The Story of a Screenwriter: Script 1, Part 2
We’re in the warehouse district on the outskirts of the city. It’s Christmas Eve Day, mid-afternoon. Everything is silent, no one is around. Except, as we soon find out, one Salvation Army Santa Claus. He stands, ringing his bell, though no one will ever pass by at this hour. He looks around, constantly bringing his eyes back toe one particular warehouse, which doesn’t seem to be any different than the others. He takes a look at his watch — it’s time — then makes his way over.
He goes up to the warehouse and knocks on the door. The peephole slides open and a pair of steely gray eyes peer out from under a white sheet.
“What do you want?”
“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas,” Santa says.
The peephole slides shut. After a second, the door opens.
Santa walks inside the warehouse, right into the KKK Christmas party. A twangy Country ballad of “White Christmas” croons over the stereo, and everybody mingles around a cross-shaped Christmas tree — one that looks like it’s been on fire on someone’s lawn — under which, are presents for a secret Santa.
– – –
That’s one example of a scene from Twe12ve. I did write it out prose-style, and, better than I ever could have five years ago. But, I think you get the idea of the kind of humor I was going for. Essentially, Christmas puns. “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”? I’ll bet you are, you racist fucks. Just like the ones you used to know in 1864, huh, Plessy? I saw the pun, said, “Boom, KKK,” and you got that scene. What happens is, the Santa is actually an undercover cop, and the Grand Dragon of the KKK figures it out, and there’s a chase between him and the Santa and Santa’s partner, who was also undercover as a Klansman. And they chase him all the way, on foot, through the town, and eventually shoot him. There’s really no reason for the scene to be in there except the KKK joke, but — well, I’ll get to it later. Now, more scenes:
Also, keep in mind, these basic jokes that are behind these two scenes I actually think are really good. There are some good idea kernels in here, it’s just, they’re not strong enough to lead somewhere substantial, especially not if I’m 17 and building around a joke. At least now, I’m 22 and building around a joke. I know how to make my foundation stronger now so we don’t get — well, whatever 9/11 joke you want to make here. Here’s scene #2:
We’re in a police interrogation room. An officer sits across from a woman who is clearly marked in her dress and overall appearance as a “lady of the night.” And then when she starts talking she has that classic hooker-speak that’s makes it really obvious, like, “I don’t know about that, mistah,” that pseudo Italian/Jewish tone, clearly from Brooklyn. Yeah, that kind of speak. So, officer’s sitting across from her and is like:
“Can you tell us what it looked like?”
And she’s like, “Well –”
She’s kind of nervous, maybe shaking a little, mostly has that fifty yard stare, trying to recall something very vivid but also unpleasant. Almost like a rape victim, you’d say, mayhaps.
“It — it was kinda funny-looking.”
“Yeah, yeah, kinda funny-looking.”
“Funny how? Like abnormal?”
“No. Yes. Yes and no. It’s –”
“Can you describe it for us?”
“Well, it was very large. Very large. Bigger than most. And I’ve seen a lot of them, so –”
“It was very shiny.”
“Yeah, shiny. It had a –”
“Had a what?”
“It’s just — if you ever saw it — you might say it, it had like a, a glow to it.”
“Yeah, a glow.”
– – – –
Get the joke? Yeah. I get classy sometimes. But I fucking loved that scene. That was probably one of my first real scenes. It ended up having nothing to do with any part of the script, mostly because the rest of the script went full retard, but it was definitely one that does play well on its own. Imagine seeing that scene played in a commercial or something. It’s vaguely intelligent, it’s got a nice twist to it. It works.
Anyway, those are the two full scenes I wanted to share before we get into it. In case you didn’t know, those were two scenes from Twe12ve, my short-awaited follow-up to CSI:Macbeth and first feature script I’d ever written. It was meant to be parodying Santa Claus and all the aspects of Christmas. Because, everyone knows about all this shit and it’s so pervasive in our society that, if you make jokes and shit off of it everyone’s gonna recognize it. Only I ended up going way off course and, like Old Charlie said, “Fucked up the end game.”
So about this script — basically, what I did was, take everything I could think of that was related to Christmas – A Christmas Carol, Scrooge, Grinch, Snow Miser, Heat Miser, elves, anything – and find a way to use it “cleverly”. Sometimes the quotes didn’t apply. Most of the times, though, it was not clever. Where the script went horribly wrong was when I was like, “I can parody movies in this as well!”
