Thursday, March 13, 2014

How About Another Free Script?

As the three of you who visit this site know, I'll sometimes throw up free downloadable PDF files of my screenplays here. Sometimes it's to see the difference between the movie and the script (as was the case with DEADGIRL and AMERICAN MANIACS, both of which are buried in this blog's history) or to give you a look at something that was never to be, like DEADGIRL 2 (also back there somewhere). I decided (for no good reason whatsoever) that I'd do it again today. And this is another one of those never to be projects …

Several years ago - around 2006 or so - I wrote a script entitled POOR THINGS for an independent film producer. It was a black comedy about two elderly female career con artists who decide to do one last score by murdering a homeless junkie that they've taken a life insurance policy out on. I dunno. Seemed like an interesting idea at the time.

Anyway, I wrote a script, got some rent money, and promptly went on to other things. A few months after turning POOR THINGS in, I got a call from a Producer on the project telling me to go look at the day's copy of Variety … And there was my name on the front page, announcing that Academy Award winners Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis were on board to play the leads.

I was completely shocked and amazed as I watched the project turn into a genuine Hollywood "thing." All of a sudden, directors were attached, more stars came on board, meetings with major studios were happening. There are all kinds of stories out there on the internet about the film's development if you care to search them out. Here's a typical story from Slash Film about the project … and the typical journalistic response to the idea:

Slash Film on POOR THINGS

… Yeah, at this time there was no DEADGIRL, no CHEAP THRILLS, no TALHOTBLOND. I was just the fucking idiot who had written CITIZEN TOXIE. How could a dumbass from Troma write something that attracted actual talent? Something had to be amiss …

Anyway, re-writes were requested, meetings were taken, money was raised, parts were filled. They even made me turn a 70-plus year old character into a 23 year old so that they could up the "sexy factor" and cast Lindsay Lohan (who was veering off the tracks at the time, but hadn't quite crashed the train yet).

A production office was established. The DP of CHILDREN OF MEN was onboard. Locations were rented along with equipment. The cast fluctuated, but at one time or another included Rosario Dawson, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, Christopher Walken, and James Woods in addition to the three female leads. Millions of dollars were in the bank with hundreds of thousands being spent on pre-production …

Hell, here I am at Shirley MacLaine's house for a script meeting. We actually got along famously. She even made me lunch:

But as you know, there never was a movie called POOR THINGS. Less than 48 hours before we were to begin shooting, Lindsay got busted for cocaine possession and DWI and immediately went into rehab (her first of 6 stints), which pushed production … and eventually the money ran out and everyone went home. While the Lohan meltdown was a contributing factor in the death of POOR THINGS, there were many other things that prevented the film from becoming a reality. I could fill a whole book about how Hollywood greed and avarice and stupidity jettisoned the project. A series of terrible decisions and a ton of massive egos were the real problem and the film died a horrible death before a single frame was shot.

Here's a Variety story when things were still trying to be put back together again.

Yep, it was disappointing to say the least. I think that my life might be a little different now if this thing had been made. But it wasn't …

Nevertheless, people seemed to really love the script and it got me some meetings and my first Manager and Agent. I made a little bit of money from it by doing the re-writes and stuff (but my big paycheck, which I was supposed to get on the first day of production, never came), and - most importantly - I learned a valuable lesson about how this silly town can be when the stench of money starts to waft around. There were non-monetary benefits to the whole experience, I suppose, but I would have loved to have seen the movie made.

In lieu of that, I'm doing the next best thing, which is making the script available to the public (and by "public," I mean you three). Now we have made a movie together - a movie in your minds. So here it is, for your reading pleasure:

POOR THINGS - a screenplay by Trent Haaga

This is an earlier draft of the script before some of the changes were demanded of me … Maybe a "purer" version of it. In this one, there is no sexy 23 year old … Lohan's character is as I originally intended her to be: an addled 70-something woman (the character of "Phoebe," just FYI).

Enjoy and thanks for visiting the site, folks!



Brittany Lamoureux said...

Wow, that is quite a story. It really shows that just when you think they're definitely gonna shoot the movie, some stupid little things can make it all fly right out the window. Even if it wasn't completely Linday's fault, damn her and her shenanigans. She's fucked over so many productions. Ugh! All that aside, it sounds like an amazing experience getting to work with all those people and the excitement of hearing that so many hugely talented people were getting attached.

I'm in a WAY smaller boat in that I have a low budget indie script in pre-production right now with a talented producer/director and a well known actor attached. I've been through rewrites, the PGA Diversity Workshop, lots of people have been interested in the script, but in the back of my mind I'm subconsciously ready for the entire thing to be flushed down the toilet by some stupid shit. I guess that's just how it is. Anything can happen. I'm always expecting the unexpected. Nice to read your particular story and relate to it in a way.

Anyways, I'm babbling. Thanks so much for sharing "Poor Things". I've got it downloaded and I'm gonna read the hell out of it! Excited!

Trent Haaga said...

Yeah, Brittany, it really changed my attitude about a lot of things - to see so much money being spent and people being hired, I thought that it was in the bag. To watch it all fall apart with so many pieces in place really disheartening and an eye-opener … the while experience killed the aspects of excitement and anticipation out of filmmaking for me and replaced it with a healthy cynicism. I don't talk about upcoming projects or believe that they're really going to happen until people are on set, shooting. Probably why you don't see me talking about what's coming up next for me on this blog. The POOR THINGS experience raised my guard about that kind of stuff.

Good luck on your own project - may it be ego and avarice free - and thanks again for visiting the site. Hope you enjoy the script!

- T

Jesse Kale said...

As one of the three people that read this, thanks for putting this up.

Though it's under unfortunate circumstances I enjoy reading stories about the behind the scenes of movie making.

Maybe interest will go up again for it? Do you own the script now or do the producers own it outright?

Trent Haaga said...

Thanks for reading the site, Jesse - all three of us are accounted for now!

There's always been interest in the project, but so much money was spent that is still owed to investors that if anyone wanted to shoot the film, the initial investors would have to be paid off first and no one wants to immediately spend a million bucks just to start fresh again, so … not gonna happen.

Due to my inexperience at the time and lack of management or agents or even a decent contract, I don't actually own the script. I put it up here because giving it away for free doesn't seem to contradict with anything I signed and it's the only piece of actual material that came out of the whole experience …

Oh well!

- T