My Life with Cats
Twenty-six years and three months ago, my husband and I became domestic partners. Part of the deal was that we always would have two or more cats. I had a cat named Sophie Tofu Bean Curd Cat for fourteen years who left my life about a year before I moved to Albany NY to be with Ken. Some time I will write about Sophie. Anyway, I was happy to accept the felines forever term of our commitment.
Not long into our shared domesticity, Ken and I began joking about how we needed someone to record our banter and badinage. We decided that there could be a sitcom called “My Life with Cats” featuring the odd stories we told each other while sitting with our cats about work experiences.
Ken worked in computer operations at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. One function he had was troubleshooting issues for users of the mainframe computer. Mostly, they were “picnic” problems, i.e., problem in chair, not in computer. People have moments when they can’t see they have created the mess they face and blame it on the computer. These anecdotes were along the lines of being told to hit any key and the person can’t find the “any” key.
Other incidents were just weird. Ken was in the elevator with a coworker. Somehow the conversation led him to remove his shoe and sock. Just as the doors were opening to a group of people, the coworker said, “Ken, put your clothes back on.” Maybe it was funnier at the time.
My job back then was director of an ESL program on a college campus. I recruited students from other countries to live in Albany to learn English in an immersive environment. We offered a three-week summer program for teenagers from Brazil. We put them in the dorms at the college. I went to Brazil to meet people running English language schools while they were in Albany. I was changing planes in Belem when I called to check on things. The students had discovered bats in the attic of the converted Victorian house serving as a dormitory. The college didn’t have room elsewhere, so my staff were scrambling to find host families we used for students during the academic year. The pay phones at the airport terminal in Belem, in the tropics, were outdoors (do I have to explain “pay phone”?). It was dusk near the Amazon. And groups of bats were heading out overhead to search for food. Just unreal.
Fast forward 19 years to 2017, three years after I turned to writing as a fourth career. I see a notice to submit thirty-minute projects such as sitcom pilot scripts to a competition. I had never written a television script but decided to try. I found software that formats for TV and spent 22 hours writing the first episode of “My Life with Cats.”
The setting is Henderson Nevada, where my mother and older brother live, because there is a diverse population (not that my family adds to the diversity). Still a gay couple at the center, one working for Nevada DMV in computer operations. Four of the seven regular characters are BIPOC representatives, one is a European immigrant to the USA, and three (possibly four) are from the LGBTQI community. The action is split between home and the DMV office, similar to some stand-out shows in the 1960s and 70s.
I let the script rest for a week or two, made some minor changes, and sent it to the competition. Next thing you know, I am one of ten finalists. A year later, the second episode is a finalist in the same competition. The pilot has been a finalist in two other competitions and won first prize at the 34th Film Crash 2018.
Over the years, I have requested feedback on the script from about a dozen professionals. I have pitched the idea numerous times to managers and production companies. All were encouraging but said it wasn’t quite there yet. After a two-year break from writing that ended last July, revising “My Life with Cats” was on the to-do list. Joining collaborators on two musicals in September has eaten up my time. I have finally made the revisions and I am sending the pilot episode out again to competitions. The feedback has been even more positive than before.
Once my website (bearlydesigned.com) has been rebuilt, I will post samples of scripts, including something from “My Life with Cats.”