21 days later, the script was completed. Now, all that was needed was to talk to the creator of the story and get his okay. Sounds easy enough, right? But remember, there was just the slightest of hitches. I had not spoken to him since I got the job. I had instructed the director to keep him busy while I sorted through his story. Before I did call, I decided to get my ducks in a row. Copies of the screenplay went to the Director and Producer. If they had comments, it would be better to start here. After all, one was making it and the other, most importantly, was putting up the money. Initial comments from Matt (director) were good. Suzanne, guardedly optimistic, would hold off judgment until the table read.
The call was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon. The author was on the east coast. I decided the best course of action was to remain overly enthusiastic. Whenever the author would bring up a particular note, I would let forth with another gush of just how lucky I was to be chosen to work on such a terrific story in such a terrific business. When pressed harder, I gently reminded him that the reading was in a week. Let’s just see what happens there. He reluctantly agreed, but not before insisting his original rock song play over the opening or closing credits. Wait? What? An original song. If I had seen something like that, I am quite sure I would’ve cut that. Maybe I should consider putting that back in.
Paramount Studios on a Saturday afternoon is a ghost town. Not much happening. To be truthful, I am not sure why. I have been several times in the eighties and nineties, and it was always busy. At least, this weekend the outdoor tank was up. How many naval battles had been fought in this historic swimming pool on steroids? I stopped off quickly at the studio Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and got caffeinated, just before it was time to meet Suzanne De Laurentiis in the flesh.
Suzanne, oh Suzanne, 3rdcousin to Dino, is a firecracker with flaming red hair and artificial upper half. We adjourned to her office and she immediately went into a pitch for her new creative obsession, “The Suzanne Show.” She pitched it as Oprah for menopausal women. “You get a hot flash.” You get a hot flash.” “Everybody gets a hot flash.” Oh, yes, and don’t forget the cooking segments. Anyways, I was polite, listened and agreed to think about it. I mean what was I going to say?
The Lucille Ball Theatre is an intimate little screening room that had been converted into a conference room. Inside, a group of young, fresh-faced actors, laptops open, prepared for the reading. From their puzzled expression, I guessed they were seeing the script for the first time. I introduced myself and adjourned to the back to set up my complicated recording device. In actuality, my recording device was an iPhone 4. But, hey, still plenty complicated. Suzanne swept in with her entourage of one and introduced all and the reading started promptly at 2pm.
Despite the puzzled faces on the actors, the reading was well. According to the actors later, the raised eyebrows were attributed to the changes in the material. Sometime, early in the second act, Suzanne abruptly left, leaving her entourage in charge. We finished the reading, posed for a couple of pictures. Whoever entourage was, he too had trouble with the complicated iPhone 4. The pictures are, how do you put this politely, blurry as fuck. Feedback was great, the actors laughing and celebrating the improvements over the last reading. Suzanne must not have shared in that enthusiasm. Like Elvis, De Laurentiis had left the building.
Saying goodbyes to the cast, I called the director in the parking lot. “It could not have gone better,” I explained.
“What do you mean?”
“The producer left before it was over.”
"Blurry as fuck." (The exciting conclusion of "The Lighthouse Keeper" next week.
THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER
“World War II is over… but someone hasn't surrendered!”
The press small release, dated 05/13/13, was as follows:
“Los Angeles based producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis will collaborate with Andre Sadowski on their upcoming film The Lighthouse Keeper. The film is scheduled to go into pre-production this summer.”
“The Lighthouse Keeper is a horror film set off the coast of New England during WWII. An elite German SS soldier is sent to America and uses a lighthouse as his base of operations. His ardent nationalism blinds him to the fall of the Third Reich and he continues a murderous campaign for years, overtaking the area surrounding the lighthouse. A group of college students are brought to his shores and become the next target in the Keeper's twisted mission. They must try to end his reign of terror before his quest for final victory claims more lives.”
The original script, a horror thriller by Andre Sadowski, was in need a rewrite. It had just undergone the first table-read and Suzanne DeLaurentiis ( 2nd cousin to the immortal Dino), having been informed of my one week turn-around on “Axe to Grind,” hired me to apply first aid – stat! Most importantly, I was to be paid in cash. Half now, and half upon delivery. I would be a literary Sam Spade. All that was missing was the $50.00 a day in expenses. The clock was ticking. I was given one month before the 2ndtable read at Paramount Studios.
