BEHIND THE LINES WITH DR: What is Your Number?

Doug Richardson’s first produced feature was the sequel to Die Hard, Die Harder. Visit Doug’s site for more Hollywood war stories and information on his popular novels.

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What is Your NumberWhat is Your Number?

You’ve heard the terms to describe a certain type of person. All talk, no action. All sizzle, no steak. All foam, no beer. Or one of my all time favorites that derived in Texas, all hat, no cattle.

These are all terms to describe somebody who speaks a big game but never really delivers.

My old man had another way of describing this kind of blow hard. He’d say that person had a high P to BS ratio. The P standing for Product. The BS standing for, well, you can probably figure that out.

“See that guy?” he’d say. “He talks a big game. Too bad he’s got a damn high P to BS ratio.”

I’m partial to this description. Not just because it came from my father. But because it offers a calculus to measure one’s own dithering versus one’s actual doing.

I’d like to think I have a reasonably low P to BS ratio. At least that’s the standard I try to live up—or should I say—down to. Maybe even to a fault. I so don’t care to talk about what I’m doing that I have been known to flummox both my agents and my beloved War Department. Relatives have often complained that I never tell them what I’m working on. I’d explain that it’s not because I’m so secretive. I’d just rather show you than explain it to you.

Then there was my mom.

“Whatcha working on, honey?” she would ask.

“Same kinda stuff,” I’d say. “Loud action movies with lots of foul language.”

“Ha ha ha,” she’d say with petroleum thick sarcasm. “I’m sure you are. But seriously.”

“Okay.”

“Anything special?”

“They’re all special, mom.”

“None more special than the other?”

“Love ‘em the same, mom. Just like your children.”

“Who says I love you the same?”

“I know you love me less. Shoulda seen that one coming.”

“Why won’t you talk to me about what you do?” she begrudged.

“Just don’t like to talk about stuff until it’s real.”

“But I’m your mom.”

“Yes. And next time I talk to you, you’ll ask about that thing I told you about. And I might have to say it’s not happening because it didn’t happen.”

“Why wouldn’t it happen?”

“Which is exactly what you would ask next,” I’d say, going on to explain, “Because some things don’t work out. A million reasons why a movie falls apart. And it’s no fun explaining it. In fact, it’s like reliving a nightmare.”

“Even if you’re telling your mom.”

“Especially if I’m explaining it to my mom.”

“Because I love you?”

“Because you’re way too curious.”

“Is that wrong to be curious about my own child’s job?”

“It’s a lovely gift that sometimes goes awry.”

“Like now?”

“Just be satisfied I’m working. I’m getting paid well. I’m happy with what I do.”

“It’s your father’s fault,” she said. “It’s that P to baloney thing he always talks about.”

Pop’s fault or otherwise, I’d just rather keep my own counsel, do my work, and wait for the studio publicity machine to gin up interest for the only folks who truly matter. The consumers of whatever product I’ve had a part in making.

But that’s just me.

So many others would rather tell you, talk at you, describe to you, natter and yack and illustrate for you their grand plans for success. And yet, so many months later, when you cross paths with same person and ask about his latest endeavor, he seems to have moved on to another scheme, thus beginning a whole ‘nother cycle of ear-bending bunk.

Like this schmuck:

“Hey Doug,” he said. “You know anybody in the video game biz?”

“I might’ve met somebody,” I said politely.

“Cuz I got this bangin’ concept,” El Schmucko went on to say. “Video game based on an actual historical event. And that’s just the first platform. It expands into a movie, then a TV show, merchandising, commercial ties ins.”

“Sounds big,” I said.

“Gonna be huge,” he continued. “Just gotta tie up the last rights’ holder. Lawyers, you know.”

“Oh. I know.”

“So you said you might know somebody?”

“In the gaming game?”

“Video games. Yeah.”

“I know people who know people,” I explained. “More like that.”

“Can you put me in touch with them?” To make things more sticky, El Schmucko was asking me this question with a straight, I’m serious-about-this-shit face.

“Not really my wheelhouse,” I deflected.

“But you said you might know somebody.”

Yes. It’s true. I might’ve known somebody. Somebody who might even matter in the video gaming universe. But for El Schmucko to assume I might make the intro based on his informing me that he’s sitting on top of a King Solomon’s goldmine concept is a mighty stretch. And I’ll usually lay strong odds that whatever intellectual property rights he’s locked up are attached to some other halfwit’s Rube Goldberg construct of ownership which is sure to include more lawyers, an unbreachable family trust or two, a vellum covenant between the Vatican and the Illuminati, and a once-in-a-millenium alignment of Jupiter, Pluto, and a ripe pimple on Kim Kardashian’s most infamous asset.

You see, El Schmucko’s idea of a business plan is to light a candle at both ends in hope that when the two flames meet there’ll be some sort of chemical-like cataclysm that somehow manifests in million dollar bills raining down on him from the heavens.

In essence, El Schmucko has a pretty big number. And as one might expect, when I next bump into him and ask about his last killer concept, he’ll inform me that even though the video game “thing” was still in play, he has a new grand scheme to resurrect the IP’s on nineteen-seventies era game shows in order to turn them into ninety-nine cent smartphone apps.

We all know these folks. Hell, I’ll wager some of you might not merely be acquainted with, but are even up to your nose-hairs in business with one of these high-quotient charlatans. If so, good luck. Or maybe you should grab your toys and run for the exit.

More importantly, take a look in the mirror and put a number on what you see.

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Behind the Lines with DR by Doug Richardson, Screenwriting How-To Articles
Doug Richardson

About Doug Richardson

Doug Richardson, attended USC’s School of Cinema. After finishing college, Doug signed a two-year contract with Warner Brothers. In 1989 he garnered national attention when his spec screenplay was the first in Hollywood to sell for a million dollars. Doug’s first feature film, the sequel to Die Hard, Die Harder, was produced in 1990. He has since written and produced feature films including the box office smash Bad Boys and Hostage. To date, Doug’s features have grossed over 800 million dollars worldwide. Doug writes a weekly blog sharing his screenwriter war stories on dougrichardson.com. His novels, the latest being a crime thriller series, are now available. Follow Doug on Twitter @byDougRich.

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