Slingshot: Get That Pick Away From My Brain!
(Speaking to OC high school students about Klan history? Always FREE!)
Three years ago, I sat down at the late, great Olive Tree Restaurant in Little Arabia for a meeting I shouldn't have taken.
What can I say? The prospects of a possible collaboration got the best of me.
A beat that I had turned the burners on for over a year started making some noise. Powerful people were paying attention. A documentary producer told me as much over email. Their boss was working on a film project. They traded my stories back-and-forth, deeming one of them "fascinating."
The producer, a gaba, was in town and wanted to discuss the project. Having been burned by parachuting filmmakers before, I should have made my time conditional from the onset.
Because as the homie nerd Gustavo Arellano would say, "I ain't for free."
But I didn't ask if I was going to be paid for the consultation or be featured on camera. Maybe I thought that once we sat down, everything would iron out.
To pass the time before the producer got there, I ordered some zaatar fries and started picking at them.
The meeting finally started before too long. We spoke about the subject matter at hand extensively. The producer picked my brain much like I did my fries. They ordered a shawarma sandwich. I talked through lunch. Nothing gave the impression that what I had to say wasn't of interest. Quite the opposite, really.
We parted ways. I didn't think that would be the last I heard from the documentary crew. It was.
Just a few months afterward, I got laid off along with the rest of the Weekly wrecking crew. Then, the pandemic arrived and upended everything.
Amid the chaos, I gave little thought to the documentary project other than to kick myself from time to time for offering my insights in exchange for nothing. It certainly seemed that way.
And then the film premiered.
It was that way.
I still haven't seen the documentary, but I perused through the critics and their reviews. Most are favorable to the film; only one dinged it for being too self-involved to be a brutal critique.
In another writeup, the same historical event I wrote about that the producer found "fascinating" and that I talked about at-length over zaatar fries happened to function as the "turning point" of the documentary's thesis, so wrote the critic.
It wasn't the same experience as about a decade ago when a documentary crew filmed me at length for hours, followed my leads, called me a future Noam Chomsky (yeah, right!), scrubbed me from the final product entirely and thanked me by tweet when the episode premiered on cable.
I gave those pendejos an earful for wasting my time.
The producer I met at Olive Tree? This Slingshot will probably be my final words--to stand as a lesson for young journalists who haven't been burned yet and a reminder for myself.
Since our meeting, I've only dug deeper into the subject at hand. Now I wield an even sharper thesis than before and started a project of my own where I control the narrative.
Once I thought about involving the producer's boss in some way, but no more.
As for the zaatar fries, I can't remember who picked up the tab. If it was the producer, then that's all I got out of the meeting.
I'm worth so much more--and you are, too.
- Gabriel San Román