into tears and saying nothing, I said I had this idea for a documentary and told him what it was about.

Jonathan said that sounded  interesting and I should really be in touch with their author Madeline Levine who had written The Price of Privilege.

SIGN. SIGN. SIGN. SIGN.

He gave me her email and within the week she had agreed to be in this film. Suddenly I really had a film.  I was unstuck,  I was making a movie.

Now I won’t bore you with the details of getting a film off the ground. Especially  one when you’re doing most of the work yourself.  There are endless details, but I love details and I love endless so it was perfect for me.

Suddenly, I was in the office an hour earlier and there an hour later. I was working weekends.

When people asked what I was doing  – I was making a film.

Once I made up my mind there was a magnificent daisy chain of good luck that led me to all the right people.  Or if we go with Robert Lowell, fate does love the fearless.  And my setting out to make a documentary, having no real idea what I was doing aside from the fact I have a good sense of story structure was a totally fearless act. Some might say foolish, I go with fearless.

But it all fell together.

And then one glorious morning that will stand out as such a bold strand in the tapestry of my life:  I was standing on the beach in Bombay at sunrise. I was in charge (those are huge words for a screenwriter) of a crew of about forty people.  I had thirty kids in the scene.  I had a steady cam operator who was the number one steady cam guy in Bollywood I had hired to capture this really lyrical moment in time.

And I looked out to one of my favorite images on the planet, The Arabian Sea, and truly from the bottom of my heart thanked God for sticking me where he did and leaving me there for as long as he did, as if he hadn’t  I would not have been standing where I was and I could not have imagined anywhere at that point in time I would have rather been nor could I have dreamt up anything I would have been happier doing than making LUCKY DUCKS.