Monthly Archives: September 2011

What if?

This is a film project I had to do for my Introduction to Visual Storytelling class. The assignment was to create a 1 minute silent film illustrating a character’s “moment of decision.”

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A for Effort

A for Effort

Another short script I wrote for my class.

Man vs. Beast

Man vs. Beast

This is a short screenplay I wrote for my Screenwriting Intensive class at Dodge College. Enjoy!

Spencer

Spencer Burton likes to rap when he’s drunk. He’s really good at it too. That is, either he actually is, or it just seems that way because everyone around him is also drunk and their judgment is impaired so they can’t tell whether or not his rhymes are actually skilled. This kid is an enigma. He is hilarious and widely loved by his peers. At parties, he is the life and soul of interaction.  With his abrasive and profane sense of humor he demands that his friends and everyone around him has fun, and they obey.

Not many people can say something funny on command. In fact, I don’t think I’ve talked to a single person that can except for Spencer. His name is that of a nerdy little elementary school kid, but this guy is charismatic and popular and has friends that love him. He’s still a nerd though, but he is one of the nerds that works it and lives and loves life. Anyway, once when he was at a party, two of his peers were discussing how laughing and smoking at the same time is not a fun experience, and one of them turned to him and asked him to say something funny, expecting Spencer to just laugh it up and not say anything.

Instead, he turned to his friends and said to them “King Kong has a hairy dick.”

Naturally, being teenagers and all, they all thought this was incredibly funny and cracked up for a solid three minutes. Spencer is used to this attention and he thrives under social pressure. Instead of feeling the need to please or impress the people he interacts with, he just says the funny things that come to his mind and feeds off their positive responses.

Like any kid his age, he is naturally insecure, but instead of showing this through his actions, he puts a front to the world and spends time with his girlfriend Lisa. She is perfect for Spencer because her personality is much more sweet and easygoing and usually he can just boss her around in his half-joking manner and she’ll go along with it. The worst thing he’s ever done in his life was cheat on her. He didn’t have sex with someone else, but he did let things go a little farther than they should have when he was at college. He felt responsible and told Spencer the next day, upon which she immediately forgave him.

This was tough for Spencer because one of the reasons he likes her so much is that she goes along with things like this and doesn’t hold grudges, but at the same time she felt as if she didn’t care that he had strayed. He started to become concerned, worrying about her letting things go as easily as she let his unfaithfulness pass unchallenged. He resolved to stay with her because he does love her, but also because he is afraid of letting her be taken advantage of by someone else or in a worse way in the future.

This brings me to the paradox that is Spencer. He is essentially a good person, but he is also a teenage boy, which means he is susceptible to temptation, rebellion, and the allure of drugs. This oftentimes gets him into trouble, as someone as easygoing as him has an awful time trying to say no to anyone offering him drinks. He’s also not one to “tweak,” meaning he will never be the responsible person in any situation, as paranoia or even standard caution is not common for him to practice.

That being said, as previously mentioned his is outstanding at dealing with situations when under massive amounts of pressure. When neighbors start asking questions about a party, his little sister is getting into trouble with the boys at her school, or his friend gets caught with weed in his locker at high school, Spencer is a pro at stepping in and diffusing any potentially disastrous situation. This is most likely because he has an abnormally functioning mind that operates at high levels of intelligence and intellect, giving him an uncanny ability to read people and predict how they will respond to certain comments or situations.

Bethany

Bethany has been a therapy patient for quite some time. There was even a period of her life in which she was committed to psychiatric care, but now she remains a somewhat functional member of society as long as she stays on her medications. Unfortunately, she rarely remembers to take them.

Among Bethany’s hobbies are calculus, riding her bicycle around Walnut Creek, working out at the gym, buying brightly colored outfits from H&M, and singing opera loudly and in public.

She earns a living acting as a tutor for high school students struggling in Statistics, Calculus, Precalculus, or Geometry classes. How or why anyone lets her around their children is a mystery to me, but it’s apparent that few of her customers finish lessons satisfied, and therefore she cannot keep clients for very long. If one were to sit in on one of her tutoring sessions, he/she would see Wendy working for over 45 minutes on a problem, without coming to an answer. One would also note that she wastes an alarming amount of time complaining about her chronic insomnia, her headaches as a result of massive stress, and the fact that none of her clients seem to be coming back to hire her. Why someone who operates a business that requires a steady clientele would advertise that her customers are dissatisfied is a mystery to me, but it seems as if she thinks that by gossiping about people she is forming a kind of trust between the student and herself.

Bethany only has one volume level: Opera Stage Projecting Loud. Strange looks are not strange to her, but she really doesn’t seem to care. She’s always in her own little world where she has less self-restraint and concern for what other people think of her than even a child.

The one instance when other people’s opinions matter to her, however, is fashion. As stated before, she thoroughly enjoys shopping at stores like H&M that have an abundance of brightly colored, flashy, and cheap outfits. They are as much as a bid for attention as the opera singing and outdoor voice are, and as is the case whenever anyone wears a gaudy article of clothing, people usually find themselves complimenting it. Thus, even though her outfits are rarely flattering or stylish, she receives a lot of positive comments about them from people that know her, but are too befuddled by her personality and behavior to come up with anything else to talk about.

