July 23, 2008
I'm shopping a new screenplay. With all this tax credit give-away going on I figure why not write something and try and sell it to the Wahlbergs. I'd rather see them get the money than out-of-towners.
I haven't settled on a title yet but the working one is Democrat Interrupted, a screenplay in three acts. Our first act opens with a flash back to the Democratic National Convention of 2004. The main character - the protagonist, an African American US Senator-elect from the great state of Illinois - has just given a knock-it-out-of-the-park speech. All the party leaders whisper to him that he ought to look at running for President of the United States the next time around. In our story, that is all the qualification you need to be president: oratory ability. Come on, suspend your disbelief; it will work out by the ending, I promise.
In storytelling you must have an opposing force. Something that gets in the way of the character's main desire, called an antagonist or villain if you will. The opposing force must be as strong if not stronger than the protagonist. Because, after all, how good would the David and Goliath story be if Goliath was the hero for slaying David.
So an antagonist was written in the form of what appears to be an unbeatable opposing Democratic candidate. The more twists you can get in a screenplay the better so the unbeatable candidate was written in as a woman . (Remember, it works in the world of this story).
So we charge into the second act with the ensuing primary battles. The second act is the most difficult to pen, because of its length and because you need to keep your audience interested. So a few characters were added to raise the stakes and increase the complications. An erratic reverend, the world's most famous talk show host, and a couple of other throw-away characters: a simple minded president and a womanizing former president who happens to be the husband of the antagonist. C'mon, it's a movie!
In most stories the main characters have an Obi Wan, the wise old man or woman who guides them on the right path. This character is introduced in our second act. Actually this secondary character had to be edited down because he was taking over the story. This is always a risk with good three dimensional secondary characters. The wise old person needs to be removed from the story so the main character can grow on his own, spread his wings and learn. Most times the removal is caused by death, but not in our story. Let's just say our wise old man is temporarily detained because of illness.
So with no guidance and no experience in these rough waters, the third act is not going well for our protagonist. It's getting pretty dark but our main character is oblivious to his descent. He's having too much fun! Hanging around with all the beautiful people and flying around the world on jets.
Now I haven't got to the ending yet, but fear not, all is not lost. Because the wise old man is only temporarily out of the story. He may come back and knock some sense into our main character. Remind him that he hasn't won anything yet and it may be a little premature to order the crown for the coronation, and tell him about what happens when you fly too close to the sun with waxed wings.
You know what? I'm not going to be able to sell this story. Who would believe it? Maybe I'll just rewrite it around the Obi Wan guy; his back story is way more interesting anyway.
Catherine O'Neill's column appears weekly in the Reporter.