Monday, December 13, 2010

J. Allen Holt: I got Bumped for Michael Bay and Giant Robots

I think it was the second day of high school when I realized that I'd never refer to it as the “best years of my life.” Graduation day was a very happy one for me. It was the day that I realized I'd never be forced to see any of these people again.

Ten years after that realization, I was back living in Kentucky. That's when I got word of the pending reunion. In that ten year gap, I didn't come to appreciate all the people that annoyed me in high school. No thoughts during that ten years were devoted to what was happening in their lives. Now, being back in my hometown meant I learned that from time to time. It's inevitable when most people don't leave the city. You go back, and you're bound to run into people you knew in that previous life. The life that was before you went to college, stopped going to college, had to pay your own bills, did your own laundry, went home again, moved across the country, saw some new places and faces, and went home yet again.

Now, the reunion was coming up, and I was resigned to make my appearance. There was a chance it would be fun. There was also a chance I'd be struck by lightning on the way and have a good excuse for not making it. Who's to say which was more likely. I didn't hate everyone I went to high school with of course. I don't think I hated any of them actually. Hate requires a certain commitment of emotion that most of them just didn't inspire.

The people I liked mostly moved away. Others stayed of course. The ones I came across that I wanted to stay in touch with I did. I didn't need to reconnect with the others; because like I said, there wasn't much of a connection in the first place.

Then came the news that would end my time in Kentucky and give me a great excuse for missing the reunion. I had to be in Los Angeles to meet with Roberto Orci. He and his partner were rising stars in the business at the time. Since then, they've written the Transformer films and the reboot of Star Trek. It was a big meeting. My partner who was still in Los Angeles had scored a sit down through some luck and circumstance. After that first meeting, Bob wanted to meet with both of us together.

They were in the middle of filming the first Transformers film that summer. Our meeting got pushed back a week because Michael Bay requested the writers be on set. I had to change my flight so I'd still be in LA for the new date. This change in schedule meant I would be at a beach house in Oxnard, California when my fellow graduates would be gathering in a convention hall and dancing to Coolio and The Tony Rich Project.

It was decided that we needed to finish our newest script before the meeting. So, this limited the amount of time I was able to explain to the class of '96 that I wasn't going to be able to make their little party because I had important people who needed to be in the same room with me. The dates conflicted, and I was really torn up about the fact that I wouldn't be there for the “Macarena”.

The waiting area at Dreamworks is not a place that puts you at ease. It especially fails at this if you're showing up at the lot wondering what the hell you're doing there in the first place. I sat on a couch that probably cost more than any car I'd ever owned. I felt overdressed as two guys in long-sleeve t-shirts and sandals chuckled on another identical couch. I stared for a moment at Spielberg's Oscars displayed above the receptionist's desk. I stopped myself because I felt it might be dangerous like the way it's dangerous to stare at the sun without a cardboard box over your head.

The meeting was interesting. It was a great experience. There was some awkward talking happening. I raised my hand at one point in the conversation. I don't know how many people do that in their first meeting with a legitimate big shot, but I did and immediately regretted it. We gave him the script that we had finished in the time between the first meeting and this one. He was at least impressed with how quickly we worked. The coverage we received later didn't relate any sentiment similar to impressive. It was another valuable lesson learned that day. It's best to sit on it than rush something that's not ready. There were a few things I learned in that. The biggest one was probably this: If I wanted to be a screenwriter, it was going to happen in Los Angeles, not Kentucky. That was a valuable thing to learn, and I moved back to California a few months later. I also got a great story to tell the people I went to high school with whenever they would remark they missed me at the reunion.

Allen lives in Los Angeles. He writes screenplays and for this blog. He also co-produces a podcast with his best friend about music, movies, and anything else that comes up that you can find here: You can also follow his podcast on twitter if you're in to that sort of thing.


  1. "I stopped myself because I felt it might be dangerous like the way it's dangerous to stare at the sun without a cardboard box over your head."

    my favorite.

    I like it! once I did the macarena in junior high and I fell down and someone stepped on me.

    I really like this, allen!

  2. Thanks, Katie. I'm disappointed that there are no other brushes with greatness this week. Maybe Josh will bring it home.

  3. Spoiler alert: He will likely not.