As the Fire Board Turns

A Treatment

August 5, 1999

Mr. Roberto Benabib
Executive Producer
Universal Studios
100 Universal Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608

Dear Roberto,

"MARCIA"
Michael Marko
"MARCIA"

You would not believe how little they pay us at these "alternative" weeklies (read: chicken feed). So I thought I would try to generate some extra cash and do you a favor. What's in it for you? A juicy, twisted, incredible story that I am certain, with the help of your amazingly creative mind and studio prowess, will become a slam-dunk, blockbuster television docudrama. (That means the entire show has at least one factual element, right? Ha-ha, just kidding, sir.) Heck, call it a tragicomedy.

Anyway, for your perusal (and plaisir) I've penned a brief treatment, which I recall from Film 101 is a promising writer's first step toward television stardom. The story is somewhat derivative of ER but instead of emergency room, Bob, think FD, fire department, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department to be precise. The story doesn't exactly center around firefighters. (Although I admit that idea does have a lot of potential and we'll certainly want to occasionally splice them in as they drag unconscious victims through horrific blazes and the like. Let's discuss later.) No, this bizarre melodrama has to do with the county's fire board, five elected commissioners who oversee the fire department. The main protagonists, the antiheros, if you will, are the commissioners' assistants. Now wait, Roberto, don't throw this into the shredder just yet. Read on: drugs, romance, sex, adultery, deceit, betrayal, assault, battery, and conspiracy. This story has it all -- along with a dash of slimy politics and a whiff of wasted tax money.

So pour yourself a glass of rum, light up one of those big fat Hollywood Cohibas, and read on.

Regards,
K.C. Nielsen
staff writer
New Times


THEME

Friction between two female employees of the Miami-Dade Board of Fire Commissioners ignites into a blazing conflict that lands one woman in jail, sends her mother to the hospital, and threatens to consume the board with lawsuits (while it consumes millions of tax dollars and enters the thirteenth year of its litigious existence).

PLOT

Our story opens with a tease scene. (You know, the kind you cinematic geniuses run before the title sequence.) A closeup of a male hand holding a clipped newspaper article, a letter to the editor. An excerpt is circled: The fire board seeks to protect taxpayers from the well-publicized, wasteful practices of the county commission, the writer states. The article is signed: Fire Board Commissioner Roberto Godoy. Hmm, the man reading the article is heard saying off-camera. His fingers tap nervously on a gray vinyl desktop. Then, the phone rings. The hand grabs it. The camera cuts to a woman on the other end of the line. (I would strenuously suggest Madonna for this minor but crucial role. She will reappear toward the end).

There is not enough work to justify my position, the fire board administrator s position, or the commissioners aides, she confides. Basically all you need in that office is a clerk-typist.

Thank you, says the man, and then he hangs up.

Roll title sequence, maestro!

Next, fire board administrator MARCIA FERNANDEZ-MORIN, a married, 39-year-old, hardheaded, some would say vituperative, career county employee is seated in an office with two men. (I think we should shoot for Salma Hayek to play Marcia.) One of the men is board consultant MEL MONTES, a mellow middle-age former firefighter whose hair and talk are both pretty slick. (Think Burt Reynolds, bubba.) Mel bills the fire board at $50 per hour so he has good reason for his easygoing demeanor. The other man is fire board commissioner EVARISTO MARINA, a 68-year-old gadfly brimming with hubris who covets the board chairmanship. He once ran a military academy in Miami; long ago, before the revolution, he was a Cuban Interior Ministry official. This is one of those cool scenes in which you can t hear the actors, but you can see their lips moving. And you know something is fishy because of the sinister soundtrack. (For example Marina s mouth moves, then Mel shakes his head and waves his hands as if to say, No can do. Of course to find out what they discussed, the plebeians will have to continue watching.)

CUT TO: A glorious Miami morning in October 1998. ANA BALLESTER, a recently divorced 33-year-old assistant to the fire board, walks into a county office downtown and files a complaint against her boss Marcia. Ana, who is a Jehovah s Witness, accuses Marcia of religious discrimination. Among Marcia s allegedly offensive remarks: I don t understand this stupid religion; her religious views are stupid; her religious views are intolerable; I don t even want to go there with you and your religion; I don t even want to talk about your religion, and they can t celebrate birthdays, so how are they raising their children?

Now you don t have to tell me that we need to get to the SEX pronto. More than anyone else, I know that millions of advertising dollars hang in the balance. So here it is. Marcia s relationship with Ana s brother EDDY BALLESTER, JR., an award-winning Miami-Dade fireman, is also a source of tension between the two women. See, Marcia is in love with Eddy but married to someone else (or at least that s what Ana says). Ana also files a sexual-harassment complaint against Marcia. (Now I know what you re thinking, Roberto-Bob. But no. The Ellen debacle proved that our society is not yet mature enough for such dangerous same-sex liaisons. So we re going to play it conservatively here.) The harassment allegation stems from remarks Marcia allegedly made about her reputed lover Eddy. Sexual remarks. Salacious remarks. Lascivious remarks. (Tell your dialogue people to take this and run with it, my man!) [My boss] would constantly make comments regarding how she wanted to be in a physical relationship with my brother, a distraught Ana tells the county labor specialist taking her complaint. And if I did not go along with her statements she would react in a very antagonistic manner.

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