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<editorsnote> Hi, I'm Jen Friel, and we here at TNTML examine the lives of nerds outside of the basements and into the social media, and dating world.  We have over 75 peeps that write about their life in real time. (Real nerds, real time, real deal.) Sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the stories!! </editorsnote>

 

 

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Sunday
Dec172017

#RealDeal: Here's what it's like to have your life turned into a TV show (& then to have it actually sell)

If I didn't actually live this story myself, I'm not sure I would believe it. I've purposefully included as many screenshots as possible (which I'm fortunate that I talked to my agents mostly via email). The truth really is stranger than fiction and this little fucking nerdy website is the little engine that could. 

Maestro ... 

In 2012, I fell into my first of many clichés - after 3 years and thousands of blog posts, I had finally gotten everything that I had wanted and realized I didn't want any of it.

I started this website on November 3, 2009 after seeing with my own eyes the trend that nerds were going to finally be considered "hot." Intelligence was going to be the "new sexy" and I wanted to time stamp my ideas in the space to use as a resume (of sorts) to get whatever job I was after.

Life had other plans (giving me a career - not just "a job") and with a tremendous amount of hard work and hustling I grew with my bare hands what is now a "brand." As any entrepreneur will tell you though, that tremendous amount of hard work came with a side of sacrifice in the form of family and friends. 

Putting blinders on with my head down, I didn't know it at the time, but began executing the "influencer marketing trend" seven years before others. I chose to (what I called) "barter" social media to live for a year (getting to 12 states with $10 to my name). During that year I lived in a car and couch surfed purposefully never staying with family or current friends (I called it the unapologetically awesome 2010 tour, since I wasn't sure people would want to sponsor someone without a home); I was only interested in meeting/ connecting with people who "got" social media like I did and could see that the way we were receiving our information was going to change - rapidly. 

My commitment to this website lead to "internet fame" (which let's be real came from the fact that I had the balls to do a lot of dumb shit that would get the majority of people either arrested or six feet under).

Either way, I took pride in the growing traffic but as my own honesty grew with each post I wasn't sure how happy any of it made me anymore. After having a nervous breakdown in 2007, I knew I couldn't survive doing anything that didn't make me happy - even if it was something I had built myself. 

The straw that broke the camels back was when I had (by my own definition at the time) the best night of my life, and had no one to share it with. I spent so many years in single player game mode that when it came time to tag team player two, I had no options. 

Six very long and frustrating months later, I was introduced to Oprah's Love Ambassador (that's an actual thing, but don't consider this an endorsement of any kind), who was interested in conducting a nationwide search for one of her "very eligible" and wealthy bachelor clients (she reached out to see if I could help her with her social media strategy)

At the time, I had a lot of (truly) random offers. Books, TV shows, new sponsors ... I was taking what they call "generals" with studio heads, show runners, executive producers, and agencies. Even with all of the other shiny things, there was something about this woman and this situation that my brain wouldn't/couldn't shake. 

I called, texted and emailed this woman, and while I was standing in a lingerie shop on Hollywood Blvd (I was going to a Playboy Mansion party that night) she finally called. 

She had asked what some of my initial steps were (in terms of marketing) and I said I need a one sheet on the type of woman he's interested in. For me to be able to do the job right, I'd need to reverse engineer her personality type to be able to target accurately. 

"How old are you?" she asked. 

"I'm 28," I said. 

"Do you want to get married and have children?" 

"Yes," I said. 

"You might be the person I'm looking for." 

Ha.Ha.Ha. I thought. Like I'm going to just be the type of person that "falls in love" and gets "swept off her feet" by an international man of mystery who's apparently fully loaded (and I'm not talking about his wallet)

At this point I dated half of Los Angeles and was still single so clearly, I did not know what I was doing and here was this person that could help; I'd be an idiot not to accept.

As a lifelong, card carrying member of the "workaholics" club, it shockingly started to make sense that I would meet someone through working together in some capacity. Besides, I thought, there was no downfall. If we meet and fall in love, great! I'll have found my second player. If we meet and there's no chemistry, great! I can get to know him and have a better idea in terms of the kind of woman he's looking for. 

