So we’ve established that I hate being late. And on my studio rewrite, I was beyond late. Like a credit card bill long past due. Excused for each delay by my exec, Signor Veepi, due to both a conga-line of unforeseen family circumstances and opportunity.
But now I was faced with a delay entirely of my own making. A director pal had penned multiple drafts of a movie screenplay using my story, characters, outline, and supervision. To be ready for market the script needed a hard week of my concentrated attention.
Considering I was way past due with the studio rewrite, I thought, what’s one more week? After all, my more-than-able executive had the politics handled. So instead of taking a couple of breather days after delivering my CBS pilot, I changed into my guerilla gear and burned office hours while my director pal looked over my shoulder. In seven consecutive days, I polished up the spec in my voice and we had, what we felt, was something very special to bring to the town. The script went to our agents and, at last, I returned to the long delayed action/comedy rewrite.
Both William Morris and Endeavor agents flipped over the feature spec. So much so that they wanted to immediately begin slipping it to stars who’d expressed interest in working with my director pal.
“Whoa,” I cautioned. Filmed entertainment may be a big business. But Hollywood’s a very small town. Everything that had caused delay to Signor Veepi’s studio rewrite had been legitimate and above board. If a hot spec script suddenly appeared on the bulletin boards with my name attached to it, he’d never believe that I’d stolen only seven days from him.
Yes. I said it. Stolen. I was obligated to spend any time I wasn’t working on the CBS pilot on the long-delayed rewrite. But what’s seven days, right? Hell, I coulda been stricken with an illness for those seven days, had an emergency appendectomy, or accidentally burned the side of my face having mistaken my George Foreman grill for the house telephone.
Yeah. I was already eye-balls deep into rationalizing. Which might explain why my gut churned. Signor Veepi had been nothing but patient. And by taking that extra week I’d repaid him with contempt. Having taken advantage of his good nature, I believed I owed him something in return. So I decided to throw him more than a bone. But a juicy porterhouse with fixin’s.
“Hey, man,” I said over the phone. “Got something for you.”
“Yeah?” said Signor Veepi. “What?”
I then described what had transpired over the past few months. My director pal. The back-pocket story. The spec I’d supervised then guerrilla rewritten over seven arduous days.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Signor Veepi. “As long as you’re on the rewrite now.”
“I am,” I promised. “Nothing else in my way. But…”
“Still feel I owe you,” I explained. “So here’s what I want to do. I want you to have first crack at the spec.”
“Yeah, great!” he answered. “I’d really appreciate that.”
“We’re slipping it to actors. So you’re the only studio exec that’ll get to see it. Your eyes only.”
“Fine. Send it over.”
“Can’t,” I said. “The director and agents are paranoid that copies might get out there. So what I can do is offer you a read only. My office. Just you and the script and some Starbucks. If you like it and wanna go further with it, then we can discuss.”
“I’m in. When?”
The next AM arrived. A Friday. Signor Veepi showed up at my Valley abode with a super-sized cup of java. I parked him in my office rocker with a fresh-printed script and left him for about ninety-minutes. I was seated at my desk trolling email when he finished. He looked at me and dead-dropped the script at his feet.
“And?” I asked.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” he complained.
“Obviously,” I apologized. “You didn’t dig it.”
“I fucking love it,” he sounded. “It’s amazing. You’re gonna sell it to somebody. But I can’t fucking buy it.”
“Okay. I’m more than a little lost here.”
“You’re way late with the rewrite. How the hell can I go to my boss and ask him to buy your spec? Even worse, when somebody else buys it, I’m gonna get killed for not having had the first crack.”
“You are getting the first crack. That’s why you’re here.”
“Jeezus. Now I’m totally fucked on this.” he said, standing. “I gotta get back to my office.”
I walked Signor Veepi to his car. Before he climbed in I apologized once more.
“I’m really sorry if I wasted your time,” I said. “The whole point of this was give you a head start on the town.”
“Yeah, I know you meant well,” he said. “And it’s not even fair of me to ask you to wait until you deliver the rewrite.”
“See what I can do,” I said.
“Get the rewrite in, and we’ll be good.” With that, Signor Veepi climbed into his car and drove off.
Suffice it to say, the encounter hadn’t worked out as planned. Even his praise of the quality of the spec left me feeling as if I’d failed. The bone I’d offered as thanks for all his patience had been projectile-spewed back at me.
What was left for me to do but roll up my sleeves and polish off the rewrite? So that’s precisely what I did. And I owed it to him to make absolutely certain that it was as good or better than the spec I’d just made him read.
Fast forward about ten days where I received an evening mobile phone call from Signor Veep.
“So where’s my goddamn rewrite?” spat Signor Veepi over a dubious mobile phone connection.
I was at a raucous basketball game in the West Valley. The gymnasium was packed. The cheers and howls were bouncing off the cinder block walls like ten thousand trapped crows that couldn’t find a window to fly through. It would be an understatement to say it was hard to have a cell phone conversation amidst the hubbub.
“It’s coming,” I shouted over the din. “Nothing else in front of me. We’ve worked that out.”
“When?” barked Signor Veepi.
“About four weeks,” I said, pretty much speaking out of my ass.
“Not soon enough,” I think I heard him say.
“I’m at a basketball game,” I said. “Really loud in here. Can we talk about this tomorrow morning?”
“My boss is way up my ass. I need the rewrite now!”
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“I’m not around,” he just said. “Just get me the goddamn script. Hear me?” Then Signor Veepi hung up.
In my career, I couldn’t recall an executive laying me out like that. Then again, through my journey, I was oh-so-rarely this late to the party. For the life of me, I don’t recall who won the basketball game. But I did realize that was the moment when Signor Veepi, who had played on my team for so long, had switched back to the studio’s side.
Next week, the conclusion of LATE TO THE PARTY.
- More Behind the Lines with Doug Richardson
- Behind the Lines with DR: Holding a Grudge
- Good in a Room: 17 Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Hollywood Rookie
Tools to Help: