Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Hollywood Slush Pile Features Where's Aida?

Back again by demand that, while not popular, would be if it were heard. 
(Here is the second edition of a series exploring the quarter million unsolicited screenplays that perish each year, passed over and forgotten along with their authors. This week we highlight a strange comedy that came close to seeing the big screen.)

Vaughn Flores worked for a temp agency in Alhambra, giving typing tests, making coffee, and getting everyone to sign office birthday cards. Each night he returned to a small home in La Crescenta where he lived with Grandma Flores. One winter evening in 1994, while smoking pot in his room and watching Matlock, Vaughn decided to write a screenplay. Then he'd have one just like everyone else who worked at the temp agency.

By summer 2002, after numerous distractions and many bags of chili Fritos, his project was ready. He called the script, Where’s Aida? Vaughn’s surrealistic comedy revolved around the Zavala clan, an extended Mexican family and their pet cow Beso de Leche. A headstrong bovine, Beso constantly tries entering the house to watch television, preferring soap operas to soccer and news.

Whenever a crisis arises, the Zavalas call upon bossy-but-lovable daughter Aida to fix things. Never seen throughout the film, Aida is the measuring stick by which other characters resolve their conflicts—what would Aida do? After a big fight and chase, the movie ends with the Zavalas realizing Aida is a real pain-in-the-ass. They move without leaving her a forwarding address

Getting tips from his temp agency pals, Vaughn managed to land the script at 20th Century Fox and Touchstone Pictures. But his work never passed the junior coverage readers. Said one about the screenplay: “More TV than film and bad TV at that, though I liked the cow.” Another wrote that 'Aida' seemed “a cross between Waiting for Godot and The George Lopez Show but with a funny cow.”

And so 'Aida' teetered before the plunge into that Tartarus of discarded visions called the Hollywood Slush Pile.

But in an odd twist, a company called Baja Quality Entertainment learned of the property through the grapevine and optioned it from Vaughn. They shot a screen test of a young actress, Carmen Solano, and a cow chosen to play Beso. 

 Where's Aida? seemed poised to spring from screenplay to produced movie. But the cow wrangler wanted too much cash upfront. Negotiations collapsed. The screenplay achieved the sterile honor of also landing in the Baja slush pile.

Deal deader than cheap gas, Vaughn lapsed into a depression. He had quit his temp job and used the Baja option money to buy a hash pipe and a cravat in anticipation of being a screen writer. Grandma Flores had already invited their family and friends to the Oscar awards. But time dulls all wounds. Vaughn realized that the hard work of writing didn't exactly fog up his bong. There were other things in life. And while he never stopped smoking pot, he eventually found a job where it didn't matter. Today, Vaughn Flores is in charge of Amtrak.

And now a lost tale has finally been told.
 video: lichoo


J Gillian Finley said...

Wonder if the guy thought his screenplay would get as far as it did?

I remember one story Andrea Romano told Rob Paulsen, about these girls who wrote a Tiny Toons episode, which MIRACULOUSLY made it onto Steven Spielberg's desk. From there, Mr. Spielberg did the RIGHT thing and, instead of pawning credit off to 'his people' , he had the girls brought out to L.A. to watch the actors perform their story. I bet those girls are STILL black and blue from all the times they pinched themselves to see it was all happening!

Moral of the story.... keep at it!

John P. McCann said...

Of course, Hollywood's loss is Amtrac's gain.