Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Emergency Contact (Repped Week 4 of 5)

For those who have forgotten, this is number four in a series of five scripts I'll be reviewing this week from represented writers who have not sold a script. The exercise is meant to explore the level of quality it takes to obtain agency representation. Enjoy!

Edit: So it turns out (all my fault - not the writers) that Bear and Thomas had sold a spec before - their script "Mental." I received the script from someone I assumed was their agent, but turned out to be someone who was affiliated with the project when it went into the marketplace last spring. He was a big fan of the script and just thought I'd like it. There was no malicious intent there. In a way, I'm kind of glad this happened. I went into the script believing that these two writers had never sold anything before. So the fact that I really liked it before knowing that they *had* sold something, validates that there's something to be said for the quality of screenplays from those writers who have broken in and sold a script before. Wow. Anyway, enough with the nonsense. Sit down, enjoy the review, and enjoy the script. :)

Genre: Comedy
Logline: A straight laced guy finds his life thrown into turmoil after he agrees to become the "emergency contact" for a guy he barely knows.
About: These guys are repped at Paradigm.
Writers: Bear Aderhold & Thomas F.X. Sullivan

Somebody out there has this guy as their emergency contact.

Jay is just an average guy preparing for an average life. He works under the safety of a company that builds elevators, a company that, if he plays his cards right, will be his employer for the next forty years. His girlfriend, Debbie, is safer than a Sunday stroll to the ice cream shop and the kind of woman who gets antsy if you're not in bed by 10 o'clock. Jay is preparing for a long no-frills life of stability. And he’s pretty sure that makes him happy.

Enter Russell, the mailroom guy. Russell, a bit of a weirdo, is the man you go to when you need good weed. When Russell saves Jay’s ass at work, Jay kindly asks if he can return the favor. Sure, Russell innocently replies, I was wondering if I could make you my emergency contact. And that’s when our story officially begins.

On an ordinary weekday night, after Jay and Debbie are asleep, Jay gets a phone call. Something’s happened to Russell and Jay needs to come immediately. He stumbles out of bed to Debbie’s dismay and heads off to the address in question. But strangely, the address is for a gay nightclub. And the gay nightclub is having a “no shirts night”. So Jay has to take off his shirt before shimmying through a warehouse full of man meat until he finds Freddie, a porn producer who’s just made the Titanic of porn films. Problem is Russell stole the master copy. Jay is completely dumbfounded as to how this involves him, so Freddie lays it out for him. Russell made the idiotic mistake of leaving his wallet behind. And in his wallet is a card that lists JAY as his emergency contact. And of course, as everyone knows, you only list your closest friends/family members as your emergency contact. Hence, if anyone knows where Russell is, it's Jay.

Jay runs for his life, somehow escaping the gayporium. Thinking he's just going to waltz back into bed, he's surprised to see two police officers waiting outside his house - Glibby and Briggs. These are the kind of officers who taser first and ask questions later. Which is exactly what they do. So the recently electrocuted Jay wakes up in an interrogation room. What the hell is he doing here?? Well, it just so happens Russell is fucking Glibby's wife and he's none too happy about it. In trying to find Russell, he's learned that Jay is his emergency contact. And in Glibby's world of vigilante justice, the one who knows about the cheating is just as guilty as the one who's doing the cheating.

Jay's rescued when an officer passes by wondering why an innocent man is sitting in an interrogation room. Jay once again tries to get home only to run into the man of the hour - Russell. Jay curses him out for ruining his "perfect" life. Russell points out that Jay's life is actually pretty boring and sucky. Life advice from a man who's never used an alarm clock. Unfortunately Jay realizes that neither of them are getting out of tonight until they find and return that porno. The question is: Where is it? The answer is a mystery that takes them all over the city. To make matters worse, Jay has the mother of all presentations in the morning. If he doesn't kill it, he'll be out of a job.

What Aderhold and Sullivan do really well in Emergency Contact is create a host of hilarious secondary characters. Briggs and Glibby can star in their own spin-off movie as soon as this one's over. Their clueless banter is one of the highlights of the script. And one of my favorite sequences is when Jay and Russell meet up with Russell's friend, Captain Kirk, a former pilot turned crackhead who hasn't worn pants in over a year. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, he tries desperately to remember where he left the porno.

But what really makes this script sing is anything that happens as a result of Russell being Jay's emergency contact. A flippant decision early on by Jay turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life - over and over and over again. The only time the script runs into trouble is near the end when Aderhold and Sullivan try to tie a neat bow around Jay and Russell's friendship. I liked the idea, but it comes on too fast and is resolved too quickly. That needed more work. Plus it replaced the potential for more emergency contact stuff. Any way these guys can plant more storylines that arise because Jay gave Russell permission to be his emergency contact I'm highly in favor of. That's where the gold happens. And I feel that as we get closer to the end, those moments should increase anyway, not decrease, as that'll make things even harder (and therefore more funny) on Jay.

Emergency Contact reminded me of another script titled The Sitter which sold earlier this year. This script is nearly as good as that one and, I believe, has more potential. I honestly think with a couple of rewrites, this could be the next Hangover. It's a hilarious ride. I'm actually surprised no one's snatched it up yet.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest

[xx] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius

What I learned: When you think you've put your character in a terrible situation, make it worse. The writers do a great job of not only barraging Jay with the worst night ever. But on top of it all, he's got the presentation of his life to give tomorrow morning at 9. That added dynamic introduces an additional level of tension to every situation Jay's in because we're always thinking, "Even if he gets out of this, how is he going to give his presentation??"