Tommy Tantrum was a dead man. On the movie I’d been hired to fix—an uncredited production rewrite—he’d found a way to exclude me from a couple hours of rehearsal. During his window alone with the cast, he suggested our three star amigos try on a pair of new scenes he’d generated the night before. He’d thrown me under the bus by telling the angry trio that the new (very poorly written) scenes had been penned by me.
On the hike back to my production hovel, I found myself suddenly flanked by producer Wong Fu and studio executive, Marty Maybe.
“What he did is inexcusable,” said Wong Fu. “You have every right to blow a gasket.”
“Just don’t walk,” begged Marty. “We all need to calm down.”
“You know what’s in my room safe?” I said. “First class ticket back to L.A. I’m packing up my shit and going home.”
“You can’t leave the movie,” urged Marty.
“Watch me,” I said. “You and I both know I have no deal.”
I wasn’t lying. My initial agreement with the company called for a mutual guarantee of a few weeks. I was more than five days into the netherworld of a new negotiation.
As hard as they tried, I wouldn’t be swayed. I recall that I was packing up my laptop when the duo returned, shut and stood sentry inside my office door.
“Okay, hear us out,” calmed Wong. “We just talked to Tommy and he wants to straighten things out.”
“Nothing to straighten out,” I said. “I’m outta here.”
“He knows he fucked up bad,” said Wong. “He wants to apologize.”
“I really don’t care anymore.”
“Look. You have every reason to quit. And nobody will blame you cuz he’s a big, sucking a-hole. But hear him out, okay? Let him apologize. Then quit.”
“Swear to God if I see his face I’m gonna run my fist through it.”
“Just let him apologize,” pleaded Marty.
“Seriously, Marty,” I said. “You don’t want me in the same room with the prick.”
For about ten minutes they blocked my exit, pulling out all stops for me to hear the bastard out. They promised me Tommy wanted to rectify his horrible act. Somehow the pistons driving my anger were eventually deprived of oxygen, throttling my engine back to somewhere short of actual director-cide. Thusly I allowed myself to be walked three doors down to Tommy’s office.
“Listen, Doug,” began Tommy, the moment I arrived at his threshold. “Lemme explain–“
“This is your apology?” I interrupted. Tommy began to get up from behind his desk. I made two steps forward and balled my right fist. “So help me, Tommy. If you get outta that chair I’m gonna pound you to hell!”
“I just wanted to tell you–“ whined the director before I took a step even closer, fist cocked and ready to drop it like Thor’s legendary hammer.
“Shut the fuck up!” I barked at him, watching him cower back into his swiveling seat. “You don’t get to apologize to me you brainless fuck! You get to sit there and listen to what I have to say!”
As Tommy spread his hands in sudden surrender, so began my screaming tirade. I practically shattered my vocal cords while excoriating him for the spineless lie of telling the cast that I’d written those unreadable pages of excrement that he’d obviously produced himself. But I didn’t stop there. I leapt into a litany of acts he’d perpetrated on cast and crew over the past month. From the abusive to the unexplainably moronic. I think I even told him he had so far proven uniquely unqualified to direct any movie and that he’d have failed or been fired if the production team hadn’t already saved his ass so many times.
Every so often, in the midst of my moral blast, Tommy would try to stand and interject. Each time, I’d take another step closer, raise my fist and repeat the promise to bloody him into next week.
All the while, both Wong Fu and Marty Maybe sat back, smugly enjoying the oh-so-rare sight of a writer teeing off on a narcissistic, ass-clown of a film director. How it all would end, they hadn’t a clue. But in that moment, I could see they were digging the show.
Eventually, I allowed Tommy Tantrum to depart from his seat and attempt his apology. It was, as one might expect, lamer than an old tin of instant coffee left to rot in back of my mother’s pantry.
“I made a mistake,” he proclaimed as if his message was sermonic. “I thought I’d written something funny and it sucked, okay?”
“After which you told actors I wrote it!” I slammed home.
“What can I say? I panicked,” Tommy shamelessly admitted. “I didn’t want ‘em to lose trust in me, their director.”
“Whoops,” sounded Wong Fu from the cheap seats.
“I’m gonna make this right,” said Tommy. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re the writer. You’re the writer. You’re the writer.”
Of course, I didn’t believe a word of it and trusted the douchebag as far as I could shake a flea. I recall walking out of his office to a sea of production staff, their faces charting everything from discomfort to sheer amusement. Clearly, they’d heard nearly every word of my high-volume rant.
Wong Fu patted my back as I walked back to my writer’s hole.
“That was somethin’,” he said. “Bet nobody’s ever talked to him like that.”
“Whatever,” I replied, hardly sated. But sanguine enough to know I wasn’t going to unlock that first class ticket in my room safe. At least, not that day.
The picture started rolling film and, soon after, I’d written enough that they allowed me to return home, sending polished pages from my home office.
There’s an obvious dissatisfaction that comes with writing on a movie without credit. Yet there’s something strangely satisfying about the anonymity that comes from being the one who helped work such a movie into success. Between the two poles is the knowledge that, despite my silent efforts, most of the credit is usually accrued to the director whose reps surely parlayed the box office into more money and power for their less-than-deserving client.
I’d like to tell you that karma caught up with Tommy Tantrum. And maybe, in some abstract way it has. A caustic, antibiotic-resistant venereal disease, perhaps? But I really wouldn’t know. Nor care for that matter. I haven’t spoken to him in ages. Have no plans to. Nor do I give a tinker’s whit.
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