I recently read a blog by Ryan Dixon on ScriptShark titled “What Page Do They Screw?: On Being Flexible During Pitch Meetings.”
The thrust of the post was about how Dixon, a journeyman screenwriter, learned the hard way that coming to a meeting absent one-hundred percent preparedness with an arrogant, big-time movie producer will culminate – slowly, painfully – in humiliating disaster. I suspect the hollow feeling was not unlike that of the character Bud Fox in “Wall Street” following his tense, first sit-down with Gordon Gekko.
Basically, after a dicey start Dixon was kicking ass on his well-rehearsed pitch when the producer suddenly interjected, “What page do they screw?” Dixon, flummoxed by the unexpected query, stammered (I assume he stammered, maybe he farted first, who knows – I wasn’t there). “I’m sorry. What?” The producer continued, “The hero, he meets the girl in Act One, right? What page do they screw?”
Dixon goes on to tell how the meeting went downhill, and supplies some received wisdom about how other screenwriters would be well-served to jack up for these once-in-a-half-lifetime opportunities, and learn from his mistakes and be better prepared for the off-the-wall inquiry, but my mind was elsewhere. I had heard this base question somewhere before: “The Player” – Robert Altman’s 1992 satirical piece about an arrogant producer who accidentally kills a screenwriter and gets away with it.
In the movie, which by the way includes more than 60 cameos including Jack Lemmon, Harry Bellefonte, Cher, Malcolm McDowell, Angelica Huston, Buck Henry and John Cusack, a producer, in the middle of receiving a pitch, asks, “Do they screw?” The executive in charge of development replies very Dixon-like, “Who?” The producer replies rather drily, “The D.A. And the woman. Do they screw? If I’m going to be looking at jail cells and gas chambers, you need some sex.” And who can blame him? Knowing that the male and female leads couple en flagrante delicto (preferably in the first third of the script) gives the producer a sense of relief that his 10 minutes of quasi-attention have not been completed wasted.
Just for the record, in my screenplay, “Double Blind Test” it’s page 45, and in “Miseria ex Machina” it’s page 57.