Charles Land, a film producer, is having some scripting issues.
| The year was 2008. I was sitting in my office, reading a manuscript of a film that was written by a good friend of mine, Harleen McDowell. I was a producer, and had already had one successful film franchise, the two Harlem Brothers films, and a few other moderately good movies here and there, such as "Southern Bell" and "The Identity". But McDowell's script was good--not the best, but probably worth investing in.
The name of it was "Valentine, Oh Valentine", which I thought was corny. But hey, what do I know about names? The script was basic--love story of two strangers who decide to fulfill their bucker lists together. They eventually fall in love. The two main characters, Casper Ludwig and Kelly Gray, had simple personalities. Kelly was a workaholic who didn't trust men; Carl was an easy-going, well-to-do man-child.
My director, the man who had directed all six of my preivous films, was Thatcher Boykin. The night before he had sat up and read the script, and he was coming in at noon to give me his input. I poured a cup of coffee for myself as he walked in.
"By Jove, Charles! Did you read this thing!"
"Yes, I did," I said. "Would you like a cup?"
"No, thanks," Thatcher said, sitting down in my lush guest chair. "McDowell's script though, it was incredible. A huge profit, if we get a good lead."
"You think so?" I asked. "It seemed rather simplistic. Nothing deep or overly moving."
"Ah, who needs that?" asked Thatcher. "Look, this is the same gal that wrote all those movies that Williams produced! You know Williams; the guy who produced 'Little Boy Blue' and 'Archer of the West', two of the greatest action/romances of our time."
I pondered that. "Any ideas for the lead?"
"Of course," said Thatcher. "I was thinking we could get Coleman. Rod Coleman."
"From 'Wonder'?" I asked, frowning. "Rod Coleman is a terrible option. His acting was wooden and his expression consistent."
"Alright, alright," Thatcher replied dejectedly. "What about McKinley? Or Stanley-Marsh?"
"Yeah, McKinley would be best, if we can get him," said I. Thatcher smiled, and stood.
"I'll talk to our casting director."
"Oh, and Thatcher!" I shouted just before he left. My good friend turned to me. "I got another manuscript from some unknown writer. Henrietta Nosber. She's made a few smaller, independent films, but nothing our level."
"I'd take a look at it, at least," said Thatcher consideratley. "The fact that it made it to your desk means something."
I nodded, and he headed out the door. I sighed, and then looked at my second manuscript. It was titled "Scent of Heaven". I would read this tonight.
"Hello Mr. Land. Is there something I can help you with?" asked the secretary.
"Yes, yes," I replied hastily. "Get this script to Thatcher immediately. This is, by far, the most amazing script I've ever read."
The secretary smiled and took it from me. I ran to elevator and was entirely spoofed to see McDowell inside my office. McDowell was petite and pretty, with thick-lensed glasses and a short hair. She looked rather cross sitting in my armchair.
"Mr. Land," said McDowell. "I assume you read my script."
"I did, Ms. McDowell," I replied, sitting down in my desk. I grabbed a cigar, and looked at her. "Want one?"
"I am quite alright, thanks!" she said angrily. "Look, I don't think you're the best producer for my script."
"I couldn't agree more," I said. "Thatcher loved it, but I felt it was too hookey. You'd be better taking your script somewhere else. Williams, perhaps?"
"Fine then!" McDowell shouted. She stood up and stormed out.
I leaned back in my chair. I had just thrown away a huge profitable film. That was not the best idea I have ever had. But, "Scent of Heaven" was a worthwhile manuscript, and it would make all involved doubly wealthy. I could feel it in my bones.
When Thatcher came in the next week, he looked at the script and then back at me. "I looked at some of Nosber's older films," he said. "She's done movies with Jervis, Dandermuff, and has been rumored to be working on one with Williams. Her previous films, 'The Girl and the Boy' and 'Men', they did awful in theatres, but they're huge cult successes. People love them."
"What'd you think of the actual script?" I pushed.
