Tracey Edmonds and the Case of the Stolen Screenplay

I began to suspect something was seriously amiss when I was awakened from a sound sleep by  a phone call at 1:00 AM.

“I was just wondering if you had thought of anything else we would do to sell the screenplay?” A vaguely familiar voice said.

“Calvin, What time is it?”

“Oh, I’m sorry were you sleeping?”

“Of course”.

“Did I wake Casey too?”

“Whuh,” I stammered almost forgetting that I had named my pretend boyfriend Casey.

“Um, no he’s sleeps like a log,” I said.

“I really want to get moving on this thing, If Tony doesn’t get the money we can just go somewhere else.” he said. He suddenly seemed to be breathing heavy.

“We’ve already sent it everywhere else”, I said, confused.

“Are you still working on the Pindling script?”

“Well yes, it’s an awful lot of research”, I said. “Look, I was sleeping so…”

For a moment all I heard was anxious breathing, he sounded almost as though he was going to cry.

“Eliza, I just want to get moving with this. I can’t take anymore of this, bullshit.  Call me if you think of anything.”

He hung up.  I fell back to sleep almost immediately, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell he had been talking about exactly.  Why had he been so nervous? What was going on?

I made an attempt at writing the white washed version of the Pindling screenplay, but nothing would come.

I made my reservations for Pitchfest and called Calvin to suggest he do the same. He told me that he wasn’t going to be able to afford it. He told me that he had lost his job and was looking for another one. When I asked him why, he said that they had said he tried to steal some jewelry.  He sounded awfully guilty when he said it. He told me that he might have to go back to the  Bahamas for a bit.

Although it sounds terrible to say, I felt kind of relieved. maybe this could all be over. I still wanted to go to Pitchfest to try to see if I could sell our script, but I wasn’t so sorry to be getting rid of creepy Calvin.

A few days later he called me and told me that he was able to stay in the United States and that he was starting a new job soon.  A few days after that He called and asked if I wanted to see the film Brokeback Mountain  with him. I told him I didn’t really want to see it  as I was opposed to all the rodeo scenes in the film. The scenes involved bull riding and I was sure that animals had been hurt in the process of making the movie. I also hate anything that’s gotten too much press and publicity.

There had been many gay love story films before and the press was acting like this was the first one. Calvin told me the main reason he wanted to see it was because of all the hype: this was the main difference between me and Calvin. He kept begging me to go. He was too homophobic to want to go see it alone (I’m not kidding) and Will had headed for Hollywood so he didn’t have anyone else to go with. I finally caved in.

On our way back from the movies he showed  me a script of a short that he said was by some screenwriter in Vegas. He said she had asked him to play the lead role.  It was about a black man who crawls in through the bathroom of a window in a suburban home and appears to rape the white woman inside.  A neighbor calls the police and he is shot to death, It turns out that they were husband and wife  acting out a fantasy. It was little more than porn. It also didn’t make any sense, because the neighbor should have recognized the man when she saw him climb through the window. I was sure Calvin had written it himself.  I coldly told him that I didn’t think he should do it.

A week later I called Calvin at lunch time to let him know my plans were firm for Pitchfest. He told me that he signed an agreement to produce Cable Call Center with Tony.

“Tony got his money”? I asked in shock.

“No, he didn’t get it yet. I just signed an agreement between the two companies that says he can produce it if he gets the money.”

“So is it like an option?” I asked.

“What’s an option?”

‘Oh my God, ‘ I thought. ‘he doesn’t know what an option is.’

“That’s like when you  sign an agreement with someone to have the exclusive right to produce your film if they want to “.

“Yes, It’s like that”, he said.

“Did he give you any money for this?” I asked.

“No, no one has any money  yet.”

“How long is the option for,” I said trying to control the panic attack that was developing.

“There is no time limit”.

“So you optioned our screenplay for an indefinite period of time for no money?”

“Well, yes, but they will get the money soon and ..”

“Calvin, How do you know this”? I almost screamed. Several co-workers looked my way.

“I just have faith in them”.

But, now I can’t pitch Cable Call Center at pitch fest.

“Why not”?

“Because you gave them the exclusive rights to our work. ”

“I’ll call them right now,” he said.

