EXT. STUDIO LOT, HOLLYWOOD, CA — DAY (ESTABLISHING)

INT. PRODUCER’S OFFICE

Framed movie posters on the walls. Gold statuettes on the shelf.

A screenwriter is seated on the leather couch. Across from him, in two comfy chairs, are a male PRODUCER — mid 40s — and his female associate — early 30s. She takes notes, in the usual sexist Hollywood form.

The producer is smart, personable, smooth — as most of them are — defying the crude Hollywood stereotype. The screenwriter is a bit lumpen — as most of them are. He is pitching an idea.

SCREENWRITER

OK, it’s a spy thriller.

PRODUCER

I like it already.

SCREENWRITER

The logline is: “When the Russian government tries to undermine American democracy by placing its own agent in the White House, a group of valiant public servants and ordinary Americans struggle to expose the plot and save the republic.”

PRODUCER

So it’s a farce.

SCREENWRITER

No, no — it’s a serious thriller.

PRODUCER

(trying) But like a popcorn thriller, right? An over-the-top Michael Bay kind of thing?

SCREENWRITER

No, it’s a gritty, realistic political thriller like “All the President’s Men.”

The producer frowns. This pitch is already going south.

PRODUCER

OK, tell me more. Who’s this American president the Russians are controlling?

SCREENWRITER

He’s a billionaire real estate developer… well, maybe not a billionaire, but rich. He went bankrupt — a bunch of times, in fact — and turned to licensing his name to any product that would have him. Mail order steaks, ties made in China, a for-profit university that was just a Ponzi scheme: you name it. Oh, and he used to own a beauty pageant and a USFL team, and then he hosted some game shows on TV.

PRODUCER

(blanching) Why do the Russians think that guy can get elected?

SCREENWRITER

They don’t — at first — or ever, really. They’re just trying to wreak havoc with our elections and hurt the Democratic front-runner, who they hate.

PRODUCER

So their guy is a Republican. He’s like a straight arrow church-going family man type?

SCREENWRITER

No, he’s a serial sexual predator who’s been married three times and cheated on all his wives and paid hush money to at least one porn star. Probably some abortions too; I haven’t worked that out yet.

PRODUCER

I thought you said this was a “realistic” thriller.

SCREENWRITER

Oh, and also this guy is like the worst racist and misogynist and amoral narcissist you can possible imagine. He watches TV and eats McDonald’s all day, won’t listen to his advisors, and only communicates by Twitter.

The producer furrows his brow.

PRODUCER

Any chase scenes?

SCREENWRITER

There’s one where the White House press secretary hides in the bushes.

The producer looks at his watch.

SCREENWRITER (CONT’D)

But that’s the twist: the Kremlin can’t believe this guy won! Nobody can — not even him. Once he’s in power they’re all scrambling to figure out what to do, because they had no plan for this.

The producer purses his lips. Very skeptical about this idea to say the least. The writer tries to generate enthusiasm:

SCREENWRITER (CONT’D)

Isn’t that a compelling idea for a thriller — that the President of the United States turns out to be a Russian secret agent?

FEMALE ASSOCIATE

(jumping in) I think we might run into a lawsuit from “No Way Out.”

PRODUCER

(at her) If we’re going to remake a Kevin Costner movie, I vote for “Bull Durham”…

FEMALE ASSOCIATE

Or “Waterworld.” That could be a documentary now…

SCREENWRITER

(interrupting) Forget Costner. Think about it how scary this would be. The Kremlin ends up controlling the US government from the inside, from the very top!

PRODUCER

And they get away with it because nobody knows about it, is that it?

SCREENWRITER

No, everybody knows about it.

PRODUCER

(frowning again) And you’re sure this isn’t a farce? Because I could totally see Will Ferrell as the president.

FEMALE ASSOCIATE

I think Will has a presidential comedy in development at Fox…

SCREENWRITER

No, no, I’m telling you, it’s not a comedy. And there’s this great scene at the end of Act 1 where the President meets with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister alone in the Oval Office, and he won’t let any American reporters in the meeting, only Russian ones, and he gives the Russians top secret compartmented intel on a silver platter.

PRODUCER

And the American public puts up with that?

SCREENWRITER

Well, the president is a really great liar.

PRODUCER

Then I assume at least there’s a hero who tries to take this traitorous president down?

SCREENWRITER

For sure. He’s a lawyer.

The producer YAWNS.

SCREENWRITER (CONT’D)

He’s a decorated Marine officer, Vietnam vet, and a former federal prosecutor and head of the FBI. Super straight arrow, totally respected by everyone.

PRODUCER

(perking up) But he has, like, a dark secret, right? A mistress, or some sort of family problems?

FEMALE ASSOCIATE

Or maybe he’s fighting the ghost of his overbearing father who wanted him to be a judge?

SCREENWRITER

No. He’s a total white knight. Super squared away. Reliable as a radial tire.

PRODUCER

But he has lots of witty quips, right?

SCREENWRITER

No, actually he never speaks at all.

FEMALE ASSOCIATE

Or maybe he’s a loose cannon who bucks the system and defies his superiors with his high wire theatrics, like Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”?

SCREENWRITER

Nah, not so much.

The producer visibly winces.

SCREENWRITER (CONT’D)

Then there’s this great turn in Act 2 where the American president meets with his handler — who is the Russian president himself, because he’s a former KGB officer — and we don’t know what goes on between them.

PRODUCER

They meet in secret you mean.

SCREENWRITER

No, it’s advertised. And then they get on TV together and the American president agrees with everything the Russian president says.

PRODUCER

Look, I’m not some crazy stickler for verisimilitude, but I think we do have to stay somewhat within the bounds of believability. The President can’t be working for the Russians. Let’s make it an aide to the president. His campaign manager, or the national security advisor or something.

SCREENWRITER

That’s just it. They’re all working for the Russians. His campaign manager is in debt to the Russians for millions and volunteers for work on the election for free…. (remembering) Oh, oh, and I almost forgot: some of the White House staff are also neo-Nazis…

The producer gets to his feet. His associate folds up her legal pad.

SCREENWRITER (CONT’D)

Wait, wait — I’ve got another idea. This one is about a black guy who gets elected president…

CUT TO BLACK

FIN

*******

For more, go to https://thekingsnecktie.com/

Writer, filmmaker, and veteran — blogging at The King’s Necktie @TheKingsNecktie

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