My buddy Chris and I go all the way back to Blue Vengeance, an independent cop action movie I worked on for one day back in 1986. Through the years, I crewed for him on a number of his other indie movies, eventually moving up the chain to writer/producer/DP/actor/editor/post-production sound guy and whatever else needed to be done guy.
(If you want a full, madcap accounting of our early career you can check out my book Film is Hell, which is available on Amazon and also as a Kindle E-book. ((ED: Shameless plug Matthew))).
The gig came from an actress who played a sacrificial virgin in our flick Bog Creatures. She was so impressed with our guerilla film-making skill set that she put us in contact with her investment banker stepfather. He wanted to make a movie and had the money to do it. Let's call him Richard. Or to make it easier, we'll call him Dick. Dick had an idea for a script but no script. Hence the call to indie mastermind Chris for help developing it into a feature film. Chris wanted me to write it. He'd handle production once we get the movie up and running.
We all decided a lunch meeting was the proper venue to discuss the project, hopefully with Dick picking up the tab.
Now I've been all over America and have met all sorts of people. Hundreds, maybe thousand of people from corporate CEOs to line workers at the Taser factory. You know the most surprising thing? How nice everyone is. How few genuine assholes there are out in the wild.
Within five seconds of meeting him, I decide Dick is a genuine asshole. So much so that I'm considering changing his pseudonym to "asshole." But let's keep it Dick and stay simple.
Ted's movie went bust, and Dick took the guy's house. Which is fine, because that was the deal. But the relish with which Dick relates the story that is disturbing. "I tell you, it felt so fucking great taking that house from that stupid kid I got a hard-on. I held it for three years then sold it for twice what I'd invested. Fuck that little asshole."
Wow. What a... well, Dick.
So now we get to his script. He hands us outlines for his movie. It's not really an outline, it's a list of scenes with a brief paragraph describing each. The kind of thing you can read in about three minutes.
Yet Dick proceeds to tell us about the movie, describing each scene pretty much exactly as it's described on the outline he just handed to us.
This goes on for almost an hour. Our food comes, gets eaten, dishes go away, yet Dick is still walking us through the story beat by beat as if he thinks we're too fucking stupid to read what's on the page.
But finally it ends. I've tuned out long ago, just sort of nodding and grunting while I nibble on chocolate cake and sip coffee. (Okay, that's a lie. I never nibble at chocolate cake. I scarf that shit up.)
Knowing this is the guy who gleefully took a house away from an idealistic young filmmaker, we up our fee fifty percent from what we'd initially discussed. Dick doesn't even bat an eye when we hit him with a number.
We make a payment schedule. A third on contract signing, a third on delivery of the first draft, and a third on delivery of a third draft/polish. Dick agrees, tells us to email him a contract, then skedaddles, he has a doctor's appointment to get to. And yeah, he leaves us with the check, half of which is all the booze he sucked down.
We whip up a contract, get it out to him, and lo and behold, he sends our first check, which is a rarity in this business. That is not having to beat money out of people.
Once the money's in the bank, I get cracking on the script. And what do you know, I get into it. There's times when you're writing and it's just flowing, pouring out of you onto the page. I'm in the zone and I knock the first draft out in ten days and, if I say so myself, it's pretty fucking funny and will make a great indie movie. Despite what a prick Dick is, I'm looking forward to this. If he puts up the cash he promised to make this movie, it could be something good, a real career boost.
In the meantime, I have to fly to Indiana to be in my brother-in-laws wedding party. We're driving to Kentucky to pick up kilts (yeah, we're wearing kilts) when Chris calls.
He's heard from Dick. Dick, it turns out, has just learned he has an inoperable brain tumor. All those doctor visits, remember? He's not paying us for the first draft and if we're pissed about that, tough shit. The movie is dead. Another set of dreams dashed.
And we didn't get paid. But what can you do? Tell a man who just answered the door and found Death on the stoop to pay up or get sued? Well ,maybe. After all, I have no doubt this is what Dick would have done himself in our situation. He would have gone after the guy who owed him money with everything he had, and would have laughed about it the whole time. .
Which is why we wish him the best and walk away.
But we keep the script, of course. So if anyone's looking for raunchy comedy...