Tuesday, 3:00 A.M., the phone rings. Getting a phone call in the middle of the night is usually not a good thing --- in general, sleep is interrupted and, usually the call brings bad news. “I’m a producer in L.A., got your name from an online database, went to your website, was impressed and wanted to talk to you about a screenplay” said the voice on the other end of the line.
I am basically out of work, haven’t had a steady job since December, won’t have one until September and, while, sure, I am grateful for the handful of writing jobs and the brief return to acting that have paid some bills this year but I still need a job or, at least, a way to generate some income. In my most “awake” voice I said “I’m on the east coast, would it be possible to call you back later today?”
Twelve hours or so later, I call the New York area code of a guy in L.A., we do the producer-screenwriter version of dogs sniffing each other’s butts to check them out. Somehow, I usually manage to present well, sound like I know what I am talking about and, most important, appear to be enthusiastic about whatever story somebody wants me to write. I did what I could do. I might get the gig, I might not. The reality is that, under the surface, I was not that enthusiastic about the project.
I’m going on vacation this week: long walks on the beach, limited internet access, lots of reading, lots of chilling and, that’s right, lots of writing. Two years ago, on vacation in the same spot, I wrote two screenplays in four days --- of course I had spent months working on the treatments for both before I wrote the first FADE IN:
The was the same plan for this year. I am committed to three screenplays right now, have turned in first drafts of two of them and am ready to do re-writes. Yesterday, I got a message from another filmmaker I have worked with --- “Need an action screenplay, fast!” There were a few messages back and forth between us, I sent him a five year old treatment, he loved it and I told him that he could have a first draft in less than a week. I call myself a minimum-wage screenwriter and that’s not just a catchy phrase, it is really pretty accurate. Despite my continual promises to myself to never do it again, I agreed to write this screenplay on spec (“speculation”, not a firm deal), no guarantee of it being made or of me being paid anything for my efforts. I am going on faith here, I have been told that the project is for a well-known musical-figure-turned-actor and that the budget of the film will be $60,000,000. I am enthusiastic about the project.