Script sale celebration goes horribly awry
Screenwriter Alan Befflestein is in stable condition with third degree burns on his chest and face after what would’ve been a routine day at the beach for most people. Unfortunately for Befflestein, whose lily-white skin has not seen the light of day in nearly a dozen years, just a few minutes in the sun was almost enough to kill him.
“I knew it had been a while since I went outside,” said Befflestein. “But I actually thought the sizzling sound was someone having a beach barbecue or whatever. You can imagine my surprise when I realized it was the sound of my own flesh being fried by UV rays.”
According to friends and family, Befflestein has been a hermit since the mid-90s, when he moved to Los Angeles to embark on a screenwriting career.
“He came out to a party a few years ago,” said Jerry Denton, Befflestein’s former roommate. “It was at night, though. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him outside during the day. He’s usually holed-up at home…just writing away. Another few minutes and he would have been cooked.”
Dateless since early 2004, Befflestein believes the brush with death will be good for him.
“Luckily I just sold my first script, so I can use the cash on the 10 or 12 skin graft surgeries I’ll need to regain my below-average looks,” he said. “Then I’m gonna get back out there and rejoin society…the moment I finish my next script, of course.”
** This THR Classic was first posted in June 2009 **
Everyone in room shocked, appalled
WGA member Allan Burns surprised a conference room full of people more important than him on Thursday, meekly uttering the word “no” when asked if he could change the love interest in his drama script from a 35-year-old divorcee to a 19-year-old exotic dancer.
“At first I waited for him to finish,” said studio exec John Sharper. “Like maybe he was going to say ‘no problem’ or ‘no way would I ever dream of saying no to you, sir.’ But then he just sat there, sweating, his sentence completed. It was weird.”
And what followed was even weirder: nobody objected.
“First of all, it’s pretty disgusting to see a little piss-ant word jockey talk back to the marketing department like that. At the same time, it’s no big deal,” said Sharper. “We’re bringing in a new writer next week anyway.”
According to Burns, he just felt it was time to make a stand.
“I’ve been agreeing to changes ever since I started writing. Last story meeting they brought the janitor in to give me character notes,” he said. “I finally got fed up and decided to stand my ground.”
Unfortunately, the courageous moment was canceled out when Burns later agreed to rewrite the entire script for free, after someone in the room claimed he was “being difficult.”
‘So it’s just the writers?’
Longtime Hollywood producer Bob Hammond was recently surprised to discover that most people won’t work for free.
“I’ve been dealing with writers so long, I guess I forgot what it’s like to negotiate with a real professional. They actually require payment for their services,” said Hammond. “Usually I just pay screenwriters an empty compliment, and that’s enough to keep them plugging away another six or seven months.”
Hammond, currently having his bathroom remodeled, agreed to pay plumber Joe Escobar his full quote for the project.
“At first I thought I could find another plumber who might do the work for free. Like a really young guy just trying to cut his teeth in the home improvement business,” said Hammond. “But it turns out only screenwriters devalue their services by offering to work without payment. I think it has something to do with their low self-esteem…or that most of them are hacks.”
Promised himself three pages a day; still tweaking first scene
Based on the goals he set for himself on December 31st, aspiring screenwriter Bob McElroy should be nearly finished with Act 1 of his dark comedy “Death By Taxes.”
“But I’m still on page one,” he said, depressed. “I got really busy at work and fell behind. It’s too bad, because I’d rather be on page 21 right now.”
McElroy, an assistant manager at a T.G.I. Friday’s in Pasadena, could be working on the 24th screenplay of his life, if only he had been able to follow any of his last eight New Year’s resolutions.
Instead, he’s stuck on just his second script since 2000.
“I think my biggest problem is follow-through,” said McElroy. “I’m extremely talented and creative…it’s just that I don’t have time to write. If a studio just took a chance and hired me full-time for an assignment, I know I’d knock it out of the park.”
Tony Hansen was recently less than 86 pages away from finishing his first screenplay when a devastating case of writer’s block set in.
Or so he thought.
“Actually, he’s just a terrible writer,” said Hansen’s roommate and longtime friend Bob Nobles. “I mean the guy barely passed English at community college, and now he works at Starbucks. Which of those things qualifies him to write movies?”
Hansen, on the other hand, claims even the most prolific artists get stuck every once in a while.
“Someone told me Tolkien had writer’s block for like six months while trying to finish The Hobbit,” he said. “My writing style is a lot like his, so I just need to figure out how to plot my way out of it.”
Hansen’s screenplay, entitled Space Cops, is about an elite squad of law enforcement officers who patrol space in the year 2613.
“Half the squad is human and the other half is robots,” said Hansen. “The first eight pages are great…but I haven’t been able to break through with a new scene since early June. It’s your classic case of you-know-what.”
Get ready for zero assignments, dead-end options and writer’s block in 2010
The screenwriting gods will continue their reign of terror on your life and career, they recently revealed at a press conference.
“You will be barred from the gates of Hollywood once again next year,” bellowed Goldbraddia, the god of format. “You won’t even be able to finish a new spec sitcom when I get done with your pathetic hack-brain.”
Concepsius, the goddess of high-concept ideas, agreed.
“Your best idea will be about a dog that can talk, as if we haven’t seen that one before,” she said. “You’ll wish you’d never been born, which will give you a great story idea about karma. But you will not write it down, and I will forever strike the concept from your memory, vexing you every day at work while you deliver nachos and fajitas to belligerent customers.”
According to the gods, you will also be given the opportunity to pitch an assignment at a studio, only to have your contact fired from the company and the project killed.
“But not until you’ve written three treatments on it,” said Frustrata, the screenwriting god of close calls and false hope. “Enjoy another year not making a dime from your efforts.”
‘Did you see my hilarious shampoo commercial?’
Jim Elden is an award-winning advertising copywriter with more than 30 TV commercials under his belt, which he believes qualifies him to write best-selling novels and million-dollar spec screenplays.
“I’ve always been clever,” said the 28-year-old copywriter at Goodby Silverstein in San Francisco. “I wrote that campaign for the candy bars where everyone is naked and they make the ‘nut’ jokes. It was pretty awesome.”
And once the campaign starting racking up industry awards, Elden began believing his ability to come up with moderately humorous 30-second stories somehow meant he was talented enough to craft the perfect 110-page screenplay.
Unfortunately for Elden, most Hollywood producers don’t really care about his ad work.
“Every copywriter I know thinks he’s the next John Hughes,” said WME agent Bobby Wendell, referring to the fact that Hughes once worked in advertising. “But most of them are more like the plumber from Peoria who also has no chance in this business.”