At this point, Thatcher sighed. "I'll be real honest with you, Charles, it's a risk. I'll direct it if you decide to go through with it...but I'm not sure it'll be worth it."
"I want to do this film!" I said. "Call the casting director. Get together a B-level cast. I want some virtually unknown actors for this. I'll get us a studio within the week."
"We have our leads," said Thatcher, walking into my office. "Hal Gardner, Jesse St. Linscott, and we got Andy Love to play the father."
"Woah, we got Andy Love?" I asked. "He's a freaking classic! I have a set in New York, but we'll be filming a few scenes in Vegas. Contact Nosber, tell her to get her arse over so we can start this film."
"And you're sure about this?" Thatcher asked. "It's not that it's a bad script, but it's not easy making Nosber films."
"It's worth the challenge."
"Mr. Land. Mr. Land, there's a call for you on line two."
"Thank you, Maple," said I. I pushed a button on my phone, and heard the soothing voice of Henrietta Nosber.
"Mr. Land, this is Henrietta Nosber. I wrote the script for 'The Scent of Heaven'."
"Yes, yes, we're ready to get this film started as soon as all the paperwork is signed."
I heard a sigh across the line. "About that, Mr. Land...I want to put this script on hold. I can't be wasting time making any movies right now."
"Is that so?" asked I. "That's...unfortunate. Well, that's fine. I'll resend the script to you immediately."
"Thank you for understanding, Mr. Land," said Nosber. "I hope this won't ruin any chance at future endeavours we may pursue."
Thatcher busted in. "Hey, Charles," he blurted out. "Great news!"
"Me too!" I shouted excitedly. "I've hired a team of lawyers to force Nosber into granting us the rights to make her film."
"Forget Nosber!" Thatcher cried. "McDowell's going to let us use her newest script, 'The Girl from Valhalla'."
"Why would I want that?" I questioned.
"Have you bothered to read it, man?" asked Thatcher, frowning. "Do you read anything that crosses your desk? You look as though you haven't shaved in a week. And is that a bottle of scotch on the desk? It's not even noon, Charles!"
"Look, all I want is to get 'The Scent of Heaven'. I can make that a movie. It will be the greatest film of our generation. No one alive will be able to tell me that such a film is not worth watching. It will make us famous, wealthy, and more socially recognizable than the President. I need this script, Thatcher."
"What you need is a dose of reality," said Thatcher. "Look, either you take 'The Girl from Valhalla' or I'm leaving. Give up this poisonous dream!"
"You'd leave me because I want to produce such a great film?" asked I.
"I'd leave because this is looking to be the worst part of your career!" Thatcher growled.
"Then go, Thatcher. Leave this place. Forget this script. Forget it all. Find another fool to fund your wild movies, I'm finished here."
Thatcher sighed. "Don't let this ruin you, Charles."
"Tell Maple that you'll need to schedule visits from now on."
"Klara L. Stark," I said sweetly as I sat down. Klara was a tall, blonde young woman who had huge success as a director. She had two Oscar nominations, several Golden Globes, and even an Emmy. "What brings you here?"
"Mr. Land, we're both well aware that you've spent a lot of money on trying to acquire the rights to Nosber's script. That is extremely honorable."
"Thank you," I said. "What does that have to do with being my new director?"
Klara smiled an innocent smile. "Don't play me for a fool, Charles. I know you want to produce that movie, to make that movie here. It's why Thatcher left. But I also know that at the rate you're going to get this, your funds are rapidly depleting.
"I offer you, Mr. Land, an alternative. I know some of the best lawyers in the country, and if you allow me to make 'The Girl from Valhalla' with you as my producer, I will allow you to borrow my lawyering team in attempt to gain the rights to 'The Scent of Heaven'."
I thought it over for a while, and said, "Come in tomorrow, this same time. I'll have your answer."
"I want an answer now, Mr. Land," said Klara sweetly.
