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Postal original pitch document


By Matt Hawkins 7/1/13


MARK SHIFFRON is a handsome, but nerdish early 30’s man with Asperger’s Syndrome. Living in a geographically isolated small town, he runs the “one-man” Post Office branch. Socially awkward and forced to “learn” patterns to interact with people, he rigidly follows a code of conduct gleaned from reading Sci-Fi novels and comic books. Wanting to learn how to better socialize with the townspeople, he goes through their mail and uses any information gathered to try and help them clandestinely.


His mother JANICE SHIFFRON is a corrupt small town mayor; his father abandoned them decades ago. JAMES MAGNUM, her love interest, is the town Sheriff and equally criminal. They give safe harbor to fugitives; giving them new identities and helping them launder their money, etc., all for a fee of course. Janice loves Mark and considers him harmless. She’s the only reason he has the job and allowed his blissful ignorance. The sheriff does NOT like Mark at all. Mark has siblings, most of who are in on the family business of doing not much and living off some sort of government no show job. With Aspbergers’ Mark has some awareness of what his family does but his mother has clouded his understanding by explaining that they are rehabilitating these people…and from one perspective they are.


The town is a character in and of itself, a remote city in Wyoming (or wherever) and very isolated from the outside world geographically. The only internet access is at the Mayor’s office and at the large house on the edge of town they all live in together..


With miners, ranchers and eccentric, off the grid characters, there are plenty of interesting things to uncover by going through everyone’s mail…NOT including the criminals taking safe harbor there as well. He has a system for doing it and doesn’t view this as doing anything wrong since his goal is to help people. Mark was born here and has never lived anywhere else.   The town is populated by life-long locals and the safe-harbored criminal refugees. They’re all in on the criminal enterprise taking money from the city government. Outsiders are run off by the Sheriff and his deputies.


Everyone knows everyone by first name and the addresses in town are known by intersecting streets, there are no actual street addresses. Mark delivers the mail or people come in and pick it up.


He is in love with MARGARET “MARGIE” BANKS who is the sole waitress at the diner near the post office and eats there every day for lunch. The “family” has dinner together at the house almost every night.


Margie is a Confidential Informant for FBI agent who is investigating this town and Mark’s own investigations both help and hinder hers.

This is difficult since his family has made this town a haven for criminals wishing to start new identities without having to leave the U.S. The criminal enterprise fuels every aspect of local politics as his mother the mayor, his step-father the sheriff and his siblings despite his family’s iron corrupt control over the small town and the criminal enterprise fueling commerce.


“Asperger is considered a high functioning form of autism. It can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.”



Open inside a small rural church where Pastor Matthew White is addressing his congregation. Well attended, the Pastor indicates that the Sheriff is going to say a few words. As the Sheriff comes up two deputies walk up and down the aisles with electronic transmission detection equipment. The high tech devices should look out of place in this older church. The Sheriff starts talking about typical stuff while his men sweep. Once they’ve done, one of the deputies gives an okay sign to the Sheriff. He shifts the conversation subtly to their criminal enterprise but the shift will not be overt, just “curious” at this stage. The Deputies move up next to a man (Daniel Messersmith) and as the Sheriff nods to them they grab him and bring him up in front of the congregation. The man is screaming that he didn’t do it and that they are making a mistake. He knows the rules, no drugs.   The pastor and no one seems all that surprised when the deputies unroll a tarp and force the guy on his knees in front of the pulpit where people normally kneel and pray for salvation. Sheriff walks down and says they can’t afford to take that chance and he pulls out his old school Colt six-shooter and executes this man spraying his blood on the tarp. The two deputies roll up the tarp and the Pastor returns to his preaching…credits roll.


24 hours earlier our lead Mark Shiffron is at the lone “window” in the small local Post Office branch in his pristine uniform. This is the most organized and clean post office…ever…reflecting Mark’s severe OCD issues. One of the locals comes in and mails an envelope and he brushes up against a stack of certified mail slips. Mark chats with him while leaning over and straightening the slips. As the man leaves, Mark grabs the envelope and uses a steaming device to open the envelope without damaging it:



He reads the letter and then uses a glue type stick to reseal it and it looks like nothing happened to it. This would be bizarre to anyone viewing it, but it seams like it’s a normal activity the way he does it nonchalantly. He has two bins one for “outgoing” another for “process for outgoing”. He tosses this one in the outgoing bin. He turns his attention to the “incoming” and separate “ready for delivery” bins and starts going through all the incoming mail and boxes basically the same way. He finally comes across something that interests him it’s a letter from a wholesale supplier hundreds of miles away saying they can no longer supply the recipient with Sudafed or the equipment he has been ordering. A “cash” payment is being returned as well. The account has been flagged as “suspicious”.


