We all three (Theresapedia, Barbara and I) kissed the sweat-stained envelope and surrendered our cinematic fates to the FedEx guy. If he did his job right, Dolly Parton's point person (let's call her Miss X) would have our proposal on her desk the next morning - one month to the day before we had to submit our production funding application. And before we could submit that application, we needed Dolly Parton's approval of the use of her name in the title, her permission to use her likeness and "celebrity" as well as her agreement to perform in the film.
Once we had all that (dear god, let us get all that!), then we could finally approach a distributor - another necessary piece of the funding puzzle - and from there casting could start.
We had one single month.
And by my calculations, the proposal package would be in Nashville for all of 9 days before Dolly was scheduled to go out on an extensive US tour. I could only hope that Miss X would be willing and able to pass the proposal on to Dolly before she left. Otherwise, she probably wouldn't even see it until after Thanksgiving, when the tour ended and she came back to Nashville. And that would put us about three weeks past our deadline.
Even though so many planets had to align in such a narrow window of time, I remained wildly optimistic for the first few days after we sent out the package. My heart would leap into my throat every time I heard the fax machine ring. Because Brad (the fabulous and entirely non-flaky guy who got me this connection in the first place) told me that Dolly and her administrators would often correspond with him via fax, I couldn't help but think it was HER every time that damn fax would ring. And for some reason it rang an inordinate amount of time (considering the times) those first few days.
It never was her though. And after a while, I stopped hearing it ring.
I let almost a week go by before I called down to Nashville to "follow up" on the package (I didn't want to pressure too hard or too soon for an answer and end up getting a No just to make me go away). Once again, I'd written myself out a little phone script and once again, the woman I needed to talk to answered the phone. Only this time, I actually mispronounced Dolly Parton's name when I asked if she had received the package! If she noticed though, Miss X didn't let on. She just told me drily that, yes the package had arrived at the office but, no Ms. Parton had not had time to read it yet. Flustered, I thanked her and hung up.
I was cooked. Dolly Parton was leaving on her tour the next day and she hadn't even seen my proposal.
After that, the mood at the production office started to change. We all valiantly continued on, each one of us making as much headway on the funding requirements as we possibly could, even though the biggest piece of the puzzle was still missing. But as each additional day went by without any news, hope began to fade.
I started tracking Dolly Parton's tour schedule - trying to figure out how I could get to Georgia or Kentucky, then get into one of the shows, somehow get to meet her and ... And what? Read the script out loud to her on the way back to the dressing room? Tape pages of the proposal documents to the tour bus windows? Even if I could somehow get access to Dolly Parton in the middle of her tour, when would she even have time to look at my humble package anyway?
Meanwhile, hours kept turning into days which were magically transforming into weeks and the funding deadline was bearing down fast. I remember literally having my head buried in my hands one dim afternoon when Barbara noticed some crooked piece of paper that had come through on the fax machine. She peered at it and picked it up. Holding it out in front of her with both hands, she turned toward me in what seemed like slow motion and said in a quiet, almost robotic voice, "Tara. We just got a letter from Dolly Parton."