Chapter 28: The Charlotte Papers
Yes, it was crystal clear that my Charlotte project was doomed. Having pushed my storyboard delivery date one month forward to June 1st, Henry White seemed confident I wouldn't make it, and that they wouldn't have to pay the double-whammy penalty. So I worked night and day to have it ready. There was no such thing as FedEx, UPS,DHL,or any other reliable delivery service. Czechoslovak Filmexport relied on tightly controlled Air Cargo. Zdenka did everything possible to have it arranged. I had my storyboard recorded frame by frame on 35mm film, got it packed, along with my written script, and shot it off on May 28, along with a covering letter. It arrived on time. Then I received this telegram:
Gene Deitch Mostecká 273/B Prague 1, Czechoslovakia
June 3, 1971
In a baffling blow, Sagittarius has rejected my storyboard without even looking at it!
For six months I have been working night and day, seven days a week, and managed to produce and send to them on time 775 beautifully colored story sketches, captioned with my complete, revised screenplay.
As you see in the cable, they didn't even do me the courtesy of looking at it.
Obviously, something strange and unpleasant has happened. I can onlyguess what, but it doesn't appear to have anything to do with me.
At the beginning, when I first met with you and Mike in North Brooklin, it was clearly understood and promised to me that Mike would work closely with me all the way, but no sooner did Henry White sign me up than he whisked Mike away from me, and set him to directing another film in Copenhagen.
I was left completely on my own, and more or less ignored, though Mike, when I could reach him, did enthusiastically approve everything I had written.
Andy, I had you in mind and heart at every stage of my work, and I felt sure that if I could have shown you my finished storyboard, you would have liked it. But I was expressly forbidden to show you anything.
I did have to make some technical, structural changes, combine elements and eliminate others, to accommodate, and make full use of, the special nature or film, and to conform to my 90 minute time limit. However, I truly believe that I have retained and illuminated every ;essential of story, of love, and of meaning in your book.
Is CHARLOTTE really dead? Is all my time wasted? Is Mike free to try again? I have as yet not heard from him, and I have no idea what is his position now. I like Mike, and trust him. I do not believe that this cancellation was his wish or doing.
I believe in CHARLOTTE, I have now almost shared your own experience of birth pains and work, trying to make CHARLOTTE live again in this new form. According to the terms of my own contract with Sagittarius, if they thus elect not to proceed with my screenplay/storyboard, it becomes my property. This is meaningless, of course, without the film rights, but hopefully valuable to whomever will eventually have and want to use those rights.
I am terribly sorry about this, I hope you are in better health, and that you will one day see your great story on the screen.
All my love to K.