Friday, August 10, 2012

Holy Prologue, Batman!

After the jump, the first draft of the new version of the "prologue" from the fourth draft of The Hudson Avenue Chronicles.

Did that make sense?

Banged it out in two days.  It definitely needs work.  Its a bit wordy.  Dialogue is a bit overwrought, and I really need to fall out of love with adverbs.  But overall it's the best start yet, and posting things makes me feel like I'm progressing in my art, however superficial the feeling may be.

On a related note, I just stumbled upon the feature which makes final draft read my script back to me.  Fucking.  Awesome.  I've wasted way too much of my day playing with that feature.

Anyway, for those interested, go ahead and...


OVER BLACKNESS, we hear MUFFLED, ELEVATOR-STYLE MUSIC, and a DULL, CLICKING SOUND -- the clicks of a computer mouse.  Moderate pause between each click, and after the third...

FADE IN:

INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE/TESTING ROOM #1 - DAY 

A YOUNG MAN’S EYES, slightly bloodshot and complete with dilated pupils.  There is a quiet calm inside them, belied by an insidious anxiety resultant of a consistent darting of his irises -- up, down, across -- seemingly at random, though it’s clear they’re trying to focus on something.

A more complete image of his face shows much of the same.  Blank expression, his jaw rested on his fist, eye-balls like hot potatoes, all over the same incessant music and sporadic clicking that never subsides.

An EMPTY WHITE ROOM.  No windows.  There stands only a modestly sized desk with an outdated & oversized PC sitting atop.  The monitor’s blocky, off-white ass protrudes so far over the desk’s horizon, it’s something of a miracle it hasn’t fallen to an overdue death.

Looking closer at the PC, we see the reason for the clicking.
It is a test.  A black screen, with letters randomly flashing at various intervals in various locations, the elevator music emanating from its on-board, low-quality speaker.  

We get a look at the YOUNG MAN’S HAND over the mouse, his index finger trembling ever so slightly, anxiety creating a slow burn in his mind.

A “D” flashes in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

“Click”

An “N” in the lower left.

“Click”

An “H” in the upper left.

“Click”

An “S” in the lower left.

“Click”

As we get another glance into his eyes...

INT. TESTING ROOM #2 - DAY

A SERIES OF SHOTS

E.E.G. test preparations.

--A navy cap littered with holes and electrodes is fastened around his head.  

--A patent farting noise as a thick gel is squeezed into the holes.

--The last of many wires are connected to the cap.

A similar EMPTY WHITE ROOM.  The YOUNG MAN again sits in a chair, this time blankly staring at a TV screen, which cycles through various imagery, brightness levels and color filters.  Total silence.

He is 20, and relatively handsome.  The kind of universally polarizing handsome that is completely subjective to the beholder.

We hang for a few moments, repeatedly shifting perspectives between the screen and his face.  This is a bit awkward.

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT (V.O.)
So, Frankie, tell me.  How are a fly and a tree similar?

Looking back at the YOUNG MAN, he is suddenly in...

INT. TESTING ROOM #3 - DAY

He sits in front of a large desk, his shaggy hair slightly disheveled from the EEG cap, his forehead sticky and peeling from the dried gel.

FRANKIE
They’re both alive.

Yet another EMPTY WHITE ROOM.  Across from FRANKIE sits the PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT -- early forties, bald, bespectacled, sporting suspenders to support his pot belly.

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT
Okay... What do a sculpture and a painting have in common?

FRANKIE
They’re both works of art.

FRANKIE begins to fidget, rubbing his eyes and taking a deep breaths.  He is growing restless.

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT
Alright... What do a car and a living room have in common.

FRANKIE picks his head up from out of his hands with a casual standoffishness.

FRANKIE
You can fuck in both of them.

The PA is taken back, barely capable of registering the answer. 

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT
I’m sorry?

FRANKIE continues softly in a very matter-of-fact manner.

FRANKIE
Excuse me, “make love”.

Silence.  The PA is noticeably uncomfortable, which FRANKIE takes as a worrying lack of comprehension.  He becomes slightly more aggressive.

FRANKIE (CONT’D)
Fornicate. Copulate.  

He over-enunciates with condescension. 

FRANKIE (CONT’D)
You can have sex.  They both provide ideal locations with which to facilitate the act of sexual intercourse.

The PA takes an unsure breath and attempts to regain his composure and gloss over things with sheer professionalism.

