Flashback: The First Time I Met Dr Dre

Dr DReIt’s been a while since I’ve talked about my screenwriting career on the blog, so I thought I’d flashback to a day that should’ve been my “That’s when it all began” moment.

I think it was 2001.  I lived in Los Angeles.  I’d had my “big break” and one of my screenplays had gotten me “discovered”, which led to lots of meetings.

As I soon learned, getting a meeting in Hollywood didn’t exactly mean anything was going to happen.  Of course, being the naive kid from Brooklyn who just wanted to write, I looked at every one of these meeting as the day my life was going to change forever.

Interest in the script that had opened doors allowed me to get meetings to talk about “What else have you got?”.  The thing about Hollywood is once someone gives you money, says you can write, and they publish a story about it in The Hollywood Reporter, everyone suddenly agrees that you can write, too, so now that want to meet you and figure out why they haven’t given you any of their money yet.

GuntherMy favorite of all my screenplays is a black comedy about a bank robbery gone incredibly wrong called “.33 Reverse Gunther”.  One fateful day, I agreed to option it to an up and coming producer, who had just started her own production company.  In fact, she had been the assistant to the producer who had optioned the aforementioned “Austin got discovered script”.  I had asked her to read it and she liked it so much that she let me in on a little secret: she was leaving to start her own company and wanted Gunther to be her first option.  I was all for it.

I didn’t expect much, but I knew she would work her ass off to get the script out there since it was the only project on her plate.

It was maybe three days later when she told me that Dr. Dre had read the script and wanted to meet me.  THE Dr. Dre?  The scary gangsta rapper?  He wants to read my strange little script about a very bloody bank robbery?

SkybarThe meeting was at Skybar.  Ever been there?  Very ritzy.  Very posh.  Not a place I had ever been since moving to California.  I was so nervous before the meeting that I asked the producer how I would recognize Dre.  Yes, my brain was that scrambled.

This was all happening at the height of the East/West Rap Wars.  Dre slid into the chair across from me and a bevy of bodyguards took up residence at the table behind us.  I have to admit that the presence of all those bodyguards kind of scared me.

Dre was joined by Philip Atwell, his production partner, who was famous for directing Dre’s, Snoop Dogg’s, and Eminem’s videos that were playing non-stop on MTV at the time.  Philip would direct, Dre would produce and play one of the supporting characters, they wanted Mark Wahlberg as the lead, and they asked me if I could rewrite the lead’s best friend so that Snoop Dogg could take that role.

One of the first things that Dre said to me was “You are one sick mother#$%^&*”.  I still consider that to be one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received about my writing.  He confessed that when he was reading the script, he had assumed I was African American because the character he wanted to play was written so well.

Something that always stuck with me from that meeting was the way Dre needled Philip when he said he wanted me to consider rewriting a key car chase.  Dre looked over at his partner and flat out accused him of being too scared to shoot the scene as written because it included the getaway car jumping through an empty boxcar on a train.

I left that meeting with rewrite ideas dancing in my head, and a certainty that Gunther was going to get made.  I was so pumped, and couldn’t wait to tell my wife and all my friends the news.  By far, the best meeting I’ve ever had during my writing career.

Dre’s company never bought the script, but it wasn’t because they didn’t want to.  The green producer to whom I’d optioned it demanded a $500,000 finders fee/producer’s credit as part of the deal.  Greed killed the deal and crushed my Hollywood dream.

HollywoodNow I’m sitting on the porch of my house in Maine telling you the story of what might have been.  Last night, I had a quick email exchange with the Director of “The Retirement Party”.  He wants to make Gunther and is currently in LA to see what kind of interest he can drum up for it.

When people tell you that Hollywood is a place where dreams are made, they sometimes forget to include the last few words.  You see, it’s been my experience that Hollywood is a place where dreams are made to be crushed.

Of course, I shouldn’t complain.  I’ve had two screenplays produced, but it’s hard not to think about how different my life would be right now if this deal had been made.