Because, the way I work is, everything sooner or later comes back to movies. Everything I write, especially the scripts, have something to do with movies. They’re either me trying to write my version of a certain kind of movie, or they’re somehow related to film history for me. There’s always something. But, at this point, remember, I’m young, so savvy isn’t exactly my strong suit. In fact, I wasn’t even in the same city or even the same state as savvy. In fact, if not being savvy were a criteria for this script, then the script was not only that, but in being that it was successful in spades. And diamonds and clubs and hearts. I ended up basically taking Christmas characters and just putting them in scenes from other movies. Not even intelligently either. I literally just lifted whole scenes and maybe went and added some Christmas-themed dialogue here and there.
Example: That scene back at the top there? The KKK Christmas party? Literally stolen from The French Connection. The opening of that movie is Gene Hackman dressed as a Salvation Army Santa Claus busting a drug dealer in a dive bar. Because they do chase him up the street. And I just took that and layered into it the iconic moment at the end of the car chase when Popeye shoots the dude on the steps of the train station. And that wasn’t even Christmas related. It’s fucked up how off course this thing went. It really was like Gilligan. A three-hour tour.
And that interrogation scene started with a Fargo reference. It’s shit like that. Or — pulling out my handy dandy notebook — the police bring in people for a lineup, and, stolen straight from The Usual Suspects, the five people line up — which in this case are a midget elf, a kid in a hotdog costume, a Santa with a limp, a bishop, and the Grinch. And they make them step forward and say, “Ho, ho, ho, you fucking cocksucker.” That’s not even trying. Not even a little bit.
Or you know that diamond commercial — I think it’s Zale’s or something — where Santa goes to the jeweler and is like, “This is for someone very special”? Well, I always said, “Wouldn’t it be great if Santa then pulled out a fucking AK-47 and was like, “Open up the drawer, motherfucker!” like the beginning of Snatch? Well, that scene got put in too. For no reason other than because I was making fun of that commercial. So what we ended up with was a series of scenes based around jokes that were strung together under the pretense of a story. And what’s worse — there were like five different fucking stories happening at once! It was fucking chaos. But, I’m going to go through the script, based on what I remember, and point out as often as possible just how bad it was.
We open on Santa — and if you’ve seen The Godfather — you can picture exactly how this scene plays. You know how it opens on Bonasera, the undertaker (great fucking name for an undertaker, I might add), and he’s like, “I believe in America. America has made my fortune,” and we track back until we’re over the shoulder of Marlon Brando, and then he starts talking, and then we finally see him, and the scene continues? Well, this scene starts with Hermey the elf. And he’s like, “I believe in Christmas,” because, what better line to start from than that one? Sadly, that probably gave me the confidence to continue. Oh, boy. Whatever, though, it’s just the overeagerness of youth. So, Hermey is basically repeating the Bonsaera monologue from the movie, except, it’s about the other elf who won’t let him be a dentist. And Santa’s listening, like, “So what do you want me to do?” And he tells him and shit, and Santa slaps him around like he does what’s his name, Johnny Fontaine, the Sinatra character, later on in the movie. And he’s like, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” I really hope he didn’t say, “I’m gonna give him a present he can’t refuse,” because that would be really tacky. But knowing me that line was definitely in there.
So there’s that. Then Hermey leaves, and Frosty, who is the Robert Duvall character here, the Tom Hagen, is like, “You got all these presents from these people, and these people,” and basically going over his schedule, and then Santa’s like, “Yeah, fine, I gotta get ready,” and then goes to fuck Mrs. Claus, because I thought it would be funny to have Santa fucking. No sex scene, just, clearly about to go fuck his wife. I don’t know, I thought it was funny.
So, then we have the KKK Kristmas scene. Guy gets shot. Then — well, the other plot line I’ll talk about in full later — but the one we end on, is — perhaps the most blatantly obvious one of all, because, the two characters really only show up for this one scene. And, in a way, it’s not that terrible an idea, but — it’s the kind of thing where, in this script, it’s terrible. Outside of it, it’s — well it’s like that “If Other Directors Made The Social Network” video — where some of them work really well, like the Wes Anderson one or the Michael Bay one, and then there’s the Christopher Guest one and the Frank Capra one, which, aren’t great, but they also don’t fall flat. But then there’s the Tarantino one, which just falls so flat that it’s almost embarrassing to watch. It’s like, “The rest of this is really good, what the hell is this doing in here?” (Note: If you agree with this sentiment, whether in regards to this video or as it relates to anything movie-related, you’re going to love my article on Tron: Legacy next month.)
