Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grandma Karpis-Barker: A Movie Pitch

Well if it isn’t Yankel the Pitchman on the phone. So how long has it been since we last spoke…3 hours?
I love you as if you were my brother-in-law; which, of course you are. So how’s my sister and the kids?
No different than they were three hours ago. I'm a busy agent. A mover. A shaker. I revel in restless leg syndrome.So what is now? A kid who hypnotizes the country in believing he is old enough to run for President. An alien dinosaur that comes to Earth thinking that Jurassic Park is legit? What was the other one you told me this morning? Oh yes: A Siamese cat that walks across a DOS driven computer in the Pentagon setting off our entire missile system. You described that as an apocalyptic comedy of errors for Disney.
It's a scream. The Pentagon running on DOS driven computers. Sounds already like a Disney comedy, right? Shoot the idea out to your studio poker buddies the next time you get called out on a busted flush. You start pitching before they start laughing. How much did Harvey take you for the last time, Amarillo Slim?
What is it Pitchman? Can’t you just send it to me?
You know I hate to write anything down until there’s money involved.

You also hate showing up for dinner without first calling.

Okay, now picture this. An old lady, grandmother old (not Ozark grandmother old which could be someone in their early thirties) but at least old enough to join AARP and overweight, but not so heavy she needs a hoist to move her. We'll also insert shots of her crocheting booties for the local orphanage, delivering milk to homeless shelters, and doing dowsing work on the side. Her house looks like Extreme Makeover has handed her name to the producers of Hoarders. Her main job pays next to nothing: She's a crossing guard or someone who takes in ironing. The woman doesn't look as if she has a pot to piss in. No wait. Make her a school bus monitor. I have no idea what a school bus monitor does, possibly monitoring bus mileage or air quality, but that job has been in the news recently. We see her walking really slowly toward a school bus, possibly because she has poor circulation. She’s wearing supp hose and she’s brown bagging it, but the bag looks like it was stolen off a dumpster diver. But this is a real hardy salt of the earth type. She’s heading towards a bus filled with kids that look too dangerous for Gitmo.She barely has time to sit down and begin knitting those booties; Note to self: maybe make them socks for our Marines in Afghanistan. Do Afghan soldiers need socks? Anyway, four boys begin to verbally wail and curse her out. Just starts up for no apparent reason. Making fun of her weight, her clothes, her hearing aids. One kid says she'll die alone and be food for her cats for a month. Another kid says she’s so fat her farts come out in a different time zone. You know bad Friar’s roast jokes.

Now my first thought was make her a black grandmother, but then we have to make sure none of the action takes place too far toward the back of the bus for obvious reasons. I didn’t want to limit the director to specific location shots. Anyway, a black female regardless of age would do a Charles Bronson on these punks and that would take my idea into a whole new Pam Grier direction. Then I thought, make her Hispanic. I threw that out because I didn’t want any extraneous scenes where we would have to prove her American citizenship. Some paying customers would still believe she was illegal and taking this low paying job away from some American grandmother who couldn’t make the graveyard shift at WalMart. Making her Asian was a non-starter. The audience always expects Confucian pigeon English and some kung fu battle right up front. Knowing development execs the way I do, the Chinese grandmother would have ended up being pitched to Jackie Chan and then this whole idea would make no sense at all.

Hey Pitchman, this is already longer than my last root canal and equally as painful. 
I love your humor. That’s why my sister married you instead of the heart surgeon now running Sloan Kettering. Anyway, you’ll see shortly why I made her white, old, overweight, and vulnerable. The punks on the bus are all white as well. No reason to get bogged down in any racial craziness. Anyway, brother in law, when was the last time we had a bunch of young white villains that weren’t inbred cannibals from the Ozarks, clown faces from The Warriors, or tweeker bikers? Were all the kids in Lord of the Rings white? Don't matter. None of these kids have English accents so I don't care.. We'll also figure out how to use the word “wilding” in the title somehow unless that doesn't test well.. You know something like the “white wilders.”

I just thought of something. You know my mind is always working. They’re not white teenagers. They’re white middle schoolers, tweens. They’re like the young spawn of Satan. Boy that’s sounds like a great movie title for Rob Zombie. Young Spawn of Satan. Rolls off the tongue real well, don't you think? Can you get me a meeting? Hello. Hello. You still there?

Barely. Just lighting my tongue on fire with an old butane lighter. So far this sounds somewhat familiar to a story I think I heard about from just about EVERYONE! 

Hey, I'm Mister Pitchman. You don't think I have a bunch of twists up my sleeve. Anyway, these kids just keep tormenting her.They're mean little shits, cursing and screaming in her ear, telling her she’s fat, and her family wants her dead and she’ll die alone eaten by her cats which will take over a month for them to consume her down to the bone.

Didn't you just tell me that line?

Possibly, but who can remember that far back? But the old lady just sits still, maybe says a few words, and tears up. Did I say we could steal some old Friar’s roast materials?

I don't know. You lost me thirty seconds before the phone rang.
Bear with me. I’m coming to the good part. One of these kids just so happens to be recording this entire smack down. Now you’re asking. Why record this? It’s not a sex tape. What’s the point? Here’s where the story starts twisting and turning like your reflux stomach. This kid uploads the video and it goes viral. I guess everything goes viral nowadays. I wonder if the Japanese have done a horror movie about a video going viral and killing its viewers. Make note to Google and IMBD that thought.

