Under the Table Books
Screenplays

Introduction

When the movie rights to my novel Inside Moves were purchased in 1978 by Paramount for Bob (Godfather, Chinatown, etc.) Evans to produce, I hoped he would ask me to write the screenplay. Instead, he hired Barry Levinson (soon to become a famous director) and Valerie Curtin to adapt the book.

However, when Laura (Spiderman, etc.) Ziskin optioned my novel Forgotten Impulses for the movies in 1981, she arranged for Warner Brothers to pay me to write the screenplay. Working with Laura on several drafts of Forgotten Impulses was the beginning of my love affair with the screenplay form.

Then in 1984, I was hired by the television director Dan Curtis (Winds of War and War and Remembrance) to write a Christmas movie for him set in New England during World War II. My experience working with Dan and a few young lions at ABC was highly unpleasant and cured me of certain ambitions forever.

Nevertheless, from time to time, stories comes to me as movies, and I write them down in screenplay form — non-technical and easy to read. I have yet to have a feature-length screenplay made into a movie, but I have several ready to go, five of which are described here. I have also written a wonderful screenplay version of my novel Louie & Women.

Screenplays

OPEN MIKE

The Time of Your Life meets Cabaret

Open Mike is set in a down-to-earth pub somewhere in America, circa Now. The pub is owned by an Irishman named Mike. Two nights a week the joint is open to any and all who wish to get up in front of a rowdy but kindly audience and sing, recite, talk, dance — anything they are moved to do.

The plot emerging from the first hilarious evening of open mike performances revolves around a brilliant singer/songwriter named Sylvie, a sexy klutz named Melanie, an incisive poet named Tim, and Mike himself, a generous enigmatic who acts as a quiet foil for everyone who encounters him. Romance and humor abound, hearts are broken and mended, and those who would otherwise be forgotten are given their chances to shine.

With lots of good songs and music to make this a performance film, to be sure, but not a gawky musical.

NEVER NEVER LAND

Lord of the Flies meets The Breakfast Club

I wrote Never Never Land in the early 1980's. I know it was the early 80's because the only extant copy of Never Never Land was printed on the very first printer Apple made — one of those really noisy, slow ones — to go with their very first Macintoshes.

The movie is an adventure thriller about a group of troubled teens attending an exclusive private school in Hawaii. They commandeer a sailboat, get caught in a hurricane, and land on an uninhabited but habitable island in the middle of Pacific Ocean. Who will prevail? The might-makes-right primitives or the more highly evolved sensitive ones? A potent allegory of the human condition — past and present.

SCORPIO RISING

Steppenwolf meets The Sorcerer's Apprentice

This is a work that consumed several years of my writing life. I wrote it first as a screenplay, and after it aroused mild interest in movie land, I spent three years turning it into an epic novel that no agent or publisher would touch. Then a few years ago, I rewrote Scorpio Rising as a screenplay to finally get it right.

The story is set in the slightly futuristic present, and chronicles the collision of Stewart — a cynical but very famous astrologer — with his alchemist daughter Emerald, his equally famous ex-wife Gisella, a sexy astrologer and psychotherapist Barbara, and two fabulous sorcerers Camino and Martha.

Operatic in scope (one filmmaker said it should be an opera) and as funny as it is dark, Scorpio Rising requires an absolutely brilliant director and a cast of great character actors.

ROBERT LIVINGSTON

Ordinary People meets The Catcher in the Rye meets Stormy Monday Blues

The title is also the name of the eldest son of the Livingston family. Robert is a talented guitarist, thoughtful and creative, and an alcoholic. The movie explores the terrible dysfunction that so often resides beneath the surface of apparently functional families — with great music.

I love serious dramas that are also funny — a nearly lost art in American cinema — and robert livingston is another of my attempts to resurrect that more true-to-life art form.

ULTIMATE SAM

Siddhartha meets Blade Runner (for kids and ageless adults) …

Ulitmate Sam is set in the future when the slopes of the social pyramid have become so steep only a lucky few reside at the top, and much of humanity has devolved into chaos. Sam, a lonely only child of twelve, lives a sequestered high-tech existence, but hungers for depth and meaning and human warmth. He escapes from his fortress-like home and becomes a very young knight-errant in a truly terrifying (but fantastic) world.

The success of Sam's quest — which he discovers along his way — requires several mental leaps that carry him beyond the idea of a separate self into a deep connectedness with all beings.

One director said he thought Ultimate Sam would make a wonderful animated feature, but I see it more as an epic Lucasian film.

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