Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I guess I flaked.

I heard this from Frank, my old agent. We have been figuring out a dinner together for the last few weeks and between his busy schedule and my lack of one, we rescheduled three times.  The last time he said, jokingly, "I flaked"(as in corn flakes).  I learned that this is the new answer when you postpone or miss a meeting or lunch or don't call someone back. 

Frank meant it as a joke, but I realized it applies to a lot of people today.  Like Dane, the Manitoba producer, I've called him several times and each time he had to go but promised to call back, but did not.  I mentioned it to the sultry Rachel from Eh Channel, who said he does it to her too, and I spoke to another producer who's dealing with him and... yes, he says Dane is a little slow on answering.

My friend Paul Lynch says it's basically that they really don't need you for anything at the moment, and when they do, they'll call back. This is basically a GenY thing, or a blend of Gen X and whomever is 22 now. And I always wonder why they bother having phones and texting and tweets and what comes next if they don't return calls. 

To be fair, Dane is in preproduction on a movie and is busy so I give him a little slack.  But some years ago I was writing a script for Phil Borsos, who also failed Banff School of Fine Arts film school, and who went on to a major career until he passed away at 41. Phil was making Bethune, a movie about a Canadian doctor in China in the 30's when Mao was just becoming the big guy. The movie, starring Donald Sutherland was, by all accounts, a horrible film shoot. 

The Chinese promised everything, crews, studios and camera gear but when they got there very little ever appeared. Even the food was bad. The majority of the crew came from Canada and at one point, actually were ready to walk off and go back to Canada unless caterers came in for real food. They won and it cost overages in the budget.

But back to Phil. He would call me at least once, sometimes twice, from China to Toronto to discuss the screenplay and tell me horror stories. This while he was in the middle of the difficult production.  And if this is the generation of multi-tasking, they sure aren't champions of it.

Multi-tasking isn't really all that hard anyways, and according to research on the subject, we really don't multi-task at all. What we do is coordinate our actions, one following the other, not actually at the same time.  Real multi-tasking is doing two or three things at the same time. 

Those of you old enough remember that old bit where you rub your tummy one direction and rub your head in the opposite direction at the same time. Try it, it's not easy and that's only two things at the same time. That's real multi-tasking, so when you're working on your computer and someone calls and you answer and work on the computer at the same time, that's not really multi-tasking, unless you're talking and typing an important document at exactly the same time. What happens is basically one job defers to the other one, you talk and stop typing, listen and type.
Where does this take us?

Is Paul right?

Do people not return our calls because we're not important enough at that time and space? And if that is so, what does that make them? I return every call I get, every email, I don't tweet or Facebook, although I allegedly have a Facebook page but never try to find it. But that probably comes from my early career in TV news, where I learned  how to compartmentalize my jobs, 10 minutes for this, 5 minutes for that, 2 hours for something else.

I read that Bill Clinton would do that also, although compartmentalizing world peace, the wrath of Republicans, his... ah... private life, and creating a budget surplus is a little more important than me Tivo'ing Letterman while watching Charley Rose and eating popcorn.

I know the calls will start coming back. 

Any day now.

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