Screenwriter Rob Long: Why Hollywood Should Already Know How to Handle Trump (Guest Column)

rob long inauguration issue
Courtesy of Rob Long

Let’s all take a deep breath, because this is really happening, and moaning about it isn’t going to make it better.

On the one hand, yes, it’s going to be a difficult and slightly sickening four years, but on the other hand, if we’re really being honest with ourselves, we have to admit that a big part of Hollywood’s reaction to President Donald J. Trump — still can’t write that without stopping for a moment to double-check; yeah, it happened, moving on — has its origin in nothing other than snobbery. I’m referring not only to his taste in home decor (which a fancy Bel-Air acquaintance of mine described, with a haughty sniff, as “Persian Fantasia”), but also to the fact that the next president doesn’t come from features, premium cable, ad-supported cable, streaming, or even scripted broadcast television. He’s from the unscripted side, the lowest of low-rent television.

JAKE CHESSUM for Variety

I’m a Republican (sort of), so maybe I’m predisposed to look on the bright side of any Republican administration, even one that’s run by a Democrat. But it seems to me that if there’s any community that knows how to deal with irrational, misinformed narcissists with way too much power, it’s us.

President Donald J. Trump is the insane director you hired so you could get the actor you wanted, and you’re just waiting and hoping that the footage you’re seeing from the location can somehow, in editing, get stitched together into something usable. President Trump is the movie star you need to get the money for the project, but the movie star has decided to rewrite the script over the weekend, and the reports you’re getting back about the new pages are alarming. President Trump is the actor starring in your series who is going to make your life miserable for the next four years. President Trump is what you get when you put the talent in charge.

I mean, he’s probably going to be worse than that, but it’s not like he’s utterly outside of the Hollywood context. Petty, emotionally unstable behavior isn’t exactly unknown in the 818, 310, and 323 area codes. Score-settlers, braggarts, and braying egomaniacs are almost certainly within arm’s reach of you right at this minute. Look around you. If you’re a working professional in the entertainment industry and you don’t think you have a Donald J. Trump in your life, I’ve got bad news: You do, and you’re it.

So of all the communities and industrial sectors around, it’s those of us in entertainment who are uniquely qualified to deal with President Trump. We know exactly how to sit through an insane diatribe delivered by a genuinely unhinged piece of talent, hoping that by hour six or seven the conversation will have exhausted itself and we can get back to work. We know how to smile and flatter. We know that in order to get the scene shot, the project moved forward, the script written, the financing in place — whatever it is — we’re going to have to pick up the tab for dinner and loudly praise every idea that tumbles out of the lunatic’s mouth, especially the ones that were ours to begin with.

“President Trump is what you get when you put the talent in charge.”
Rob Long

Look deeply into the eyes of many of the people surrounding the Trump administration and tell me they don’t remind you of the hollow and exhausted looks you see on talent managers and agents and executives all over town. Tell me that when you see Vice President Mike Pence on the Sunday talk shows, he isn’t the twin of every entertainment lawyer, with a “my client is an unpredictable mess” expression on his face.

Hollywood! We should help these people! They’re not prepared for this kind of work, and we are. We should be leading seminars and workshops and sending out group emails to train Team Trump on what we know best: How to Keep a Lid on the Really Insane Stuff.

And yes, I get it: They’re Republicans and conservatives, and most people in the entertainment industry are neither. Most of you are thinking: Why should we help them?

Look, we’re all Americans, and we all want the best — or, at least, to mitigate the worst — for our country. America just booked Donald J. Trump for a four-year pay-or-play gig, and he has accepted the role and is in hair and makeup. We’re probably not going to get the best movie out of this — and it’s safe to say that we won’t be getting any awards — but we can at least pitch in to keep the project from sinking the entire industry.