That’s what my scene was. That Tarantino scene. It just fell so flat that it was just, “Ugh. Oh, god, let’s just move on for both our sakes.” And, not coincidentally, my scene was a Tarantino scene. Which, shouldn’t be surprising. I’m a kid in high school attempting to “parody” my favorite movies. At this point, my favorite movies don’t really move past Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski, Shawshank, Fight Club, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, The Silence of the Lambs, The French Connection — that same list of films that you see everywhere. Like when you’re taking a bad Sporcle quiz or looking at the IMDB top 250. The kind of shit you’re excited about when you don’t know any better, and then you’re like, “Yeah, they’re good, but there’s more out there than just that,” and then you get really embarrassed when you see people your age still talking about those movies. You’re like, “Dude, Lebowski and Pulp Fiction are good, but, watch other things.” At this point, I was just getting into/out of that phase. I was still using them as references, but at this point I had also seen more movies, so, instead of me being like, “Really? Quoting Goodfellas again? Watch The Thin Man instead. Watch His Girl Friday. Or even watch Rio Bravo.” I was only like one step ahead and was like, “Watch some more obscure movies, like The Great Escape, or even watch Jackie Brown.” Which, is literally like calling the kettle black when you’re just now in the early stages of vitiligo.
Anyway, my Tarantino scene involves two “snow-hitmen” — how imaginative, right? I’ve got more taste in my penis — who we literally see driving around in the same exact car as in the movie, one has an afro — it’s really about as subtle as a dick in the ass. And yes, that’s what I’m comparing it to. They literally sit there, talking about what they call Santa Claus in other countries. The same fucking conversation. And it continues — for the entire fucking conversation. It was sickening. And, now, kind of cool to look back on, to see how far I’ve come. But we’ll leave out all the nostalgia. It was fucking awful.
And they walk, and talk, and we can assume they’re going to kill someone, and we see them go out to the docks, and talk to a guy, and pull the same old, “What ain’t no country I ever heard of” schtick, though I’m sure it was more Christmas-related than that. I don’t remember. I do, remember, however, the finish. Which is, the Sam Jackson snowman starts doing his Ezekiel speech. but instead, it’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Subtle, right? And then they do it and shoot the dude off the edge of the dock and into the water, and then the credits start.
And my credit sequence is set to “The Man Comes Around,” the Johnny Cash song. I was crazy into Cash at that point. I had so much of his music — still do, but now I listen to it less. Which, I guess I never really listened to all of it that much, but…fuck it it, I don’t have to explain myself to you — And I was like, “You can pretend those lyrics are about Santa, and not, you know, Jesus, like it’s supposed to be.” I just loved the song, was really what it was. I must have listened to it about, oh, a thousand times over that year. Still can’t really listen to it that much anymore because of it.
Anyway, the sequence is Santa out giving gifts and at the end of it he leaves a reindeer head in the bed of the dentist he was talking about with Hermey. Once again, diamonds, clubs and hearts.
So after the credits, we have the CSI: North Pole, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” joke. Then, we get introduced to a cop. And he’s really not relevant to anything except, I had the KKK scene and needed to continue the character and make him relevant to the story. Don’t ask. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. So, this dude’s story is, if I remember, he’s a cop, did something, disgraced — I basically took that standard character and was like, “I can do this originally.” You have to hand it to me on that. I was doing it incorrectly, and had a chip on my shoulder. So, he’s on the case against Santa, because he thinks Santa ran over the old lady, and that there’s a conspiracy involving Santa because he fits all these seemingly unrelated crimes that have been happening over the past few years. And no one believes him, his boss is a dick, his wife left him and he wants to see his daughter — that shit. No point whatsoever. We’ll come back to him later.
The other story, the one I promised I’d tell you about — is so — well, I guess I shouldn’t shit on it that much. Okay, I won’t. It’s a rich dude. Like, really rich. He’s a producer, has an office in New York. Don’t ask, I don’t know why he’s in New York either. And he’s a workaholic and shit, and he’s got this secretary, who’s the wife of his dead partner. And he lets her work for him for more than the job’s worth because he feels bad. And shit happens. Problem is, he’s broke. And he’s been paying her out of pocket, which has forced him to sell his penthouse and now he’s living in his office, unbeknownst to her. He knows if she finds out she’ll refuse the money. But, she’s got three young kids, one of which is sick with something, and he doesn’t want to do that. So, that night, Christmas Eve, he gets plastered. And then, well, a ghost shows up. Basically it’s a Christmas Carol. That’s where this is going. Though he finds out he’s actually related to Scrooge and Scrooge himself is the ghost. So I get to have fun with the crotchety old man ghost. Anyway, they talk, do that ghost bullshit. There’s really no point to it at all. This story is really just kinda, there. I think it was me thinking, “I can write something original throughout all this mess.” Which is good, because, later on, I read it and was like, “This may be original, but it sucks,” and was the impetus for me dismantling the script and getting rid of it. I remember, after I’d honed my dialogue skills, going back and seeing what was salvageable dialogue-wise from the script — I ended up with about four lines. That’s it.
