What I'm Working On - "Role Model" edition

The one thing I wanted to do when I restarted my blog was to openly discuss what projects I was working on and share the process and the stages of development of my different projects with fellow spec writers who are going through the same thought processes I'm going through.  More importantly, I think that writing about stories you're working on helps the writer think about them in a different way. Suggestions would be cool as well.

The first story I want to introduce, currently in the 4th draft, is the second of three feature length screenplays I've written.  It's called Role Model (WGA Registered) -

When I first started writing this screenplay, I had a scene in my head where I pictured a guy with a frozen burrito in his hand as he looked across the room at a dead body.  He would have be the killer since no one else was in the room and because, well, I picture crap like that in my head.  Plus, characters that kill other people work in any story.  The first thing, when thinking about a killer as a character, is that you have to ask two questions: why would someone become a killer in the first place, and why they continue to do it.  I'm not sure, but I believe I watched a movie called Panic with William H. Macy where his character's father taught him to be a hired assassin like his old man.

Either it was before or after watching this movie where I knew that the father/son relationship had to be a major component in my script.  In Role Model, unlike Panic, there isn't a love story that overtakes the father/son relationship story line.  In my script, I wanted to focus more on how his father, who brought him up to be a killer, ended up affecting his life as an adult, resulting in major consequences.

In the first couple drafts, Role Model was about a man named Jenks, a father and husband, who has one daughter.  He knows two things.  One is that he will not be a father to his daughter like his father was to him, and that he continues to murder bad people that molest and/or murders children because that was all he was ever taught - in a way, it has become his identity.  Plus, he knows that with his actions, there will be less men on the streets that could cause something to happen to his daughter - his only true love.

One of my favorite themes in movies is the idea that everyone has things in their lives that they, on a daily basis, are trying to hide from others, thinking that they can change their own behaviors and faults without any help.  In other words, people have secrets - and sometimes lead devious lives - that are hidden behind closed doors and/or hidden behind a pretty face, or a public reputation where others would never believe that a person like that could ever be such an awful person.  Because Jenks was a vigilante killer of child molesters and murderers, who is suffering privately, walking around the streets hidden in a crowd, I wanted to have a villain (although not the antagonist in the script) who had a similar life as Jenks but, because he was an attractive, young, and an overachieving police detective, and married to a beautiful woman, he could never be a bad person.  This bad person, Brad (yes, another Brad) molests his own daughter who is a classmate with Jenks' daughter, Susan.  There's the connection.

Without giving away too much details of the story, it's obvious, from a story standpoint, that there would have to be conflict between Jenks and Brad.  In a story with a child molester and a vigilante that kills child molesters, the two story lines must intertwine causing conflict and resolution.  And, yes, this was a major part of the script. (**thinking about it more, Erik, there wasn't enough rising conflicts/scenes/sequences between the two**) But, here's the rub... the two questions I was asked from those that read the first couple drafts, although they seemed like details that weren't REALLY important to the story I was trying to tell, was one: what does Jenks do for a living (killing child molesters may be good, but you just can't do that day in and day out).  And two, more importantly, his wife, Ann, although an important character in the dramatic rise in conflict at the end of the second act, as well as participating in the resolution of the story, she always seemed inconsequential in the causing or reacting to Jenks' actions.  How can a mother and a wife of a killer (which she knew about) stand by and not let her husband's actions affect her to a point where she acts?  In other words, Ann did not have a goal.  What was her purpose?  What drives her?  Why is she so passive?

Ah, yes, another rewrite.  This time, the 4th and current rewrite of Role Model has to be a major one.  I had a good contrast between Jenks and Brad, a connection between the two fathers because of the relationship between their daughters - one molested by her father while the other will do whatever it takes to protect his daughter and other children from such abuse - and enough hidden exposition and flashback to understand why Jenks does what he does.  But... Ann had to be... active.

Here was my thought, and what I'm going with (tell me if I'm wrong in thinking this).  Let's make Ann a reincarnation of Jenks' father?  You want ambition?  An active, push the story forward, type of character?  Jenks ain't making any money.  Shit, he sure does love his daughter - will do anything for her.  He's a killer.  Does bad things.  Can't shake his father's hold on him.  She's got to attack. 

(**here's the problem, Erik, you still want Jenks to drive the story.  Or, do you?  Can she pull strings but still be a distinguishable supporting character?   Could her actions cause him to act in a way he wouldn't think possible before, making this a less character driven story, like a thriller?  Suddenly, a genre change could causing a major shift in structure**)

Ann is now an up and comer in the public eye (kind of like Brad without the hidden baggage) with an "anything goes" approach to getting ahead.  I was first thinking of a politician running for office or gathering up support to do so, but now I"m thinking that she has to be more directly connected to Jenks' life, other than just being his wife.  Ann needs to have some connection where what Jenks does, helps her in her pursuit of becoming... something.  The question is what and how her actions will shift purpose with Jenks and Brad's characters.

