Paul Feig was fired from his first TV job
People are weird everywhere. But there’s a kind of specific weirdness that comes out when it’s a small town, where eccentricities seem to exist in high relief. The Fox mockumentary series “Welcome to Flatch,” now in its second season, is all about capturing that.
Paul Feig serves as one of the series’ executive producers. “While a city is sometimes how impersonal everything is, a small town is how personal everything is,” he said. “When (creator) Jenny Bicks and I took it to different networks, everyone said, you can’t make fun of small towns. And we’re both from small towns, the last thing we would do would be to make fun of them. We just want to have fun with people who live in small towns, because we all knew extreme personalities where we lived and they are also the most interesting and funniest people.
Feig is an actor, writer, and producer, but he’s probably best known for directing movies like 2016’s “Bridesmaids,” “Spy,” and “Ghostbusters,” as well as TV shows like ” The Office” and “Arrested”. Development.”
Asked about the worst moment of his career, he spoke of “the first time I was fired from a job in showbiz”.
My worst moment…
“When I was living in Detroit, I was doing TV commercials for my dad’s army surplus store. I was 15 and I wanted to be a filmmaker so he said to me, ‘Why don’t you do ads for my store?’ So I wrote these things and filmed them and acted in them and they were ridiculous.
“Because of this, these local stations were trying to be nice to my dad because they wanted him to keep spending money on these commercials. And one of the local VHF stations was going to do a locally produced soap opera. And I wanted to be an actor, that was all my thing. And I wanted to be on that soap opera. So my father pushed them to hire me, but they had no use for me as an actor. What they said was: we need a pole vaulter for the show.
“A boom operator is part of the sound department. On set, someone has to hold the microphone above the actors so you can hear them. It’s all hand-held on a long pole, but they used to have this thing, it was a big platform on wheels that had a crane arm (with the microphone on the end) that hung over the actors. So as a boom operator, you would get on that rig and swing that crane arm back and forth over the actors. And then you had another handle that you pulled or pushed, which turned the microphone to point at the actor who was speaking at the moment.
“I had seen enough Hollywood films to say to myself, wow, this looks glamorous! How cool! Record every sound! It will be very exciting!
“So I come to that and, for me, it’s a very professional setup. One of the actors was actually Bruce Campbell, who became famous for the ‘Evil Dead’ movies. There was a lot of showbiz royalties from Detroit on this show at the time. I believe it was called “Generations”, it was on Channel 20.
“So here I am, getting up on the pole. They are rehearsing for a scene. They do their thing, act their hearts out and I twist the handle back and forth and the microphone wobbles back and forth and I feel like I’m in absolute showbiz.
“After an hour, we get this note that they hear a creak. So we went on and they said, “We keep having this creak. So they start to get mad me. And I think to myself, I’m just turning the handle! And they say, “Well, there’s something wrong because it’s creaking – you gotta fix it.”
“And I was thinking, what? I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m an actor! I’m 16, so first of all, it’s probably illegal for me to do this. Child labor, let’s say it.
“What happened was the people at the station convinced them to hire me, but I don’t think anyone told them that I was just the dumb son of one of their advertisers. So they looked at me like I knew what I was doing I was a favor but no one told them so they looked at me like I was the pro: you’re the sound guy, fix it -the.
“So they all go to lunch and they leave me. I have WD-40 and I spray the stuff, I have a screwdriver and I squeeze stuff. It was ridiculous, I was like a monkey pounding an engine with a hammer. So I listen to it and I can’t hear anything, so I’m a little proud, I think I fixed that.
“They come back from lunch and we start shooting again and of course it still creaks! And now they’re mad at me. And I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s not my thing!
“So they ended the day early. And then the call came and my dad had to tell me, “They said they didn’t need you tomorrow.” And it was like, oh my God, I just got fired from my first job!
“So I thought I was broke and stranded at 16.”
What was Feig’s mental state at the time?
“I went from the elation of ‘wow, I’m getting into showbiz’ – which had been my goal since I was five – then sweat on the back of my neck, terror as things start to going wrong, then the devastation that I couldn’t fix the problem, then the utter anger that I was put in this situation, then the further devastation that I was out of business. That’s it.
“Because back then, it was before the internet, showbiz just seemed like it was on another planet.
“My next door neighbor and I were doing Super 8 movies and sci-fi movies and comedies all the time, that was the only outlet I had. And then I suddenly found myself in the only setting professional in Detroit that I know, and just as quickly I was kicked out. So I was like, how do I get back into showbiz?
“Looking back, I think to myself, why did I care about the boom? I didn’t want to be a pole vaulter. But I just thought it would be exciting and somehow it would allow me to writing and realizing. That I would be discovered booming. I had no realistic idea of how the business operated.
“The following summer I moved to California and became a tour guide at Universal Studios and I was convinced, now that I was in Hollywood, that I was going to be discovered on tour because I was so hilarious. Almost all the tour guides thought that and we were so delusional because the last place they would look to recruit people was the tour.
“But you’d also have actors touring who thought they’d be discovered!” I think people are a lot more savvy now because there are so many shows on showbiz. But it was the 70s and you were like, maybe some mystical thing is going to happen and I’ll be pulled from the darkness.
“I got this job because my dad had a friend in Hollywood who ran comedian Jeff Altman and these two women from Japan who were a singing duo called Pink Lady, and they had a variety show on TV called ‘ Pink Lady and Jeff”. – it’s really old, it was when they gave everyone a variety show.
“So I said to my dad, ‘Tell your friend I want to work in Hollywood! I’m an actor.’ And what he did was he sent me a copy of Variety. And at the time they were putting out a big chart of all the studios and how to contact them. So Icold called all the studios Hollywood and said, ‘I’m an actor, do you need actors?’ And they’d be like, ‘Well, no.’
“I went through the whole list and the last one I got to was Universal Studios, and they said, ‘Well, we’re about to hire the next round of tour guides for the summer. “”
“That I didn’t want to be a pole vaulter. I didn’t want to be a technician, I wanted to be in charge of creation, whether as an actor, screenwriter or director.
“But it made me see that I wasn’t cut out for the support team. My ambitions were too big, I think.
Nina Metz is a critic at the Tribune
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