Mark looks up Sudafed and its primary use as an allergy medication. He’s upset that the store would cut off a man obviously in need so starts thinking about how he can help. He does his delivery rounds and stops for lunch at the local Diner where we meet Margie Sherman the woman he is infatuated with and some of the other town characters. This is the only Diner or eatery of this type in town. His mother the Mayor comes in to talk to him and he asks his mother about how they can get allergy medicine for Daniel.


He seeks out the town Doctor and basically starts snooping around to inquire how to help but gets this man in trouble. Daniel was cutting drugs and growing pot and his “mail order” activity got him in some trouble. He was ordering through mail order and paying cash (maybe the letter is to a corporation at that address and he has to figure out what that is first). Point being, the town is involved in specific things, identity theft, maybe a little credit card fraud but primarily in creating new identities for criminals via fake people that they’ve had “living” in the town with fake SSN, etc and they turn these people into those fake people. The cardinal sin of this town is to draw attention from the outside. Daniel has done that and we end with the family asking Mark to watch the children during tonight’s Wednesday night church service where they drag Daniel up and execute him to make an example to everyone else.




The tone is dramatic in the seriousness of the criminal activity and things that are going on, but comedic like Arrested Development with our lead’s naivety and how his good intentions cause regular havoc.




The A story each episode will be what he discovers in the course of his rifling through everyone’s mail and the subsequent “investigation” of it and how it interrelates to the greater criminal enterprise surrounding the town…or how it doesn’t. Examples would include fake ID’s, money, weapons, drugs, love letters, museum artifacts, schematics, list of names, small animals, evidence (hair, fibers, blood), etc.


The B story will be built around the drama of the family and the environment and his relationships with them and his pursuit of the diner waitress.


Episode examples:


  • Mark finds a wad of money to the owner/cook of the local diner in an envelope. He has a crush on the waitress there, Margaret, and eats there for every meal. The cook is not involved in the town criminal activities, but he’s of course aware of them and receives a monthly stipend (like everyone), and the money being sent to him is an innocent, unrelated transaction. Mark stakes out the place and starts following the Cook and recording his whereabouts and activities meticulously.
  • An envelope intended for a local has a passport with the local’s photo on it, but not his name on it. He thinks an error has been made and uncovers part of how the identity operation is done but he tries to “help” by having the passport fixed.
  • An apology letter is addressed with no return address and is stamped from some other small town.
  • A mysterious “meet me at X at Y time” which is completely innocent but his investigation uncovers something else.


All of these spawn investigations on his end where he humorously completely misses the real intent of these while getting people in trouble with the town or putting the entire criminal conspiracy in danger. The interactions between him and his family are constant and ever evolving. This is still a small town and the family loves each other. The evolving story will have Mark being an increasing threat to the criminal conspiracy.




*He drives around in a 50+ year old postal delivery motorcycle:


*The grocery store is a small bodega style store and only gets restocked once a month so lots of things are frequently out of stock. Imagine going into a 7-11 that was half empty all the time except for one day a month.


*There are no franchise or brand name stores in town. That would attract outside attention. All the stores and everything in town is owned by people that live there.


*Everyone pays with cash, credit cards are accepted nowhere. Every other Friday is payday and people are paid at the local bank in cash. This payment also reflects the town resident “bonus” as payoffs for assisting or tolerating the criminal conspiracy.


*He takes undeliverable mail very seriously.


*Mark has to drive 100 miles away to a drop point to meet a connecting truck that gives him the town mail twice a week.





Mark Shiffron – our lead POV character he has slight OCD issues and is extremely naïve but not stupid. Kind of an idiot savant. A more functional rain man. He is the baby of the family and runs the post office as its sole employee.


Janice Shiffron – Mayor, Mark’s mother. She is living with the Sheriff and the two of them run the town and the criminal conspiracy.


Sheriff James Magnum —


Pastor Matthew White –


Deputy Jeremy Cantor – family, married to sister


Rebecca Cantor – Mark’s sister, wife to the Deputy.


Tom Shiffron


Margaret “Margie” Banks – Margie works at the only town eatery and is being run by the FBI as an informant. She grew up here so is trusted.


Dr. Jessie Aarons – A tough as nails older woman who is hiding here from medical misconduct prosecution.


The Town – The Town itself should be a character; very unique in its mix of high tech equipment and small town, middle-America antiquity.

Technology won’t help most people.

I love transhumanism. The idea of cybernetically or genetically enhancing our bodies and brains so that we can live longer and better lives. The technology is coming so fast and furious now. Nootropic (smart drugs) are another aspect of this whole situation. Science making us “more human than human”.

Here’s the problem with it and I talk about this in my writing; it’s expensive as fuck. All of it. What does that mean? It means that those with advantage already are going to have further advantage. I’ve said this before as well, but we’re on a collision course for an actual species split. Imagine the X-men situation (without the ridiculous mutations), but make that the group that has the most money, power and influence. They own all the media companies, the drug companies, and countries for the most part. They control the technology and how it’s used.

