I press the talk button on the intercom and ask my secretary to send in the next one, and a minute later another writer walks through the door. The last guy was a heavyset, confident man but this one is more nervous. He’s wearing blue jeans, a faded green jacket and a stained t-shirt. After we get the greetings and handshaking out of the way, he sits down in front of my desk and I say, “so, tell me about your idea.”
He clears his throat and says, “well, it’s about a serial killer.”
I start letting out a sigh of despair, but manage to disguise it with a cough. This will be the fifth pitch about a serial killer since lunch.
“Okay, so we’ve got this detective. He’s an experienced guy, well respected in the force, you know, but he’s got kind of a short fuse. When the film starts he’s just been investigated by internal affairs over an incident where a suspect died in custody. He was cleared, but there’s still a cloud of suspicion over him.”
I close my eyes for a second. Already I think I know what the ending of this guy’s movie will be. Hoping to be proved wrong, I open my eyes and nod to him to continue.
“Okay, so the detective is called to a murder scene, and he finds something that even he wasn’t prepared for.” He pauses for a moment, possibly for dramatic effect. “The victim, a middle-aged housewife, has been neatly chopped into pieces and left in the fridge, each piece in a tupperware container. And on the front of the fridge door is a poem, written with those, you know, uh, magnetic letters.”
Already I know what is coming. He’s going to tell me that the killer leaves poems on each of his victims’ fridges, each one containing a hidden clue to his motives, or to the identity of his next victim. I’ve heard this idea twice today. In one pitch it was elaborate paintings that the killer left behind, in the other it was crossword puzzles.
“As more and more bodies are found, each with their own poem, the detective realises that the poems each contain clues to the identity of the killer’s next victim.”
Before he can continue I hold up one of my hands and he stops talking. “To be honest, I’ve never really been convinced by the idea of a killer leaving clues for the police. Too much like The Riddler, you know? I always though he was the weakest of Batman’s villains.”
The writer looks at me blankly. And I thought all screenwriters these days were comic-book geeks. I smile benignly (or at least attempt to. I’ve been told it looks more like a sinister leer.) “Never mind. Go on.”
“As the killing continues, the detective manages to unravel the meaning of the poems. Then the killer starts choosing victims close to the detective in some way, leading to a thrilling climax where we discover-”
“Let me guess. The killer and the detective are the same person.”
The writer looks at me with an expression of total surprise. “How did you know that?”
“Well, when you’ve seen as many movies as I have…” He nods.
I sit back in my chair. As ideas go it’s pretty bad. It’s also the best thing I’ve heard today, and for tax purposes we need to get something into production by the end of the month. I smile again.
“Let’s make a deal.”