So, there was that story. And they just sort of continued throughout all 176 pages. And eventually, Santa — because we had to get back to Santa — decides he wants to pull off another heist, and calls up the heads of the major holidays — basically an excuse to use that Reservoir Dogs shot — the Easter Bunny, the St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun, Uncle Sam, a giant Pumpkin-head – those people. And they pull off that Zale’s diamond heist from up there. And it’s pointless. They have a shootout with the cops, since this is where that cop dude factors in. They get away. Then Santa starts getting paranoid and ends up killing them all, Goodfellas “Layla” montage style.
The other thing I remember from the script was — Rudolph throughout is portrayed as an egotistical little shit. Like, he knows what he means to the reindeer, and just because he’s got a red nose, he thinks he’s the cock of the walk, kind of thing. And he went out, started getting publicity deals, going on magazines, basically being a huge fucking sell out. Like, he’s on the team wearing enough corporate gear to make a NASCAR driver blush. And Santa calls him up to be like, “Are you coming this year or not, motherfucker?” And then he’s like, “What the fuck do you mean, snow? That’s the point of the fucking job, to help me through snow? Where are you? Acapulco?” And he slams the phone down. Shit like that. Rudolph is a prima donna. And an asshole. And then after Santa gets all paranoid and starts killing everyone, there’s a scene where he has the reindeer over for dinner, to apologize. And they’re eating, and they’re talking about how Rudolph’s on one of his random vacations again, just going off for months and not telling anyone about it, and they’re eating, having a good time, and then Vixen’s like, “This sure is good, Santa. What did you call it?” And Santa’s like, “Venison.” And slowly they realize what they’re eating.
Then later, I remember, the cop, looking for leads, goes back to someone he busted a long time ago, because the man knows all about Santa and can help him. Problem is, he’s locked away in a mental hospital, and is considered extremely dangerous. Notice any parallels here? So he goes, and chained up in a cell, Hannibal Lecter style is Professor Hinkle, who is the shitty magician in Frosty the Snowman whose hat brings Frosty to life. You know, “Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy!” That dude. Yeah, he’s Lecter. He’s got the mask on and shit. Went crazy because the hat was magic and no one believed him. Now all he wants is the hat, which Frosty has. Which means he’s got a vendetta against Santa since Santa gave it to Frosty and is basically protecting him. It’s a natural assumption as to what happened to the character. I thought it was genius at the time. Still is kinda funny.
Oh, and I didn’t mention the best part. The part that has nothing to do with anything except one random reference and to tie in every little ass detail in the story together (which, it tied about as well as you can tie a shirt around your arm. Any kind of movement, that sumbitch is coming right off) — Jack Skellington. you know him. Nightmare Before Christmas dude? Yeah, he’s vaguely Christmas related. Well I turned him into Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. He’s sent out to kill Santa. Why? I don’t know. But he ends up being the dude that literally show up in one scene to go out, then shows up at the end, coming out of the water, then kills Santa like the assassin at the end of Scarface. That right there really tells you how terrible this is. I thought it would help complete the logic, but it’s hard to back up the logic in a movie where Santa and the Grinch have a fucking sword fight.
But we’ll get to that later. Back to the story –
Oh yeah, the guy and the girl. The movie producer. They end up going to her house, second ghost, the presents dude. And they see her home life. And it’s basically like Bob Cratchit. And the disabled son is Tiny Tim. Except — since I couldn’t resist, the kid is like Dr. Strangelove. He speaks in a weird German accent and has a hand he can’t control. Now we’re just gleefully having fun with it. And then the third ghost, the one who doesn’t talk but just points — I made him the Burger King dude. That’s how you know we went full retard.
