Tank’s – a screenplay


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.)




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.


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.


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.


Hey, look! A flat fish.

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


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


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


Me, too. Summer school.


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

Tony slaps his fin over Carlos’s mouth.


Hush, pal. Save your strength.

Tony slowly backs away. The guys follow.


Duty calls, Tony.


Duties come later. Today is for adventure.

Tony grabs Carlos by the gills.


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

Carlos recoils in disgust.


We’re young.

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


We have no fear!

JUAN/RICKY/CARLOS (scattering)




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



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.


C’mon, armor-butt.

Tony suddenly favours his left fin.


Cramp! Ow, ow!

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



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.