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT
Can you think of any other ways where a car and a living room are similar?

FRANKIE maintains a calculated aloofness. 

FRANKIE
Why, was my answer not sufficient?

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT
Well, we’re just looking for a response that is indicative of a shared common ground as it pertains to each element’s inherent identity without relying on the intrusion of a third or... 
(gulps)
fourth ...party.

FRANKIE
Well, you didn’t express that to be before, and the fact that you’re now amending the question after the fact with extra parameters and arbitrary specifics only speaks to how loaded it is.

More silence.  And with a cold authority, he says again...

FRANKIE (CONT’D)
You can fuck in both those places.  That’s my answer.

With feigned approval, the PA shuffles aimlessly in his seat for a moment.

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT
(with a light tone)
Okay, moving on...

INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE - DAY

FRANKIE now sits in a more traditionally styled OFFICE, in a comfier chair, checking out the pictures, plaques, and other miscellaneous personal effects that litter the desk and pastel-blue colored walls.

The DOCTOR enters, pushing through the door with his back, his face buried inside a file.

DOCTOR
Okay, Frankie!

He sits down at his chair with a laid-back, yet studied confidence, assessing his desk organization momentarily before continuing.

DOCTOR (CONT’D)
How’s everything going?

FRANKIE
Pretty good.

DOCTOR
You feeling alright?

FRANKIE
A little light-headed.

DOCTOR
(as if he expected it)
You are...

FRANKIE
Yeah, it’s nothing crazy.  Happens a lot.

DOCTOR
What’s that feel like?

Unlike the PA, FRANKIE is personable with the DOCTOR, speaking genuinely, with less guard.

FRANKIE
Umm... kind of like my brain is inside a cloud.  Fogs up my vision -- not -- not literally, it’s like -- like my awareness is down... like I can see everything around me, it just seems a bit dull, like reality is just a little farther away then I’d like it to be.

DOCTOR
Almost like a high-functioning zombie.

FRANKIE
Yeah, I guess you could say that.

DOCTOR
Okay... okay... well let me tell you what we’ve found...
He opens up the file and puts his glasses on.

DOCTOR (CONT’D)
... So, as far as your sleep is concerned, the tests show that you have a condition called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.  This is the reason that, as you say, you feel like you are constantly fluctuating between insomnia and hypersomnia, because this particular disorder causes both difficulty getting to sleep as well as waking up, which can cause hormonal imbalance, severe fatigue during the day, circadian rhythm issues, which is why you feel like it’s difficult for you to get to class.  Additionally the CPT and EEG showed a pretty classic case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and the various questionnaires indicate a significant level of depression, though a very specific kind.  Now...

He leans in closer, trying to speak sympathetically.

DOCTOR (CONT’D)
... I did notice that you did answer that you have contemplated suicide in the past, and as a doctor I’m required to ask how serious that sentiment is.

FRANKIE
Well, no, I mean, it’s not like I’m overly gung-ho about it, like
(mocking)
Yeah, let’s not be alive anymore!
I don’t think I ever really intended to go through with it.  It’s more of a gut reaction to being stuck between who I want to be, and who I think I’m supposed to be. 

DOCTOR
And what is it you want to be?

FRANKIE
Well, the jury’s still out on that one, Doc.  But I have some ideas.  Ideas that would be a lot easier to implement if I wasn’t constantly fighting my own subconscious.

DOCTOR
I can imagine that’s exhausting.

FRANKIE
(laughs)
I’ll bet you can.  Try holding that thought for five years.

DOCTOR
So how do you feel during these... episodes?

FRANKIE
Well, I wouldn’t call them episodes.  That would imply that they stop at some point, and there’s always a WrestleMania moment happening, and when it does, the rest of the world just feels like its zipping by in fast forward and there’s nothing I can do about it.  And I just sit here, useless, decaying like a leaf in the fall.  Day after day... just one step closer to the end.  So yeah, sometimes I think about hitting the ‘stop’ button.  Who wouldn’t think about cashing in a ticket to get away from all this bullshit.  But no, I wouldn’t say it’s a thought that has any intention of corporealizing.  Besides, I’m too much of a pussy to ever pull that kind of trigger.

DOCTOR
Have you ever thought that maybe your bullshit detector is a bit too sensitive?

FRANKIE
Certainly fair to say.  But there’s a lot of bullshit in the world.

