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The 12 Million Dollar Movie on Paper

The Visitor

James Davis is watching an old “sword and sorcery” movie in the living room. On the television a scantily clad Yolanda Aldrich brandishes a sword. She exclaims, “Let us go on to victory!” and the crowd cheers. Nancy Davis peaks into the living room.

“This movie again.”

“Hey, your cousin is in it.”

Later Nancy answers the doorbell. It’s Yolanda, she is now 43 but well preserved. She has a bottle of wine in her hand. Nancy knows Yolanda only visits when she needs help. James comes to the door.

“Yolanda, what a surprise! What brings you here?”

“I don’t know what to do. I’m in big trouble.”

“Tell us about it. Maybe we can help.”

“I hope so because there is no one else I can think of. There was this guy. He was going to produce this movie. He got me to talk a bunch of people into investing in the movie. I invested in it too. I put up $40,000. We were supposed to start filming a week ago. On the day of the filming I showed up where we were supposed to film. Nobody was there. I went to his office, tried to call his cell phone. He’s gone! I called the police and reported him as a missing person. They told me there never was such a person.”

Nancy, “You got swindled, you have no money and you need some money.”

“I wish it was that simple. My name is on everything. The money is all gone. Not just mine but everyone who invested in the movie.”

Nancy, “That’s too bad for the other investors as well. You shouldn’t have fallen for such a scheme.”

“You don’t understand. These investors will eventually find out there is no movie and I will go to jail.”

James, “You already reported it to the police. You and they are victims so hopefully they’ll find this guy and he goes to jail and you might even get some money back. If not then you’re out the money but you are just one of the victims.”

“You don’t understand. I didn’t tell the police anything about the money. I reported a missing person.”

Nancy, “A missing person who doesn’t exist.”

“That’s right. They’ll just think I invented this person and hid the money somewhere.”

Nancy, “You have a point. You still have to go to the police about this.”

“Nancy, you know I’m not a thief. I’m foolish, impulsive, and a lot of other things but I’m not a thief.”

Nancy, “You should have told them about the money when you reported him missing. Still you have to report this to the police.”

James, “How much money is involved?

“Counting my money, it’s $12,045,000.”

Nancy, “You better call the police right now.”

“They’ll arrest me!”

Nancy, “You have no other choice.”

James, “Wait a minute the money is gone. Yolanda going to jail isn’t going to get the people their money back. You got the money to make a move. Movies lose money all the time. Most movies don’t get distributed.”

“I know but sooner or later somebody is going to ask to see the movie.”

James, “We can do some scenes put something together.”

Nancy, “What do you mean we?”

James, “We have to help her out. With 12 million and a week head start this guy could be anywhere. He no doubt planned his getaway long ago.”

Yolanda, “What do you mean throw some scenes together?”

James, “What kind of a movie was it?”

“He never really said. He said it was going to be a mixture of genres and he believed it would be my chance to jump start my career.”

Nancy, “You heard comeback and what little sense you had went right out the window”

“Yes.”

James, “If we pool together our resources, I’m sure we could come up with something that could pass for a valid effort.”

Nancy, “You’re crazy!”

James, “We can try. I’ve got a video camera.”

Nancy, “Film a movie with a $35 camcorder?”

Yolanda, “I’m willing to try.”

James, “We’ve got nothing to lose.”

Nancy, “Do what you want.”

The Movie Makers

Yolanda is wearing a negligee. James has on a pajama bottom. He has no upper body development. Nancy has a camcorder. The scene seems simple but Nancy knows it will be a disaster. She estimates after 10 failed attempts James and Yolanda will see going to the police is the only option. On the first take Yolanda rolls off the bed. Then Yolanda comes up with the idea of putting pillows on the floor in case there was a repeat. There were many repeats of Yolanda rolling off the bed. There were slips, mixed up dialogue, and once James almost got smothered.

At 5:35 the next morning James believed he had enough to make a scene.

Yolanda goes home and returns with an edited version of the scene, and some other items for further “film making”. Yolanda and James, to Nancy’s chagrin, are enthusiastic about their project. Yolanda and James watch their scene.

Yolanda and James are in bed. His face is obscured. They speak in unconvincing European accents.

Yolanda, “I have another surprise for you.”

James, “I don’t think I could live through another one of your surprises.”

Yolanda, “You won’t.”

Yolanda jumps on top of James, pinning his arms with her shins. She puts a pillow over his face. After the mock smothering Yolanda says into a lipstick case, “Target will sing no more. I took his breath away.”

James and Yolanda are elated at their accomplishment.

Nancy, “All that time and trouble to get 30 seconds worth of film. Now multiply that by 180.”

