Why I’ll Never Get a Blockbuster Movie Made

With Academy Awards upon us, I’m reminded of my sole foray into the movie biz: a tortuous pitch meeting with three young Hollywood executives. After it ended, I wanted to treat myself to A) a couple of shots of Bulleit, B) a couple of bullets in my left temple. The fact that I’m writing this indicates the path I chose.

I received the invite to take a meeting at Blockhead Productions after they read my spec script of an adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel that he hadn’t written yet called The Bourne Conniption.

I arrived at the office champing at the bit and occasionally chomping at it. Here I was, about to meet the producers of the hit film The Tik Tok of Dorian Gray. Me! A lowly copywriter whose only claim to fame was a full-page ad in I Don’t Know, Alaska Magazine for vegan snowshoes.

Sitting in the waiting room, I was a bit thirsty and asked the receptionist whose name was Fabergé for some water. “Still, sparking or bespoke?” she asked.

“Bespoke water? That’s sounds interesting.” She handed me two cans of hydrogen and one of oxygen and told me if I combined them, I’d have the freshest water ever. I smiled and, remembering the Hindenburg, put the hydrogen on a nearby table and downed the oxygen so I’d stop hyperventilating.

The execs called me in and we did the customary round of the wet-noodle Hollywood handshakes. The main exec was Matt Weiss-Menschen, the Executive Producer of Scripts in Possible Development. His second-in-command was a young woman named Dawn Lugubrious who went by the name Willow. She was Associate Producer of Rejections and Urbane Rationalization. Her assistant was a young man with dreadlocks named Kal Zipploch, the Executive-in-Training for Emergencies in Case They Happen.

“We’re so happy to have you here today,” said Matt, eating a bowl of edamame.

“Super happy” said Kal.

“Beyond super happy,” said Willow. “We just loved The Bourne Conniption! Can you imagine the fantastic conniptions Matt Damon could throw as that character?”

Kal said, “I picture him jumping from one building to another armed with an AK and in full conniption mode.”
“So the script has a chance to sell?” I asked.

“Not at all,” Matt said crunching an edamame bean. “But we’re more than interested in anything else you’d like to pitch.”

“Super interested,” said Kal.

“Beyond super interested,” said Willow.

Luckily, I was armed with other some ideas that Variety in its heyday would have called “Boffo.” I began to pitch like Justin Verlander in Game 7 of a World Series. I’ll spare you their individual inane comments and just stick to my pitches and their verdicts. I started off strong with an X-Men spinoff:

A-Men - A group of mutant religious fundamentalist preachers who use their powers to turn gay people straight, people of color white and every book in every library into the King James Bible.

Their Verdict: PASS. Could be sued for plagiarism because it’s what Tucker Carlson espouses every night on Fox News.

I still had more in my bag of tricks:

The Cinder-Elephant Man - The Elephant Man meets Cinderella. In this one, Cinderella wants to go to the ball but has a gross deformity. Her fairy godmother appears and magically puts a bag (like The Elephant Man wears) over her head. She goes to the ball and charms the Prince but when leaving at midnight, she loses the bag. The Prince finds it and must visit every girl in the village to see whose head the bag fits.

Their Verdict: PASS. Putting a bag over a woman’s or a man’s head is definite body shaming unless the man is Mickey Rourke.

My next idea was a story ripped from the headlines. That’s always good to say in a pitch meeting.

The White Whale - A modern retelling of Moby Dick with Brendan Fraser reprising his role in The Whale but now disguised as a large white balloon floating over the US. Alec Baldwin is Captain Ahab, the Air Force pilot trying to shoot him down.

Their Verdict: PASS. Alec Baldwin shooting anything is box-office poison. But… POSSIBLE if Liam Neeson accepts the Ahab role.

A glimmer of hope there. This next pitch was a personal project of mine that I didn’t think had much chance.

The Sad Sandwich in the Deli of Despair - An idea for an independent coming of age film where the characters talk about the pointlessness of life while deciding who gets the last avocado on toast.

Their Verdict: POSSIBLE. Food based films like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle have been big box office in the past. Could be a go with a more upbeat title like When Harry Met Sushi. Or Everything Everywhere on the Cheesecake Factory Menu All At Once.

I was encouraged by their response. But I knew I had a definite winner with the final pitch:

Ava-Tár - With Director James Cameron casting Cate Blanchett as a 9-foot-tall blue orchestra conductor who sexually harasses people. In the end, she gets tossed out of Pandora and ends up on Spotify.

Their Verdict: THEY LOVED IT! A definite green light. Handshakes, edamame and bespoke water all around.

But sadly, like most Hollywood pitch meetings, they loved it in the room but by the time I got home, they sent a text saying they were going to pass. Turns out several bottles of hydrogen exploded in the reception area causing extensive damage. Matt and Willow were fired for ruining the office’s feng shui.

The next day, I got a message from Kal Zipploch, the Executive-in-Training for Emergencies in Case They Happen, who was now - after an emergency - in charge. He asked if I would come back Friday to pitch him and his two new associates some ideas.

My Verdict: Despite the bespoke water, PASS.


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