Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane

My apologies to all seven of you who were waiting with bated breath for the second part of "The Koepp and I". I'm working on it. Okay, I'm not working on it. If I had been working on it you wouldn't be reading this instead. Whatever. I'll get to it. It's not like I don't know what happens. But like I said before...I've got limited good material and I need to stretch it out.

So I'm reading the internet the other day as we webmasters are wont to do and I come across the news that I've been praying about for months: the film formerly known as SNAKES ON A PLANE and then recently known as PACIFIC AIR ONE-TWENTY WHO GIVES A FLYING FUCK has been returned to its glory and is being renamed SNAKES ON A PLANE!

I think.

You can read the article yourself. Now nowhere does the studio actually say they're changing the title. But Sam Jackson's pretty sure he's doing a movie called SNAKES ON A PLANE. And if Sam Jackson thinks he's doing a movie called SNAKES ON A PLANE...you're doing a movie called SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Why do I care? Because I love SNAKES ON A PLANE. Love it. It makes me giggle like the fat, lazy schoolgirl I am. Here's why:

Some months ago my agent called me (we'll call him...Agent). Agent says: "New Line's got a project they want you to look at. They're making the movie. They love it. It needs a little work."

Now when a studio tells you something needs "a little work" what that really means is "maybe it needs a little work, maybe it needs a lotta work, maybe you should tell us how much work it needs...but we want to make this movie so let's all just agree that no matter how much work it is, we'll call it 'a little work'".

I ask Agent the name of the project, what it's about, etc. He says: Snakes on a Plane. Holy shit, I'm thinking. It's a title. It's a concept. It's a poster and a logline and whatever else you need it to be. It's perfect. Perfect. It's the Everlasting Gobstopper of movie titles.

I say to Agent: "Tell me nothing else. Get me the script and put me on the phone with those lucky bastards at New Line Cinema!"

So he does and he does.

Now out of both loyalty to the sacred bond between studio and screenwriter and also a serious desire to keep getting hired in this town, I will not give away any of the plot details of SNAKES ON A PLANE. But know this. As the great Sam Jackson would say: There are motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane.

What else do you need to know? How the snakes get on the plane, what the snakes do once they're on the plane, who puts the snakes on the plane, who is trying to get the snakes off the plane...This is not for you to ponder. There are snakes on the plane. End of fucking story.

In fact, during the two or three days that precedes my phone call with the studio, I become obsessed with the concept. Not as a movie. But as a sort of philosophy. Somnewhere in between "Cest la vie", "Whattya gonna do?" and "Shit happens" falls my new zen koan "Snakes on a Plane".

WIFE: "Honey you stepped in dog poop again. "
ME: "Snakes on a Plane..."
DOCTOR: "Your cholesterol is 290. Perhaps you want to mix in a walk once in a while."
ME: "Snakes on a Plane..."
WIFE: "Honey while you were on your cholesterol walk you stepped in dog poop again."

You get the picture.

Now I'm not a big rewrite guy and I do not love the ambulance chasing quality to script doctoring...I have done less than many but more than some and it's been a while since I've been holier than thou about that part of the business.

So I get on the phone. It's a conference call and I think maybe three people are on the phone and one's an old friend of mine and she and I do most of the talking. But here's the salient part and it comes early:

ME: "Oh my God I just have to say first and foremost that SNAKES ON A PLANE is the single greatest movie title of all time. I'm even using it as a zen koan. You have to promise me if I sign on to rewrite this you will NEVER change the title to something sort of generic and stupid like FLIGHT ONE-TWENTY WHO GIVES A FUCK."
AWKWARD SILENCE
ME: "You're changing the title aren't you?"
OLD FRIEND: Well, we were thinking, we need to make it a little scarier, a little more thriller-y, something not so camp..."
ME: But...it's SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Needless to say things go downhill fast from there. I become sort of ornery and nitpicky on the phone and do the thing that studio executives and my wife hate more than anything: I bring up problems without providing any sort of solutions.

People hate that.

So I don't do the job and someone else does and frankly at that point I lose interest in following the SNAKES ON A PLANE saga. The movie could be the Next Great Deadly Animal Loose on a Plane movie and my heart'll always be a little sad. And believe it or not maybe there's a little screenwriting lesson in here somewhere:

If you're gonna do it, do it. Don't creep right up close to it, think about doing it, and then back off just a bit and try to convince yourself you're still doing it. You're not. It's binary. You either have faith or you don't. You're either doing it, or you're not.

I hope I've made myself clear.

AND THIS NEXT PART IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE:

Weeks later I am sitting in a lobby waiting to have a meeting with a producer who has kept me waiting an hour because he is "catching up" with Paris Hilton. (There is no story there. That's all I know.) Sitting next to me is a special effects team who's working on one of the producer's other movies. They have been waiting almost two hours and I have been bumped in line ahead of them. I feel bad about this and give them a sheepish smile and shrug. One of them says: "Whattya gonna do?" The other one shakes her head and says "Snakes on a Plane..."

I fall off my chair.

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