Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ollie Klublershturf vs. The Nazis

The next two weeks should be fun.  We have a pretty big spec sale we're reviewing later in the week.  We also have a "Reality Bites" type script that makes Reality Bites look like a shitty student film (which some will point out isn't hard to do).  We have another comedy spec that's made some headway and we're also reviewing movie-as-script, Monsters, so try and see that to join in on the discussion.  As a bonus, I'll also be offering my thoughts on The Social Experiment. With the addition of the new "Script News from around the Web" posts, keep checking in cause it should be rocking.  Now it's been awhile since we've done a theme week, and I know that some of you hate when we cover anything that's already a film, but I've always been fascinated by how much Christopher Nolan bucks conventional screenwriting trends, yet still manages to create films people love.  So next week Roger and I are going to review 5 Nolan films-as-scripts and figure out what he's doing differently and why it still works.  Anyway, on to Roger's review.  He decided to do something different himself and look at the piece that got Damon Lindelof (of Lost fame - yay, more Lost arguments!) into the business.  Take it away Roger. 
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction, One-Act Play
Premise: Ollie Klublershturf, boy genius, must stop the Fourth Reich from murdering his family and stealing the time machine he's invented, all of which occurs during dinner, of course.
About: "Ollie" is the one-act play Lindelof specifically wrote to get him a meeting with Carlton Cuse. It's also been made into a short film, which played at the LA HollyShorts Festival, by director Skot Bright, starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Samm Levine, Norman Reedus, Rachel Nichols, George Segal, Lainie Kazan and Zach Mills. Before he became a professional writer, Lindelof worked as a reader for Paramount, Fox and Alan Ladd studios.
Writer: Damon Lindelof

When it comes to my favorite screenwriters, I’m always interested in that first script which serves as a calling card, that manuscript which lands them their first manager or agent, or in Damon Lindelof’s case, hooks him up with tv showrunner Carlton Cuse and lands him a spot on the writing team for Nash Bridges, which, as we all know, is just a precursor to what would become a dynamic showrunner and co-writer relationship with Cuse on the recent juggernaut of popular storytelling, Lost. 

Sure, I was obsessed with the show. We can debate its flaws, but for me, it was brilliant television. When I think about it, Lost‘s run captures a specific time period in my life, a period of six years that I devoted to learning the scriptwriting craft. The date of the first season coincides with my decision to become a creator, instead of merely, a consumer. There are moments in that show, character moments or revelations or surprises that are forever etched into my heart and mind. And, it became clear, that while listening to the show’s podcast commentaries, that Damon Lindelof had an uncanny gift for narrative. A young showrunner who shepherded a massive narrative, the guy who came up with the idea to place John Locke in a wheelchair, an idea which shocked the rest of the writers. 

In the writer’s room, he’s the guy that thinks outside of the box. 

Along with Orci and Kurtzman, Lindelof is one of today’s in-demand pop writers. I’ve always wondered what he would do after Lost and it’s no surprise that he hasn’t strayed too far away from that show’s genre-bending science fiction elements. He’s scripting the next Star Trek movie and is one of the writers on the Jon Favreau-directed Cowboys & Aliens, and if that’s not enough, he’s also been hired to pen a draft of Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel. Why is he in demand as a writer? The guy’s got the goods. 

Okay. So, what the hell is Ollie Klublershturf vs. The Nazis, Rog?

“Ollie” is the one-act play Lindelof specifically wrote to try and impress Carlton Cuse. The story goes that Cuse was talking to Damon’s agent, and he asked the agent if there was anything he could read, and the agent gets back to him a few days later and says there’s a one-act play he can read. 

Cuse was impressed, stating that the pages “were funny and well-written.” So, that got Lindelof in the room with Cuse, and they immediately hit it off and the rest is presumably history. But, here’s the kicker, according to Cuse, “Little did I know that Damon wrote this original material for the purpose of the meeting.” 

That’s a pretty good story, Rog. But what the heck is the play about?

Dade Klublershturf has brought over his latest girl to meet the parents over dinner. Dade is a bit of an idiot, frustrated with his mother, Sharon, who keeps mispronouncing his date’s name. 

Daniella is a polite enough girl, well-groomed and dressed and manicured in that modern European way. Only thing is, Sharon is a bit miffed that Dade is dating a German girl. He is Jewish, after all, and it just makes her talk about how her son has always denied his ethnic heritage. 

It’s a sore point between mother and son, but Daniella takes it all in stride. 

During this dinner argument, in-between Dade’s wheelchair-ridden grandfather, Poppy, battling his senility and what’s possibly Tourette syndrome, Ollie shuffles into the room.

Ollie, barefoot, with wild hair, goes about inspecting the room with a tape measure while examining the gaudy chandelier above them. He moves a chair a few inches and then exits the room.

Dade and Sharon continue to argue, and he pisses her off by making a joke about concentration camps. She replies, “You think joking about concentration camps is funny?”

“Roberto Benigni thinks it’s funny.”

The conversation is interrupted by the sound of drilling above them, and Daniella steers the conversation towards the little boy with the tape measure that she saw earlier. 

