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.
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.