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  • Donald J. Bingle, Writer on Demand TM

My First Brush With Hollywood

Most of you who know me know that I played a lot of table-top roleplaying game tournaments during the last twenty years of the last century. Not just the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons (mostly AD&D, 2nd Ed.), but Boot Hill, Shadowrun, Paranoia, Timemaster, Chill, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, and many, many more. Depending on how you count things, I played 460 (sometimes multi-round) RPGA tournaments in about sixty different game systems and settings and was the world's top-ranked player of classic RPG tournaments for fifteen years. This included playing many spy roleplaying adventures, like Top Secret and James Bond. Around thirty years ago, my brother Rich and I wrote a James Bond spoof adventure for the RPGA. The actual writing occurred on the heels of watching all seventeen James Bond movies then existing in a marathon back-to-back video binge starting one Friday evening and ending a few minutes before midnight on Sunday (necessitating a quick dash to the Blockbuster to avoid late fees). While watching, we filled out questionnaires on each of the movies, keeping track of things like most bullets fired without reloading and stupidest gadget (the heroin flavored banana on a shelf in Q's lab was my favorite of the latter). Our adventure included an opening action sequence, title credits, mission briefing, and selection of gadgets before getting down to the serious business of a preposterous plot, unnecessary parade, and secret villain's lair. The plot involved the various incarnations of 007 being sent to find the Queen’s kidnapped dog. We had a fun time writing the scenario and running it at GenCon and a few other places, but then set it aside. Oh, sure, we tried to peddle it to Victory Games, the folks who put out the James Bond Roleplaying Game, but were told that "the James Bond Roleplaying Game is a serious game system." (This, from the people who put out an RPG with five-step seduction rules.) Victory Games had no intention of putting out any modules not based on the movies (you know, adventures where the players wouldn't already know the plot). They suggested submitting it to Tales of the Floating Vagabond, but that was a rejection, too. I always thought the adventure would make a good screenplay, but didn’t really know what to do with it (this was pre-Austin Powers days), so sat on the notion for several years until I saw Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. My “eureka” moment came when I realized the adventure could be turned into an Ace Ventura sequel. I wrote it up (formatting it without buying screenplay formatting software—a mistake that resulted in much tedium), naming it “For Queen and Queenie.” I did my research, locating Jim Carrey’s agent’s name (there is a phone number at SAG which will get you contact information for actors’ agents). Knowing better than to fall for the amateur trap of sending off an unsolicited manuscript, I sent off a query letter to the agent. Sure, Ace Ventura 2 had just come out, but I just took that as confirmation that the franchise was open to sequels. Imagine my surprise and delight a few days later when I got a call from Jim Carrey’s agent’s assistant du jour asking if I could send in the full screenplay for review. I said “Yes.” (No duh!) A quick trip to FedEx and my script was off to Hollywood, as requested. Then I waited. And I waited some more. Now, I know not to harass people who are reviewing my writing—they generally don’t have the time to put up with anxious writers and unwanted contact is a sign of an amateur. But, after six weeks I called and got the agent’s latest assistant du jour, told him I didn’t want to be a pest, but wanted to know the status of the review of my screenplay. He consulted his notes/computer (who can tell over the phone?) and informed me that my screenplay had been forwarded on to Jim Carrey’s manager for consideration and that they’d be getting back to me one way or the other. I was ecstatic. What could be cooler than finding out your screenplay had been forwarded by a big agent at one of Hollywood’s biggest agencies to a world-famous actor’s manager? I’ll tell you what. Finding that out the day before you go to your high school reunion, so when people ask you what's new you can say “My screenplay just got sent by Jim Carrey's agent to his manager for consideration.” Worth the effort of writing the screenplay just to say that. Then six weeks more went by. I called the agent again and got yet another new assistant du jour. Asked the same question I’d asked the last time around and, after a few moments of paper shuffling (or keyboard tapping), got the same response. But, this time I was ready for a follow-up question. “So, let me make sure I understand this correctly,” I said. “This means that someone—most likely a reader—read my screenplay and liked it well enough to recommend it to [famous agent], who then either read it or a summary of it and liked it well enough to send it on to Jim Carrey’s agent for Jim Carrey to consider. Right?” There was a brief moment of silence that stretched to eternity. “Yes,” came the reply. “But you need to understand something. Jim Carrey’s agent is notoriously slow. We will get back to you, one way or the other, but it could be a while.” So, I waited some more. About a month or so later, I saw that Jim Carrey was supposed to be on The Tonight Show, so I tuned in. After some opening jovialities, Jay Leno says “So, I understand you’re between projects. What do you do with your time?” Jim: “Well, I'm supposed to be reading. My manager sent over a big pile of screenplays for me to read.” He makes a motion indicating a stack about three feet high. I imagine my screenplay two feet from the top. “But I hate reading screenplays, so mostly I just goof off.” I’m still waiting for them to get back to me. Unfortunately for me, Jim's career went another direction. Oh, I dusted off the screenplay at some point and genericized it (taking out the Ace Ventura catchphrases, names, and mannerisms), but then Austin Powers came out, and, well, I knew I had missed my shot. Two more things. First, this blog often contains writing tips and you may be wondering about what tips are included in this posting. Well, besides the advice about how to deal with agents and screenplay formatting, let’s talk for just a moment about suspense. What was the title to this blog? My First Brush With Hollywood. That implies more than one, so I have set you up, gentle reader, to wonder about what the second one might be. That will hopefully make you anticipate my next blog and maybe even check in to see when it might be posted. Second, nothing is wasted when you write. Sure, you may never use the awful prose you generate for some discarded project, but that doesn’t mean you don’t learn something about what constitutes awful prose. Or you could have used some artful turn of phrase or come up with a clever plot point or character attribute or somesuch in the midst of the awful prose that will help you later on. Not only did I learn to always use screenplay formatting software when writing a screenplay, I thought long and hard about what made a good Bond movie and a good Ace Ventura movie in the course of this writing project. That’s education that came into play when I was first asked to write the spy thriller that became Net Impact, which in turn led to writing my latest spy novel, Wet Work. Everything now comes full circle in the current Kickstarter to publish Wet Work, because one of the cool rewards you can get for backing is for me to run you and up to five of your friends in the original James Bond spoof roleplaying adventure I wrote with my brother Rich almost thirty years ago. One lucky backer has already snagged a session. But, there’s one more session left. Check it out, along with all the other details of my Kickstarter, at Then, you can decide how much my Bond RPG spoof has influenced my spy thriller novels. One clue, there are no heroin flavored bananas in my books. Sorry, Q. Aloha, Don

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