SCENE: A crummy-looking producer’s office. The walls are covered with posters detailing past glories – such as they are, we’re talking mostly budget SF/horror flicks and one Hallmark made-for-TV movie that won some technical awards. A SMALLWIG is sitting behind the desk, which is covered in mounds of paper. His LACKEY brings him coffee.
SMALLWIG: Okay, I got fifty grand from ABC and more coming from Sci-Fi. We need a project, stat.
LACKEY: What type of project?
SMALLWIG: Something nerds will like. I don’t have a distribution deal yet.
LACKEY: They gave you funding without giving you a distribution deal?
SMALLWIG: I think it’s a tax write-off for them. More money for us.
LACKEY: So why does it have to be something nerds will like? We could go upscale, make an indie drama –
SMALLWIG: Kid, I know I promised my sister I’d show you the ropes, but you got to stop saying stupid crap like that. What’s the first rule I told you when you came in here, day one?
LACKEY: “Buy the donut store coffee, not the Folger’s. Schmucks drink Folger’s.”
SMALLWIG: Not that.
LACKEY: “If you put mayo on my pastrami sandwich next time it’s your ass.”
SMALLWIG: Get past lunchtime.
LACKEY: Oh. “If you want to go broke in a hurry, make an indie drama.”
LACKEY: But we got that great script, Uncle Bernie. It’s funny, it’s clever –
SMALLWIG: And the best we could do for stars was George Wendt. Kid, people say they want indie drama, but what they really want is standard Hollywood, just not as crappy, and we don’t got the connections for that. Capice? Good. Now, where was I?
LACKEY: “Something nerds will like.”
SMALLWIG: Right. So here’s my thinking. We don’t got a distribution deal. No TV, no movie release, nothing. So we got to build buzz the old-fashioned way.
LACKEY: Bribe reporters to say we’re criminally ignored and build up cachet?
SMALLWIG: Good thinking, maybe later, but no. I think we got to use the Internet like you always say.
LACKEY: Really? So my memo on Youtube and –
SMALLWIG: Shut up, kid. Here’s what we do. We got to get one of those fan-film directors. They’ll work cheap and they got an existing fanbase of loser dorks who will do nothing but talk up the movie.
LACKEY: Good idea, Uncle Bernie.
SMALLWIG: Course it is. Might even save money on overhead if we can get his nerd friends to work cheap for us.
LACKEY: And then what? Do we get him to execute his brilliant original vision?
SMALLWIG: Right, because I want original vision from someone whose big idea was to do what George Lucas already did except with crappier actors.
LACKEY: …the slush pile?
LACKEY gestures at a towering, precariously balanced pile of scripts.
SMALLWIG: Not yet. We go in there later, find what we need, “adapt” it. But what’ll this potential audience of ours like, right? What do nerds on the internet like?
LACKEY: Battlestar Galactica?
SMALLWIG: Too fresh. We need something that’s been out of the public eye for a little while so nobody outright accuses us of plagarism. Especially lawyers.
LACKEY: How about Firefly? It’s got those rabid fans –
SMALLWIG: And it’s been out of production for a while. Good thinking. Plus, those particular fans are so hungry for anything that even looks like their show that they’ll ignore how crap our show is. Look through the headshot file later and see if we can get anybody who looks vaguely like the captain guy.
LACKEY: Nathan Fillion?
SMALLWIG: That’s the one. But now we got to come up with a twist so it’s all original and ours. Right. So it’s Firefly. What does it meet?
SMALLWIG: What does it meet? You know, “Predator meets Waitress.” That sorta thing. Firefly meets…
LACKEY: Das Boot!
SMALLWIG: Interesting, a sorta outer-space submarine war flick. Oh, and we could do it for cheap because the entire set could be the sub. That one’s got potential, but I got favors that are coming due with some CGI guys and I wanna big space battle and stuff. Write me two pages on it for later use, though.
LACKEY: Okay. Uh… Firefly meets… Total Recall?
SMALLWIG: What, so they’re on Mars? Boring. Next.
SMALLWIG: Vampires and werewolves in space. Uh huh. Next.
LACKEY: The Matrix?
SMALLWIG: Kid, you’re killing me here.
LACKEY (getting desperate): …Aliens?
The SMALLWIG chews his cigar thoughtfully.
SMALLWIG: Yeah. I can see that. So say the captain guy is back in the army during the war days, and they’re fighting on a planet, and then they, I dunno, blow up a hole somewhere they shouldn’t, and the aliens come out of the hole.
LACKEY: Can we do that?
SMALLWIG: Course we can. Oh, and we can also do the “two sides have to team up” bit. You know, to survive against the aliens, both sides of humans have to fight back-to-back. People eat that shit up.
LACKEY (leafing through headshots): I got an “Aaron Matthias” here, looks kind of like Nathan Fillion.
SMALLWIG: Good. Get him. Also make sure to get at least one Asian chick and one black guy. You know, for diversity. I’ll go through the slush pile later today and take what we need, hand it to Dougie for “repolishing,” script’ll be done by Friday.
LACKEY: …so how do we make money on this?
SMALLWIG: Make money? Ha! Nah, we take a nice juicy producer’s credit, and with it a producer’s paycheque from the budget of the movie. Then we put the thing up on the Internet, like, in ten or twelve episodes or whatever, and we use those tricks you were talking about to inflate hit count, and we use it to try and get a proper production deal somewhere else.
LACKEY: Man, Uncle Bernie, you got this down cold.
SMALLWIG: Damn straight.