I then went through the "bachelorette onboarding process" which included a questionnaire and back and forth email communications done through the matchmaker (that was done to protect the public identity of her client)

On April 6th, I was then flown out to Bal Harbour (just outside of Miami) and was sent the confirmation for my hotel reservation at the St. Regis.

Mind you, I had no clue who this guy was, what he looked like, all I had to go on was the research I had done on the matchmaker and the word of my manager that this was legit. He laughed when I called him from the town car on the way over to the hotel (they even sent a car service)

"This really is normal for you isn't it?"

While the blind date part was new, the "destination dating" wasn't.

<tangent> I still laugh at getting ditched in my bikini in Miami. THAT story was priceless. </tangent> 

"I'm open to whatever comes my way in terms of love," I said. "There's no downside." (Plus being internet famous meant safety was a tweet away, which based upon the level of engagement at the time - TNTML had proven itself to be faster than 911.

To my surprise, I realized after our first date that I WAS the type of person that could "fall in love" and be "swept off my feet" by an international man of mystery who's in person EVEN MORE extraordinary than he seemed on paper. 

Dating someone who was independently wealthy meant that my own concept of time began to change. I didn't have to wait for anything anymore. Removing any sort of waiting period from two naturally ambitious people lead to life going into overdrive. 

I then went from having $10 to my name HUSTLING for every last BIT of anything I needed to survive, to having (quite literally) "it all."

Yes, the private jet adds for good storytelling, but the "it all" I'm referencing was the fact that I finally felt like I had a connection with someone (which, outside of a job, was all I was really after in starting this website). While I was proud of what I had built, it was a no brainer that my new life was more fulfilling than my last one.

Gone were the days of sitting behind my computer with my headphones on for hours publishing my deepest thoughts and then (hilariously) attempting to get up from the desk barely able to walk (due to not noticing that both feet had fallen asleep)

I instead sat in a bathrobe cuddled on a comfy couch drinking wine (of course while practicing the crane - see below), talking about the universe, and reading while he played video games; I had found my version of heaven operating in two player mode, and was ready for Talk Nerdy's game to end. 

Look ma, I'm capable of intimacy!! 

I then ghosted Los Angeles, this blog (out of respect for the relationship), and moved to an island in an income tax free state. To say it was an adjustment at first was an understatement. I had previously spent my entire adult life in big cities where the follow up question to "what's your name" is "what do you do?" People on the island didn't talk about what they did, or anything pop culture or tech related (my two biggest passions). It was less "world domination" and more about the closeness of the community.

Much like my perception of time being altered, so did my concept/ understanding about what really mattered. The icing on the cake was that my parents were a mere hour and some change away, so not only did I begin to understand and truly respect small town life, I also learned to respect (even more) the people that gave me said life. 

I'll keep the details of our relationship private, but after less than a year of dating, we broke up. While I absolutely don't regret it, it was (still to this day) my second worse life experience.

To put it in a frame of reference, the third worst life experience was losing everything I owned in the massive cockroach infestation. 

Leveling up to becoming a person and not a persona meant that the last thing I was willing to do was give a hard reset and change the game back to Los Angeles. I was having so many new and weird life experiences on the reg that there was NO WAY I was willing to give that up just because I was back in single player mode.  

My resume "special skills" now include: senior levels of IRL socialization, light breaking and entering (more on that in a moment), box jumping, archery (which I still need to develop strong enough biceps to pull back the compound bow - I'll get there), fishing, jumping off roofs into canals, cooking on a toilet seat inside of a garage, and many more adventures that I was too busy living to document. 

I was no longer going through the motions, I was truly living and experiencing life for the first time - all for myself.   

I then got my own place, and while each step of the process was painstakingly difficult, I got by with the help of my friends (and card games ... lots of card games)

Single but rarely solo, I rang in the new year, and was finally clear headed enough to start consulting again (which is great because I can do my job from anywhere). Six months into the beginning of my "new life" (whatever that meant - because for the first time in my life, I had not a fucking clue what I was doing), I received an email from my agents at CAA. 

I vividly remember standing in my kitchen when I read this ...  

