story I'm about to tell you is true. The names have been slightly modified,
there are no innocent people to protect. It's a tale about lies, deception,
deceit and a warning to every writer who ever dreamed of seeing their creation
on film. The story beings about three years ago when I met Sandra Lindsky at a
Chamber of Commerce breakfast. She told me she was starting a movie production
company and was looking for projects about strong women in difficult situations.
I gave her a copy of my pre-published (which is the polite way of saying I
printed them myself at the local Office Max) novel and hoped for the best. Two
days later, Sandra called me at work, very excited about my novel. She said it
was exactly what her production company was looking for and immediately offered
to option it for a movie. I was thrilled! I called all my friends and
family. I began rehearsing my acceptance speech and making a list of who I was
going to thank at the Oscars.
the phone rang.
had sent the book to some friends who thought it "needed work" and
suggested we get together with a script doctor to fine tune the novel.We met
with the "doctor" who told me there was too much going on in my novel
and to make it a good script, I needed to focus on one theme and he'd turn it
into a romantic comedy. Sandra was excited. I was excited, even the script
doctor was getting chills. I went home and increased my speech by two pages.
Then the phone rang.
didn't think it was necessary for her to pay the script doctor and suggested I
write the script since I'd already written the book. Having no clue as to how to
do this, she dropped off several "how to" books on scriptwriting and
introduced me to her new partner Dereck. He had read the book and loved the new
idea of the script. They decided to have a party and invite all the film people
they knew to introduce their new project and have investors come who would give
them the money to make the film. I called all my friends and family and began
looking for a great dress to wear for the Premier when the phone rang.
had added another partner to her production company. Eilene was an experienced
screenwriter who would help me write the script in exchange for being a
producer. She said she could give it depth and emotion and she'd turn it into a
major hit. I phoned my friends and family and told them how great everything was
going. Then the phone rang.
had added another partner to her production company. Carl was a lawyer who would
write up the contracts in exchange for being a producer. We all met at the
party. I read some of my script to the guests who applauded enthusiastically.
Many wanted to hear more. There wasn't more, but I did sell five books. People
from the film industry were talking about my book! I went home on a natural
high. So what if the plot had changed just a little, that's the movie business.
I could handle a few minor changes. Then the phone rang.
called for a meeting at Chris' office the next morning. We needed to sign some
papers and make some minor changes in the plot. "But don't worry," she
said. "It's still a great book, the script is wonderful, it's just that
some fine tuning was needed."
next day I went to the meeting and Eilene handed me a two page synopsis of her
minor plot changes. Eilene had not read the book, but was convinced the story
needed more emotion and suggested we give one of the characters cancer, so we
could hit up a few organizations for sponsorships. I tried to tell her that no
one in my book so much as caught a cold, but she assured me that movie scripts
went through all kinds of changes, so I shouldn't worry. So, I didn't worry.
also suggested we change the main character's background from a radio station to
a winery so that we could get money from the local vineyards in the community.
And we should throw in some Mafia guys to spice things up, since movies about
gangsters were hot that year. That's when I started to worry. I went home and
didn't talk to anyone for days. Then the phone rang.
was really excited. She had just got a call from Melissa who's husband Peter had
been at the party and loved my original idea. He wanted to help write the script
with me. I spoke to Peter and told him about the changes the Eilene had tried to
make with my book. He was astounded that anyone would want to write a completely
different script from what the book was about and insisted he knew exactly what
should be done with my work. Sandra, Dereck and I met with him and Melissa.
Peter knew how to write a screenplay. He had a video of the last movie he had
written. He had an Oscar on the floor of his den!
picked up the statue. It was heavy. It was the real thing. And it HAD HIS NAME
ON IT!. I couldn't believe it! This man who'd won an Academy Award for
screenwriting wanted to help me write my script! I gave him my copy and we
agreed to another meeting the following week. I went home and called my family
and friends. I was going to be famous! I was going to be rich! Start packing for
the Hollywood and bring your sun screen! Then the phone rang.
told me she was going to hire Peter to write the script. Peter hadn't read the
book. Peter was going to create dialogue and emotion and create the greatest
romantic comedy directly from my script. I called Peter and asked him when
Eilene and I could get together. Peter told me that Eilene was no longer working
on the script. He said he liked to work alone and would call when he was
finished with the first draft. Oh and by the way, the movie he'd made never saw
a theater screen and the Oscar wasn't real. It was a real statue, but it was
given to him by a friend. He'd never won an Academy Award, it was just there for
inspiration. But I shouldn't worry. The script was my baby, he'd take good care
of it. And I'd be so excited when I heard my words coming out of the mouths of
actors at the script reading party at the end of the month it wouldn't matter
that he was a liar and a phony. I hung up. That was the first time I'd heard of
any script party. And the first time my stomach started to hurt.
script was finished a week before the party. Sandra dropped it off at my work on
Monday morning. By Monday afternoon my stomach ache had turned into full blown
nausea. Peter had totally rewritten my script. And he registered it under his
name only. He not only stole my characters, my setting, my plot and my title but
he turned my story into something shy of Debby Does Dallas. He'd taken out the
romance and added some kind of S&M scenes. I didn't recognize any of my
characters, except by name. I was in a state of shock. Then the phone rang.
was thrilled. She'd gotten her script and was off to the party. I asked her if
she intended to sign our updated contracts as she had promised. She told me no
problem. I shouldn't worry about a thing and to just bring the contracts to the
reading. So I did.
theater was about half full when I arrived. Everyone was talking about the great
new screenplay that Peter had written. My name had mysteriously vanished from
every piece of marketing material, including the copies of the script. There was
no reference to my book or credit in any of the program handouts.
met with Sandra before the reading began and put the papers and pen on the
counter. She looked at them, then at me. Then she flatly stated "I'm not
going to sign these." and she left.
picked up the papers, the pen and walked out. A few days later, I contacted my
attorney. Three days after that, I received a letter saying that the production
company filed Chapter 11 and had been dissolved.
The phone hasn't rung since.