Tank’s – a screenplay

Image

The following is the opening for my first screenplay. Tank’s  is the story of Tony, an impetuous young fish who gets snatched from his tropical homeland and transported to Tank’s, a pet shop in Rochester, NY. There, he quickly falls for Maya, a royal daughter of the salt water community, and runs afoul of the iron-finned rule of an eel named Kang.

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission but my sincerest Tank’s.)

 

FADE IN

EXT. AERIAL VIEW OF A RAINFOREST – AFTERNOON

A canopy of trees extends forever to a distant range of mountains, birds swooping in and out. A break in the forest exposes a broad meandering river that empties into the sea.

One bird descends to skirt along the water. Crocodiles slide from the shore, disrupting the peaceful wading of cranes who take to the air.

A thicket of tree roots plunge into the river, large insects crawling along or flying amongst the gnarled roots. A squirt of water shoots up at a dragonfly, which splashes into the water, to be eaten by a large fish.

EXT. BELOW THE SURFACE – SAME TIME

Schools of fish swim among the roots. Larger fish swim alone, oblivious to the schools that scatter and reform.

A cloud of bleary water blooms across the bottom of the river, causing most of the fish to scatter to the clearer upper layers. A few fish swim between the layers, trailing bleary streams.

The serenity is shattered as four sleek black mollies fly by, weaving chaotically through the weeds. TONY, JUAN, RICKY and CARLOS, hyper adolescents, flip a pebble back and forth, while trying to evade tackle.

TONY

Carlos fades back for a long throw…

Chubby Carlos swerves the wrong way, sliding into the mud and being tackled by the others.

Laughing, they slowly climb out of the tangle. Carlos remains on the bottom, dazed.

TONY (CONT’D)

Hey, look! A flat fish.

Tony pumps his tail to reinflate him. Juan looks to the surface, catching the waning sunlight.

JUAN

It’s late. Gotta go help Mom with the brood.

TONY

A hundred and thirty-nine brothers and sisters and you have to help?

RICKY

Me, too. Summer school.

TONY

C’mon. You’re ruining things for Carlos. He can barely speak.

Tony slaps his fin over Carlos’s mouth.

TONY (CONT’D)

Hush, pal. Save your strength.

Tony slowly backs away. The guys follow.

JUAN

Duty calls, Tony.

TONY

Duties come later. Today is for adventure.

Tony grabs Carlos by the gills.

TONY (CONT’D)

Look at this guy. Ready to grab life by the gills and kiss it on the mouth.

Carlos recoils in disgust.

TONY (CONT’D)

We’re young.

Tony swims into a shadow. The guys stare, mouths agape.

TONY (CONT’D)

We have no fear!

JUAN/RICKY/CARLOS (scattering)

Aaaaaaaaaah!

TONY

Hunh?

Tony looks up and comes face to face with a grinning caiman.

TONY (CONT’D)

Oh.

Tony sticks a fin in the caiman’s nostrils, making it sneeze.

Tony flees, pursued by the caiman. As Tony leads the merry chase, other fish scramble to safety.

The caiman gets close but never quite reaches Tony.

TONY (CONT’D)

C’mon, armor-butt.

Tony suddenly favours his left fin.

TONY (CONT’D)

Cramp! Ow, ow!

The caiman pounces. Tony flits aside and the caiman gets a mouthful of gravel.

TONY (CONT’D)

Psych!

Tony takes off, leaving the caiman to spit out stones.

(To be continued.)

I had no idea

Ideas are everywhere, but they don't always look like ideas

Ideas are everywhere, but they don’t always look like ideas

“How the heck did you come up with that?”

It’s a common question I get when talking about my latest ideas, and for years, my answer was a resounding “I dunno…just came to me.”

To a limited extent, the response is correct, but it suggests the process of ideation is much more passive or deus ex machina than it really is.

Ideas surround me, as they do you. They are in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs that make up our moment-by-moment reality. They are in the streetcar in which I presently ride, the streets down which I presently travel.

In the dark-haired beauty two rows before me who is fixated on adjusting her hair rather than close the window through which the hair-mussing breeze blows. And in the armada of free-range humans who occupy the parkette we just passed, proving themselves houseless rather than homeless.

The challenge for many would-be writers is that these are starting points for ideas rather than fully fledged stories or subjects. These are the writers who wish to be reporters or chroniclers rather than explorers.

Think instead of these idea kernels as pieces of clay, as something that can be moulded into any of a thousand other shapes. Take the kernel and play with it for a while. Give yourself a chance to see what it feels like, smells like, sounds like, tastes like.