It reads, AND I QUOTE:

"Hi Jen – How are you? Big plans for the 4th? We have some great news – Warner Bros. TV would like to make an offer on your blog! My brilliant colleague, xxxxx, in our TV group has more info but I wanted to chat with you about it. Great news!! I’m around this week and xxxxx and I are both around next week. What’s best for you?

X"

But, I walked away, I thought ...

But, I committed INTERNET SIN by ghosting the blog ... 

But, I spent YEARS taking generals, developing various shows with nothing working out ... 

But NOW ... NOW on an island in a 4,000 population town ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY, I somehow manage to ACTUALLY get an offer?

I used being in shock to my advantage and instead of articulating any sort of excitement, I remained cool as a cucumber responding that I was happy to hear from them, thanking them for all the hard work (which I assumed happened). Taking the sale as an opportunity, I knew that my agents would look at me differently. I on the spot pitched them another idea (I had pulled out of my ass) asking if we could discuss that opportunity as well. 

<tangent> I'm an idea factory, even if I have no idea what I'm doing, I'll come up with something. I was ABSOLUTELY made to be a content creator/ producer. </tangent> 

They agreed, and then followed up with a series of questions which revealed the producer that had also attached himself to the project. 

The content in the email is irrelevant, but see that line? "Warner Bros. and Bruckheimer would like to propose ..." 

UBER PRODUCER JERRY FUCKING BRUCKHEIMER HAS ASKED TO BUY (technically option) MY LIFE RIGHTS, TRADEMARKS, AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. THIS CANNOT BE REAL LIFE!!!

Oh no, it was absolutely real life and fortunately (due to the gentleman I had previously dated) I had an attorney from a very reputable firm (if this was a David and Goliath style conversation, I was prepared to go into negotiations heavily armed), so I messaged asking if he could work on a contingency (which I'm sure is a hilarious question to someone who charges four figures an hour)

I'm not sure if it was out of respect to the man who introduced us, or WTF style curiosity, but he agreed to take me on as a client and after just shy of a year of negotiations and paperwork the dust had settled. It's standard for an option to last for a year, so even though the paperwork/ negotiations had taken the duration of the initial contract, I wound up winning again with the option then being accepted for a renewal. 

Bruckheimer didn't buy my life rights once, he bought them twice. 

Living on the island at that time was helpful because I didn't really let a lot get to my head. I knew that with consulting I could leverage the fact that "Jerry Bruckheimer bought my life rights," and that was truly good enough for me. Having been around the rodeo previously with a show that sold to MTV, I knew how hard it was to not only sell a show but get it to air. The fact that I had even gotten this far with the blog that I walked away from was good enough for me. 

During that time, still wanting to write, I started the blog xoxoyourmom.com knowing that anything that I published on Talk Nerdy from this point on would be owned by Bruckheimer. I had purchased that domain years ago knowing that I wanted to keep Talk Nerdy young and not age to a point where I ended up alienating the audience.

Now that I had discovered what intimacy truly felt like, writing became a bit like getting back on a bike after a fall. What was I willing to reveal? What was mine? I began going through an emotional puberty of sorts (which ended up lasting a few years)

Nine months after my breakup, I wound up dating a second gentleman on the island. The first gentleman was a very very private person. Clearly wanting to go in the opposite direction (I'm assuming for protection of my ego), I wound up dating a guy who is universally considered "the unofficial mayor." While he didn't understand Hollywood, or tech, he did know the name Bruckheimer and wouldn't stop beaming with pride over my successes. 

"How involved will you be in the show?" people would regularly ask. 

I fought (tooth and nail) for the credit "based on the blog by Jen Friel" (knowing that TV credit would indefinitely change my career and life) and I'm a consulting producer. 

"So, what does that mean?" was traditionally the follow up. 

The only way I could relate what I was experiencing was to picture it like having a kid go to college. I gave birth to the thing, nurtured it, watched it grow, gave it a little bit of independence, and now it's time for it to go to college. The only thing I can hope for is that it "makes good decisions." Outside of that, it's none of my business. They bought it (again technically optioned), so it's their right to do with it as they see fit. 

