Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shimmer Lake

Genre: Dark Comedy
Premise: The aftermath of a bank robbery told backwards.
About: This script was originally a finalist at the Austin Film Festival where it gained the attention of producer Barry Josephson. Soonafter, the script was sold to Fox Atomic. So for those of you wondering where to allocate this year's screenplay contest money, AFF might be a good place to start!
Writer: Oren Uziel

Man, I am on a rolllllllllllll. Reading some solid scripts lately. Today's entry is a little dark comedy thriller called "Shimmer Lake." So let's all get naked and go script skinny dippin!

This particular entry is a special 4am review of the half-asleep variety. So if you notice any spelling mistakes or random tangeants, I'm totally not apologizing. Speaking of apologies, I want to apologize to anyone who viewed my latest Facebook entry (not my Scriptshadow Facebook account but my real person Facebook account). I started this thing called "Late Night Facebook Confession" where anytime after 2am, you can post anything you want about your life on Facebook and no one can judge you on it. Well, I guess my latest confession was just a little too "disgusting" (as some said) and "perverted" (as others said). Whatever that means. Needless to say, nobody seems to understand the concept of "CAN'T BE JUDGED". Once it's past 2 a.m. man, you can write anything you want. And not be judged. EXCEPT FOR - apparently - Himalayan teenagers with down-syndrome. Jeeeeez.

What are we talking about? Oh yeah! Shimmer Lake. This script was sweeter than a mouthful of gummy bears. It's about a group of dimwitted frustrated small town dudes who decide to rob the town bank. The twist here is that we start with the aftermath of the robbery and work our way back, day by day, to the night of the robbery. Now even though this is the internet, I can hear some of you already screaming "Gimmmmick!" And you know what? You're right. This is a gimmick. But it's a damn good gimmick, cause Uziel knows how to write.

Our main character and town sheriff, Zeke, is three days removed from the robbery, desperately trying to find his brother Andy, who for some reason left his family to involve himself in this moronic heist. He's hoping he can locate him before he ends up like Dawkins, the owner of the bank, who Zeke finds naked and dead with a huge hole in his chest. Apparently Dawkins was connected to the robbery too. But why? He owns the damn place. Also missing are Ed, an ex high school football star who accidentally blew up his kid during an experiment gone wrong in his self-made meth lab. And Chris, a half mentally retarded loner who lost all his friends when an accident blew a few fuses in his brain. Rounding out the group is Ed's hotter-than-the-inside-of-a-hotpocket wife Steph, who very well may know more about this robbery than she's letting on.

Shimmer Lake's structure takes us back one day at a time in order to show us what happened to who and how. Along the way we learn more about the characters involved and more about why they're doing what they're doing. You may think you know why they're doing it. But you don't. Well, in some cases you do. But in others you don't. Most of the cases you do though. Instead of the script suffering from Prequel-itis (this is how I refer to the Star Wars prequels - which basically filled in the missing gaps at the expense of a providing us with a story) it actually thrives inside the structure. The big heist is still at the end of he film. It's just at the beginning. So we're still anticipating how it's going to all go down. I think in a lot of scripts, there'd be plenty of dead time before the ending, but Uziel's strength is his amazing grasp of character, and pretty much anybody he introduces us to we could watch for hours on end and never get bored. I wish I had all day to just chat with this guy and ask him how he comes up with these people. He's truly got a gift. They're so fun to be around and listen to that you forget all about those silly screenwriting mechanics - like story. And plot.

I think to give you any more would cheat you out of a fun read. I will say this: Shimmer Lake has that wears-its-indiness-on-its-sleeve arthouse quality to it that has a habit of unsettling some picky cinephiles. But what I love about The Lake (that's what I'm calling it now. Keep up.) is that it's like an Ethan and Joel Cohen film, without all the alienating choices that scare away mainsream audiences. It's funny, but not 3% of the population only funny.

Originally I was going to write this review backwards but changed my mind for two reasons. One, it would've taken way too much effort. And two, it was a stupid idea.

This baby is an early contender for mid-to-high Black List 2009. Check it out...

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Character descriptions character descriptions character descriptions! If you're writing a comedy, you should have fun with your character descriptions. Don't describe anyone as "Square-jawed and tough as nails." It's a comedy. Have fun with it. Here's an example from Shimmer Lake: "Ed Burton is the kind of guy that if he walked into a bar and falsely accused you of stealing his seat, you'd get up and apologize." How awesome is that? It's fun and it tells me exactly who this character is.