The next hour would be the most important of his adult life thought Joe Garcia.
He had no idea how Saul Bernstein would react, none at all.
The script had been with the KQNMBC commissioning editor for two months.
Then he had been sent for with no explanation.
Bernstein was a legend in the industry.
Joe sat studying the reception area as his stomach moved like a gymnast on the parallel bars. The walls were covered with publicity posters of past productions. It was like a shrine to small screen success.
He had to have a shot with this new project he thought.
He had worked on some of these series as a worker bee in the script factory churning out episodes to order.
This was different though.
This was HIS idea.
He was gone in a daydream about what this project could mean for him and Carmen when he was brought back to the moment.
“Saul will see you now Mr Garcia” said the receptionist.
This was it!
Garcia was led through a long corridor to the big guy’s office.
Sitting behind a desk that was bigger that Joe’s apartment was the a little bald man who would make his career or break his heart.
He was the man.
Joe had rehearsed this pitch over and over.
His presentation would be calm, poised and with a few insider tinsel town jokes thrown in.
He started to speak and then it became an uncontrollable babble.
Bernstein waved a haughty hand and the hyper ventilating script writer was silenced.
“I’m meeting you because Vinny asked me. I owe Vinny and he reckons you got a shot.”
Vinny Cassidy had been the lead writer on Garcia’s last gig with the station.
The Bostonian had liked his work, but more importantly Vinny liked Joe himself.
“That’s why I sent this down to development last month” said Bernstein gesturing to the script on his desk.
Joe Garcia nearly went into cardiac arrest.
Joe knew that most scripts never got near that stage.
This had meant that a team of “script doctors” had looked at the project and pulled it apart.
KQNMBC had already spent thousands of dollars on Joe Garcia’s baby.
Bernstein picked up the script and looked at it.
Presentation was nine tenths and Garcia used the latest version of Final Draft, he knew the document was comma perfect.
Saul examined it and then turned to the MacBook Air to his right hand side.
His stubby index finger caressed the touchpad and a document on the screen moved down.
Garcia guessed correctly that he was looking at the Development Department’s report.
“Ok, bottom line from the Development guys…yeah…lots of work needed on this, but…..”
Joe tried to calm himself.
He dare not speak.
“So it’s a drama set in the NFL?”
Garcia realised he would have to answer, so he just nodded.
“The main action is in an NFL club for rednecks? Yeah?”
The nodding seemed to be working for him for Garcia’s head did the same movement again.
His heart was thumping.
“And they’re in the hole to the IRS? The Development guys think this idea works.”
Joe was just holding onto the urge to whoop and dancing around Bernstein’s huge corner office overlooking Burbank.
“The guys in Dev are ok with the scam LBO theme, but it needs reworked.”
Finally Joe was with the programme and was taking notes on a reporter’s pad balanced on his thigh.
Bernstein saw this and continued.
“The central bad guy. The whack job shyster. Anyone gonna buy this? Even rednecks aint that stoopid! I mean the people aint buyin that Joe. That’s what Dev said. The scam gotta be a lot smarter than that.”
Before Garcia could explain the little Buddha behind the Belgium sized desk continued to reveal the Development department’s wisdom.
“So this shyster buys this NFL club with the money from the sports fans, but they don’t know about it? The Hill Billys on ‘Deliverance’ weren’t that fucking dumb!”
“Development also think legal should get involved. We have to invent somewhere. You got this set in Alabama now. I can see attorneys from there all over this. So Development want it ‘somewhere in the South’, but now where that would be able to put us in litigation.”
“What about Arkansas?”
Garcia then heard a strange noise with totally blindsided him.
He then realised that for the first time he had heard Saul Bernstein laughing.
The little New Yorker looked up and smiled at Joe.
“Yeah. Arkansas! Fuck em!”
“Saul, I just wanna say that I really…”
“Still big problems with this as is” Bernstein said re-establishing who has calling the shots here.
Joe went back to nodding.
“I never met good ol boys as stoopid as these knuckle heads Joe. The scam gotta believable or we lose people early on. Yeah?”
It was an invitation to speak rather than nod and Garcia took it.
“Saul, that’s were the media back story is vital. They sell this guy as a Fortune 500 big cheese when he’s all washed up. And these sports fans WANT to believe this BS from the reporters.”
Bernstein considered Joe’s words and then he said.
“These reporter guys all seem to be lushes. Fine, but do they all have to be lard asses?”
Joe’s blood chilled when he realised for the first time that Bernstein’s little torso was almost completely spherical.
