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Author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch on being 'Hollywood Adjacent'

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86th Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
86th Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon

Hollywood’s annual tradition of backslapping — more commonly known as award season — is underway, leaving a lot of people on the outside looking in.

'Tis the season for designer dresses, flashing cameras and rambling acceptance speeches. Yes, Hollywood’s annual tradition of backslapping — more commonly known as award season — is fully underway, consuming megawatts of industry power and worry.

But there’s a separate, parallel universe on the periphery of those consumed with their place in the awards race. Author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch calls that world “Hollywood Adjacent" in her book titled, “I See You Made an Effort,” which she’s adapting into a TV pilot for FX:

As award season gears up in Hollywood, the air is filled with the sound of nails tapping nervously as industry folk wait by their cellphones, troll the internet for signs and prognostications, and at any given moment somewhere between The Pacific Palisades and Pasadena someone is shouting at their P.R. person, 'why can’t I get booked on Kimmel?!'

There is a different but equally absorbing annual tradition for those toiling in the shadow of the statuettes. In Hollywood Adjacent, this time of year inspires reflection if not anxious rumination on the road not taken.  

The Sony hack offered a lurid window into the industry but also provided a new way of defining the stratified but symbiotic parallel universes of Hollywood and Hollywood adjacent.

Arguably, Hollywood is anyone mentioned in the hacked emails, anyone who represents or is married to someone mentioned in the hacked emails or is on the list for Vanity Fair’s annual Academy Award shindig.

Hollywood Adjacent prepares the food for, cuts and styles the hair of, are the personal trainers to, and picks up the dry cleaning for all of the above.

Hollywood Adjacent also includes the thousands of show business professionals whose careers have middled and whose acceptance speeches have been put down, not as in the big sleep, but something  akin to being put on ice, kind of like being cryogenically frozen, because Hollywood loves a comeback kid.

Award season offers us Hollywood Adjacenters a perfect opportunity to contemplate the shortsighted choices, miscalculations, or random occurrences of our career trajectories. I’ve never been good at picking what’s going to become popular. I read for 'Friends' and thought, this’ll never last! I was also sure that kale wouldn’t catch on.

But you tell yourself that you’re not in it for the awards or the money, though you enjoy the comfort of having a roof over your head and still, somewhere deep inside you know your DNA contains that, 'You love me, you really love me,' gene.  And you’ve made your peace with your place in the world, because after all, you’ve got a family now, you’re not living in a refugee camp, and you still have your health, except for that mole that might have changed shape, but you’re old enough to know what really matters.

But there’s that nagging decision… what will you be doing on awards night? You could go to a party to watch with friends, but you’ll risk being told, 'It’s amazing how you manage to stay creative,' which is industry speak for, 'It’s a miracle your body hasn’t been found decomposing in a flea bag motel in the high desert.'  You vow not to do what you’ve done for the last few years: make a point of publicly eschewing watching the ceremony only to hole up with the curtains drawn, spooning down ice cream in your sweatpants.  

So you go about your daily life and you’re driving to your periodontist when you notice that the doctor’s office is located on the same block as that agent you probably shouldn’t have fired; the agent that fired you in a message on your answering machine and the manager you adored but who retired to become a landscaper for his former clients including you.

And you’ll look up at a billboard looming over Sunset Boulevard and see a familiar face, someone who has gone on to not one but several references in those hacked emails. You will find it hard to believe that you and shared the same breath, shared confidences, laughed so hard at a crafts services that cola came out of your noses or that you can be found in clips on YouTube in a lip-lock with that very same person. But maybe that pilot you’re writing will get made, and wait a minute, you think, my kid goes to school with a producer on Game of Thrones, so maybe I shouldn’t get that root canal today because I could get cast as a toothless crone begging for coin of the realm.

But you make that turn into the parking structure. Two hours later when you exit, new toothbrush and prescription for extra strength Tylenol in tow, you’ll know, that’s growth, damn it!  Yep, all that therapy was worth it. You don’t need to sacrifice a tooth for a chance at a background part on a tv show! In fact, maybe you will watch the awards broadcast after all. And maybe really should go to a party because you’ll be contributing to that award season economic bump.  Besides, you can get a really good Central Coast Pinot Noir for only eighteen dollars. Screw it, go for the forty-six dollar Russian River Valley Zinfandel, Hollywood Adjacent tells itself, next year, I could be Hollywood.

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