Monday, March 23, 2009

Call Me Rusty

Genre: Comedy
Synopsis: A single father tries to reconnect with his college daughter and teenage son on Spring Break.
About: Comedy spec that sold a couple of weeks ago. From what I heard, it spun around for awhile and nobody bit. Then it got scooped up at the last second.
Writer: Christopher Baldi

The first fifteen pages of the screenplay are always the toughest. Because, as every good screenwriter knows, you're trying to set up a lot of information in a very short period of time, you're trying to do it without drawing attention to it, and on top of all that, you're trying to entertain the audience. That's why when I started reading Call Me Rusty, I was convinced I was reading some lucky amateur who conned a producer into paying his rent for the next couple of years. Christopher Baldi seemed like he concocted the first 15 minutes of his screenplay on his way to work. Nothing anybody does rings true. The basic set-up of the film is that the boss tells Rusty: "If you want me to give you a promotion, you have to bring me back a picture of you and your family on vacation." That is the set-up to a script that just sold to mid six-figures.

Needless to say, I didn't expect much from Call Me Rusty. And for a while, I didn't get it. RUSTY (who may or may not be Clark Oswald's son from National Lampoon's Vacation) is a workaholic who hasn't paid attention to his family since his wife left them 10 years ago. He's got a hot 21 year old daughter and a horny teenage son. When he's denied a promotion for not being enough of a "family man", he begs his boss to give him a chance to prove that he is. Begrudgingly, his boss says if he spends a vacation with his family and shows him a picture of them together, he'll think about giving him the promotion.

In the meantime, Rusty's daughter and her slutty BFF are getting ready for Spring Break. Rusty barrels in and informs them that their party just doubled (the son's coming along too). Again, wait a minute. Hold up here. Are you asking us to believe that a daughter is going to allow her father to join her on Spring Break? Do you think that in the history of the naughtiest nastiest sickest STD-producing week of the year that any daughter of any father in the world - even Pakistan - is going to say, "Sure dad, come along"? This is the problem with Call Me Rusty. On page 15 your characters are making nowhere near realistic choices. How am I, the reader, supposed to go along with this? This only furthered my suspicion that Baldi had no idea what he was doing.

And then slowly, ever so slowly, after they get to Spring break, I noticed that I was laughing more. Even though the scenes were somewhat episodic, the situations and conversations were making me laugh. To my surprise, Call Me Rusty became one of those rare scripts that got better and better - the savior being Baldi's dialogue, which was fun, snappy, eccentric, yet never Juno-esque.

The highlight of the script is a silly but lol scene where Kristin is forced to play a game of truth-or-dare with her father. The whole time I'm thinking, "This is so stupid. This is so dumb", and yet I couldn't stop laughing. It had the potential to go to some really bad places (the dad and Kristin's slutty friend hooking up) and even though it would've been funny, that's not what the script is about. It's about a father trying to reconnect with his family, and Call Me Rusty kind of succeeds. Sure, the script doesn't break any new ground and it's hardly one for the ages, but it's a good solid comedy script and I can see why it got bought.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Call Me Rusty: Iron out your set up (first 10-15 pages). It's the hardest part of the script because you're setting up so much information in such a short period of time. But if you don't put the effort in, it's going to come off feeling forced. Even though Call Me Rusty recovered, with some effort it never would've had to recover in the first place. "Bring back a picture of you and your family and you get the promotion." Are you serious? Had this issue been solved from the get-go, it wouldn't have taken 2 weeks for this to sell.