“Ferg, Bob, it’s Steven Spielberg calling…”

IMG_1120Our secretary Rachelle Tasker told Bob and I that we had a call from a lady named Deb Newmyer from Amblin Productions.

The call came on a Monday morning, after Super Bowl Sunday, which is always a weird day in the advertising business. Everyone is usually standing around in the halls talking about which spots on the Big Game were good and which ones sucked. We happened to have a  McDonald’s spot on the Big Game that year that didn’t suck. The folks out in Oak Brook had decided at the last possible moment to air a :90 second spot on the Super Bowl. Yes, :90 seconds, a minute and a half. So, we scrambled like hell to produce a tribute to Pee Wee football called, “The Perfect Season”, directed by Steve Horn. It turned out to be the best spot on the Super Bowl that year.

Needless to say, Bob and I were on cloud nine. After a brief meeting with our boss, then her boss, then his boss, then all of our ultimate bosses on the 22nd floor (let’s just say there were a few layers back then at LBC) we returned to a heroes welcome on 24th floor.

When we reached our offices, there was a pink “While You Were Out” slip in our mailboxes. The message read, please call, “Deb Newmyer, Amblin Productions”

“Amblin Productions,” I said to Bob. “That’s (Steven) Spielberg’s company. ”

We both thought it was a joke. One of our cohorts being funny. Rachelle told us it was NOT a futile attempt at humor, and Ms. Newmyer had mentioned she was calling for Steven Spielberg himself. The call was quickly returned. “Please, hold,” she said, “Steven would like to talk with you.”  Yes, the Steven Spielberg, the man who had brought the world ET, Jaws, and Close Encounters. The most powerful man in Hollywood.   He wanted to talk with Ferg and Bob personally. Put him on! First, he wanted to congratulate us on the commercial, which featured a variety of kids playing pee wee football around the country. He loved it. He wanted to set up a meeting with Bob and I, the next time we were in Hollywood. “If you guys can do that kinda work in 90 seconds,” the legendary filmmaker said, “I”d love to see what you can do in 90 minutes.”

The rest is history. We happened to be in Hollywood the next week. So we met Steven at his office in the backlot of Universal Studios. We talked for a hour or so. He loved talking about advertising and marketing.We loved talking about the movies. He then asked the question, “would you guys like to write a movie for me?” The answer was yes. But we had one problem . We’d never seen a screenplay, muchless written one. So the greatest movie maker of all time, gave us a 30 minute lesson in screen writing….three acts, character development. Then,  gave us a stack of scripts and sent us on our way. He asked that we meet again in a month, so that he could OK our story idea, which we did. For the next six months, working nights and weekends,  we wrote Little Giants, which has gone on to  become one of the highest grossing kid movies of all time.  (Fourteen years later, we are still getting residual checks!

We had numerous meetings with Steven and his production people. People have always asked what he’s like. He was incredible. He gave Bob and I a tremendous opportunity.  And we will always be indebted to Steven (as we call him) for hiring us.

NOTES: The photo above is the first draft of what would become “Little Giants”. …The original title was “The Perfect Season” and numbered over 156, single-spaced, type-written pages. That’s how little we know about writing screenplays. Ideally, a screenplay is no more than 110 pages and always submitted in a standard format.  If broken down into the standard format, our script was over 200 pages, or the equivalent of “Gone with the Wind”… Eight different teams of writers worked on the script…We went into arbitration and lost sole credit to a pair of writers who contributed practically nothing to the final version….However, we were told by the WGA Board candidly, “Everybody takes it up their ass on their first script.” …We took a good boning on “Little Giants” but nothing like the screwing we took for “Snow Day”, another script we wrote. We lost sole credit on “Snow Day” . We didn’t know it was even being made, until we got a call from our friend and director, William Dear, who said, “l’m in a meeting reading your script.” Thanks again to the WGA, for another good “boning”….Bob went on to write and direct two more movies “Bored Silly” and “Uncle Nino.”

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