It was my brother on the phone. “I need your help with something,” which is the traditional opening for a lot of great ideas that I never really get around to following up on.
“Well, if I can help, sure,” which is a useful thing to say in any situation since that little conditional leaves you completely off the hook.
“I want to start a new service. See, there’s all these people who want to make movies or TV shows or stuff like that and they’re not getting through to production. You know why that is?”
I’d kind of thought he’d be talking about doing some Internet thing because that’s the usual sort of thing I never actually get around to doing. I pointed out we’re nowhere near any movie or TV producers and I don’t think we even know any, although I used to share a Usenet group with a guy who’s gone on to be a pretty respected playwright, and I once had pizza with Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello and, I think, that then-future playwright. My brother found this less interesting than you because I’ve been dining out on that story for about fifteen years too long.
“It’s because studios have gotten risk-averse,” he explained, “and they’re more comfortable remaking things they know already have a fan base. So what chance does new stuff have?”
“Well,” I said, “Do we actually need new stuff? I wasn’t done with all the old yet.”
“You’re close. Here’s what we need to do: if we get in touch with screenwriters and producers and whatever and find out their projects, then, we can go and build fan sites and whole fake fan communities to the old show or movie we say this new thing is a remake of.”
“Like, say, somebody wants to pitch a movie about, like, the Texas Salt War. We go in and make a couple of sites saying there was this 13-week western on CBS back in like 1959 about it, and then, the guy can go to the studios and say, look, I’m just remaking this old show that’s so loved that a half-century later there’s still a community for it.”
“You could link the sites together and make a little web ring for it.”
He snapped his fingers. “Exactly! Like, we build three sites and we put in links for five other dead ones and it looks like an authentic web ring of fans. Then, the studio isn’t scared and the thing can go ahead.”
I started walking around, the way I do on the phone when I don’t really know if I should be part of this conversation. “I guess the deluxe service would be you start a forum where everybody talks about the rumors for the new movie and starts complaining about how they’re going to ruin it?”
“Oh, that’s even better,” he said. “It makes it look like the project’s inevitable and the studios have to negotiate fast.”
“This sounds kind of skeevy, though.”
“Kind of, but, it’s marketing. How else can people advertise?”
I thought the modern approach to advertising was commercials where a string of people repeat three- and four-word phrases while working their way through about three full sentences, and car commercials where they drive along the Pacific Coast Highway through fields of computer-rendered three-dimensional letters. “Well, that all sounds great but what do you need me for?”
“It’s to make our first portfolio. You’ve got this talent for coming up with crazy-sounding shows we can use to show what we do, like, that one where it’s the Love Boat but on a double-wide train.”
“Um,” and I felt marginally more uncomfortable than usual. “I didn’t make that up. Supertrain. It really ran on NBC, I think.” I knew, but it’s nicer to say I think.
“Seriously? Wow. What about that cartoon where it’s the Thundercats, only they’re all fish?”
“Tigersharks. Yeah, that was for real too. It’s on YouTube some.”
“Whoa. What about the cartoon where Jackie Gleason’s a caveman and he’s got a mammoth and they were unfrozen the modern day and he keeps whining he wants to go home …”
“Wacky and Packy. No, that’s for real too.” As far as that can be real, anyway.
He finally said, “Well … wow. I didn’t image you didn’t make that all up.”
“I’m sorry. I guess you don’t actually need me.”
I granted that he didn’t, and he thanked me for my time and bother and that was that.
This all, I suppose, is why I never have any real money. I just don’t know how to come up with ideas.