This has led Bethany to believe that she is, in fact, a trendsetter, and one should not make any attempts to convince her otherwise. From her rants about not wanting to follow widely accepted social norms, we can infer that Bethany appears to view acceptance as a negative; an obstacle in her quest to be remembered and noticed. It might have dawned on her before that people give her a lot of negative attention (her nickname in the gym is The Singer), but she refuses to acknowledge this fact by sinking deeper into her mental illness and social unawares.

The problem with Bethany is her only employment is working as a math tutor, freelancing and working at a tutoring center. Therefore she doesn’t have the financial means to keep up with regular therapy sessions. Instead she visits a therapist once every couple of months, but rather than using the opportunity to explore her personality and difficulties, she uses the hour to rant to a captive audience about the various people that have wronged her in the past.

Bethany’s favorite color is purple. It’s bright and available in different shades, and her favorite article of clothing is a hat. It describes her perfectly: unconventional, intended to be seen as a trend, and very very difficult to pull off. Bethany is the epitome of a person who swims against the tide but has yet to have a single person follow her.

Jason

Jason Levy is a small little boy, quite shy with strangers, so you might have a hard time getting him to open up and talk to you. This is completely normal, and you might think that having his parents around helping him answer questions might help, but that is not the case because it seems they intimidate him and make him feel like he has no voice. Hence, he starts to clam up and, despite his father or mother’s urgings, refuses to talk.

The best strategy in this case is to put his parents in a position where they are in view, so he feels safe, yet are not a part of the conversation. This way Jason will not feel like he is performing, rather he’ll be comfortable and at home, knowing he’s being looked out for, but not judged.

Next, try making him comfortable by engaging in an activity he can have fun with, like playing with toys (he’s only five after all) or drawing. When he plays pretend, splashing around in a pool or following along with games his friends narrate, he really begins to relax, and we can see his true colors, his insecurities, and his hopes and dreams.

Jason hopes to one day be an astronaut. What five-year-old doesn’t share that ambition? His desire stems from a fascination with space ships and technology and the desire to be a hero. All his life, this little boy has gone along with his friends, followed his cousins in whatever games they were playing, or played with himself and his toys and his family. So, what he lacks in confidence he more than makes up with in dreaming and using his imagination. Like all children, he can’t imagine a world in which he is the center of attention and all meaning, and it is important to try to preserve this innocence as much as we can. The true tragedy of growing old is the loss of a fully functioning imagination.

The worst thing Jason has ever done in his life was steal a toy car from his preschool. He felt guilty about it for days, but the car looked so cool and he was having so much fun playing it, that when his mother came to pick him up and it was time to go home, he slipped it into his pocket. Jason took it out when he was in his room and played with the little “Hot Wheel” toy until his mother came in to call him to dinner. Now, she doesn’t keep track of what toys Jason owns, and surely would not have noticed that this car was not one that was in his usual collection, were it not for the completely guilty look on his face that he tried—and failed miserably—to hide.

“Where did you get that?” she asked.

Jason said nothing, merely shrugging his shoulders until her stern look and his insurmountable guilt forced him to admit that he took it from his preschool.

Not wanting her son to grow up a thief, Mrs. Cantor knew she had to teach Jason a lesson, so the next day she took him to the police station and had an off-duty patrol officer talk to him.

Jason was crying the whole time. He thought he was going to be arrested for sure, and he didn’t understand that the officer was just messing with him. When Jason’s sobs subsided a bit and he promised his mom and officer Leroy that he would never steal anything ever again for as long as he lived, she took him home, telling him that on Monday, they’d go back to the school and bring the toy to his teacher, returning it to its rightful home.

It was, however, a very busy weekend, and by the time Monday rolled around, Mrs. Levy had completely forgotten about the matchbox car.

Jason still has it this very day.

One Bounce on the Board

Working as a lifeguard is straight up one of the most boring jobs you can ever have. I do not recommend it–unless, of course, you are a teenager like me with tons of free time during the summer and an unhealthy addiction to online shopping.

As a “water rescue professional,” they tell you, it is essential to maintain constant vigilance to ensure the safety of the patrons that shell out dough every month to use private facilities that budget funds for shade tarps but not AED’s.

In short, they expect you, the employee, to sit in the sun for hours at a time, monitoring children and families frolicking in the water, without falling asleep, zoning out, or neglecting to enforce an extensive list of fun-sucking rules.

It was one of these rules that a small five-year-old boy broke when he jumped off the diving board, almost directly onto his friend. Being all the way across the pool and the only guard on duty, I was forced to drag my butt out of the chair and over to the deep end, so I could remind these youngsters about the Diving Board Rules. It was then that I noticed the Rulebreaker treading water furiously, flailing his arms in the air, and calling for help.

I hesitated, not sure if he was for real, but the look on his face convinced me that this was, indeed, Not a Drill.

Feet first (just like I’d been taught), I jumped in.

I expected him to struggle and pull away from me in a panic, so I yelled “It’s okay! I’m a lifeguard I got you!” and hoped it didn’t frighten him too much. On the contrary, the second I had him in my arms, he went limp with relief.

The deep end was a thankfully short distance to swim, and by the time I got to the other side, Dad of the Year was waiting for us. I handed his son out and exited the pool to applause.

For the first and only time in my life, I had the pleasure of blushing and saying “just doing my job.”

The rest of the summer, I was probably the Indian Valley Swim Club’s most attentive employee. No one was going to drown on my watch, and saving a life was an exhilarating and proud experience.

Side note: If someone named Jason Levy does something famous or significant or makes the world a better place, I take credit.