I dug in immediately, reading and re-reading to determine the strength of the outline. I decided to strip the script of all dialogue to determine the story’s overall structure. There were weaknesses in all three acts, I carefully added scenes/beats to flesh out the story in order for it to make sense. Keep in mind, making sense in a horror film is all relative. The story merely needs to be believable in a a Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13thpart 3-D, kind of way. Once that was feat accomplished, I went to work rewriting the script.
So, I am about ten days in, working fast and attempting to make it to deadline when I hear from the director. Apparently, the original writer was under the impression that this was going to be a collaborative rewrite; the two of us holding hands in the spirit of true brotherhood. Whoops. To make matters worse, the original writer wanted to see what I had done so far. Keep in mind, this is something that I NEVER, EVER do. The best plan of action is always to charge ahead. I instructed the director to keep the writer busy until I finished. Keep the vision in my head clear, I reasoned. Keep the eye on the prize.
Now, just a friendly reminder. This is not Pulitzer Prize winning material here. This is horror. Teens disembark from a pleasure cruise at an island lighthouse and die, one by one, at the hands of a murderous Nazi. I know the rules. All of the rules. Including the rule that the first victims need to be the couple just about to make sweet, sweet love in some deserted or remote corner of the island.
Three weeks later a rough draft was completed, and a copy went to the entire production team. There were some minor notes and a phone call was booked between the original writer, the director and me. The call was to be in on a Saturday and it would be the first time that I would exchange words with the man who created the Nazi Lighthouse keeper. How would he react? Would he be angry over the lack of collaboration? Would he track me down and dispose of me like one of his victims in his story?
To be continued...
Or as I like to call it, JERRY LEWIS DAY!
Odds and ends to end the summer!
How about a big round of virtual applause for last week’s guest, Dwayne Epstein. Such a great interview. We had so many guests on the site last week that our web counter actually broke. LOL. Thanks, Dwayne. Seriously, I wish him continued success with his great biography, “Lee Marvin: Point Blank.” If you have not purchased this yet, what are you waiting for! Please check it out. You will not be disappointed.
As we move into Fall, we will be having more great guests so, stay tuned.
A big shout-out to Jessica for her “Son of Ravage” short and sweet review: “Holy cats! If you like a lot of action and some fun characters, this is an enjoyable read. Looking forward to the next adventures.” Yes, we are still keeping track of reviews, so please keep those cards and letters coming.
Have you been checking out ALL the comments on jplinde.com? There’s a reader who reported that he worked as a gofer on the Matt Helm series. He made some rather startling claims. I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking the time to answer a few questions but have not heard back. I have to admit, I am curious. Perhaps it is just another of our many Russian bots that come to visit. Haven’t had one in quite a while, but welcome back comrade. I doubt you can throw an election with Dino gossip, but give it your best shot.
Recently finished “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. This is a Pulitzer Prize winning work of fiction and definitely worth your time. If you are at all interested in our dying planet, I would check this novel out. To save a tree (the real heroes of this book), you might want to purchase it on Kindle or ebook. Next up for the Linde Family Book Club, “There There” by Tommy Orange. I will keep you posted.
Jerry Seinfeld’s meltdown on this season’s “Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee” is particularly worth catching. The tirade takes place on episode featuring comedian/actress writer Bridget Everett. It’s fascinating to witness the usually calm, collected and Zen-like performer lose his shit at the mention of another comic’s name. After a bit of research, I discovered the comedian that causes the shit to hit the fan happens to be Bobcat Goldthwait. I am interested to see how this one plays out. There are a few mentions of this on the web if you are so inclined. I just found the episode memorable for all the reasons stated above.
Currently, the missus and I are plowing through the entire Veronica Mars playlist and are midway through the 2ndseason. For all of those not familiar with the teen detective, it’s a series that was created by author/writer/producer Rob Thomas and Executive Produced by Hollywood legend Joel Silver. This is not your typical Nancy Drew type detective story. It creatively mixes angst, humor and surprising darkness into a teen noir that is a far cry from the regular episodic fare.
Well, I think I blabbered on enough. Have a great week.
In 1981, J.P. Linde co-wrote and appeared in a one-man comedy show titled “Casually Insane.” Shortly after, he joined the ranks of stand-up comedy and performed in clubs and colleges throughout the United States and Canada. In 1989, he made his national television debut on “Showtime’s Comedy Club Network.” He wrote the libretto for the musical comedy “Wild Space A Go Go” and co-wrote and co-produced the feature motion picture, “Axe to Grind.” “Son of Ravage” is his second novel.