DRIVER SELLS SHOW IDEA WITH BACKSEAT AD
He’s the most successful hack writer in the city.
In 2000, screenwriter wannabe Mike Puerto, 45, quit his job trading derivatives on Wall Street, got his taxi license and began writing a TV pilot.
After finishing the script — a Wall Street drama — he taped a sign behind his driver’s seat: “If you are a TV producer or executive, I have a pilot ready to go into production.”
Thousands of passengers and 10 years later, Puerto now has a producer, director of photography, agent and actors for the TV project, titled “M&A,” for mergers and acquisitions. He says he’s ready to start shooting in November.
“It’s really amazing, but that sign always works to start a conversation,” said the writer-driver from Astoria, Queens. “You have their undivided attention in the taxi. Nobody wants to watch what’s on that stupid screen in the back. They would rather talk.”
Puerto’s fares found themselves seduced as he pitched his plot involving big money and family intrigue.
“Mike was just so passionate talking about his script and about bringing in advertisers,” said Paul Jarrett, co-founder of Rosetta Films, who wound up signing on to help Puerto with production details.
“I thought, ‘Well, this is an interesting conversation for a taxi ride at 4 in the morning.’ ”
Kevin Schaefer signed on as a director of photography after a ride in Puerto’s cab.
“It’s really cool to see someone who has that kind of drive,” Schaefer said. “I met him two years ago in his cab, and he calls every six months to tell me the project is on track and to make sure I’m still interested.”
Jarrett said, “None of these people have been paid anything. It’s just that Mike is such a captivating person that we keep coming back to see if he will pull all the pieces together and actually get this thing made.”
As for actors, Puerto has scores of head shots.
And the team he has assembled for his show, which he describes as ” ‘Dallas’ meets ‘Wall Street,’ ” is remarkably patient.
“Of course I would like to get paid for my services one day,” said his agent, Arthur Trakas. “But I’m more interested in becoming part of Mike’s entourage once he becomes a major success.”
Some of Puerto’s well-connected taxi passengers even referred him to TV network executives. The execs expressed an interest in “M&A,” but were never willing to close a deal, Puerto said. So the cabby found his own advertisers and is working to buy time on Spike TV.
“I got the idea last summer when Obama bought all that airtime for his campaign speeches,” Puerto said. “I thought, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ ”
While Puerto is getting ready to start production this fall, he is leaving the sign in his cab — amended to note that his show “will shortly go into production.”