But, it's your life story that's going to be on TV, they would typically say. 

That's if it sells, I'd say laughing. 

Less than a year into dating (spot the pattern), the second gentleman and I parted ways. While I was grateful to both guys about the business and general life skills I had learned, I knew I was still in a building mode. I wasn't ready to be a wife and pop out babies (even though I thought I was). Before we had officially broken up, I had pitched an app idea that I had to producers back in LA.

<tangent> The casting said "calling all entrepreneurs for a new reality show!!" While the idea of going on a reality show in general freaked me out (let alone season one), the fact that it was done via a producer that I had also worked with on Deal or No Deal, NBC's 21Q, and had run into him in the offices of Bertram Van Munster (back when I was personally managing his ORM and writing his online bio). Bert and Bruckheimer produce the Amazing Race together (totally unrelated). Either way, I knew this man was legit and this casting was for something big. </tangent> 

As you all know, I wound up on Seasons 1 (and two) of the West Texas Investors Club. While living on the island, I saw that the way people received their information was still through a newspaper. I built a glorified proof of concept and talked to "the powers that be" (which was handy dating the unofficial mayor) asking if this is something they'd be interested in. They were absolutely on board, and before my appearance on the show I had my very first (and very large) advertiser attached. 

The concept around the app was going to be that subscribers would charge $2 for each event listing. It was a calendar of sorts telling people what was going on in niche tourism driven markets. They would include happy hours, clothing sales, kid friendly activities, etc. To build up the subscriber base, I offered to the local places of worship free event listings, and for the schools, free sports/ general school updates. 

It worked, and I got the investment on the show including a cash offer for a buyout when I came back to the island.

<tangent> Here's what Rooster and Butch said about the app ... 

... and here's the follow up on season 2. I still hate breakups but man can you see how much happier I am in season 2. 

Oh and here's the version the show posted as well </tangent> 

Due to the connections I had made (directly and indirectly) from the show, in August of 2014, I wound up getting a consulting gig as a social media ghostwriter for a big celebrity. I was then invited on his press tour, and went to NYC following him around assisting in whatever way he needed (just not like "that," obviously - I'm single at this point, not stupid). I got to see behind the scenes of Access Hollywood, Sirius XM, business morning shows that I wasn't yet awake enough to be able to remember where I was exactly, and the Today show. 

<tangent> Contrary to what's been said in the press, I thought Billy Bush was super nice. While it could have been a quick moment of time on someone's best behavior, he said I looked like a hybrid of Katy Perry and Jenny McCarthy. Obviously, I took that as a lovely/unexpected compliment. </tangent> 

<tangent> Oh and, I couldn't find the itinerary I knew the PR people sent back in the day, but here's an email to Troy Carter. (I met him in the green room and was introduced by the celeb that I was with with the exact phrase "you two need to know each other.") </tangent>

I didn't care to post in social where I was, nor could I (out of respect) take any photos unless it was of the celeb and whomever he had met (that I could then turn into social content).

Throwing myself back in work not only helped me emotionally go through yet another breakup, but from a physical sense it also got me off the island. 

<tangent> See, unless you "import" when you're on an island, you kinda just keep dating each other. They say down there, "you don't lose your girlfriend, you lose your turn with your girlfriend." As someone who considers themselves deeply loyal, I couldn't imagine going back and being in a THIRD relationship with someone else. I already knew everyone, and had no idea where to go or what to do next (other than exactly what I was doing in supporting this celebrity). </tangent> 

While leaving the Today show (in that first week of August), I got a call from my (now) ex saying that he had a death in his family (it very unexpected - alive one day, gone the next). Without thought, I finished up the last of my meetings and changed my flight to go back to the island.

I didn't tell anyone I was working with what was going on while it was happening. Certainly it was upsetting since I knew this person as well, but all I could do was my job and stay as strong as I could for this person that I had loved that was going through a tremendous loss.

I'm not the kinda person that will just say "I'm sorry," I'm the kinda person that actually shows up and does whatever needs to get done to help. 

