• Movie tells the story of the pizza delivery "hero"

    Tags: Commentary

Everyone loves a movie they can identify with, especially when it's about work. The list of flicks is endless: "9 to 5" and "Working Girl" (secretaries); "Perfect Storm" (fishermen); "Broadcast News" (TV journalism); "Caddyshack" (caddies); and "Drivers Wanted" (pizza delivery drivers).

What's that? You haven't seen that one?

Me either, but I'm hoping we all get to see it soon.

"Drivers Wanted" is an independent film written, directed and produced by Tim Beideck, an on-again, off-again, delivery driver. The idea to make a movie that would show the public the wild, wooly and funny world of pizza delivery came to mind when Beideck, who studied film for two years, delivered pizzas in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., several years ago.

While to many pizza delivery appears mundane—some would say detestable—those who've done

Steve Coomes, Senior Editor

it know differently. Since shooting the flick in 1997-'98, and debuting it in '99, Beideck has spent about $100,000 of his own money to say, "It's actually a pretty interesting job."

"Drivers Wanted" tells the story of pizza delivery from the perspective of seven drivers. The camera rides along with drivers from work (Bob's Pizza) to the homes of good, bad and ugly customers. Beideck's comedy, like the cult classic "Caddyshack," introduces the people behind the scenes, but doesn't seek to make fun of them or their jobs.

"What 'Caddyshack' did was say, 'Here's what these guys deal with in their jobs, and here's why it's funny,'" Beideck said by phone from Rochester. "The film is based on reality ... it takes the audience along for the ride, and (the ride's) funny."

Based on his own experience, Beideck created drivers every pizza operator has probably hired, fired, loved and/or hated:

* Mang is an El Camino-driving Latino whose "take life easy" attitude brings him average tips, but makes him indefatigably nice.

* Friendly actually is friendly, but rude, cheap and uncaring customers have soured his attitude. His goal is to be such a bad employee that he'll be fired.

* Sheldon is the staff wise man, a social commentator who makes delivery a noble profession. In the movie's trailer, the eight-year delivery veteran tells a trainee, "You're gonna see a lot of crazy things. ... Everybody says, 'Oh, it wouldn't be that weird in my neighborhood,' but it already is. They just haven't been in everybody's house like I have."

* Tyler, played by Beideck, is a newcomer to the business who isn't sure what he wants to do with his life.

* Rupert is a Yale University grad who feels pressured to move on to "a real job," but for now he enjoys delivery.

* Little Debbie is the only female driver, a heavy-set gal who dreams of finding her knight in shining armor while on the job.

* Peter is an Asian immigrant who delivers Chinese food, but never gets the respect or tips pizza drivers get.

"As I was delivering pizzas, I'd ask myself, 'How would that character respond to this situation? What would he say?'" said Beideck, who recorded his thoughts with a tape recorder while on the job. "The movie shows not only everything done on the job, but how these guys react to people they meet. ... Anyone who's served the public will understand this."

While most of this drivers'-eye view is straight-up funny, some of the humor is a little darker, Beideck said. While training Tyler, Sheldon comments on how poorly some parents (customers) treat their children. The scene then cuts to a cute child telling her father the pizza man's at the door, and moments later off camera, the father slaps the little girl.

"To me it's important to use humor to open people up to important social issues," Beideck said. "While it's not funny that this adorable little girl gets slapped, the fact that this stuff is what these drivers see sometimes really takes you off guard—and in a dark way that's funny."

The movie addresses crimes against drivers briefly, when Little Debbie gets mugged, but that's about where the fantastic stories end. Though seemingly every pizza driver has a far-out, jaw-dropping tale, Beideck used stories that would make the audience say, "'That's strange, but it could probably happen.' ... The delivery guy who winds up having sex with the lady ... that stuff happens, but not often. And if it didn't happen to you, it's hard to believe."

Distributors wanted

When the movie was first shown at an independent film festival in 1999, it got not only rave reviews, but it drew sales that out-grossed all the movies in the festival's run. Film critics from Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y., gave it thumbs up, and Beideck received numerous letters of praise from all walks of life.

Most gratifying, he said, were letters from delivery drivers who wrote to say "that I got it dead on." Even people never connected to the service sector loved it. "They got it, they thought it was funny, and lots of them came back to see it again."

Whether a larger audience will ever see "Drivers Wanted" is a question only film distributors can answer. Beideck just spent $30,000 to have the 16 mm film "blown up" to large theater-standard 35 mm, which should attract distributor interest. For the film to be picked up by a distributor, he said, the distributor "has to get it, understand it, and believe that audiences will like it, too." A low-budget film making it big doesn't happen often, he said, but it does happen.

"When you see interviews of the guys who made "The Blair Witch Project," they say they we were ready to go direct to video and get it out on TV," Beideck said. "And look what happened with that.

"Based on the feedback I've already gotten, I think other people will like it."

Asked if there's a chance the movie might worsen the sometimes-negative reputation of pizza delivery drivers, Beideck said he doesn't think so.

"A lot of people who've seen the movie said they're now going to tip more," he said.

* To see the "Drivers Wanted" movie trailer, visit www.driverswantedmovie.com. For some fun character profiles, click the large "Enter" button on the homepage.

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