In an earlier post I described the back-up script that David and I wrote in a half an hour (with an included portion). Here's that entry.
But that's not my favorite story. Many years ago, we were show runners for a series at 20th Century Fox that got axed after we wrote a commissioned back-up episode. (I should note here that none of the executives involved are anywhere connected with 20th anymore.) The President of the studio at the time called us, told us of the cancellation – there was the usual balloon juice about how stupid the network was, yada yada – and said he wanted us to stay in the 20th family and offered us a development deal. We thanked him, were very grateful but said this was all very sudden and we’d need a little time to decide what we wanted to do next. He understood and repeated his pledge that there would always be a place for us at the studio.
An hour later a business affairs person called and said they weren’t paying us for the script. We told her it was part of the network back-up order, it was already written, and even printed out with a 20th cover. She said, tough, they’re not paying. So we called the union and fifteen minutes later she was informed that indeed they WERE paying.
Ten minutes later she called to say we had to be out of our office within the hour. Great way to treat such valued members of the 20th “family”. So we packed up and left, and you’ll be amazed to know declined their development deal.
Flash forward two months. Michael Douglas hires us to rewrite JEWEL OF THE NILE, the sequel to ROMANCING THE STONE. We tell him we have two conditions – a secretary (we write scripts by dictating them to an assistant) and an office…but not just ANY office. We wanted our old office (which was still vacant) and told him why. Michael loved the story, is always up for a good tussle with the studio, and sure enough later that afternoon the same business affairs bitch who threw us out of that office had to call and arrange for our moving back in.
This tiny victory was additionally sweet because it was on the same lot that Darryl F. Zanuck reportedly once said about a writer, “throw him off the lot until we need him again.”