I continued to stay at my parent's house (again a mere hour and some change away) and went back down to the island as often as I could to support his family. Not that there is ever a "perfect time" for something like this to happen, but I also had to be conscious of setting hard boundaries. While there was a back and forth during the initial breaking up stage, I knew I was going to continue building whatever it was that I was building and that (at least for a short period of time) this could no longer be my home. 

When someone passes suddenly, unless they happen to have a will or some sort of legal documents dictating what they wanted - the family is left to decide which ends up taking weeks and sometimes months. In this case, it meant contacting members of the family that my ex had only spoken to when he was a child. 

I need to find this family member, he said one day. It's in the address book in his house, but the house was locked up (and the owner couldn't be reached - I can't remember why)

Let's pop the lock, said one of his friends. 

I can't go in that house, he said (obviously still very shaken)

If you can pop the lock, I said to the friend, I can go into the house. Having never been in there before, I knew I would stay calm and find what was needed the fastest. 

We all piled into the pickup truck, and moments later I added "light breaking and entering" into my resume special skills. It was shockingly easy, but I'm hoping to never have to do that again. 

I then entered the home and found the book. We locked everything back up (the best we could) and headed back to my ex's home. 

The family decided to have the celebration of life on August 21st. I had just finished setting up the tables for food when my own tables turned with another email from my agent. 

I had been so focused on helping out my ex, that I COMPLETELY forgot that my show was even being considered. 

Knowing how supportive his family was, I knew they'd be THRILLED, I just wasn't sure if this was an appropriate time to say anything. 

I must have had a look of pure shock on my face, because as I was still looking down at my phone, his sister asked what was going on. 

Talk Nerdy got an offer from NBC, I said, not believing the words that were coming out of my mouth. 

To my surprise the news lightened the mood as everyone started cheering and clapping. I wanted to celebrate, but again, I was here for a different kind of celebration so I felt conflicted. 

Four days and one mental state later, I was at my parent's house when I got this email. 

Talk Nerdy was in a four way bidding war with all of the major broadcast networks. 

Three days later, the results were in and a one way ticket was booked ... 

Knowing if all of this could happen from an island, I could REALLY make waves this go round on the entertainment rodeo. 

The email saying the show finally sold happened on a Friday, and that Sunday around 9pm ET, I got a tweet in social media from my friend Brian congratulating me on the sale. 

Much like the entire process up until this point, I had no idea what was going on, or that the announcement was even happening. I then stayed up that night until (at least) four am answering every tweet, email, and Facebook comment. Had it not been for this community keeping me alive for so long, there is no way that this would have happened. I wasn't just grateful, this was just as much their moment as it was mine. 

As the cliche goes, when it rains it pours, and as the announcements continued throughout the trades, so did my appearance on the CNBC show. (My episode aired 8 days after Talk Nerdy's announcement.) 

I'm not quite sure what a "normal" reaction is in this scenario, but instead of "popping bottles with models" or celebrating in anyway, I instead put my head down and worked even harder. As someone who consistently leverages any slight chance of a door being opened (or even popping the lock myself), I was aware that all of this was just the beginning. Talk Nerdy was just my first idea of being able to document a trend (or technically a series of them)


While back in LA, I continued consulting and even started working for a startup. I thought that coming back to LA would be easy, and to my surprise it wasn't. Sounds really affected me (you have hurricane windows in South Florida), as did the crowds. I remained a bit of a hermit in those first few months, but as January 2016 came around, so did the pickups for the upcoming pilot season.

I had never really paid attention to pilot season previously, but the fact that here I was this little nerdy chick that had $10 to her name, and TOLD PEOPLE FOR YEARS THIS WOULD BE A TV SHOW  ... I was firsthand watching my internal vision become my outter reality in a big, big way. 

Stopping here as this post is long enough and needs a part two. I'll keep writing tonight so it'll go live on asap. Thanks for reading nerderinos! As you'll continue to see, it's a totally strange series of events that all became connected in a way I never could have predicted/ planned. As a strategist, I wish I could take credit for it, but as is the 2017 theme of my life, I just had to learn to let things go and take their natural course.

Click here to read part 2

#nerdsunite  



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