Dade tells her that’s his retarded brother, Ollie, and Sharon corrects him, “He is not retarded. He’s a genius.”
Sharon then tells them that Ollie has been busy building a time machine. 

On this, Ollie enters the room with a paper bag in his hands. He grabs a plate and starts piling food on it. As his mother tries to introduce him to Daniella, he informs her that she’s not only mispronouncing her name, but that they’ve already met. 

Daniella is confused, is confident that they have never met. 

Ollie tells his family, while talking to Dade, that his date is about five minutes away from killing their entire family. He confronts Daniella and says, “Go ahead. Ask. This is where you usually ask me about my time machine.”

What’s in Ollie’s paper bag? Is it the time machine?

Indeed, it is. 

It’s an Atari joystick. Although the sight of it renders Dade dubious, Ollie explains that it creates a rip in the space-time continuum and allows him to travel to any point in history of his choosing. 

Daniella is unsettled, and Ollie informs her that they’ve been through this chain of events twenty-three times now. No matter what he does, he can’t save his family so he keeps travelling back in time to the beginning of the dinner so he can create a paradox and thwart her evil plans. 

The dinner is interrupted when the doorbell rings and Sharon invites two hunky (and Aryan) bible salesman into her home. 

Who are the bible salesman?

Chad and Barry aren’t really bible salesman. 

With Daniella, they’re really members of the Fourth Reich. 

Ollie and the Fourth Reich begin to interrogate each other, and Ollie accuses Daniella of having a gun. If that’s so, why doesn’t she just shoot him and take the joystick? 

Ollie says it’s because he’s always able to activate his machine and escape before she draws the weapon, “I’m learning more and more each time though, and I daresay I have prepared a series of unpleasant surprises for you Nazi bastards this go-around.” 

What are the surprises?

A letter Ollie has taped underneath his mother’s chair to prove his point that his machine works and that these dinner guests really are nefarious Nazis. 

And, he’s also rigged the chandelier to fall and smash into Chad, burying him in broken glass. 

As Barry tries to kill Ollie, Ollie is forced to use the machine and he travels back to an earlier conversation during the dinner. 

Ollie tells Daniella that they’ve seemed to have reached a stalemate, and he offers to give her the device under three conditions: (1) She must spare the lives of him and his family, sans Dade and (2) when they go back to World War 2 she must convince Hitler to pick on someone other than the Jews, preferably Mexicans, and lastly, (3) his third and final condition is that she must show him his tits. 

Does she flash her tits?


But, of course, like any prankster boy genius, Ollie says he was just kidding and he’ll never stop at trying to stop her and the Fourth Reich. In fact, next time he’s even gonna get her to take her pants off. 

And, he activates his time machine and escapes, once again. 

Pretty funny. But, I thought you had to write screenplays or teleplays to break into the business?

I guess that’s usually the norm, and although Lindelof is known for being a Nicholl semi-finalist, with his spec screenplay, “Perfectionists”, it was this little twenty-four page one-act play that kick-started things with him and Cuse. 

You have to admit, it takes way less time to read twenty-four pages than it does to read a hundred pages, and the fact of the matter is, this one-act play has a beginning, middle and end like any good three-act screenplay.
It has its own inherent three-act structure.

There’s the introduction of the scenario and all the players. And the middle, or Act Two, starts with the hook that Ollie really has invented a time machine, the moment where he pulls out the Atari Joystick. And the hook that spins the play into the Third Act is when Ollie informs the Fourth Reich that he has prepared surprises this go-around. 

It’s funny and entertaining. Smartly written and structured to tell a story, even though it’s only a little over twenty pages. The lesson here? You definitely don’t need a ninety page script to show people that you know how to write characters, that you know structure, that you know how to tell a story. 

“Ollie Klublershturf vs. The Nazis”, despite its length, is a narrative that still manages to unfold and entertain.

It packs a fun punch.

Script link: Ollie Klublershturf vs. The Nazis

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

What I learned: I like this advice Lindelof gives in an interview, “I did so much bad writing in my 20s. I got hired as a professional writer for the first time when I was 28 or 29, and I literally have thousands of pages of shit. A lot of people aren’t willing to write shit, or they write 2 pages of shit and then they stop. You have to plow through it.” It reminds me something Ray Bradbury said once, saying that it probably takes a million or two words before you become a good writer, “Everything I wrote from the age of twelve to twenty-two was really no good. Two million words were no good, except they were. Why? They taught me how to be bad, how to be mediocre.” And lastly, for some reason, it reminds me something Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) said in Pamela Douglas’ book “Writing the TV Drama Series”: He said that when he’s looking at samples, he doesn’t pay attention to whether something is well-structured or plotted or not. He pays attention to the writer’s voice, the dialogue, and the knack for character. Why? He can always teach someone structure, beats and plotting. That’s the craft part. Craft can be learned. But the art part? That’s the talent. He can’t give or teach someone talent. Talent is a gift someone already has. And, how do you hone your talent? You plow through all the bad writing that comes out of you and look for the gold.