I get three kinds of phone calls - calls from people I know, business calls, and some form of phone sales spam from a computer dialer or some poor guy in a cubicle trying to sell me something on commission and praying that he at least gets the steak knives. So when the phone rings and it’s some stranger, I am both annoyed and feel sorry for the guy because Alec Baldwin is going to fire his ass after I tell him “no”. Around a year ago, it’s some stranger who starts asking strange questions...
“Is this William C. Martell?”
Always a tip off that it’s a stranger - that’s the name my phone is listed under.
“Um, what is this about?”
“Am I speaking to William C. Martell?”
If I say “yes” he’ll just dive into his spiel, time shares or whatever.
“Look, whatever it is, I’m not interested, sorry.”
“William C. Martell, the screenwriter?”
Is this some strange sounding producer or producer’s assistant?
“Yes, it is.”
“Good. Good. I got your phone number from the WGA, at first they didn’t want to give it to me, so I called them back and pretended to be a producer. That’s what did the trick...”
Now he’s starting to talk like a salesman... and that is frightening me.
I have stalkers. That sounds strange, because you expect Brad Pitt to have stalkers but not some crappy B movie writer nobody’s ever heard of. Sure, there are *personal stalkers*, and I’ve had a couple of them - women trying out for the roadshow version of PLAY MISTY FOR ME after a handful of dates that did not work at all for me. But I’ve also have *celebrity stalkers* - which is crazy because I am not a celebrity. People who read my blog or go to my website and then start sending me e-mails that begin with praise and soon degenerate into odd threats. The problem is, I’m accessible - even though the address I use is a post box, um, it’s not a post box on the other side of Los Angeles. It’s within walking distance of where I live. And my phone number has slipped out before, even though I try to hide that. And, of course, everyone has my e-mail address... everyone.
Which is the first thing about this caller that seems wrong - why hasn’t he e-mailed me? If it was a producer interested in a script, a quick Google search gets them to my website and e-mail. And then they e-mail me and say, “I’m interested in this script, can you call me at (phone number). That happens fairly often because I do not have an agent or manager - most of the time someone gets hold of one of my scripts by accident (it gets passed to them by somebody else). But usually the script has my number on the title page, so they call. But often they e-mail first (my e-mail is also on the title page). I can’t remember the last time someone tracked me down through the WGA. That’s... unusual.
“Um, why didn’t you e-mail me?”
“Oh, this isn’t the kind of conversation we could have by e-mail.”
Now I’m wondering what the hell I could have possibly done that someone would be able to blackmail me over. You know, I’m a *writer* - I live a boring life. And I’m mostly honest about my life and career - I’m more than willing to share with you, gentle readers, that time I looked like an idiot or hit on some gal half my age while drunk, or wrote some movie for *Oscar winner* Roger Corman about Robot Hookers From Outer Space. Sure, I have secrets that I am not going to share with you - but, they are *boring* secrets. If this guy is a blackmailer he won’t get much from me.
“Um, what is this about?”
“Good. Good. Right to the point, eh?”
“Yes, I’m working on something and...”
“I have an offer for you. I believe you will like it. It is a most interesting offer.”
“Besides ‘interesting’, what kind of job is it?”
“Writing a screenplay. For a well known A list motion picture star. I can’t tell you who it is, that’s not the kind of information I feel comfortable saying on the telephone. That is why we will have to meet somewhere to discuss the details.”
“So, you are a producer? What company?”
“No, No. I am a writer much like yourself. I have a project with an A list motion picture star attached and would like your council and assistance. I have perused your book on the writing of action screenplays and found it quite helpful, but this will require your unique skills and advice.”
“Who’s this A list star?”
“No. No. Not on the phone. We must meet in person for these details to be discussed.”
I’m more confused than I was before - if this guy is not a producer, what the heck does he need me for? “Council?” He wants my opinion on his script? I don’t do that. There are all kinds of people who do script consulting stuff. After my book came out, I had a bunch of people wanting me to read their scripts, so I put up a page on my website with some rates. Well, here’s what I learned from that: I don’t much like doing consulting, and about 90% of the scripts out there are worse than you can imagine. I honestly think the worse someone’s script is, the more likely they are to pay a consultant... and then all they do is argue about the notes and how I didn’t get it. Well, if they had used coherent sentences I might have gotten it. I kept raising my consulting rates hoping that no one would be able to afford me and I could get back to writing scripts... but those crazy bad writers seem to have lots of money. Maybe they are the lunatic children of wealthy people locked up in an asylum writing scripts all day? Anyway, the % of just awful to “hey, this person knows how to write!” combined with me never really wanting to do it in the first place, meant I took the page down and stopped doing consulting. Now I am happily just writing my own scripts and doing the Script Tips and this Blog.
“You do know that I do not do consulting, right?”
“No. No. This is a screenwriting proposition. Where can we meet to discuss the details? I am in Brentwood, and I understand you are in Studio City, is that correct?”
“You could come to my house...”
Okay, this is slightly creepy. I don’t really want to go to this guy’s house and end up dead in his basement freezer with my brain on display in his trophy room. There are producers who work out of their homes - when I first met with Ashok Armitraj he had just left the Columbia lot and hadn’t set up offices at a new studio nor found a building to move in to, and was working out of the pool house at his house. He’d had it converted into an office and it was probably larger than any studio office I’ve been to. But this guy is not a producer, he’s a writer offering me a writing job - which makes no sense at all.
“I’d rather meet someplace public, if you don’t mind.”
“This needs to be a private conversation. Some elements we discuss are of a sensitive nature. I do not wish to be overheard.”
“Look, we can be anonymous in a crowd. Find someplace with a patio or back booth or something. Speak quietly and write anything really sensitive on paper and burn it afterwards.”
“Yes, that might work.”
“You want, I’ll bring the matches.”
“No. No. I have some packets I can bring with me. Do you know of the Jerry’s World Famous Deli in Westwood Village?”
“I’ve been there before.”
“They have an upstairs section which is never utilized that should allow us a modicum of privacy. My only fear is the discretion of their waitstaff.”
“Like priests and bartenders, anything you say in front of them is privileged info... same as in a confessional. They take vows.”
“I was not aware of that. What day and time would be convenient for you to meet with me?”
Okay, this is where I should have said that I’m busy and don’t have time, even though this is for an A list motion picture star. But, I am curious. What the heck is this all about? I mean, I can say no at the meeting, right? But what if it is a script for Jennifer Connolly? And she’s divorcing Paul Bettany? And looking for a screenwriter to work closely with? I mean, really closely with? Plus, I wanted to see if the guy really brought matches and burned the papers.
“How about Thursday afternoon some time. I don’t do mornings.”
“Good. Good. Thursday it is. Would three O’clock in the afternoon be convenient for you?”
“Sounds good. Um, how will I know you?”
“Do not worry about that, William C. Martell, I shall know you.”
Great. It is a stalker of some sort and I have just fallen into their trap. He drugs my coffee, hustles me to his place in Brentwood, kills me and eats my liver with Chianti and fava beans and sticks my pickled brain on the trophy shelf in his library along with all the others. Maybe I should just not show? Maybe I shouldn’t drink the coffee? But the problem with being a writer is dead cats - curiosity. You even want to know how psycho killers live their lives.
Part 2 on Monday...
TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Dramatic Decisions - and some film directed by Ben Affleck.
Dinner: Carls Junior... food that was bad for me and not worth the price.
Pages: Working on a rewrite for a producer, and hit a tough scene... which I'll do tomorrow.