Twist it. Turn parts of it over. Reverse its halves.

What is something were feasting on Toronto’s homeless? Imagine a mobile service that will do your hair and makeup while you commute to work. What if a terrorist planted a bomb on a streetcar and it had to travel no slower than 50 mph? Or an aesthetician to the deceased in From Hair to Eternity.

All of these are probably bad ideas, but the ideas have evolved.

Twist it again. Mould it again. Press it onto something else, like so much Silly Putty, and see what sticks.

Keep the good. Set aside the bad. But keep working it until something you really like begins to show itself.

You have no idea the wonders you will discover.

The word was cat – an exercise

Image

“Cat killer,” Anthony thought to himself, ruefully. He was now going to be forever known as the cat killer of Borden Street.

To be fair, it was an accident. At worst, negligent manslaughter. Catslaughter?

Yes, if Anthony had gotten his car tuned up as he’d been promising himself for weeks, he might have noticed the strange sound emanating from his motor. But a “rowr” sounds an awful lot like a “rawr”, so it was hardly his fault.

Why would a cat crawl on the engine block in the first place? And it’s not like Anthony held its tail against the fan belt.

No. It was a mercy killing. Clearly, living in a house with 17 other cats had taken its toll on Snowball. She had lost the will to live and decided to end her days.

It was Old Lady MacGillvary’s fault. Nobody needs 18…17 cats. A sign of mental defectiveness on a grand scale.

Hell, Anthony was lucky it wasn’t the old woman herself who flung around his engine like a piñata on heroin.

Anthony liked cats. Well, he tolerated them. He’d never killed a cat before. Two dogs, a ferret and a budgerigar, sure, but never a cat.

It was a bad year for pets in his neighbourhood.

As he recalled, the Great Dane was an automotive accident, his hood still bearing the scars, and the chow was proof that you shouldn’t buy electric garden lamps from a guy in a van on the highway.

The ferret shouldn’t have been loose while he mowed the lawn, and why the bird was anywhere near his barbecue while he was using his leaf blower is anyone’s guess.

It had gotten so bad that Anthony had to beg off a trip to the petting zoo with his nephew for fear of dropping a horse on the kid.

You’d think Anthony’s job as a taxidermist would come in handy here, but apparently a stuffed pet is considered poor compensation for a loss.

The point was moot where Snowball was concerned. All the King’s horse and all the King’s men, you know?

Oh well, Anthony shrugged, no use crying over eviscerated Persian. If he took the highway to work, most of the fur would probably fall out and cooked flesh is so much easier to extract from metal.

Anthony turned the motor over, listening for the familiar “rawr”, and then put the car in reverse.

Thump.

Crunchy crawlies

Discovering some new trails in my area of Toronto, I came upon some interesting neighbours.

Give up or surrender

Image

You’ve hit a wall. You’ve banged your head on your desk for an hour; two; ten. Staring out the window—your go-to maneuver for the last decade—has gotten you nowhere. Is it time to give up?

Might I recommend surrendering instead?

In case this sounds confusing, there is a difference between the two options.

Giving up is about accepting failure. It’s the belief that there is no solution to your problem or if there is a solution, you’re not the one who will come up with it.

Giving up is about telling yourself that you’re not good enough, strong enough, smart enough to solve your problem. It is defeat.

Surrender is different. Rather than giving up, you’re giving over; ceding control of the situation to whatever power you are most comfortable with—God, time, the elements, the universe.

Surrender is about believing that not only is there an answer to the problem, but also you are capable of delivering that answer—just not without help.

We all know what giving up looks like. It’s turning off the laptop with a frown, and maybe a sigh with drooping shoulders. And almost always, it comes with a fear or reluctance to turn the computer back on.

Surrender is calmly closing the laptop of letting it go idle while you take a walk, read a book or vegetate in a coffee shop. It can even including reviewing your work-to-date if you focus on what’s working, what you’re happy with.

The answer is there for you to pluck, but it’s waiting for you to drop your focus. Like that white spot on the inside of your eyelid that moves every time you try to look at it, the answer doesn’t like your stare, so it hangs in the periphery.

That may actually be source of some of your frustration: the knowledge or sense that the answer’s nearby, but you can’t see it.

Don’t give up. You can do it.

You just need to have faith in your universe and surrender the control you never really had.

Not just bee-ches

I appreciate some of you might be getting sick of seeing bees, so let me up the ante with a few other creepy crawlies from my recent walk-about.