I shook my head. "Fine, fine...deal accepted. Maple will fill out the proper paperwork. As my new director, you've no need to set up appointments with me, understood?"
"Loud and clear, Charlie," said Klara, standing up and leaving the room.
"It's been two weeks, Mr. Land," said Klara, as we stood around at the set. "Is this movie good enough for you? Or is Nosber's script still on your mind?"
"You know the answer to that, Ms. Stark," I replied. "This film is one of the greatest I've ever produced. But I know that 'The Scent of Heaven' will be my legacy. That will be the movie people remember me for. I promise you that."
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Mr. Land," said Klara, grinning.
"You're out of hand, Charles!" shouted Klara, slamming her fists on my desk.
"What the hell do you mean?" I growled.
"Don't play dumb with me, baffoon! You went to her house? You traveled all the way to Paris to visit Nosber so that you could try and personally convince her to give you the rights to her script? Is that right or wrong?"
"Stark, this is no matter of--"
"Don't even, Land! Right. Or. Wrong?"
"Fine, you win! I did that!"
Klara smacked me across the face. "Are you fucking serious, Land? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I want to make that movie," said I. "Why is that so bad of a thing to want?"
"I hope to god that one of these days, she lets you go ahead and make that damn thing," Klara growled. "I hope, after that, that it sinks and crashes like the Titanic. Its obvious that's the only thing that'll get through that thick ass bunker you call a skull."
"What would you have me do?" I hissed.
"Either you choose to keep on with 'The Girl from Valhalla', or you choose 'The Scent of Heaven'. Pick now, again, and I swear to God, if you say Nosber's goddamn script, I will throw something and walk away until you figure out what the hell you want."
"Just do me a favor?"
"Don't throw the lamp."
Klara glared at me with all the hatred of Loki in her eyes, and then grabbed my bottle of scotch and tossed it across the room, breaking the window. "You're a weak-willed bastard, Charles Land."
"So, Mr. Land," said Joshua Regan, an interviewer for some magazine, "we heard that you scrapped 'The Girl from Valhalla', a film that was also scrapped by such famed directors as Rodney Willliams and Tank Stanish."
"I'm pursuing other interests at the moment," I replied. "I just felt as though, maybe, 'The Girl from Valhalla' is a little too cheesy for my taste."
"So, are these rumors about you visiting Henrietta Nosber's house true?" asked Regan.
"Where the hell did you hear that?" I growled, making a deep gurgling sound in my throat.
"TMZ, of course," said Regan, smirking. "I'll assume its true."
"Get this punk out of my office, damnit!!" I shouted. I stood up and so did Regan, quickly taking out his notepad and pen.
"Tell me, why do you want to do this movie so bad?" Regan pressed. "It's been rejected by several producers already, and still, Nosber denies you!"
It was at that moment that rage overcame me and I punched that cocky interviewer square in the nose. Regan stumbled back a few feet, blood gushing from his nose and pouring all over the desk and floor of my office. I looked at my fist, my knuckles whitened with being clenched so hard. I could not believe that I had just punched a man.
Winston from security came in and escorted a cussing Regan out of the room. I sat down, shaking. I reached for my scotch and realized it wasn't there. Where was it? I smacked my forehead--Klara had thrown it. Klara. I picked up the phone. "Maple, love, get Ms. Stark on the phone."
"I'm surprised at you, Charles," said Klara, sitting in my office with a glass of wine. "It's been six months. And here you are, still producing 'The Girl from Valhalla'."
"Curious, isn't it?" asked I.
"Very," said Klara. "But who cares? Thatcher put in some hard work, and because of it, we have a great cast and crew. McDowell's soaking up the limelight. She's in the middle of a new script she intends to come to you with, you know."
I nodded. "So the rumors tell me."
"Will you take it?"
"I had every intent to, yes," I said, taking a deep sip from my scotch. "What's this one called, again?"
"'The Boy from Hel'," Klara answered. "It's a sequel."
"She wrote a sequel to a romance?" I asked. "That is very curious. Very curious."
