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Millenium Scrooge McDuck
Join Date: Oct 2005
Jets’ Pryce Pursues a Hollywood Career
Jets’ Pryce Pursues a Hollywood Career
By GREG BISHOP
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The e-mail that arrived unexpectedly at International Creative Management in Los Angeles seemed so far-fetched, so unbelievable, the company at first considered it a hoax.
ICM receives similar messages all the time. Most are instantly deleted. Yet this one caught its attention. It read: “I’m Trevor Pryce. I play for the Baltimore Ravens. I love TV and film, and without agents, I’ve sold a feature idea to Sony and a TV idea to Disney.”
So Pryce, now a defensive end with the Jets, secured a meeting with 15 of his future agents. He pitched one idea, then another, and as he spoke, he watched their expressions change, registering surprise, even shock.
“Everybody in Hollywood has a screenplay,” Pryce said recently at the Jets’ headquarters. “And here I am. I just made a bunch of money playing football, and I’m there, selling ideas. It shouldn’t happen. But it did. Because the TV show was really freaking good.”
Pryce, 35, has that effect on people. In the locker room, he is Hollywood, but not in the flashy, traditional sense. He makes references like “my friend who invented ‘The Bachelor’ ” and statements like “black-and-white characters belong in procedurals.” He fancies himself a struggling producer, albeit one who stays in hotels on the beach in Malibu and drives a rented Ferrari to meetings.
In Hollywood, he is a football player, but unlike any other who came before. Nancy Kanter, a senior vice president of Playhouse Disney Worldwide, met with Pryce as a favor for a friend. She knew nothing about football, and in walked this giant, who stood more than a foot taller and outweighed her by nearly 200 pounds. She found him charming and smart.
“Our relationship is built purely on my affection for him and his ideas,” Kanter said. “I was surprised. Like, Hmmm, that’s interesting. This great, big football player wants to make a show for preschoolers.”
Pryce, owner of two championship rings and a four-time Pro Bowl selection, stumbled into screenplays. He started in the music business, taught himself to play keyboards, drums and bass guitar, even built a recording studio in his Denver home. He once told a studio executive he wanted to compose a movie score. That prompted a quizzical look, followed by, “Can I play quarterback for your team?” Message received.
Pryce decided he would first have to make a movie. The genesis for his original idea: a fountain at the local shopping mall. His daughter Khary dropped a penny and made a wish, only to scramble back, searching frantically for the coin because she made the “wrong” one. That would make a funny movie, Pryce thought, a wishing well and mixed-up wishes.
He searched online, learned how to write a treatment, or a short outline of the film, and pitched the idea, only to find that two similar projects were in development. In the process, Pryce found making a movie was more interesting than scoring one.
His football agent introduced Pryce to Mike Fleiss, a former sportswriter turned Hollywood producer who created “The Bachelor,” the ABC reality television series. As a San Diego Chargers fan, Fleiss hated the Broncos, Pryce’s longtime team. Fleiss also often ran into athletes who wanted cameos in movies but never had ideas of their own.
“Trevor has more follow-through than half the producers I meet in this town,” Fleiss said. “I come away inspired after sitting with him. I wish the Chargers would have picked him up. I find myself rooting for the Jets.”
Fleiss described Pryce as worldly and interesting. His parents are Jamaican citizens, and Pryce briefly attended school there and once, as a child, shook Bob Marley’s hand. His sister, Nandi, played soccer for the United States national team. Pryce loves soccer and tennis, and casually said he might enter politics one day.
Most off-seasons, Pryce takes 4 trips to Hollywood, stays for 4 days each time and conducts 20 to 30 meetings. His football credentials allow Pryce access to executives whom others new to Hollywood could never reach. Most will agree to one meeting. But only one.
Pryce’s writing did not come as naturally as his music did. The first time Pryce held a finished screenplay, he felt the weight of 125 pages in his hands. It seemed like “War and Peace.” Now, he can write 20 pages a week. Ideas come at random, often on the drive to football practice. Pryce estimated that he had sent more than 2,000 e-mails to himself over the past two years, all ideas, some good, some cringe-worthy in retrospect.
The good: a movie about a library employee struck by lightning who becomes a walking encyclopedia, a cartoon in which Mother Goose has a little brother who is a rapper, a crime drama set in the South, and other projects he praised but declined to discuss because he had yet to sell them.
The cringe-worthy: a television show set in Hell, Mich., where what can go wrong does, and a movie about a Guatemalan soccer team that enters the world championships only to find itself in an American football tournament.
Pryce draws influence from police shows like “The First 48,” “Castle” and “Law & Order,” and crime dramas like “The Wire” and “The Sopranos.” He so loved Tony Soprano that he created the character of Jimmy Bell, a gangster who runs a megachurch down South.
But Pryce also has three children, so his television at home is usually tuned to the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon or the Cartoon Network, providing another major influence.
“For a big, brutal man who works a violent day job, he has a real family sensibility,” Fleiss said. “He likes those fantastical ideas that inspire the imagination.”
The novelty of a hulking lineman pitching projects in Hollywood eventually wore off, and Pryce experienced the rejection familiar to screenwriters, even those who weigh 290 pounds. Some executives yawned when he explained ideas. Others said they loved a pitch and never called again. Still others said they hated an idea, then days later changed their minds.
“Entourage” this is not. Pryce’s Hollywood agent, Ted Chervin, oversees a department responsible for shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scrubs.” But Pryce, Fleiss said, chose two of the most competitive businesses, football and screenwriting.
So far, show business has yet to swell Pryce’s bank account as much as his football salary. But if one of his ideas becomes the basis for a television series or a movie, he will reap great rewards, particularly with a children’s show and related merchandise, much like the Thomas the Tank Engine toys scattered around his house.
Pryce is also writing a book he described as “Mad Max” meets “Avatar.” But on the advice of his agents, he is careful not to call himself a writer, thereby avoiding the image of a recluse in his pajamas pecking at a typewriter in the basement.
He has the additional luxury of a nest egg, allowing him to pursue this dream without fear, along with the realization, Fleiss said, of the dozens of steps required to turn ideas into finished products. Somewhere in those 2,000 saved e-mails, Pryce thinks, a movie, or television show, will be made.
Someday, the Super Bowl champion will find for Hollywood another perfect ending.
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