Sunday, May 10, 2009

NOTES FROM THE EDITOR, part IV (revised script)


The editor at Ape liked my story, but it needed some work. It seemed a matter of "leaving it in the typwriter," a term I believe I read in one of David Mamet's works on writing wherein the motivation or other pertinent information - information the writer has in his/her head - does not get onto the page in a way that the reader can understand the story fully. I didn't want to blow this, so I immediately started going over how to fix things in my head.

After closing the email, I spent the rest of the day thinking over how to fix the script. I jotted down some notes and at work the next day I more fully developed these notes, creating new dialogue for some expanded and new scenes. That night, I came home and typed up the additions/changes and this is what I came up with:

Life is Funny
by Chris Beckett

The back-story for this UFO tale is a fairly typical small-town one. Boy and girl date all through high school, and soon after graduation get married and move in to their own trailer or apartment in a less than stellar housing complex. The boy gets a construction/mill job while the girl works register at the local IGA or Wal-Mart. Things are good for a time, but eventually real life – often in the form of a baby – rears its head, straining the marriage and leading to one of many bleak results.

Page 1

Panel 1: We begin at the end, with our protagonist (Jake) holding his three-year-old son up in his arms so the two are face to face. The boy is overjoyed as Jake returns his son’s love, smiling at his boy in the manner only a father can. Jake is wearing a weathered Detroit Tigers hat, an indicator for readers during flashback scenes.

CAPTION It’s funny how things work out sometime.

Panel 2: FLASHBACK, late 70s, early 80s. A similar Detroit Tigers ball cap – not as weathered – is on the head of an 8-year-old sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons. In the background his parents are openly arguing.

CAPTION Prejudices inform our decisions, determining the paths of our lives.

Panel 3: A piece of framed string art (a noted 70s craft, I can get reference if needed) creates a portrait of Jake.

CAPTION Everything mapped out – point A to point B to point Z.

Panel 4: A jigsaw puzzle image – Jake and his wife Tammy wearing their caps and gowns from high school graduation maybe in the familiar form of “American Gothic” by Grant Wood.

CAPTION Like a meticulously planned jewel heist.

Panel 5: Jake fumbling a ground ball hit to him during a beer league softball game.

CAPTION Too bad life isn’t really like that.

Page 2

Panel 1: Jake and Tammy toasting champagne at the head table during their wedding reception in the local American Legion hall. Everyone sitting at the table looks very young.

CAPTION Tammy and I got married just out of high school.

Panel 2: The housing complex where Jake and Tammy live – a fairly mundane and depressing place with overflowing trash cans on many stoops and a general feel of disrepair throughout the place. They are sitting on their own tiny stoop in plastic lawn chairs, each one on a cellphone, intent on their conversations more than each other.

CAPTION We were in love. That was all that mattered.

Panel 3: In a bar where Jake is raising his mug of beer in a crowd of other early twenty-somethings, obviously he and those around him are having a hell of a good time except for Tammy, who sits beside him sipping at her soda looking lost and alone amid this crowd.

CAPTION Those first couple years were good.

Panel 4: At a barbecue where a number of their high school friends are also attending. Talking with one of his buddies, Jake has a beer in one hand while he rests the other on Tammy’s obviously pregnant stomach.

CAPTION But it wasn’t long before things took a turn.

Page 3

Panel 1: In the hospital delivery room. A nurse is handing a bundled newborn to Jake. Jake is wearing the same Detroit cap we saw on page 1.

CAPTION Tate was so small.

Panel 2: FLASHBACK. Jake is at the dinner table wearing his Detroit cap. Only he and his Mom are sitting down to eat. An empty spot where his father should be is across from Jake, a full plate sitting there getting cold.

CAPTION I was excited about being a Dad. Determined not to be like my father.

Panel 3: FLASHBACK. Jake is watching an episode of the Cosby Show on the television as he munches on cereal.

CAPTION But it isn’t as easy as it looks on TV.

