Friday, April 8, 2011

Bass Champion

Genre: Comedy
Premise: A Twilight-like actor becomes the face of Bass Fishing in a desperate attempt to get an audition for Christopher Nolan's adaptation of The Old Man And The Sea.
About: Every Friday, I review a script from the readers of the site. If you’re interested in submitting your script for an Amateur Review, send it in PDF form, along with your title, genre, logline, and why I should read your script to Keep in mind your script will be posted.
Writer: Gayne C. Young
Details: 105 pages (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 got two words for you: colostomy bag.

If that doesn’t get your rotors revved up and ready to go, you might not want to “dive” into today’s amateur offering, Bass Champion. But if you choose not to take that leap, you’ll be missing out on one of the few worthy Amateur Friday screenplays I’ve read.

The first thing you gotta get right with a comedy is the premise.  The premise has to be funny.  And this premise passes the test.  I’m not sure why, but it’s probably due to the insane combination of the Twilight world and the Bass Fishing world, which just don’t go together at all. And yet our author, Gayne, finds a way to make it work, deftly poking fun at both the ridiculousness of tweenie vampires and the hickishness of bass fishing. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk plot.

Tate Blocker is a hot young “Robert Pattinson” like actor on a vampire TV show called “Forever Youth.” Tate takes method acting to the extreme, going to whatever lengths he needs to to become the character, including believing he’s an actual vampire. The problem is, it’s all a bag of tricks. Tate doesn’t understand what it’s really like to “get dirty” and sacrifice yourself to something.

Which is exactly why Christopher Nolan won’t even consider him for a roll in his new adaptation of The Old Man And The Sea. And it’s killing Tate. He’ll do anything to get that audition.

Halfway across the country, Bass Fishing champion and overall stupid-ass Bud Milton has made the inopportune mistake of sticking his pecker inside a fish’s mouth for a few laughs. Problem is, one of his cronies taped it, and now it’s all over Youtube, creating some really bad press for the sport, culminating in PETA swooping in and demanding nothing less than the shutdown of Bass Fishing.

Tate’s agent realizes this is the perfect opportunity to bust her client out of the TV world. If Tate can become the new face of Bass Fishing, it will refocus the media away from PETA, and in the process win over Christopher Nolan to get Tate that audition. It’s the perfect plan! Well, sorta.

If Tate is going to compete, he’s going to need a partner. And that partner comes in the form of anger-management poster child Rod Bender, a one-eyed alcoholic former Bass Fishing champion whose repeated fighting got him kicked off the tour years ago. Rod’s the only partner good enough to make up for Tate’s unsettling lack of skill.

The problem is that Bud, our oral fishing friend, is dead set on making sure Vampire Boy doesn’t win jack shit, and he’ll do anything to make him and his washed up partner disappear. And to make things worse, Hark Herald, who plays Tate’s werewolf co-star on Forever Youth, is pulling his own publicity stunt to win over the lead role in Christopher Nolan’s film. With escalating pressure from PETA, Rod’s physically abusive teaching methods, backstabbing from his female co-star at Comic-Con, and Bud’s never-ending dirty tricks, does Tate stand a chance of becoming the ultimate Bass Champion and winning the role of Santiago in The Old Man And The Sea?

So, is Bass Fishing perfect? No. Gayne is clearly still learning the craft and maybe leans a little too heavily on cheap humor (colostomy bags in two of three scripts this week!). But what I like about this week’s comedy script is that finally we have an amateur writer who’s put his story on the same priority level as his comedy.

You can see that in how deftly he’s structured his script. We have a main character with a clear goal (get an audition with Christopher Nolan). We have high stakes (Bass Fishing gets shut down and Tate loses the role of a lifetime if he loses). We have a ticking time bomb (Nolan choosing Santiago soon). We have a great central relationship in Rod and Tate, two completely opposite characters who must learn to work together to achieve their ultimate goal. Every character here is properly motivated. Rod wants back on the tour. Bud has to win or his career will be over. Tate’s agent wants to leave behind her soul-sucking child-actor agency. Everything that happens in this comedy has a reason for happening. Structurally, this is one of the best amateur Friday screenplays we’ve had.

