Director Joseph Sargent died. Sadly, he's never been counted among the greats. They don't talk about him in film school, but he was a solid but underrated professional who directed one of my favorite heist films of all time: "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." I can't tell you how many times I have watched that film. Why it is so much better than the remake would be a great blog in and of itself.
The great screenwriter William Goldman once wrote a fabulous book called "Adventures in the Screen Trade." If I were writing a book about my experiences in the film business, I would call it "Near Adventures in the Screen Trade." And Joseph Sargent would figure in it. I nearly had an adventure with him.
Back in the 1990s, a Washington D.C.-based producer friend named Carol Flaisher read my script "Then The Judgement." She wanted to make it. She sent it to another producer, whose name sadly eludes me at the moment, who had recently been the head of production for Morgan Creek back when they were really hot. I don't if he ever wanted to make "Then The Judgement," but the script made him want to talk to me. I met with him in Hollywood at Raleigh Studios where he offered me the opportunity to write a girl and her dog movie built around a seeing eye dog charity he supported. It was my first writing assignment. Sadly, I would have to do it for spec, i.e., no upfront money. Now, at the time, I actually had an agent, but I never told him about the assignment because I didn't think he would let me do it for free and I didn't want to take the chance on losing the opportunity. (Sucker!)
The producer dangled another enticement in front of me to get me to write the dog movie. He said he was developing a series for Showtime about the stories behind various items left at the Vietnam Memorial. He said it was going to be a writer showcase. If I wrote the dog movie, I could write one of the episodes of the Showtime series. Once again, however, I would have the write the episode on spec. (Yeah, I know what you're thinking: He was dangling a free job in front of me to get me to write another free job!)
Being young and inexperienced, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I was really quite pleased with both of the scripts. If I had clear rights to the girl and her dog script, I bet I could easily sell it today. I was also quite proud of the Vietnam script. I interviewed a number of Vietnam veterans, including my late uncle Doug Sartor, about their experiences. I wanted to know not only how they felt about being in combat in Vietnam, but I also wanted to know the sights, sounds, smells and tastes -- the entire visceral experience.
The producer never seemed really happy with the dog script and didn't pursue it. The Showtime series never happened. However, Showtime did produce an omnibus film on the subject called "The Wall" directed by the late Joseph Sargent. They didn't use my segment, but I wasn't the only one left out in the cold. They didn't use some of the other scripts I had read either. (One of them was written by a writer also represented by my agent. Don't work for free!) Not only that, neither of the producers I worked with got credit on the project either....
Had the series happened and my episode was produced, my career and life would have been totally different. Since I am happy with my life as it turned out, I glad it didn't happen! Still, I would have liked to have worked with Joseph Sargent.
Rest in Peace.
Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God. It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.