Panel 4: Back to the PRESENT. Jake and Tammy are in each other’s faces, screaming unintelligibly at one another. Taking all of this in is Tate, who is sitting on his mother’s hip. Jake is dressed in hunting garb, on his way out for a weekend at camp.

CAPTION We didn’t see our friends as much, but I still had my annual hunting trip with the guys.
Tammy didn’t understand.

Page 4

Panel 1: Jake and Tammy are eating supper at their kitchen table, with Tate in his high chair between his parents.

CAPTION We discussed a separation, and I plan on moving out once I find a place I can afford.

Panel 2: Looking down on Tammy and Jake’s bed as they have sex. Jake is on top of Tammy, bedcovers above his waist. Tammy is looking off, grief-stricken, tears dampening the side of her face.

CAPTION For now, I’m in the guest room.

Panel 3: Jake walking at night through the quiet streets of the town. Trees line the sidewalks and only about half the streetlights are working, giving a hazy, melancholy look to the scene.

CAPTION Evenings I usually go for a walk, just to get away. Give Tammy a chance to think things over.

Panel 4: Tammy sitting in their living room, head in her hand as she cries uncontrollably.

CAPTION It’s good for both of us.

Page 5

Panel 1: This panel takes up the TOP ½ OF THE PAGE. Jake has made his way to the end of a dead end road and is standing at the edge of a large field full of swaying grasses dotted with trees here and there. Maybe on the far end of this field we can see a house where the street picks up once more. In the upper left of the night sky hangs a ¾ full moon and in the air directly above Jake a huge UFO hovers, bathing the scene in hot light.


Panel 2: Same scene, but a white light is emanating from the UFO directed at Jake, putting him and the rest of the scene in an exaggerated chiaroscuro of light and shadow.


Panel 3: Inset to panel 2. A white panel in the lower right hand corner of the panel with just the barest outline of Jake’s eyes, nose, mouth, and hairline. It not only represents the intensity of the light but also intimates that he is being transported onto the ship.


Page 6

Panel 1: A darkened room on the UFO. A single light illuminates Jake – naked and strapped by his wrists and ankles to a surgical table. He is struggling against his bonds. Nothing else of his surroundings is visible.

JAKE Hello? Hey! Who’s there!

Panel 2: Similar scene. A few more lights are on, illuminating the heads of Jake’s captors (a typical “grey” alien unless you have a better image) at the edge of the darkness. Jake is still pulling against his bonds

JAKE Aw, hell.

JAKE Please! I’m sorry!

Panel 3: The aliens move in closer on Jake. One has raised its hand, brandishing a type of drill, which is on and making a horrific sound.


JAKE No! I’ve got a kid! I can’t go!

Panel 4: On Jake (alien hands possibly coming in off panel). He is crying now, face contorted, unable to hold in his terror.


JAKE (small) I can’t leave him. Can’t leave his motherNAME.

Panel 5: From the side and slightly below the level of the surgical table. The aliens are now right over Jake, who has given up struggling, with the drill right at his temple.


Panel 6: Jake’s POV. The three aliens are up close and personal with Jake as he begs for mercy.


JAKE (small) Please. Have some mercy.

ALIEN #1 


Page 7

Panel 1: Jake is lying in a heap, rubbing at his temple, at the end of the dead end road where he just encountered the UFO, which is nowhere to be seen. The gibbous moon has traveled across the sky and is now partially hidden by the horizon on the right of the panel.

JAKE Oooohhhh.

Panel 2: Jake is jogging/running down the street heading for home.


Panel 3: From behind Jake as he opens the door to his place in the housing complex.


Panel 4: Jake is sitting on his bed, Tammy is sleeping. No lights are on, and Jake rests his hand on Tammy’s shoulder to awaken her.

JAKE (small) Hey.

Panel 5: Same scene as previous, but Tammy has awoken and she and Jake are now hugging intensely.


Panel 6: SAME AS PAGE 1 PANEL 1. Jake holding Tate up so they are face to face, ecstasy and unconditional love apparent on each of their features.

CAPTION It’s funny how things work out sometime.


For comparison's sake the original script can be seen at this post.

And once more, the waiting began.

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