Anyways, that's were I'm currently heading with this story.  Time to get back to writing.


It's, like, torturing me

To get away from writing for one bit, I continue to be plagued by, not only that societies' youth use the word "like" in almost every sentence they say, but that the educational system, and the public in general, doesn't demand that we acknowledge that this is a problem.  I'm not a wordsmith by any means, but MY GOD, don't you hear this word continuously said in every day language from our youth (and even adults)?  It is driving me nuts.  In some weird way I think that the sole purpose of my life is to yell at the TV every time I hear the word said, or bite my tongue every time I hear it in public.  I can't be the only person that this word said over and over again by our youth disturbs me to no end, can I?

I must probe this problem (and I mean problem in the truest sense of the word) until someone acknowledges that this is an epidemic.  Since I know that my generation, and the generations before me, never used this word as much as our current generation of kids do, I must place myself in the world of the 13 to 25 year old demographic.  I didn't grow up in a world where everything is in reach by just picking up a cell phone.  I understand our kids are being over run by information.  In some weird way, we expect our youth to multitask just because it's the world we live in.  If I was a kid during this time, where words are being thrown at me from so many different ways, with social media everywhere, maybe I would use some word in between thoughts so I know I'm being coherent and understood in what I am saying.  But the problem with that way of thinking is to say that the youth of previous generations were incapable of taking in so much information that they weren't required to pause in mid sentence to renegotiate their thoughts.  We did, as everyone knows, end up okay.

The education system.  I'm not involved in the teaching of our youth, and I don't even think about it.   I might be completely in the dark as to how we educate our children today.  If I am totally wrong with this, I apologize.  Are we teaching our children to use the word "like" as much as they can?  Is there some workbook we're giving our children in the 2nd grade where kids are required to say, "Jack jumps over, like, something, or whatever?"  Obviously we're not.  At some point, and I'm not being ignorant to the fact that teachers don't think about kids 24-7, but someone, somewhere, must have heard their student use the word "like" in almost every other sentence at some point and say that this is unacceptable.  I picture a student/parent/teacher conference where a parent is speaking to the teacher, not using the word "like" several times in each thought, but when the parent or teacher asks the student to explain why they're not understanding the lesson(s) and the student uses the word "like" several times in explanation, why doesn't the teacher or parents stop the kid and say, "why do you use that word so much?  Have you heard me or your father (mother) say that word as much as you and your friends do?  You know that this won't be acceptable when you grow up."

Obviously, we don't teach our kids to use the word in everyday language as a way to communicate.  So I guess, we as adults, consider this a fad - that they'll grow out of it.  I can't think of any other reason for accepting this unless I'm the only one hearing it like I'm in some governmental experiment to see how far a human being can take hearing that word until I break.  I know I'm not that special.  If I am, I give in - I'm more than nuts now.   Stick a needle in me and take me away from this torture.  Please.

If only it would be that easy.  I'm not lying in saying that, after watching the first 3 episodes of 2011's Real World on MTV, the kids on that show said the word "like" over 120 times.  In one episode, the word was said 78 times.  Of course the word wasn't always used unnecessarily each time, but, even taking the fact that the word is very common, that is a, fucking, lot of time.

(In further investigation, using The Real World as an example, I noticed that the word was never said to each when the people were arguing.  It was only in casual conversation.)

Maybe, if we ignore it, it will go away.  Maybe they'll, at some point, realize that saying the word so much doesn't benefit them when speaking to adults (even parents, I hope).  Maybe they'll understand that when they speak the word inappropriately so many times that it only gets in the way of the overall purpose of the message they are actually trying to get across. Maybe everyone else will start using the word so it becomes a part of everyday language.  The next interview I go on, when asked how I could benefit the company If I'm hired, I'll say, "You know, it's, like, I'm really good at my job.  I'm, like, good at communication.  I can, you know, like, understand things better than most people.  There was this one time where, in my past job, I was telling the the employees I managed that what they were, like, doing was, like, wrong and they stopped doing it.  I just hope others will, like, follow my lead.  I'm a real good leader.  You know, like, really."

Please, help me.  Get me out of this government experiment.  Life is torturing me enough as it is.  Like, save me.

Stop Saying the Word "Like" - Wikihow

Here's Justin Bieber...

What the kids are saying...