Blog by Richard Heagy
(The hallway of the office building is lined on both sides with folding chairs as far as the eye can see; not one seat is empty as the occupants nervously await their turn. A desk has been placed at the end of the hallway, occupied by the bored RECEPTIONIST who is nevertheless busy at work—polishing her nails)
RECEPTIONIST: Next—number 293.
(Number 293 approaches the RECEPTIONIST, hands her a card with the number on it)
RECEPTIONIST: You can go in now, Mr. Smith.
ALAN SMITHEE: My name is Smithee, not Smith.
(ALAN SMITHEE opens the door and enters a room with a large wooden desk decorated with an overflowing in-box stacked with applications. Behind it sits a friendly well-fed man in his sixties, wearing a dark pinstripe suit, crisp white shirt and solid yellow necktie. He adjusts his cuff links as he motions for ALAN SMITHEE to sit in the chair in front of the desk)
CHIEF OF STAFF: I can only give you ten minutes.
ALAN SMITHEE: I have been waiting for over two hours.
CHIEF OF STAFF: I am sorry about that Mr. Smith, but we have 4,000 positions to fill.
ALAN SMITHEE: It’s Smithee, not Smith.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Name sounds familiar—Alan Smithee—can’t quite place it. Have we met before?
ALAN SMITHEE: No.
CHIEF OF STAFF: I know I’ve heard that name before.
ALAN SMITHEE: Many years ago, Hollywood directors who wanted to avoid being named as the director of a film they were unhappy with used a pseudonym, which most often was ‘Alan Smithee.’
CHIEF OF STAFF: Oh, so you are a movie director?
ALAN SMITHEE: No.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Then it’s your real name?
ALAN SMITHEE: Not at all. I just want to remain anonymous.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Anonymous! How can we hire you if we don’t know your name?
ALAN SMITHEE: I am not here about a job. I have a plan to get the President-elect off to a good start.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Why don’t you send it to me in writing and I will have someone take a look at it.
(The CHIEF OF STAFF writes an email address on the back of a business card and hands it to ALAN SMITHEE)
ALAN SMITHEE: I can’t do that, I want to remain anonymous.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, then, I don’t think I can help you.
ALAN SMITHEE: It’s a question of helping the President-elect, not me. I have a plan to make a goodwill gesture to those who did not vote for the President-elect, unite the country and start rebuilding the infrastructure immediately, all in one step.
CHIEF OF STAFF: It sounds very noble, but I don’t have time right now to listen to something that involved.
ALAN SMITHEE: I can explain it very quickly—you said you would give me ten minutes.
(The CHIEF OF STAFF looks at his watch and nods affirmatively)
CHIEF OF STAFF: OK, you have five more minutes.
ALAN SMITHEE: Thank you, you won’t be sorry.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Let’s hear it.
ALAN SMITHEE: First, California did not vote for the President-elect, so a goodwill gesture would be to start rebuilding the infrastructure in Southern California.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Why there?
ALAN SMITHEE: That’s where Hollywood is.
CHIEF OF STAFF: I’m sure that must make sense, but the reasoning escapes me for the moment.
ALAN SMITHEE: That is because the Hollywood community is quite depressed about the election results. Several psychologists and therapists have reported that many of their clients, who are always under extreme pressure anyway, are sinking into depression. That may indirectly cause the population to become depressed and negative.
CHIEF OF STAFF: I don’t see the connection.
ALAN SMITHEE: These are the people who produce our motion pictures and TV shows, constantly being watched by millions, especially with streaming these days. What would the mood be if they were suddenly faced with watching only sombre, depressing movies and TV shows?
CHIEF OF STAFF: I see your point.
ALAN SMITHEE: Good.
CHIEF OF STAFF: But how is starting to rebuild the infrastructure in Southern California going to help?
ALAN SMITHEE: You start by rebuilding the highways from Los Angeles to Vancouver.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Vancouver?
ALAN SMITHEE: Well, of course you would stop at the US border.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Obviously.
ALAN SMITHEE: You might even repair a few bridges along the way, and make detours here and there to avoid any ‘Christmas tree’ for sale signs when you go through the wooded areas of Oregon and Washington.
CHIEF OF STAFF: You are talking about a project that spans California, Oregon and Washington. How is all of this going to raise the mood in Hollywood?
ALAN SMITHEE: Many of them threatened to move to Canada if their candidate lost.
CHIEF OF STAFF: If they do, they will fly.
ALAN SMITHEE: Not at all. They can be shamed into not flying in their private jets or driving in their gas guzzling Hummers.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Hmm.
ALAN SMITHEE: The government can offer free transportation on Greyhound buses, praising how these passengers are helping the environment by not using their private planes.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Are these people used to riding the bus?
ALAN SMITHEE: Musicians often tour the country on luxury buses; movie stars stay on location in luxury trailers. The Greyhound buses can be spruced up to add some luxury and they will be travelling on new highways.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Even so, it would be a very long ride.
ALAN SMITHEE: I have a solution for that.
(The CHIEF OF STAFF looks sceptical, but remains interested)
CHIEF OF STAFF: I’m listening.
ALAN SMITHEE: Local employment can be increased by building comfortable rest stops along the way, maybe spaced two or three hours apart. They could be decorated with posters from Hollywood films and directors’ chairs, with the latest editions of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter available. Perhaps offer fresh mountain spring water and vegan appetisers free of charge.
CHIEF OF STAFF: I’m not convinced yet. We’re still talking about a long ride for a bunch of depressed people in a small space.
ALAN SMITHEE: You haven’t heard the best part yet.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Tell me.
ALAN SMITHEE: Each rest stop will have a specially designed room, with soft music, comfortable chairs and a long leather couch.
CHIEF OF STAFF: What’s the couch for?
ALAN SMITHEE: Each rest stop will be manned by a free psychiatrist or analyst—more employment.
CHIEF OF STAFF: That’s fine, but it will slow down the trip if too many of them need a consultation at a particular stop.
ALAN SMITHEE: I don’t think that will be a problem because the rest stops will not be placed that far apart.
CHIEF OF STAFF: Anything else?
ALAN SMITHEE: Yes. Each rest stop will have a drive-through window for those who prefer driving their own car instead of taking the bus.
CHIEF OF STAFF: You seem to have thought of everything.
ALAN SMITHEE: The only problem is if too many of them try to move to Canada.
CHIEF OF STAFF: You mean the cost might escalate.
ALAN SMITHEE: No, Canada might build a wall.