Subway Screenwriter’s Jay-Z Writing Test Yields Dream Scenario: MTA Humiliation


The subways get worse and worse by the Metrocard swipe. Every now and then, however, they produce some pretty great folk heroes. Here’s a new one: the transit worker who wrote a script, which was pulled from obscurity, resulting in him being given a writing test about Jay-Z by a star Hollywood director, after which, he found his dreams of making a living as a screenwriter fully realized. Also, telling the MTA to stick their bureaucratic nonsense up their collective ass. That, too.

Profiled today in the New York Observer by Joe Pompeo, Michael Martin is the screenwriter behind Brooklyn’s Finest — a massive studio feature, directed by Training Day‘s Antoine Fuqua, starring Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle. Martin is also, interestingly, a former MTA worker.

In short, Martin sent a screenplay he wrote while bedridden with a back injury into a competition. That got him represented by an agent. He then ended up working for the MTA as the guy who waves lights at oncoming trains to signal construction. Where he wrote his screenplay. Which got purchased, which Fuqua signed on to direct. The fairy tale begins: Martin does some press about how the sale happened, and even a TV appearance. So the MTA must’ve been ecstatic, right?

Wrong. They charged him with having a second job for selling the screenplay and dragged him into a disciplinary hearing. And this should give all aspiring artists something to smile over: The MTA lost. And then, the next day, asked Martin to do some press rounds for them.

“I said no; they got pissed,” Mr. Martin recalled. (That spokesman, Charles Seaton, said he was unaware at the time that Mr. Martin had just been brought up on disciplinary charges, and that he had no further interest in speaking with Mr. Martin “since he did not wish to speak with me.” He declined to comment on the hearing.) So Mr. Martin used up his few dozen remaining vacation and sick days and quit as soon as they ran out.

This guy kept his job even after selling his screenplay. Instead of having someone who’s living proof that dreams do come true among their ranks, they tried to ruffle him, and then got pissed when he didn’t feel like towing their love-line. At which point, he told his employer to fuck off. Inspirational, no?

The other great note, buried a little deep in the profile: When Fuqua got his hands on Martin’s screenplay, he didn’t believe a guy who worked for the MTA could’ve written it. So he had him produce an impromptu writing sample, a screenplay for a Jay-Z music video. The piece doesn’t say which song it was, but Martin’s probably got his pick of rags-to-riches jams he can identify with these days. “Can I Live?”, indeed.

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