Oh yeah, the Grinch shows up about halfway through. They find him, bring him in, question him. We find out his story, which is — he and Santa were partners. They founded Christmas together. They handed out the toys, got rich together. Then Santa went and married Mrs. K, and on the wedding night him and the Grinch leave the reception and go out on the sleigh. And they talk, and we see they have a disagreement on something. Like, Santa wants to bring in advertisers like Coca-Cola (which is basically what made the image of Santa as famous as it is), and the Grinch is like, “No, let’s keep it pure and innocent.” So Santa’s like, “Yeah, I’m sorry,” then dumps him over the side of the sleigh. And the Grinch falls, falls, falls, lands on top of a mountain. And as he stands up we see that it’s Mt. Kumpet and Whoville is down below. So we basically explain why he became a mean bastard who hated Christmas. And him stealing the presents was him snapping after all those years of the “Fa Who Dorres” shit.
It’s like I needed to make every little Christmas thing work within the confines of my story. Gee – I wonder where I heard that before.
then the Grinch ends up going to the movie producer to sell his story, I guess so everything could tie together within the same world. So, that happened. Then, while that’s happening, Santa is going nuts and declares war on the South Pole. Yeah, I don’t know. I think it’s because there’s a Godfather II moment where they try to kill him in his bedroom. And he starts building an army of snowmen, like, Eisengard style, and on Christmas Eve, while he’s handing out presents, his army and the South Pole start fighting one another.
And I know, while starting the army, he’s out looking for a general to lead them. And he goes to the Island of Misfit Toys to ask for help. And King Moonracer — the giant lion — is like, “Fuck no. You haven’t come here for years to get these toys to give to children.” And Santa’s like, “Look motherfucker, either you do what I want, or I’m calling immigration and having them send your ass back to Narnia.” I forget why that scene even exists. No point in looking for logic now, I guess. So, Santa’s looking for a general, and is like, “I know the perfect person.”
It was basically an excuse to get the characters and the songs into the movie. The two end up fighting on both sides of the army, and shooting at each other from atop clouds while the armies fight down below.
And I remember before the battle, Santa stands in front of a Christmas tree, Patton-style, delivering a speech. And he finishes with, “Don we now our gay apparel,” and the soldiers put their armor on. I thought that was funny.
I also remember having Yukon Cornelius show up. And the joke with him was — nothing can kill this fuck. Like three times during the Rudolph special this motherfucker falls down a mine shaft and shit, has an avalanche land on top of him, get stabbed three times in the fucking heart, has someone cut off his head and walk around with it, only to show up ten minute later like, “Motherfucker, you can’t kill me. I’m Yukon Cornelius.” So I remember making him the Slim Pickens character in Strangelove, and he rides a bomb down onto the battlefield. Then shows up later like, “Nothing can kill Yukon Cornelius.” Then he tosses the ice pick into the snow, looking for gold, licks it, like, “Nothin’.”
Oh, scratch what I said earlier. Rudolph isn’t dead. Santa kills another reindeer. Because, Rudolph is the one who is shot during the Layla montage. He gets Moe Green’d — shot in the eye like during the Godfather baptism montage. I remember this because, he shows up later, with an eye patch, wearing a trenchcoat, with a little hit squad of his own. They show up to the mansion with AKs, like, “Okay, time to wax these motherfuckers.” And he dies — however. It doesn’t matter. And Santa eventually ends out in a field, and has a giant sword fight with the Grinch — which, picture the fight between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu at the House of Blue Leaves. Samurai swords and shit. And, it’s set to this:
I can still picture every bit of choreography from that fucking fight. You probably can figure it out too. Just go by the music. I’m sure it’s not too hard. But, I set up the beginning of that fight like The Good the Bad and the Ugly, straight down to this song:
So, they fight, Santa runs away, gets killed. Which, strangely, isn’t the end of the story. Because it ends with the movie producer, in New York, as the Santa war ends up down there, and the Abominable Snowman ends up being like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters, and the city’s getting blown up, and it ends Fight Club-style, with every building but there’s going down. Yeah, I don’t know. I forget how it wraps up. I think it was like a montage, showing what happened to everybody. Who cares, really? There’s way too much shit here to even begin to digest.
But, that’s the script. Fucked up, right?
In there, you can kind of see where a 17/18 year old boy might find that interesting. Shit, I find some of that interesting now just to see what I’d do with it. But I remember being so proud of that script. Thank god no one ever got to look at it.
But, after I realized it was shit, October of freshman year, I soon moved onto my third/second script. I’ll actually just call it second. Macbeth doesn’t really count as a script. This was my second screenplay, I’m talking about. I remember starting this next script in December of 2006.
And — let me tell you — the conception of young screenwriters writing what they know, ending up writing indie films about people and their boring ass problems — is so fucking true. Wait until you hear what I did with this next one.