Original feature screenplay
(Adapted from the novel "Shadow of Death" & based on the authors true story)
James P. Steffman


"For What it's Worth" is a tough-luck, true-crime drama, with a motley cast of lethal illusion-busters: one of the FBI's ten most-wanted mob figures and a bunch of openly corrupt government agents "just doing their job". And, caught in this evil crime web, is a man absolutely determined to fight for his civil rights - to protect his family, his health, his wealth, and, more importantly, his freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, against all odds.

Jim Steffman was a highly successful and upwardly-mobile businessman who possessed a natural talent for turning anything mundane into something extraordinary. When the opportunity arises for Jim to begin his rapid ascension in the lucrative world of big business, he jumps at the opportunity for a special deal, a deal which would become an unintended and deadly steppingstone into the shadowy world of the nefarious East Coast Mafia, and put his life in mortal danger.

Jim's new business venture is a resounding success and ultimately propels Jim and his family into the rarefied world of millionaires. But, as the business continues to grow, fate deals a strange hand to this man who had always seemed destined for greatness. On an ordinary day, without fanfare or fireworks, Jim meets John Hurley. Hurley is a fellow business man who has a penchant for expensive and rare automobiles. Their initial meeting reveals common interests, leading to a seemingly genuine friendship.

But it would not be long before the unexpected occurs, in the guise of his new attorney and new business partner, J.R. DeChellis. Unbeknownst to Jim at that time, DeChellis is a shady member of a major crime family. Hurley brings in some "insurance" in the form of Bruno "Big Numbers" Conti, a colossus of a man and a soldier in the crime family.

One night, Jim receives a call from Hurley, asking to meet him, and during the meeting, Hurley reveals that he is a member of a crime family from Italy and is also one of the Top Ten Most Wanted in America, and has called to warn Jim that the Mafia, in three East Coast states, has their eyes on him. Hurley tells Jim that the Feds would soon be knocking at Jim's door, and that the DEA would try to force his testimony against the Mafia, even though it would be putting Jim and his family in dire danger.

The threats and their tactics of consistently operating above and beyond the scope of the law is now a reality. To this day, Jim has never been arrested, charged with or convicted of any crime, nor has he spent one single hour in federal prison, and has lost almost everything but his strength of character. He and his family have suffered well beyond anyone who actually committed the unsubstantiated crimes of which he is accused, but by telling his story now, he hopes for redemption, and that peace and freedom we all deserve.

John Hurley remains at large and is considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Screenplay Excerpt



Loud knocking on flimsy door with the butt of a flashlight

Heavy, ragged, gasping breaths.

xxx Police! Open the door!

Breathing continues, but subdued, as if trying to be stifled.
Swallowing sound.


The sound of a flashlight clicking on, as jagged,
intermittent beam finds JIM STEFFMAN's face, beaded with
sweat, hair matted, beard unkempt, as he is sitting on a
dilapidated sofa. Another sweep of the light makes him gasp,
stiffen, and become agitated, nervously raising an AR-15 and
leveling it to his front, his hands shaking uncontrollably.

From Jim's POV, there is a rickety door in a very small
house. The flashlight's beam can be seen sweeping from side
to side and up and down through the wide cracks.

More insistent pounding with a nightstick.

xxxxxxxxxxxx VOICE
xxx Police! Open the door!

Jim's face hardens and his eyes narrow to slits.

xxxxxxxxxxxx JIM
xxx Whadaya want?

A long beat as two voices converse outside the door (words
are indiscernible).

xxxxxxxxxxxx VOICE
xxx You need to move your vehicle
xxx that's blocking the GMC! It's being
xxx repossessed!

A gulp as Jim grips the weapon more tightly.

xxxxxxxxxxxx JIM
xxx Just take it!

xxxxxxxxxxxx VOICE
xxx Sir, you need to move your other
xxx vehicle!

xxxxxxxxxxxx JIM
xxx (angrily shouting)
xxx You came here for the car! Just
xxx take the goddam thing!

xxxxxxxxxxxx VOICE
xxx (after a beat)
xxx Sir, you need to move the other
xxx vehicle!

xxxxxxxxxxxx JIM
xxx (shouting)
xxx I'm not moving anything! Take both
xxx of them, for all I care!

A loud thumping on the door occurs as a flashlight beam
sweeps past the door several times. Door handle turns, but is

Jim panics and clicks the weapon from semi- to automatic.

Heavy breathing, jagged and erratic.

More thumping as dust falls from the top of the doorjamb.

Jim closes his eyes tightly and his arms tense, ready for the
door to open. He grits his teeth, trembling with insanity.

Footsteps recede from door. Light diminishes. In darkness,
Jim's breathing halts. A motor starts and a truck's reverse
warning tone sounds as flatbed backs up.

Angle on side of door as Jim's face nears cracks. Meager red
and blue flashing lights illuminate his face as he watches a
TOW TRUCK OPERATOR gearing up to take his vehicle.
A police cruiser is sitting on the property, the OFFICER in
the driver's seat, on his radio.

Jim's head bows in fatigue and relief as he lets out a deep

He draws away from the door.

A light clicks on as he sits on his sofa. Slow zoom out to
reveal an arsenal of weapons and a large cache of ammunition
surrounding Jim as the opening notes of the song "For What
It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield begins.


The Screenplay "For What It's Worth" is available now
by contacting the author.

contact or

Author Radio Interview here

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