Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Point A

Genre: Romantic Dramedy
Premise: A frustrated 35 year old magazine columnist forms a friendship with a 16 year old female blogger while researching her for an article.
About: Point A landed on the 2010 Black List. It’s written by Chris Rubeo, who wrote and directed the 2003 Indie “Hale Bopp,” but has been kicking it underground-style ever since. After Point A landed on the Black List, it was optioned by Darius Films.
Writer: Chris Rubeo
Details: 109 pages - undated (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).

I’m going to get a little “Days of Our Lives” here for a second, but bear with me cause I promise you this is going somewhere. Actually, I can’t promise that. But hear me out anyway. I had this friend, a woman I knew, who was going through some tough times in her marriage, and she started having an affair with this guy who was another friend of mine (why do I hang around these morally bankrupt people? A question for another day). I never felt comfortable hearing about the whole thing but because I was so involved in these people’s lives, there was no way around it.

Well one evening, we were at a bar, and someone in our group brought up this reality star chick (can’t remember her name) who had recently cheated on her husband. And my friend (the female) jumped in and gave this five minute monologue about how much of a whore this woman was for cheating on her husband. Now naturally, I’ve got a really confused look on my face because, um, wasn’t she doing the same thing? Yet as I watched her say this stuff, she didn’t have the slightest hint of guilt or hypocrisy on her face. She really believed it! And while at first I didn’t understand this, later that night I had an epiphany.

Every situation has an external reality and an internal reality. The external reality – the one everyone on the outside sees – is simplistic and stereotypical. A woman cheats on her husband? She must be a whore. The inner reality is much more complicated. There may have been years that led up to that decision. There may be a complicated history between the married couple or the affair couple that led to that choice. Whatever the case, what’s perceived on the outside is never as complicated as what’s happening on the inside, to the point where someone who’s having their own personal moral struggle can’t even acknowledge the possibility that someone in a similar situation might be having theirs.

And that’s what Point A is about. It’s about that “Oh gross” reaction we get when we first hear about a 35 year old man getting involved with a 16 year old girl. Yet as the facts and the details start to dribble in, we slowly start to understand why it’s happened. We may not think it’s right. We may not agree with it. But at the very least, we can see why it happened.

35 year old Josh Bennett, a handsome easy-going type, works for one of those “Maxim” type magazines, writing crappy articles for 20-something men that require exactly 3% of his talent. Josh is notably frustrated with his career and wants to take some real journalistic chances with his next column. Instead, his boss assigns him to find a hot slutty local female blogger they can throw some skimpy clothes on and feature in the magazine.

Josh eventually finds 22 year old Cloe, a blogger with a unique refreshing view on life. He meets her for coffee and quickly realizes that Cloe’s not 22. She’s 16. Despite this, Josh decides to go through with the article and starts meeting with Cloe on a continual basis, learning about her life and what she does.

Of course, when you spend enough time around anyone, you start to form a connection with them, and the connection between these two people, each with their own frustrations and insecurities, manifests itself into an intense friendship. Luckily, Josh has some perspective. He’s recently proposed (even if he was forced into it) to his longtime commitment-obsessed girlfriend, and isn’t about to screw up the very adult life he’s stepping into for a young girl (or is he?).

But the friendship with Cloe is forcing him to face some tough questions. Like what inspires him? Why doesn’t he pursue his dreams anymore? Why doesn’t he leave the job he hates? At what point in life are you not allowed to have fun anymore? And why is it that when he goes to sleep at night, it isn’t his future wife that he thinks about? It’s Cloe? Josh is going to have to figure all this out soon, cause that wedding date is racing up fast.

I really liked Point A. The story started out a little familiar and Cloe’s initial dialogue felt false, as if a 35 year old was speaking through a 16 year old in the assumed non-sequitur philosophical rambling fashion someone of his age would suspect a 16 year old would speak, but once we got beyond that and these two just started talking to each other like real people, the dialogue was quite good.

And a lot of that had to do with the foundation of conflict set up in the movie. Whenever you’re putting two people together in a relationship in your screenplay, you need to find a “blocker,” something that prevents those two from being together. Making one of these characters a minor may sound simplistic, but it’s a time-tested device that usually works because we get it right away. We know there is no way these two can be together. He’s 35 and she’s 16.

Also, the universal themes keep the story relatable. Cloe, like a lot of high schoolers, wants her life to begin. Wants to be taken seriously. And Josh is wondering if his life is over, if it’s time to put aside all the surprises and the dreams for something more stable. Yeah we all have to grow up, but different people grow up in different ways. And Josh isn’t sure his growing up is over yet.

When you combine these two things – the age conflict hovering over their relationship and these universal questions they're struggling with – I don’t know…it sounds like it shouldn’t be enough but it is. I was genuinely interested in every conversation they had.

But I think what really separates Point A from similar scripts is the impressive balancing act it pulls off. There are a lot of things that need to go right for this kind of story to work. Josh can’t look like a predator. Josh’s dismissal of his fiance can’t be too cruel. Josh’s issues must feel real and relatable. The girl has to be pursuing the guy, not the other way around. You have to build up the relationship long enough before anything happens. It’s a thin tightrope you’re walking and I’ve watched many a writer fall off. But Rubeo clearly thought all this stuff through and somehow, someway, keeps it classy.

And that’s the cool thing about Point A. While you never forget that it’s a script about a 35 year old man in a relationship with a 16 year old girl, it does reach a point where you’re more focused on the two individuals as opposed to their ages. And, in the end, there’s only one question that matters in a relationship movie. Do you want to see if they end up together or not? And I did. I wanted to see if Josh and Cloe could find a way to make this work.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: (spoilers) Make sure you have a tension-filled subplot ready to go before the big kiss in your relationship movie. One of the big reasons any relationship movie works is the sexual tension. Everything’s building up to that first kiss. The problem is, once that first kiss comes, a ton of air is let out of the balloon. One of the main questions driving our interest (“Will they or won’t they?”) has been answered. Which means we’re not as interested in the story anymore. The trick is to have a replacement tension-filled subplot ready to go as soon as this kiss happens, so the story doesn’t skip a beat. Here in Point A, we’ve been spending a lot of the plot building up Josh and his fiance’s upcoming wedding. So after Josh and Cloe kiss, the tension/conflict shifts over to Josh sneaking around with Cloe, trying not to get caught by his fiance. It seems simple in retrospect, but I’ve seen a lot of writers have nothing waiting in the wings after the big kiss happens, and their story fall off a cliff as a result.