Dre and I would meet again, but that’s a story for another day…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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34 Responses to Flashback: The First Time I Met Dr Dre

  1. Dave says:

    I’ve gone through similar disappointments and near-misses in both sportscasting and comedy. It’s VERY frustrating. I know how you feel. Sadly, in both of those fields (as well as screenwriting), talent/ability/worth/the-degree-to-which-you’re-actually-deserving-of-said-break has very little to do with whether you get the big break.

    • Austin says:

      Dave, well you were actually around for this moment in my life. You know how frustrating it was for me to come so close to making this deal, and then having it fall apart over greed. I haven’t thought about it in a long time, but the memory resurfaced lately and I had to put it down on paper to deal with it. Can you go on Facebook and tell Jane this story is real please? 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    Yes, I know you’ve come close several times. Too many times than is fair, to not yet have gotten that big break. *I* still think about it when it comes to sportscasting, and I haven’t actively tried to do anything in that regard in 10 or 20 years, so I can imagine how upsetting and frustrating it is if you’re still plugging away at it.

    • Austin says:

      Dave, you are a great sportscaster. Wish you had given up on that. You should pursue it again in your retirement. And keep doing stand up. I’ll even help you write material…

  3. Dave says:

    Thanks, Austin. I really believe I’m better than half the people who do sports professionally. Which I’m sure is how you feel about your writing. I didn’t give up on it so much as I exhausted all my options. I have thought about trying to get back into it again now that I’m retired and have more time. I don’t know. I haven’t felt strongly enough about it to pull the trigger yet, so that in itself kind of tells me something, I guess. I really do like the way I’ve got my life set up now.

    I have kind of given up on stand-up. It’s a very political, who-you-know and how-much-you’re-willing-to-schmooze-and-promote-yourself kind of thing, which I have no patience for. On a much smaller scale, it’s a lot like what you describe Hollywood as. I never had high hopes for that. I just wanted to have fun with it. I would’ve liked to have gotten to that next level where I could’ve performed at a club once in a while for a nominal fee. I had a few auditions and never got approved, so, c’est la vie.

  4. Dave says:

    LOL! I forgot about that! It was fun getting mail from all those baseball teams, even though I didn’t like the content of the letters.

    • Austin says:

      I went through the same thing with rejection letters from all the different agencies I queried. Luckily, CLOSE TO ME got discovered and my life changed. It really is more about luck than anything else…I’ll buy a sports team some day and you can be the announcer!

  5. Dave says:

    LOL. Thanks. I always said, if I won the lottery, I’d buy a minor-league baseball team and fire the radio announcer.

  6. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that everything unfolds as it should. May be cliche but I believe it. Good luck with Gunther …. 🙂

  7. I’m glad you took a break from musings to tell this story. I am infinitely curious about that part of your writing life. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  8. ksbeth says:

    great story, great compliment, and great things ahead )

  9. floridaborne says:

    I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people in cyberspace who are happy to hear that you might have that big break you were looking for.

    You’ve confirmed the truth inherent in the one piece of advice given to me that I really didn’t want to hear years ago: If you can’t wallpaper an entire room with your rejection letters, you’re not a serious writer. Undoubtedly, it goes hand in hand with that old cliche, “It’s 95% who you know and 5% what you know.” 🙂

  10. iceiceandrew says:

    Sounds like an epic meeting. What a priceless story you have to tell!

  11. That was the end of Stevie Bagga Wonderbread.
    A Stalker

  12. It is the place where dreams are made to be crushed…..that’s my impression of Hollywood too. Sorry this one didn’t work out for now. You never know what ‘later’ might bring.

  13. sharonduerst says:

    My son writes screenplays…had a meeting with Gary Busey! Gary wanted him to come up with money to produce the movie! Hollywood dreams rise and fall! Son still enters screenwriting contests, but relying on his fallback career as a lawyer! Maybe it will happen for you yet…I’m the ever hopeful writer!

  14. lsgaitan23 says:

    I’ve had a couple of those “almost/so close” moments and they are kind of hard to let go of, a little haunting from time to time. But, look how much you have already accomplished and the party isn’t over yet. Two screenplays produced, that’s huge! I’m not surprised, though, you are a superb writer!

  15. Silly Mummy says:

    This was so interesting to read about. Such a shame Dre didn’t make the film, but still an amazing experience and achievement!

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