Make sure you look up the title The Ring.
Thanks. Will do. The country goes nuts, is outraged by the treatment of this poor woman who sits stoically throughout just letting the kids say whatever they want. Maybe she throws out some bromide about sticks and stones or something like that. Remember I don’t write. I leave that up to the experts. Some do-gooder starts a fund for her on the Internet and boom! suddenly everyone in America remembers they all have overweight grandmothers they’ve ignored or maligned or refused to let kiss them because of old people smell. So the money pours in to this website, tax free money, I might add. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from total strangers. Strangers who otherwise might want to stop food stamps for kids or pap smears for poor women.

Now here’s the kicker which turns it into a perfect Lifetime movie. We discover in Act II that the grandmother is more than she seems. Through flashbacks but not a lot of them, we see her around a kitchen table with the vintage vinyl coated tablecloth and 50s diner chairs, all non matching colors. Perhaps she even covers her furniture with plastic sheets. The four kids and the kid cameraman are sitting around the table practicing the very same smack-down lines we just heard on the bus. She hits the kids on the head with a ruler if the inflection is wrong or not mean enough. When they do good, she gives them milk with the stale saltines.On the table are DVD’s of Tarentino’s movies and Full Metal Jacket.

The grandmother maiden name is something like Karpis or Barker. In fact let’s make the old lady’s name is Edna Karpis-Barker. She tells these kids that the meaner they are to her, the more money will come flowing in. She might quote PT Barnum, but I don't want this to feel like a period piece so probably not. Just no hitting her because when the video goes viral, that could be construed as criminal assault. The cops will show up anyway, she says. The kids will have to write apologies, go before the cameras, cry and say how ashamed they are. We get to know more about these kids. They're not bad kids. They've just thrown in with a real bad grandmother. We might work in a teachable moment somehow.
You know with all the teachable moments this country has had recently, we should all be PHDs by now. 

She tells the kids to be prepared for death threats and their parents will be humiliated as lousy parents who should be publicly whipped for producing such snot-nosed bastards.But that's the downside. She will, however, be all over television. The darling of the media. She explains that after two news cycles this story will disappear, but the money will remain. She'll collect the money off the Internet, make a bunch of thank- you-very-much-stump speeches and then they'll come over and split the loot. Easier than robbing a bank.

Were you dropped on your head as a baby? This is crazy.

All goes according to plan. She goes on a fully paid vacation funded by some sad-eyed billionaire wracked with guilt because he squealed to the cops on his own grandmother when he was a kid for growing medicinal dope in her hydroponically equipped basement, Act Three takes a sharp vengeance turn and down some pretty rough streets. Grandma Karpis-Barker absconds with all the dough leaving the boys sitting on a mountain of death threats, school expulsions, and homelessness now that their parents have been publicly fired from their jobs. So all five of these kids are walking the streets, pariahs in their neighborhood, probably buying dope from some Tim Roth type of guy. Then one day while they’re hanging around a vacant Blockbuster Video store thinking of buying guns and going into busy for themselves, some hard bitten man comes up to them. Now the audience thinks it’s a Jerry Sandusky type guy, but it isn’t. He’s a private detective. Now if we want to get a quality star for this part, I can introduce him earlier, maybe busting some heads or landing in jail because he was conveniently at a murder scene just when the cops arrive. Anyway, he knows exactly what happened to the kids. He’s had run ins with Grandma Karpis-Barker before, and before the Internet, her bunko ploy was stiffing bingo parlors and running smokes up from North Carolina to the Indian reservations in upstate New York.

To sum up, this Tom Sizemore type character ends up tracking her down. There are car chases, a gunfight that closes down the Verrazano Bridge, and Grandma Karpis-Barker looks like she is shot off one of the bridges’ trellises. Does the Verrazano Bridge have trellises? We’ll get research on it during pre production. Anyway, no money is found, the body is never recovered leading us into the Lifetime sequel, Busted Lives: A Redemption with Bullets.

Pitchman, I’ll get on right away. Oh damn, my 10 percenter is here and she’s brought her Newfie with her. Has it been walked? Hey, Hey, that's a handwoven Persian rug from the 15th Century. Why is he sniffing that spot?

Babe, when I come over tonight for brisket, do I have a pitch for you. It’s about Seaman, the Newfoundland Dog that accompanied Louis and Clark. The twist here is he’s possessed by the Salem witches burned at the stake.


Hello. Hello.

ADDENDUM:  Could the above scenario be real?  Could someone actually pitch an idea in Hollywood turning this Karen Klein video upside down, making a helpless grandmother into a calculating bunko artist par excellence, and be taken seriously? Not only has it already been done. but the second draft of the script from the network-okayed writer is a week late. Hollywood is a town of pitchmeisters, many of whose ideas make even less sense than  telling your girlfriend the truth about the size of her backside. Come to think of it here's another idea: Obama discovers he's a secret terrorist Moslem and gives a thumbs up to a drone attack on himself.