Ten minutes later I got a call back  saying that he had in fact signed an exclusive, indefinite agreement for no money. I wanted to kill him. I told him that I actually wrote the screenplay, both of our names were on it and I didn’t agree to that. I told him that he had no right to sell my work. He hung up on me .

He e-mailed me saying that I was just a rewriter and I would be paid accordingly. I told him we were registered as co-writers with the WGA. He said that I was a liar and a thief. He called me an idiot and I told him that he had no right to call anyone an idiot when he didn’t even know what he was signing.

I got a lawyer named Peter. He was a criminal attorney who was transitioning into entertainment law. I couldn’t afford a real entertainment attorney. All I wanted him to do was write a letter and follow it up with a call he agreed to do this for $100 and the experience. I figured the dim-witted Calvin would shit himself if he knew I actually had representation.

A week later I got a call from Peter saying that Calvin said he never got the letter. He said he tried to talk to Calvin, but he would not stop screaming at him.

He said he talked to Tony as well. Tony told him that he was absolutely getting the money and that this would be a movie.

Peter asked how many hours I put into the screenplay. I told him about ninety. He said that I should bill Calvin $15.00 an hour and be done with it. I told him that Calvin would never agree to that. Even if he did we would never see the money. I told him that I was not at all confident that Tony was getting the money. Peter said he sounded really confident and he would have no reason to lie.  I  decided that this was true. I hadn’t lived in Los Angeles yet and I didn’t know  that necessity had nothing to do with deception there.

Peter talked to Tony again. he said that they were willing to do a deal where Tony’s company would pay me as a re-writer. My deal would be strictly with them and the would pay me $9000 dollars for the job. We signed the agreement and Peter told me that we should get the money within six moths. He would get 40% of course as his fee for writing the contract.

I went to Pichfest and pitched Surface and another script I wrote called Sleepwalking. I was repeatedly told that Surface was too much like Pretty Persuasion. (g’rrr).IA few people read Sleepwalking, but no one bought it.

I anxiously awaited the money. I called Peter once a month, but he never knew anything. eventually, Peter stopped taking my calls. I got frustrated. I looked up Tony’s company on IMDB again and I tracked down Ric who was  that wrestler that was the subject of the one documentary Tony had produced. He was a fairly well-known guy, he even had his own show on the travel channel.

I called his office and he called me back himself.  We talked for an hour. He said that there never really was a documentary they just talked about it. He told me they kept telling him that the money was coming in one months then two months then three. He said they had weekly meeting and a year went by, but nothing happened. eventually he asked to be taken off of IMDB. They refused to take him off and he was in the process of suing them.

I emailed Peter telling him what I had learned and he never wrote back.

A year later I got a call from Peter saying he just talked to Calvin and Calvin was experiencing some of the same frustrations with Tony that I had experienced. He said that Calvin claimed to have been to Los Angeles and that Tracey Edmonds (I’m not kidding) was interested in producing Cable Call Center.   They said they wanted me to do another rewrite of the screenplay. I asked if he had talked to anyone in Tracey Edmonds’ office or if he was just taking Calvin’s word for it.  He said so far he had only talked to Calvin.  I told him that I thought Calvin the ex call center employee turned jewelry store employee turned bus boy would be the last person Mrs. Eddie Murphy would associate with. I told him that Calvin couldn’t afford a ticket to LA or a pot to piss in. If he was going to make stuff up he should read Variety and find a person who was a bit more obscure. anyone who watches ET knows Tracey Edmonds.

Peter said he would call Calvin and ask if one of us could talk to Tracey Edmonds. He called me back the next day and Calvin said that I would have to go through him  directly or no deal. I told Peter I didn’t want anything more to do with Calvin. Peter tried to tell me I should write it because of all the work he had done on my contract for free, Seriously! He was trying to make me feel guilty, I told him  that I couldn’t believe he would listen to anything Calvin had to say. I told him that I had repeatedly tried to contact him and that he had never returned a call.

I never heard from either one of them again, Years later I Googled Calvin and saw a poorly photo shopped picture of him With Sidney Poitier.

I thought the drama was over – until I moved to Los Angeles.

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