James, “That gives us six months to put something together.”

Yolanda, “That’s what I like about you James. You have that ‘can do’ attitude.”

James, “Let me show you what I came up with.”

James shows a scene of a satellite crawling across a dark background and getting destroyed by a beam.

Nancy, “ILM is going to be scared of this competition.”

Yolanda, “I think that’s great. You can add the sound of an explosion?”

James, “Yes, but there’s no sound in space.”

Yolanda, “That’s right.”

Nancy, “Sound realism 100. Visual realism 2.”

James brings up a picture Yolanda took of the Eifel Tower. He uses the camcorder to give the illusion of aerial footage.

Nancy, “You know you can get aerial footage online?”

James, “Yes, but then we’ll get into copyright issues.”

Nancy, “You’re perpetrating a fraud and you’re worried about copyright issues?”

The next day James tells Nancy he’s going to get footage of planes landing.

Nancy, “Don’t you think it’s time to end this foolishness now that you’ve lived your fantasy of going to bed with her?”

James, “I hate it when you talk like this. It wouldn’t be so bad if you actually were jealous.”

Nancy, “Who are you kidding? If I were jealous, you’d be flattered.”

James and Yolanda continue making scenes with Nancy reluctantly assisting over the next two weeks. James makes some stock footage video clips. James and Yolanda are showcasing their lack of talent.

It’s about lunch time and Nancy is in the kitchen making sandwiches. James goes into the bathroom. Yolanda comes into the kitchen.

Yolanda, “You’re not jealous, are you?”

Nancy, “Of what?”

Yolanda, “That bedroom scene we did. It was all PG. It didn’t mean anything.”

Nancy, “That is as ridiculous as trying to get out of this mess by making a movie.”

Yolanda, “You always look so angry.”

Nancy, “I haven’t seen you in five years. Then you blow in here and true to form you have a problem and need help. Then James comes up with this childish idea and you are both off to the races.”

A toilet flushes.

Nancy, “Speak of the devil.”

James comes out of the bathroom smiling. “I came up with another idea for a scene.”

Nancy, “Nothing like a brain massage to spit out an idea.”

The two days later James shows Nancy the scene they filmed with the special effects and editing.

A smiling James turns to Nancy, “What do you think?”

“I think if you put this much effort into your job you wouldn’t have lost it.”

“That’s a cheap shot. You know the contract I was on got cancelled. It could happen to anyone.”

“It didn’t happen to anyone it happened to you. If they thought you were worth it, they could have found you another job.”

“I found another job. I’m working. Full time.”

“At half the pay.”

“It’s the best I could do after 6 months of looking.”

“I didn’t see you put anywhere near this much effort into job searching as you do on this stupid idea.”

“Stupid idea?”

“Oh, did I say ‘stupid’, I meant ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous?”

“Oh, did I say ‘ridiculous’, I meant insane.”

“You know how I know I’m doing the right thing?”

“This is going to be good. How?”

“You’re the smart one. You’re the CPA. The only thing you came up with was Yolanda going to the police to face arrest, jail, and a string of lawsuits.”

Nancy dejected, “Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes.”

Faux aerial photography

The Accountant

Yolanda arrives with a box in her hand.

Nancy, “Did you bring the account information?”

Yolanda, “Yes, it’s in the box.”

James, “Account information?”

Nancy, “Yes, I want to see if I can find something that’ll keep Yolanda out of an orange jump suit.”

Yolanda, “Thank you. I appreciate what you are doing. I wish you would have put it another way.”

Nancy, “Ok, if I don’t find something you will get a felony conviction and spend some years in jail.”

Yolanda, “The first way was better.”

While James and Yolanda are working with PowerPoint for another scene Nancy is in a den. Nancy prints out a sheet of paper and tacks it on a cork board. The paper reads; “Help someone when they are in trouble and they will remember you, the next time they are in trouble.”

After looking over the account information Nancy joins Yolanda and James.

“I looked over the records. I hope you look good in orange.”

Yolanda, “That’ not funny.”

“This swindler’s MO was amazingly simple. The checks were deposited by cell phone. The withdrawals were made with checks out to cash. They’re in your handwriting.”

“Of course, I wrote them.”

“You made out the checks and gave it to him.”

“No, I withdrew the money.”

“These checks were just below the amount that would raise alarm bells at the bank. There were enough and often enough they should have raised alarm bells with you. Didn’t you think something might be wrong? “

“Not the way he explained it. He said it was best if we paid some people up front in cash.”

“Over $12 million?”

“I didn’t think it was that much. I didn’t keep track. I never was good in math.”

“I’m sure they have some remedial math classes in prison.”

