Chameleon Scriptwriting

I’ve got stuck more than once working on chameleon scripts for a fixed fee. As a new screenwriter, you’ll want to avoid that if you can.

For example, I signed onto a project that had Brad Pitt and Leonard DiCaprio both attached to it. Sweet, huh? It was an “Absolute Power” meets “Predator” meets “All the President’s Men” thing, where the President of the United States turns out to be an alien who must eat human flesh at least once a day. Pitt and DiCaprio play the Clint and Dustin roles and Abe said that casting was still looking for a Redford.

But after I’d slaved over the the script for a week, Abe called to say that Pitt and DiCaprio were out and Ben Foster was in. Abe said that Foster being Foster, he’d have to play the crazy flesh-eater and that what we actually had here now was “Nosfetatu” meets “In the Line of Fire,” so that instead of a Redford type, they now needed a new Clint type opposite Foster. On this script I worked a week and went to AA more times than I got drunk, which is rare.

Then Abe calls and tells me that Foster is off the project and instead they’ve got Paul Giamatti. He can’t play a crazy flesh-eater and he’s not right for the President. I know that he was John Adams, but they’re still laughing about that in Hollywood, so no. Instead, the script goes out the window and I have to start from scratch with Giamatti playing that congressman from Idaho who adopted the wide stance.

Irregularity in Adults

My agent called me at Hollywood Park between the second and third races, and told me that if I could dictate a script to him on the spot, over the phone, for a FluxIt commercial, he could put some money in my pocket by the end of the week.

I like screenwriting like this. It’s as if you’re on the front line in a war, filing dispatches. Tell your agent that you’d like to try it.

Here’s what I came up with. It made me enough to cover most of my losses for the day.

[Carol, knocking on her neighbor’s door. Marge answers the door.]

Carol: Hi, Marge. I wanted to tell you that I’m on my way down to St. Luke’s. My husband Mike suffered a massive heart attack last night…

Marge, as her iPhone beeps: Hang on, Carol. I’ve got to scamper off to the bathroom or I’ll poop right here in my shorty pajamas.

[She runs for it. Carol shakes her head and smiles.]

Carol, to herself and to us: How does she do it? You could set your watch by her.

[Later, at the hospital.]

Doctor: I’m sorry, Carol, but you husband is dead.

Carol: That is so sad! Say, Doctor, my neighbor is “regular” as clockwork. How does she poop on schedule like that?

Doctor: She probably uses FluxIt. FluxIt works every time, on time. Why not try it yourself?

Carol: Oh, Doctor, I’m terribly constipated. In fact, I’m impacted. Could FluxIt handle that?

Doctor, laughing: You could have a colon full of concrete and FluxIt would blast it out. Plus, you can use it at 1/16 strength on your large dog, or at 1/24 strength on your small dog or cat, or at 1/48 strength on rabbits, gerbils, and rats, or at 1/64 strength on your parakeet, or at 1/72 strength on your kid’s goldfish.

Carol, laughing: Just hearing that makes me want to go right now! I’m buying FluxIt, frack it!