Klara grinned. "In your interview with Forbes about three years ago, you mentioned that you've always wanted a series of romantic films. Here's your chance, Land."
"I'll have Maple work up all the proper paperwork, then," said I. "Thank you for the information, Miss Stark."
The premiere of 'The Gril from Valhalla' was in January. The event was hosted at Ford Theatre, and about a hundred people were invited. I took my time as I walked down the red carpet, shaking hands with various actors whose names I'd long since forgotten. Thatcher was there with his wife, and I spotted McDowell, sitting cross-legged in the front rows.
"How did you hurt your leg?" asked a hot, familiar voice behind me.
Turning, I saw Henrietta Nosber. I smiled weakly. "A skiing accident when I was in college. I've had to walk with a cane ever since."
"Your film seems successful," she said. "I'm happy for you."
"I assure you, Ms. Nosber," I replied, "it'd be a much greater film if this was 'The Scent of Heaven'."
"As of late, I'm beginning to think you're right," she sighed. She turned and looked me directly in the eyes, her beautiful brown windows full of envy. "My current option of a producer, Merrill, well...he is passionate, but he doesn't understand the movie."
"And I do?" I asked.
"I think you do."
"If you intend to have me produce this, I need to know soon," was my response. "I'd love to produce it, darling, but really I think I'll be producing 'The Boy from Hel' this spring."
"Tsk-tsk," she pouted. "Another McDowell's piece of shit? I'm so sorry. Really, you two aren't made to make movies together."
At this, I growled slightly. "And why on earth do you say that?"
"You'll see, once the movie is complete."
"Great reviews, Chuck," said one of my former directing parnters, Nebula. "'The Girl from Valhalla' is a straight up success. Not one bad review in any of the press."
"Should I work on the sequel?" I asked my current counsel. Nebula was one of the four that came to my office at my request. The other three were Thatcher, Klara, and a new scouting agent named Lincoln, who had recently become employed to my company.
"I think it is the most wise decision," said Nebula. "I mean, what else could you do?"
"Nosber's working with Merrill," Thatcher said.
"Actually, it turns out that there's been a whole mess up with that," said Lincoln. "Carmine Benson was producing a film for Celeste Loop, but then Loop went and fled to Merrill. Merrill abandoned 'The Scent of Heaven' for Loop's film, and now Benson and Nosber are out of movie deals."
"No lawsuit took place?" asked Klara, raising her eyebrows in a disapproving manner.
Lincoln shrugged. "Sounds like their paperwork was botched so that no lawsuit could take place."
"Winston," said Klara. "She'll go to Winston."
"Actually, it's entirely possible that she might--"
"No, she'll go to Winston," growled Thatcher, both he and Klara giving Lincoln a rotten look.
"Sign us up for 'The Boy from Hel'," I sighed. "Might as well go with a garauntee."
"And who will direct it?" asked Klara, raising a curious eyebrow. "Thatcher and I are both here."
"Lincoln, you direct too, don't you?" asked I.
"I refuse to direct McDowell's script," said Lincoln sulkily.
I shrugged. Then, I poured myself a glass of scotch. "Someone call Nosber."
"You just said you wouldn't try to make her film!" Klara hissed.
"Nor do I intend to," I replied. "I want her to direct this film."
My office became very quiet. "You're going to ask Nosber, a writer, to direct a film?" was what Thatcher got out.
"She has lots of potential, old friend," I said. "Her script was detailed and well-laid out, so that even a mediocre director would pull it off exactly as she wanted it. I imagine, as a director, she'll waste no time adjusting the screenplay to her standards. McDowell, now a critically acclaimed writer in the movie business, with her genius ideas and ability to create such a wonderful story, and Nosber's unique style of storytelling should blow this sequel through the roofs."
Klara just shook her head. "You don't understand, Charles. You just don't get it." With that, she walked off.
"I think it's brilliant, sir," said Lincoln, shaking my hand.