“I can make ‘em thin Saul. Hey no problem!”
“No, no keep em fat. Joe in Development used to work in casting. He thinks John Goodman would he great as the main reporter bad guy. He’s a real schmuck this character. Development liked his char bio. They did ask a question about the dinner dates with the previous owner. There a gay thing going on there?”
Garcia didn’t know how to answer. Did Bernstein WANT a gay theme or was he gonna run from anything pink?
“Eh, well there…”
“Maybe just imply it. The scene with the two of them having dinner. Lotta pink dollars out there Joe. Maybe they have gotta thing goin on there. Development thinks that marketing should put it out to a focus group. A Faggot group!”
Bernstein laughed at his own joke.
“Ok, the hero. The Blogger guy. You were thinking of Denzel for this. Weren’t you?”
Garcia was starting to elevate to a new level of excitement. Denzel Fucking Washington? Thought Joe. OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!!
“Problem though. See it right there” said Bernstein flatly.
Garcia was down again.
“You got Blogger man the super hero in Africa, where his father is from. Location costs Joe. Location costs. Can’t we put him in New Orleans? Lot of positive post Katrina stuff stick kicking around the focus groups.”
Garcia wanted to defend the idea of his hero returning to the land of his father, but thought he would let it go. Then he heard himself speak. Like it was an out of body experience.
“He’s gotta be in Africa Saul. It’s crucial to the story. He’s an African in his heart. That’s why he’s out to get the rednecks.”
Garcia didn’t believe he had just said those words. He hadn’t meant to.
He was NEGOTIATING production values with Saul Bernstein!
“Yeah. Yeah I see that. All that roots stuff goin on. We would get the African American dollar on that. Hell we already lost the Redneck dollar!”
Once more the strange noise indicating humour came out of Bernstein’s body.
“You got Blogger man in Lagos, Nigeria. Why not Kenya? The Oval Office gotta love that one Joe. Oh yeah…”
Garcia tried to keep focussed and not fall over from excitement.
The omnipotent Buddha behind the desk took his eyes off the screen and picked up the hard copy of the scripted and sorted through the pages and then he found one of the appendixes.
“So this redneck NFL team is All American? They love the service, but in WW2 their guys hide from the draft? The same for ‘Nam?”
Garcia was back to nodding.
“The other NFL team in this. The rivals. The good guys. They pay their taxes and their quarterback, a black guy, got the Medal of Honor at Iwo Jima?”
“The rednecks the last to have a black player in the NFL. I like it Joe. Yeah. Total schmucks. The Klan on the Gridiron.”
Saul knew the story arc backwards. The guy was a real pro thought Garcia.
“The rednecks love the service, but they scam Uncle Sam for taxes while our guys are in the eye rack? Yeah put them in Arkansas!”
Joe acknowledged with a nod.
“That’s all good, but you got a lot of re-writing on this scam Joe.”
For the first time Bernstein had acknowledged that Joe was a person.
“The scam just aint believable. No one in Development was buyin it. It would take the most stupid redneck mother fucker a day to work out this play Joe. Ok the average redneck is a mark, but you need another angle. I mean, the bad guy gets an NFL team for a dollar? He then uses the fans own money to buy out the bank? Sweet jeezuz on a Friday!”
Joe realised why Bernstein was the best in the business. He always focussed on the weakness of any script. If couldn’t fix that fault then the script never went any further.
“So this NFL club, the rednecks, become the poster child for the IRS? They want them going to the chair for this taxes scam? Ok I like that. Court room stuff. Yeah we can work on that.”
“We need a total re-write on the scam Joe. Something believable. Rednecks aint THAT stoopid! Work on the scam Joe. It has to be better than he uses THEIR ticket money to buy THEIR club for some Chapter 11 play. The selling of the heirloom shit from the board room for some walking around cash. Yeah, that will get a laugh. Nice. You got that Gordon Gekko thing going on there. There’s a big anti-Wall street dollar out there. Nice. They all liked that in Dev keep that.”
Saul was in full flow.
“Blogger man, the black dude who finds out about the scam. The sports reporters hate him, but he kicks their ass. Sweet. Development said the char bio is weak. Ok he’s smart and he’s got the roots thing goin on. Tony in Dev thinks you should make him a hard ass. Ex-Marine… and don’t make him a pussy officer. Make him a sergeant or something. A regular guy.”
“What about Army? The Airborne? I could put him in the Rangers?” said Joe.
Bernstein thought for a second.
“Nah, not the Rangers. Make it the Corps. I don’t think anyone would buy the Rangers.”