“This had better be important!” I bellowed as I saw Bill Weakly, chief of Chicago operations, coming towards me. “I’m winning this golf game and I don’t like to be interrupted!” (Actually, I always win anyway; no one wants to be on my bad side.)
“Well, sir, it is,” Weakly countered. “I think you need to see something.”
The look in his eyes made me put down my club. True, confidence in my executive abilities had been waning lately after the company met a few headwinds last November. Everyone wondered if I was off my game. I nodded and got in the waiting limousine. “It had *&!!* better be good!”
He briefed me as I munched on Fritos and poured myself a scotch in the limo.
“Remember that project we discussed? The secret one, the big story? Well, Leon Spook went ahead. It’s underway and we thought you needed to know,” Weakly explained.
“I had put that on hold since it first popped up in August! I’m just not sure about it. Couldn’t I just keep my waffle?” I ventured.
“Spook didn’t think so. But don’t worry, it will be great PR for the company.”
Our firm, DNC productions, had been floundering of late. The company’s reputation for putting out solid hits had taken a hit itself. So it was with a lot of hope that I went into the studio to see if we could produce a change. Evidently I was running late. Everyone expected me to show an hour earlier. Ruined a screening for some celebrity apprentice guy, but – hey – I didn’t like him anyway.
DNC had its hands on a new script that looked like it could deliver the kind of box office success we had achieved just three years ago. Some doubted I could score again as I did with my 2008 blockbuster. I’ll show them! I settled into my black leather chair at the head of the table and listened as our 50-ish thin executive started to roll the first takes of the enterprise.
All eyes were glued to the screen. Thirteen of us watched the 40 minute film intently, sipping old coffee from the environmentally correct cups on the table. Then it was over.
Producer Rodham put her hand to her mouth and gasped.
“Will it work?” she said. “I don’t know.”
It was an action film – a pretty straightforward one. Good guys kill bad guy. But how would it play in New Hampshire? Iowa? Or Islamabad?
“Needs work,” said the executive. “I’m not sure if a story about a crack military team invading a terrorist’s lair, conducting a firefight, killing him and taking custody of his body is dramatic enough – or believable.”
“I know what you mean,” director Brennan said. “It might come off as a little too imperialistic. A little too harsh. Wouldn’t play in San Francisco. Did the guy even have a chance? There isn’t much fun in shooting fish in a barrel. Too easy. We’re going to have to have the enemy blazing away at the military.” The others agreed. We’d need a rewrite.
“Yeah, but he’s the bad guy,” said Robert Bates, a leftover from the last CEO, a real jingoist and pain in the ass. “How about he uses his wife as a human shield?”
“I like it!” I said. “Is Angelina free? She’d be great. Does she die or just get shot? Too bad Charlton Heston is dead; he’d have been great as the terrorist.”
“I don’t know about Angelina,” said Leo Spook. We can work that out later. All Hollywood wants to work for you. At least there’s that.”
Brennan spoke up. “We can’t ignore the chick flick box office. How about his daughter sees him die in a heart wrenching twist?”
“Sounds good,” the others said. “Or how about lots of children? And let’s milk it by explaining how the wife hasn’t been out of the house for 5 years either. You know – the ‘stand by your man’ angle.”
Rodham agreed. It had worked for her in other scenarios.
“How about adding another wife or two?” asked my number 2, Joey Liden. “We’ve got to steam this thing up!”
“I got it!” said Rodham. “When they first get to the compound he’s naked and they shoot him in the buff!”
“You can’t shoot an unarmed man in this man’s USA even if he’s a bad guy,” said Spook. “They would see he doesn’t have a gun and couldn’t defend himself!”
“What if there just happened to be an AK 47 near the bed and he reaches for it and powie! they open fire. If they find guns in the room, he’d be a threat and it would be OK to shoot him then.”
“That’s more like it,” Brennan said. But shouldn’t there be more men in the room so we could have a bigger fire fight? And is it a violent death like in “No Country for Old Men” or a dramatic, lengthy demise?”
“Slow down,” I said. “Let’s change and have the team hack their way to the third floor where they find him in bed with 2 women.”
“Do you expect us to believe that a guy this wanted wouldn’t have guards on duty on the first floor? Wouldn’t he have heard the fire fight below and jumped out a window or something? Didn’t any of his neighbors suspect anything?” Weakly asked.
“Our audience? Are you kidding me? They’ll believe anything. They even believed it when I said I sat in the theater audience for 20 years and don’t remember one movie I saw.”
Rodham confirmed this. “As long as you feed it to them correctly they’ll believe it. It depends on the definition of what was, was.”
“Just in case, how about adding a dog?, ” Spook suggested. “Cute dog, comes in, chases the terrorist and becomes a hero. Instant box office. Then, we could make a spinoff of the dog story alone. Kind of a Cujo with a cuddly side.”
“I love it!.” I said. “That’d be a big f-ing deal,” added Liden. “And how’s this for the ending? The team grabs his computer and his body and they make their way to the helicopters only to find one has mechanical trouble. They all pile into the other one just as the enemy blows up the broken one!”
“No, let’s try having our own guys blow up the helicopter. As they are leaving, they see kids stream in and cart off the pieces! But we’ve got the body so we can get DNA,” suggested Spook. “Then we take the body and here’s where it turns all sobby. The Americans are so upright they take the body to the ship, clean it up, wrap it and give a 40 minute religious ceremony before they dump it in the sea. No one will miss the Christ reference as we put him into his grave. The squidgy, upper West Side, green preaching liberals will love this touch!”
“With a little rewriting, it’ll work,” I said. “Now how about the marketing?”
Spook says, “I have just the pictures for the promos. They’ll show all the gore and people will be dying to see how it’s enacted on the screen.”
“Now, now, I said. “None of that spiking the football, hoorah business. Our audience is very squeamish. You keep your photos, Leon, and I’ll go around the country talking about how great this flick is. If they see the pictures, they’ll move on to the next production and where will my audience be?”
Heads nodded – some reluctantly.
“Boys, that’s a wrap!”