“Could you not say prison or orange?”

“Well they don’t wear black and white stripes in the penitentiary these days.”

James points to his laptop, “We still have this card to play.”

Nancy, “Well that card is a joker.”

James, “The joker is a wild card. Nancy, you’ve done enough for one night. Maybe you’ll think of something tomorrow. Let’s finish the PowerPoint slides and call it a night. We will work on the narration tomorrow.”

Yolanda comes over at night.

“Hi Nancy. Where’s James? I’ve got some stuff in the car.”

“I’ll help you with it. James is cleaning the bathroom. The one advantage of his crazy plan is it has gotten him to do some cleaning. If I’m lucky he’ll end up cleaning the whole house before it’s over.”

Nancy makes a coffee. After she pours the two cups Nancy writes down on a yellow pad; “Coffee Cups Catering - $20.”

Later, Nancy writes on the pad; “Cold Things Materials - $100.” Nancy hears James humming Santa Luchia for a movie scene, she smiles and writes; “Singing Mummy Sound Effects - $1,000.”

Later Nancy snickers as she writes on her pad:

Cast:

Helga Heine – Marie A. Ritter

Kendo Nakamura –

Stunts:

Joao Plano

Dancers:

Acme Dance Troupe

Nancy thinks where can she come up with some Japanese names. Nancy types on her cell phone: “Godzilla 1954 Cast.”

Animation made with PowerPoint

The Stars

That night as Yolanda, James, and Nancy drink coffee. Nancy writes “Coffee Cups Catering - $30” on her pad.

James, ‘I’ll tell you what we’re going to need.”

Nancy, “A plot?”

James, “We need someone to be the hero.”

Nancy, “Ok, since I’m in this far I may as well. I’ll do it.”

James, “We could certainly use another character but, you don’t have the look of an action/adventure heroine.”

Nancy, “What? You’re supposed to be a billionaire, supervillain with her as a mistress and she is supposed to be a criminal mastermind and I don’t have the look of an action/adventure heroine? Since when have you become choosy about casting?”

James, “You just don’t have the look.”

Nancy, “I have the perfect look for this script, dollar store special effects and overall production value.”

Yolanda, “I think I could get some people from the acting class I teach who would be just right for the part.”

Nancy, “You, teach acting?”

Yolanda, “Yes, yes, I do.”

Nancy, “Did anyone who took your class ever get a job acting?”

Yolanda, “Yes, one was in a local commercial and two got casted as extras.”

Nancy, “Impressive.”

James, “The important thing is you can get them.”

Yolanda, “Yes, and more important I’ll talk them into working for free.”

Nancy, “No, you have to pay them.”

Yolanda, “What, why?”

Nancy, “For two reasons. If someone asks where the money went, free acting is a good indicator we’re running a scam.”

Yolanda, “Oh, how much?”

Nancy, “What’s the scale for a $12 million film?”

Yolanda, “Scale for a $12 million film?”

Nancy, “That’s how much we say the budget is?”

Yolanda, “That’ll soon be more than they paid me for lessons.”

Nancy, “Whatever you charged them you overcharged them. Now you get to overpay them.”

Yolanda, “Is that your second reason?”

Nancy, “No, actually it’s a third reason. By doing this we are helping in a swindle. Enough people, including me and James, are getting swindled without adding more to the list.”

Yolanda, “Should we hold a casting call?”

James, “For your students and alumni?”

Yolanda, “Yes, it would give my acting classes more credibility.”

Nancy, “One local commercial, two extra jobs, and a phony casting call. Great credentials.”

Nancy and James held a casting call. James, Yolanda, & Nancy watch recordings of the auditions. They have pictures of Yolanda’s students. Nancy writes on her pad, ‘CCC Casting, Ltd. - $10,779”.

As they view Stanley Snickerdoodle’s audition.

James, “The look, perfect. The acting, passable.”

Yolanda, “The best one acting wise is 5’4” with a face only a mother would pay to see.”

Nancy, “Did you tell him that before you took his money?”

Yolanda, “You know just because someone doesn’t have the look of an action hero doesn’t mean they can’t have a successful acting career.”

Nancy, “Did he get the local commercial or one of the extra jobs?”

Yolanda, “An extra job.”

James, “Let’s take a look at the front runner for our leading lady.”

James brings up Ruth Finkelstein’s audition. She has a voluptuous figure and a beautiful face. She has six words and needs to be told the line after three words.

James, “We may want to limit her lines.

Yolanda, “Good idea since I’m paying her in real money.”

Nancy, “Hey, you either pay for actors of pay for a lawyer. This is the way you chose to keep out of jail.”

