Monday, January 2, 2012

Father Daughter Time

Genre: Drama/Thriller
Premise: (from the Black List) A man goes on a three state crime spree with his eleven year old daughter.
About: This script famously sold a few months back for half a million bucks. Matt Damon originally tried to buy it himself, then Warners swooped in and tried to outbid him, and then somewhere amidst it all, the two decided to work together, with Warners buying and Damon attaching himself as director. The way I understand it, not everybody likes working with studios to develop a script. You get a lot more notes. You don’t have nearly as much control. If Damon bought it himself, he could develop it at his own pace and do it the way he wanted. That’s why he was sort of pissed that Warners came in, at least according to what Nikki Finke was saying. But anyway, it looks like Damon will make this his first directing project and the rumor is he wants John Krasinski (from The Office) to star. For the love of all that is Holy, let’s hope that’s just a rumor. I’d have more confidence in Hugo from Lost playing the lead. “Dude, just like, go rob the store daughter chick.” (edit: one of the commenters pointed out Matt and John are doing a different project together, not this one). This is Matthew Aldrich’s first spec sale.
Writer: Matthew Aldrich
Details: 107 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).

First of all, I just want to welcome all of you back. I know it was hard last week not having any reviews. I heard that a few of you actually resorted to going out and, like, doing real world stuff. I am so so sorry you had to experience that. Luckily, we have a mountain of Black List scripts and an entire year to get things back on track. Well, at least until the whole Mayan thing ends the world. That reminds me, what’s the next “End Of The World” date that comes after 2012? Do we have one? I remember the world was going to end in 2000. It was going to end last year with the whole “End Of Days” thing. What happens after 2012 ends? The nutties can’t operate without a doomsday scenario.

Like Charles Barkley, Theo is not a role model. Theo, actually, is the exact opposite of a role model. He’s a deadbeat. A drunk. He’s that pathetic loser you see hanging at the end of the bar at 11:30 on a Sunday morning. But things are starting to change. Theo is climbing out of the bottle so he can be the one and only thing he cares about in this world – a better father.

His daughter, 11 year old Maggie, has desperately been waiting for this moment. She’s stuck with a mother who doesn’t love her, and so even though she’s aware of her father’s problems, she’d rather be with him than her. Problem is, Theo is barely getting by. He works at Jack-In-The-Box of all places, and while their Crispy Chicken sandwich is delish, dead birds can’t pay rent.

Which is why he’s forced to steal tampons when Maggie unexpectedly has her first period. It doesn’t take long for the cops to realize what happened and that means Theo, who’s on parole, is going back to jail. But Maggie will do anything to avoid living with her mom again, so she locates her father, who’s since relapsed, steals his friend’s car and starts driving.

When Theo wakes up, he’s shocked to find that he’s 500 miles away from home with his 11 year old daughter at the wheel. She has a plan – to go back to the cabin they used to stay at when she was younger – when everything was perfect. At first Theo’s not onboard, but then he sees the desperation in her eyes and decides to go with it.

Meanwhile, his ex-wife is raising a shitfest with the cops, and as a result this becomes a Federal kidnapping case. Everybody in the country is looking for Theo and Maggie. The two are forced to rob and steal in order to keep their journey alive, but as you’d expect, it all catches up to them. In the end, Theo will have to decide whether to do the right thing, even though it means leaving the person he loves most in this world, or doing the wrong thing in order to stay with her. What will Theo do?

Father Daughter Time was a good script. I don’t know what the hell the title means but it sounds cool when you say it out loud so I’m down. The biggest thing with a script like this is capturing that father-daughter relationship. If you can make that honest, if you can make us believe in and care about it, you have yourself a screenplay. Aldrich makes us believe.

He actually achieves this in the very first scene, which tells us everything we need to know about the characters. In it, his daughter has just gotten her first period so they go to the convenience store to buy some tampons. Obviously, this is awkward for Theo, who would have trouble with this even in ideal circumstances. But the fact that he hasn’t been around his daughter much makes it more awkward.

After guessing on the right kind, he gets to the counter only to realize he can’t afford the 12 dollar box and must beg a disgusting convenience store clerk (who gave his daughter a slimy smile when he realized the tampons were for her) to let him have them anyway. After the clerk says no, he goes outside, rethinks the situation, then goes back in and robs the store – for tampons.

Let’s take a look at how this scene reveals character. We start off with Theo and Maggie walking in and looking through the tampon section together. Both look confused. But Maggie is looking to her father for answers, a sign that she trusts him. We can also tell that these two don’t know each other well. There’s no shorthand here. They *want* to know each other but they don’t yet.

Next, we go up to the counter and realize Theo can’t afford the box. This tells us that our main character is poor, another important character detail. When the clerk eyes Maggie, connecting her to the tampons, and smiles, we see the fury in Theo’s eyes. We know that even though these two aren’t around each other much, he’s still hugely protective of her. After going outside then and rethinking it, Theo decides to go back in and rob the place, which tells us that this man will do anything for his daughter.

This is what good scenes do. They reveal character by placing the characters in a series of situations that require them to make choices. When those choices are made, we learn about them. Look at all we’ve learned here. This father and daughter haven’t spent a lot of time together. Maggie looks up to her dad. Theo is poor. Theo will do anything for his daughter.

As for the rest of the script, like I said, it was solid. My only real beef is that it wasn’t edgy enough. I guess when I heard about the project, I assumed what made it so popular was this idea of a father and daughter going on this raging crime spree. But it’s more like the two are just trying to survive, trying to get to the next destination on the map. There is one scene where something really bad happens, but for the most part it feels like a very “polite” crime spree. I realize it’s a thin line because if they become too aggressive, we might not root for them. But I still would’ve liked this to feel more “R” and less “PG-13.”

Can’t wait to see what Damon does with this. I just hope Hurley and his daughter don’t end up back on the island with Locke.

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

What I learned: Overall, I think I know why this sold. It has that rare combination of being a character piece (which actors love) as well as a genre piece about fugitives on the run (which producers love). In other words, it meets everybody’s criteria. This is the exact same thing that happened with The Town. At its heart, it was a character piece about a man’s relationship with his best friend and a girl. But the producers were able to market it as a heist film, which is why it was still able to make a bunch of money. Keep that in mind as you’re writing your next spec. If you can check both of those boxes, you probably have something marketable on your hands.