I smiled at him. "Thank you, Ace." I turned to see Thatcher and Nebula. "What do you two think?"
"It's risky," said Nebula. "But I'm in, if you'll have me."
"I support you, Charles," said Tatcher, with a weak smile. "I just hope you're making the right decision."
"Where are we, with the film?"
"Well, Mr. Land, we've filmed the last half of the movie," said Nosber, smiling. "We're working on the first half next month."
I raised an impressed eyebrow. "You filmed a feature length film in two months?"
"Well, not yet sir," said Nosber. "But we will have."
Relaxing in my chair a bit, I smiled wide. "That's what I like to hear!"
"A second film was released less than twelve months after the first," Lincoln said. "That's incredible."
"All thanks to Nosber," said I. "She was brilliant. Truly brilliant. the premiere is next week."
Lincoln nodded. "So, here comes another big decision. McDowell's written the epic conclusion to this trilogy, 'The Child of Midgard'. McDowell is, of course, perfectly willing to go to you. But Nosber's considering putting out her script again."
"Klara will want me to to 'Midgard'," I said. "She'll expect me to do it now, now that the hype for 'The Boy from Hel' is so high."
"Sir, completing the trilogy may be the best option," Lincoln said.
I nodded. "Maybe. Just maybe."
"You pompus arse!" Klara screamed. "You moronic son-of-a-bitch, evil, sadistic, pathological lying scumbag! You douchebag dickhole! What the hell is your damage, you limp-limbed, fart-chugging, pot-burning maniac! How dare you! How. Dare. You."
"Look, Klara, sometimes, the investment doesn't pay off," I replied.
"Don't give me that excuse, Charles Land! You denied McDowell's script and now she's going to some no-name producer named Salkman. You gave up the rights to one of the best movie trilogies of our generation to get a script not worth having."
"It is worth having," I growled. "I have been attempting to get this script for the past year and a half, Klara, to no avail. I have my opprotunity now. I have a chance to take the damn script, make the damn movie, and make my legacy as a producer."
"You don't get it!" Klara shouted.
"What don't I get?" I hissed.
"She will NEVER give you that script. She doesn't want you to make her movie, Charles. As much as you try and as many times as you offer her money, you lost your chance. You will not be getting that film anytime soon. Not in this lifetime. You blew it a year and a half ago, and now you'll never, ever, EVER have it. And good ridance. Waste your life fighting to make a C-grade film. I don't even care anymore. I've been hired to direct McDowell's script, and I hope to God that its the most popular movie of all time, and that everyone loves it, and that you truly realize everything you sacrificed for a chance at something good. That is my last wish for you, you scruffy-looking nerf-herder!" With that, she hustled out of the door, slamming it on her way out, and knocking down a picture.
I sighed. "Maple, hun, can you bring in another bottle of scotch."
"In other news," said the news anchor, "famous director Thatcher Boykin has officially retired from the movie business. His latest film, a sci-fi thriller which redefined the entire genre."
Lincoln turned the television off. "How ya doin', boss."
"Bad," I answered. "My dear Mr. Lincoln, I fear that the film is not going to be mine."
Lincoln pursed his lips. "Ah. That. Yes."
I nodded in agreement. "What is to happen now? I've lost McDowell. She's working with Tiberius Salkman. Klara, Thatcher, Nebula...all gone from me. And it certainly seems as though Nosber has no interest in following through with her film."
"I doubt that," said Lincoln. "Its just that, you see, you two don't mix. Oh sure, it seemed like it. In your mind, it will always seem like a great match. But in all honesty, dude, there's clearly not a worse alternative. You making Nosber's film is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. It's a bad idea. I'm sorry for that, too. I wanted it to work just as much as you did. I trully did, Charles. But...well, sometimes it doesn't work out. That's just the way the world works."
I looked at Lincoln and smiled. "Thank you. Very much."
"Anytime," said he. "Just remember. There are always other movies. There are millions of movies in the world already."
"I believe you are correct."