Some of the costs of nootropic drugs have dropped but part of that is because there is no proof of efficacy (that they work). Caffeine has been shown to work nearly as well as Provigal (which I’ve tried and the pure stuff is $200 a pill). There will be some dissemination to the lower income ranges based on profession and as a reward (remember that scene in Avatar where the Marine was trying to motivate him to get his legs?), but largely it will be used and controlled by the rich elites.

Scientific advancement is rarely egalitarian. It would be if scientists were in charge, but they aren’t. Do we really want a small group of people that are immortal and (in effect) super-powered? Greg Rucka is dealing with this in Lazarus. I talk about it in IXth Generation and my new Symmetry book deals with socialist ideals. Despite my now left leaning personal ideology I’m not a socialist. I’ve really started to question our worship of the profit motive, but I still believe in a meritocracy. I don’t think being a leftist and a meritocracy-supporter are mutually exclusive despite the rhetoric.

Don’t let things just happen to you. At a minimum, be aware of how the world is shifting around you. I’m really starting to believe that freedom is kind of an illusion. Certainly we have it way better here in the US than a teenage girl stuck living under ISIS rule, but freedom is relative. Most of us create the chains that bind us (family, job, debt, addiction, entertainment). We’re not as free as we think we are.

Some pitching advice

1) understand that no one will be that excited to read your pitch. This is because we read so many bad ones that the expectation is that it won’t be good. If we’re excited after we read it that’s a good thing.

2) it may take a year for someone to read your pitch. Editors, writers, publishers, agents and managers are busy people. Proper follow up is once a month check in unless the person tells you differently. If they tell you check back in August and it’s May then check back in August. Best thing is to use the same email thread. When I see I told someone something already there’s a guilt factor to push it to the top of the list.

3) everything matters. Punctuation, grammar, spelling my name right…we get that you’re sending it out broad but what you need to get is that when reading these things we’re looking for a reason to say no. For this reason I encourage people NOT to use dialects in samples or pitches sent out.

4) keep it short. No one wants to read your 10,000 page story bible. Most places have submissions guidelines on what they want to see. These may differ from company to company. You should modify your pitches to target companies and give them what they’re asking for. Again, as mentioned above we’re looking for a reason to say no. The more you give, more likely find a reason.

5) know who’s reading it. If you send me your children’s super-hero romance story set in the Stone Age you clearly never researched what I’m interested in. Look at the companies that do material similar to what you’re pitching.

6) have a logline. If you can’t pitch your story idea in a couple sentences you’re not cut out for this business. You have to be able to pitch your idea in less than a minute or two tops. Why? Because you need to grab people’s interest. Think Tank is the story of a slacker genius who designs weapons for the military but doesn’t want to do it anymore…but they won’t let him quit because he’s too valuable. It’s okay to use other existing franchises to explain your concept.

7) understand that no you’re not the only one with that idea. It is so common to receive multiple very similar pitches. Why? Zeitgeist. You got the idea because you saw X movie, read Y book, saw Z internet meme and x+y+z = the high concept core of your idea. This is fine, btw. Just execute better.

8) less plot, more character. Convoluted plots are bad and don’t make your story smarter. Twists are great, but don’t overcomplicate. Every great existing movie out there can be pitched in less than a minute and you get the basic idea. Try pitching Alien then try Prometheus. Alien = simple plot, great characters and execution. Prometheus less so. When you pitch, pitch the character, who they are and why we care. That’s more important than your beat be beat plot.

9) be prepared to “hurry up and wait”. If someone responds asking you to tweak your pitch with some notes you get to do this. Just because you turn something back around in 24 hours the person reading it might take months to get back to you. Variety of reasons, low priority, busy, whatever. In this situation when someone engages you at all, ask them how you should follow up.

10) be courteous and understand that you don’t really matter to the person on the other end (yet). Hard pill to swallow, but humble goes a long way. If you get angry, that’s understandable. Happens to me every week. Go work out, walk around the block, yell in your car…whatever. Taking that out even partially on whoever is reading your thing just gives them a reason to ignore you.

11) pitch verbally to friends and family. If they get lost or ask questions that’s YOUR fault not theirs. Even if you answered the question they have already, it wasn’t clear enough. You should listen to these and adjust. If you feel like you did answer that question, answer it twice in two different ways If you see people tune out, remember where it is and try and adjust. Again, keep it short. Movie pitches are usually 10-15 minutes long. Don’t do voices in verbal pitches.

12) thank the people that “pass” on your project. Most people don’t respond at all, they’re giving you the courtesy of a no. It is okay to ask why, but if they don’t respond to that don’t follow up, let it go. If they give you a reason ask them if you can adjust and resubmit.

This is not a complete list just some things I think about.