Monday, July 16, 2012

Part Two: A Phone Call From Isis

 Sometime around the year 2000, I began to think about writing scripts for television. It is one of my great regrets that I let myself be discouraged by the odds against success, and instead devoted whatever writing talent I had to other pursuits. But at that time I was feeling particularly inspired, and decided to write a spec script just to see if I could do it.

What I chose to write was an updated pilot of the Isis series. I kept the characters of Andrea Thomas and Rick Mason, moved the location to Cameron High School in Miami, and established a new origin for Isis, who receives her powers during a class trip to Egypt.

I was very proud of it at the time, though years later I now see the flaws as clearly as the moments that I think still work. But my initial confidence inspired me to send a copy to JoAnna Cameron.

A couple of weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I staggered half asleep from my bed to my office desk, where the light was flashing on the answering machine. I hit the ‘Play’ button and heard, “Hi, David, this is JoAnna Cameron. I read your script and I wanted to talk to you about it.” And she left her number.

I went downstairs for a cup of tea, then returned to the office and hit the replay button to make sure I had heard what I thought I’d heard. The message was still there.

This is one of those calls that you can’t wait to make, but are very hesitant to make at the same time. Courage and curiosity finally won out and I dialed the number. I found out she lived near Monterrey, California, and she invited me up for a round of golf. I never took her up on that, and it’s too late now because she has since relocated to Hawaii.

During our 15-20 minute conversation, she spoke about how the show has played all over the world, and been translated into a dozen languages. I asked her why she never attended any of the sci-fi conventions, or Hollywood autograph shows. “That’s not for me,” she said. “I’m not Adam West.” Apparently she had a change of heart, however, as a few years later she appeared at a handful of shows.

As for the script, she said, “You should talk to Lou, and you guys could produce it.” “Lou” was Lou Scheimer, one of the creators and producers of the Isis series. When I told her I was calling from Las Vegas, she suggested we set part of the story at the Egyptian-themed Luxor Hotel (which actually had a steakhouse named Isis for awhile).

And just before we hung up, and as I basked in the gratification of an endorsement from the original Isis, she left me with one parting thought: “I can still fit into the costume.” I didn’t know if this was just a statement of pride or an audition.

Later that week I called Lou Scheimer’s office and he invited me to take a meeting. Was this actually happening? Was breaking into the television writing business really this ridiculously easy? I sent him the script, and two weeks later I was in his San Fernando Valley office, surrounded by memorabilia from the many shows created by Filmation. There was nothing from Isis but plenty from Masters of the Universe, which suggests that of all the films and shows he produced, this was the one that allowed him to sock a little away for retirement.

For the next hour, Scheimer regaled me with stories of his career and about how the Isis show came together, but when the subject of the script finally came up, he confessed that he couldn’t bring himself to read it. “I might love it,” he said, “And if I do I’ll be really upset because I don’t own the rights to the character anymore.”

That was a disappointing but understandable answer at the time. With the benefit of hindsight, I now think he probably read it and thought it was lousy, and this was a gracious way of avoiding that conversation.

Either way, that was essentially the end of my screenwriting career. He gave me a contact at Hallmark, which then owned Isis, but when a few phone calls and letters went unanswered I let the matter drop. The script went back in a drawer, where it remains to this day. I’ll never see it filmed, but by doing it I proved something to myself, I got to speak to Isis, and I got to take a meeting with a Hollywood producer about my first script. I’d still call that time well spent. 
For any fellow Filmation fans out there, there’s a book that will be out soon about Lou’s life and career that I know I can’t wait to pick up. Here’s what the cover looks like. 

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great story! In 1989 or so, a friend of mine wrote a similar spec script for "Return to the Land of the Lost" and sent it to as many people as he could find from the original series. He got a call back from Walker Edmiston, who played Enik, and really enjoyed the experience. Some actors are great people.