Yolanda and James tell Ruth and Stanley they have other crews filming in other locations. Yolanda and James pretend to make and receive phone calls from people in other countries.

Ruth leaves after a day of filming.

James, “Nancy, that was a good idea of yours to use cue cards.”

Nancy, “We’re lucky she at least knows how to read.”

Yolanda, “She’s untalented, not stupid.”

Nancy, “You’d better be wrong on that last count. Bonjour means “good morning”. It’s night over in France. Mademoiselle means ‘miss’. The word for ‘lady’ is ‘Dame’.”

James, “From now on we’d better put a little planning into these fake international phone calls.”

The End Game

After many mishaps and missteps James and Yolanda have enough footage to claim they made a film. Nancy has a clean house thanks to her insistence James clean up any mess he made in filming.

James, “I’m really surprised we did it. All along I was expecting something to just fall apart.”

Nancy, “When you have nothing there is nothing to fall apart.”

James, “Now I’ll have to put on the editor’s hat and tweak this so we have what can pass for a film. I’d say you’re off the hook.”

Yolanda. “Thank you so much.”

Nancy, “You intend to tweak it until it’s the best you could make it then bury it?”

James, “No, that would be dishonest.”

Nancy, “We’ve made a film for spit and she is going to pretend it cost $12 million to make and you have a problem with honesty?”

James, “Yolanda, you have to at least try to sell this.”

Yolanda, “I’ll talk to some people, at least go through the motions.”

Nancy, “That’s what we’ve been doing all along.”

Yolanda manages to get a distributor she knows to put the movie straight to DVD. The distributor cleverly gave the DVD a cover that made it appear to be a ‘60s movie.

At Christmas time Yolanda comes to the Davis house.

Nancy, “I’ve got a Christmas present for you.”

James gets a box under the Christmas tree.

Nancy, “Not that one. The movie’s share of the profits from DVD sales has gone over $14 million. You’ve paid back the people that were swindled.”

Yolanda, “That’s wonderful!”

Nancy, “Yes, they have even made some money on the venture so far.”

James, “We really did it!”

Nancy, “Yolanda, your share of the profit is $3.57.”

Yolanda, “Is that all?”

James, “It’s a start.”

Nancy, “Our share is 36 cents.”

James, “Is that 36 cents each?”

Nancy, “You can have my 18 cents.”

Yolanda, “While we’re on the subject. One of the investors said he would be interested in financing another of our movie projects.”

James, “You mean we’d have a real budget?”

Nancy, “James, don’t even think about it.”

James, “A real budget, with real paychecks.”

Nancy, “No.”

Yolanda, “Come on.”

Nancy, “No, pas, nein, laam, Iie!”

THE END

© 2020 Robert Sacchi

Comments

Robert Sacchi (author) on July 11, 2020:

Thanks for reading and commenting. That seems an interesting read. Thank you.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 11, 2020:

Robert

Reading this reminded me of a book I read a few months ago about Sir Peter Jackson and how he got started making movies!

This hub was a lot of fun.

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 28, 2020:

Thank you. The advantage is with the small cast and crew it is less of a contamination risk. There does seem to be a big push to get things back to normal.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 28, 2020:

I am wishing you success with your screenplay writing. Reduced budgets will probably be a requisite long into the future as the world recovers from the current pandemic.

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 26, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you found it interesting. I also write screenplays as a hobby. One of the rejection letters pointed out they would be unwilling to take a chance with a movie that would require a significant budget. So, I wrote one designed with a microbudget in mind. That one hasn't sold either. I decided I'd condense it into a short story and post. Usually I go the other way around.

manatita44 from london on May 26, 2020:

What an interesting journey! I couldn't have thought that one up and I most certainly didn't know where it would go. Very unusual and a bit surreal.

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 25, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you found it entertaining.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 25, 2020:

This was a clever bit of fanciful writing. At first, I also wondered if you were reviewing a movie. Good job!

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 21, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting. It would seem anyone determined enough to try would probably get more sophisticated equipment. As for budget, actors and others usually don't get a percentage of the gross because there have been cases where actors who had a percentage of the gross in highly successful movies got next to nothing. One accounting trick is to charge for a rental on an antique car when the car is already owned by the studio.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 21, 2020:

You carry this plot well through the narrative between the three main characters. I wonder if it could ever be accomplished in real life? Budgets for movies can be crazy. There's a thought that the new Bond movie will struggle to cover its budget, especially as its release date has been put back.

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 20, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I condensed it from a screenplay I wrote.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 19, 2020:

This was inventive, quirky and fun! At first I was wondering whether it was a review of an old time movie but then realized it was a creative work. I liked this!