Another thing Gayne’s got going for him is he understands his material. He gets these two competing worlds (the vain-ness of Hollywood and the trashiness of the South) so well that when he brings them together, you feel like you’re reading a script that you haven’t read before. True there are some familiar elements, but who the hell places a Twilight actor in the middle of the deep south?? I just haven’t seen anything close to that idea explored before. And everything here is like that – existing in that coveted “familiar but different” bullseye territory that every screenwriter should be aiming for.

I also loved the little touches in the story like Hark and Tate going after the same role. And the Comic-Con stuff had me dying (guys wearing “I’m a Tate-o-Sexual” shirts and Rod beating the shit out of a girl in a wheelchair after being mistaken for a homeless person from one of Tate’s Forever Youth episodes). Tate’s dedication to researching his roles, like going to a castle and living with roaches for a week. I really felt like Gayne pushed the comedy limits and never got bogged down in the obvious (well, almost never).

On the downside, I can tell he’s still learning some things. The opening of the script doesn’t move us into the story as smoothly as I would like. Setting up a story is deceptively hard because it’s when you introduce all the artificial elements (the goal, the ticking time bomb, etc.) that make the car go. Introducing these elements in a manner that’s not herky jerky and doesn’t draw attention to itself isn’t easy to do. If you’re too lazy about it, the reader quickly becomes aware that he's reading a script. For instance, when Rod is being recruited from Outdoor Empire, we’re very aware that this is the “recruit the crazy partner” scene. It doesn’t “flow.” It doesn’t just “happen.” You have to keep writing these scenes to death until they feel effortless, until they feel like a natural extension of everything around them, because if the audience doesn’t believe your setup, it’s going to be hard for them to believe everything that follows.

The other stuff I wasn’t so hot on was the crass-ness of the humor. But I’m torn about it. On the one hand, a lot of it stemmed from the characters. The word “fuck” is used in Hollywood and the South a lot, so it makes sense that it’s used a lot here (and I mean A LOT). As for the shit jokes. Well…hmmm. This seems to divide audiences. But for me, now that I’m no longer in high school, it doesn’t really make me laugh anymore, so when we basically extend a 15 second scene to 3 minutes so we can draw out a shit joke where the wheelbound president of Bass Champions dumps his colostomy bag into a urinal, I’m inclined to say, “Lose it and move on.” Then again, one of the funniest jokes ever onscreen was a shit joke, that being the blanket flinging scene in Trainspotting. I think the lesson here is that you do have to listen to other people when they say you’ve gone too far with a joke. But in the end, because humor is so subjective and comes down to personal taste, you gotta stick with something if you believe it’s funny. So in that sense I respect Gayne’s choices.

In the end, I just love this premise (Did I mention I love this premise?). And the fact that Gayne actually built a story around it as opposed to stringing together a bunch of one-off sketches, puts him in a league above other aspiring comedy scriptwriters. Bass Champion still needs some work. I’d like the setup to be smoother and it gets a teensy bit repetitive in the middle. But concept wise, story wise, and execution of the premise wise, it does a really solid job. I’m thinking Gayne has a shot in this crazy business.

Script link: Bass Champion 

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

What I learned: All of your characters – not just your main character – should have something at stake. So here, the central stakes are for Tate to get an audition for Santiago. But his agent also has something at stake. If her client doesn’t get the role, she’s stuck in a shitty agency forever. For Rod, this is his last shot to get back into the sport he loves. For Bud, losing to Tate means he’ll lose the only thing he cares about, his fame. Even the sport itself has stakes attached to it. If Tate doesn’t win and squash PETA’s media attention, then the entire sport could close down. So add stakes wherever you can in your script, not just to your main character.