July 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

“Scriptwriter Wanted. Contact Alice Peterson”

I can only suppose AP (as I call her in my journal) posts this notice on the board at Harvard just in time for me to come along and take it down, imagine her dismay when only one writer applies.

I can almost picture her, garrulous and posh, almost an air of Hollywood; still blond? Sitting at a table for two in the Ritz-Carlton, in fashion, with me in a coat and tie but bearded, with an earring, sipping wine with lunch, her treat, while she feels me out, then hands me the yellowed script of a long-forgotten Hollywood tearjerker (title?) and engages me (on spec) to update it, make it relevant. “Be creative. Use your imagination.” I get $500 for a first draft, more if she likes what she reads. What else have I to do?

The story line (as I recall; I only read it once) is improbable and shallow: a man drives off a California cliff, survives but suffers loss of sight and memory, nursed to health by a lonley, possessive woman who sabotages his recovery. Something like that. I “use my imagination,” and before the end of the month I deliver a dynamite rough draft that bears little resemblance to her original, for which she gives me twenty-five crisp new twenty-dollar bills. I’m solvent for a month!

Two days later AP calls. She’s fine with the opening sequence (quick-paced action-adventure, politics, intrigue) but wonders what the hell I’m doing shifting focus to a commune on an island off the coast of Maine? Maybe I should know her name is really Dolly Stahl. (Who? Now, in my dotage (thanks to Google), I discover who—she’s TV anchor Leslie Stahl’s mother!) She sends my opus back with copious notes, rejecting my whole premise. Too cerebral. She urges me to take a different tack, and offers suggestions but no more cash until she’s happy.

My burst bubble crashes into deep depression (writer’s block), and what was to have been a tour de force becomes the boulder I shoulder up the mountain for the next six months, avoiding Dolly’s phone calls, in a vain attempt to merge two incompatible concepts.


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