When I learned our theme for December was horror origins, my first thought was to my own. Not to the fascinating origins of genre or admirable authors or filmmakers, but to me. My own. My precious, precious origin in horror. Horror origin. A horroigin, if you will.
What is my horrigin and how did it get me here, to the incredible support network that is the writers and readers of The Midnight Society?
And then I realized, too few people know the whole story.
Submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society, I call this story
The Tale of the Happenstance Horrigin
As you may recall, I was born and raised across from a cemetery, so I was never going to get out of that house without a deep, musty respect for the macabre.
Fast forward ten years when my family moves across town. We get cable. Which meant Nickelodeon.
Which meant Snick (Saturday Night Nickelodeon)
Which meant Are You Afraid of the Dark? (AYAOTD).
…and that nightmare of an opening montage.
Fast forward ten more years and I’m in my grad film program–the final semester of which was the choice between
- Writing a feature-length screenplay OR
- An internship in either
- New York City OR
- Los Angeles
Of course I went for the internship.
In my mind, I was going to be writing Academy-Award-Winning scripts the rest of my life, so why not take advantage of my school’s professional connections, first? Plus, I knew I would never, ever, ever willingly move to California at any other point in the future of the universe. Considering that I could get to NYC anytime I wanted, Los Angeles was the clear and present winner.
Watch out 818. The Davis Girl was on her way!
With my car packed to the gills, I set off for the west coast.
Along the five day cross-country drive a few things of note happened that would set the tone for my California adventure.
- I listened to an entire Coldplay album
- I ate an In-N-Out Burger
- My car was robbed during an over-night stop
Of course it was terrifying but once you get past the limp tomato and strained vocals they aren’t so bad.
I settled in well enough and started my internship the second day there. Over the next several weeks, I learned a lot about the film industry, good, bad, and ugly. As my internship was winding down I still had seven months left on my apartment lease.
What in Spielberg’s name was I supposed to do in Los Angeles for another seven months?
Me: Well, Erica. Let’s think about this logically. What got you here in the first place?
Me: Grad school.
Me: And why are you in grad school?
Me: To become an Academy-Award-Winning screenwriter.
Me: And why do you want to be an Academy-Award-Winning screenwriter?
Well that was specific.
But I was right. This was the episode in which a girl with hair like mine vows to find her missing (possessed) friend in an abandoned (possessed) attic dollhouse portal.
As one does.
This very episode aired on Saturday, February 5th, 1994. How do I remember the date? I mean, besides Google? Because exactly one year earlier I received an unexpected (possessed) birthday gift from my beloved parents.
Meanwhile, back at the internship: I was on my lunch break digging deeper about Shyamalan. Like a champ, too. I had the office copy of the Hollywood Creative Directory and a subscription to IMDB Pro and I knew how to use them.
And what did I learn? Nothing much. Just that M. Night Shyamalan is a treasure. And that dig-dig-digging deeper about him was an affirmation of joy and paranoia and all that was good in the world. Because look what I found in the Trivia section of the IMDB listing for The Sixth Sense:
According to M. Night Shyamalan, the movie was inspired by an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990) called Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of the Dream Girl (1994)
And I swore to Crichton, if M. Night Shyamalan could use Are You Afraid of the Dark? as inspiration for his Academy-Award-Nominated career as a screenwriter, then I could too.
My next thought was, how do I get there? Well, I needed to work with him. And by him, I meant either M. Night Shyamalan or whoever was the brain behind AYAOTD. And as great as it would be to work with M. Night Shyamalan he was at that moment on set in Philadelphia filming The Village.
So…Who created AYAOTD? Dig-dig-dig: D.J. MacHale.
And where did D.J. MacHale work now? Dig-dig-dig: A block and a half away from the very office I was sitting in. Hmm. I wonder what that office phone number is…
THIRTY-SEVEN SECONDS LATER
D.J. MacHale’s Office: Good afternoon! D.J. MacHale’s office! Who do you need!
Me: Hi, I’m calling to see if you are looking for any production assistants. My internship is ending soon and–
Office: Oh, thank god! Ghacklynnyfer resigned an hour ago. Can you come by at 4?
Me: Wait. What?
Office: And bring your resume. Also, I’ll need to interview you. And by “interview” I mean “show you where the good mugs are.” Oh, and if you have your ID on you we’ll get the W-2 out of the way, too. Is direct deposit OK?
Me: But…wait. What?
Office: You’re the intern at [my office], right? Caller ID. We work with [my office] all time. Tell [my supervisor] that I’ll see her at [celebrity’s] [formal at-home fundraiser for a Good Cause I’ve never heard of] tomorrow.
Office: Awesome. Can’t wait to have you! You’re cool with golden retrievers right? [D.J.’s writing partner’s] dogs are here all. The. Time.
And they were, every weekday for the next seven months.
This is my horror origin and I’m sticking to it.
Also, this one time D.J. used my favorite mug and we ended up talking for two hours about The Tale of the Dollmaker. No big deal.