Brief pause.  The DOCTOR is in deep thought.

DOCTOR
You know, there came a point in med school where I was just buried to my eyeballs in books.  I wanted so badly to do well that I couldn’t stop studying.  Day and night.  My life had become one long cram session.  Yet the more I learned the less I felt I could retain, until my mind felt like nothing more than a see of broken phrases and half-formed images.  None of it was connecting like it used to.  There was no order.  After I flunked my second straight anatomy exam, my professor came up to me and said something that sticks with me to this day.  He said to me, “There are two kinds of people in this world.  Thinkers and believers.  Now, believers will always be universally happier than the thinkers, because they have the luxury of ignorance.  It’s the thinkers who must carry the burden of seeing the world for what it really is, warts and all.  And to think about fixing every single flaw... can be paralyzing.  You’re a thinker, Frank.  And that’s a good thing.  But once you start over-thinking about things you can’t control... that’s a slippery slope to madness.

FRANKIE
Well, madness is a relative term.  But in any case, I’m sure your professor came duly equipped with a solution to this conundrum.

DOCTOR
He did, actually.

FRANKIE
And what’s that?

DOCTOR
He said, “To have the power to break the rules, you must first learn to live by them”.

FRANKIE stares.

DOCTOR (CONT’D)
You can’t beat the game without playing it.

FRANKIE
Well I appreciate the advice, but, quite frankly, if I’m not holding a small rectangular box with the word ‘Nintendo’ on it, I have no desire for games.

DOCTOR
Fair enough.  Well, getting back to your diagnosis.  As I said, along with the ADHD and DSPD we did notice a fair amount of depression, more specifically Manic-Depressive Disorder.  Now, I don’t expect you to know this, but recently that medical term has been changed to a term you are probably familiar with, called Bi-Polar disorder.  I’ve long written that change off as perjorative to suit the needs of political correctness, but in your case I feel like I want to make an exception and actively challenge the definitions, because you are not Bi-Polar.

FRANKIE
In all the ways I strive to be enigmatic, doctor, medically is not one of them.

DOCTOR
Well, lucky for you, you’re not an enigma, because I can diagnose you.  See, most all people with bi-polar disorder manifest their feelings externally, i.e. mood swings and the like.  You don’t do that.  You lean towards a more traditional definition of Manic-Depression.  For all the constant chemical changes going on in your brain on a daily, even hourly basis, you display a remarkable sense of self control, behaviorally speaking.  Instead of bringing your inner turmoil to the surface, you internalize it, in attempts to beat it back.  Most people cry when they need help.  But you suffer in silence.  Not necessarily a better solution, though I’m sure you find it much easier to keep friends.  Correct me if I’m getting colder.

FRANKIE stares approvingly.

FRANKIE
Go on.

DOCTOR
Which brings us to the crossroads of treatment.  Now, based on our findings, we have what is, from a diagnostician’s perspective, a “chicken & egg” scenario.  What that means is that while you appear to have a variety of debilitating conditions, one of them is most likely the parent disorder that is subsequently causing the others.  Your sleep problems could be causing your concentration problems which could be causing your depression, your depression could be causing your hyperactivity which is causing your sleep issues and so on and so forth.  So the goal from here is to figure out, to the best of our ability, what that parent condition is in the hopes that if we treat it properly, everything else will follow suit.  Considering the trial and error that’s involved in this, it is a choice I leave to you.  
(casually)
Now, I can start you on a low dose Ambien, or I can prescribe you an anti-depressant, does any of this sound like an avenue you’d like to pursue?

FRANKIE
I gotta say, it doesn’t.  Kind of feels like a shortcut to nowhere.  A band-aid over cancer.  I feel like I’ll just become less and less of myself as time goes on.  Just masking the problem instead of getting rid of it.  And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fix myself if I’m not myself.

DOCTOR
Perfectly understandable.  So before we explore other options, just for formality’s sake, there was another option I haven’t gotten to, which is the Adderall, but we don’t need to go there if you aren’t comfortable with that.

In FRANKIE’s eyes are two very distinct expressions fighting for surface time.  

The first: A reiteration of his previous sentiments toward psychoactive medications.

The second: Dollar signs.

He gives in to the latter.

FRANKIE
You know what?  I think that might be worth a shot.

We stay on his face for a beat, before...

BLACKOUT

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