Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Cat

My name is Daisy and this is the
story of Christmas Carole and how
she changed our lives. It begins right  
here in Sherman Oaks, California, 
where I was born and raised. 

This is the first piece of dialog in my new spec script, Christmas Carole which I finished last week. So far I have 5 places who are "interested". And being interested doesn't mean any them will buy it.

I hope they will.

The odds are in my corner, if one wanted to entertain that thought. After all, I did The Town the Christmas Forgot in 2010 and it played a several times from November thru to December. As you know, it got a 3.7 mil viewership and the company who made it proudly advertises it in it's inhouse credits.

And they have a few dozen credits for movies so being at the head (or second head), is a nice thing. Better than not being last. 

If you're wondering why I quoted "Daisy" above,  it's because Daisy isn't who you think she is. Or what she is.

And if you think there was a glut of Christmas movies last year, well, wait till this year. And the damndest thing is - people watch them. That much of an audience would have grossed over $30 million. Which means at a cost of $1 million, the studio/network would have a tidy sum.

And if it had Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman in it, it would have grossed $50 million.

But it didn't. It barely will make back it's cost of the original $1 million budget. Because times have changed and now the big 3, Hallmark, Lifetime and ABC Family dictate what they can pay. Ratings for TV have mostly gone down.

Too many damn channels.

Commercial rates are dependent on ratings so the less ratings, the less it costs to advertise. Except that Superbowl thing. And American Idol. AI gets around 21 million viewers on an average.

And speaking of advertising,  if this was a theatrical movie that $30 million would barely cover the cost of the $1 million movie and around $25 million to advertise it. Which means about a $5 million profit.

Okay, enough of the figures, some of you have left to check your tweets. But there's a reason for my rambling, as they say.

Yes, I do have a better chance at selling my script than most of the writers out there. But you never know what they like or don't like.

And that's where Daisy comes in.

The story of Christmas Carole started with the title. I had no story, just a really good title that, amazingly, nobody's ever used. It's registered now so I have a little bit of security.

The logline is this: Unemployed lawyer gets stuck with juvenile delinquent over Christmas. 

Simple. Easy to see. Maybe not as good as someone else might describe it. But good enough.

The rest of the story is a bit more complicated, conflict comes from a tragic past for both people (women, incidentally, they watch  more Hallmark movies), confrontation with major life changes and the consequences of being afraid of life and loneliness.

So now it's a bit "fatter" as a D-Girl I knew used to say to describe the major element of any screenplay. Conflict.

Except that I added a fresh element.


You see, Daisy isn't human. Daisy is a cat.

And I don't know why I added her to the cast. I was about 2/3rds of the way through the screenplay when something flashed in my mind. Daisy was there from the beginning, but she was not talking. In fact she just meowed a lot.

Then that god of weird ideas struck me.

Daisy should talk. She should tell the story.

And I'm not talking about all the way through. Just in the beginning and a few lines here and there and finally at the end.

I wish I could say it was brilliance on my part but it wasn't.

Years ago (and I'm talking 50's) I saw a movie that was somewhat like this, don't even remember the title, but I remember the cat. It spoke. Then there was the Francis the Talking Mule  movies. Don't ask.

Somehow it all collided in my hard drive of a brain, and reconnected with several other movies and anything to do with cats (I have hosted cats several times in my life) and it spit out Daisy, the name of which incidentally is from a real cat who lives in San Clemente. According to quantum physics experts, putting random ideas together is something computers can't do, nor will they ever.

And when I sent out the screenplay on Sunday to a producer, I wrote "the cat says in the picture". And when he asked why, I simply added something that he could not deny...

Imagine who would be Daisy's voice?

Betty White? Julie Newmar (the original Catwoman)?

Get my drift?  They could get a name actor for almost nothing to do the voice of Daisy. And they would put that name prominently in the titles. You know, "and Betty White as Daisy".
I just use Betty as an example. There would be at least 50 or more actresses who would love the job.

As Gweneth Paltrow tells the aspiring country singer anxious to overtake her in Country Strong "that's how it's done, sweetheart".

(Thurs: Daisy demands an agent)