Ideas for Screenplays


It’s a slow morning. Our protagonist, a twenty-something male, struggles out of bed. He’s obviously tired. He wipes his eyes out in front of the mirror and splashes water on his face, then he puts on shorts, a grey t-shirt, and running shoes. He wonders whether or not his body is capable of generating energy.

In a single shot our protagonist bounds out the front door of his basement apartment and up the concrete steps. He hits the street and starts running. Next shot, chest level. Houses pass us in the background. The day is warm and sunny, but it’s still early and the streets are deserted. A contemplative, eccentric, yet slightly upbeat song with French lyrics, sung by a male vocalist, plays in the background.

The runner stops. Something in the distance, away from the camera, worries him. He puts a single hand on his forehead to shield his eyes from the light. His uncertainty is jarring, especially in contrast to the music. What is he looking at? What’s wrong? In the background a child runs in the opposite direction up the street.


At Bloor Station on the Yonge line, early evening. The station is packed with commuters. The line is deep and wide at the lottery kiosk, which, in the cramped subway tunnel looks like a medieval butcher counter. Men and women wait in heavy, dark-coloured coats, each clutching their own ticket. No one scrambles or pushes, but the press from the crowd is overwhelming.


The final shot of the funeral is framed from a distance. It’s mid-spring. Trees have all of their leaves and, from somewhere in their boughs, birds twitter. The black-clad funeral-goers, the priest, the white flowers arranged on the black coffin, all seem an extension of nature.

Fade out to a series of shots in a forest. The shots are long. The vegetation breathes, its sighs caught on the audio. We see and follow a bird as it chirps and flits from tree branch to tree branch. The bird is not a transcendental symbol of the dead person’s eternal soul, he is simply another character in the drama. Perhaps there is another bird or two about, a nest. We watch as the birds go about their business. Somewhere in the distance a woodpecker hammers at a dead log. We follow him as well. And so on.

The coffin is lowered into ground. Dirt splashes on it. Some kind of hymn or baroque, continental music plays in the background.

The Three Honeybees

The three honeybees sat looking out into traffic from their spot behind the gigantic picture window. Golden hair was constantly in motion, flipping from one side to the other, revealing alternate sides of smooth, shining necks. Red lips placed, and removed, themselves delicately from the thin, fragile panes of drinking glasses. Eyelids fluttered in the heat of conversation. Inside, the honeybees were speaking in tongues. None of the three honeybees would remember the conversation. Words were meaningless. All was performance: each gesture a gracious bow or elegant curtsy.

“Hi honeybees, my wife and I saw you on Tuesday night, sitting at a table along the window at the Avenue Bar and Grill. We hoped to stay for the performance, but we were embarrassed, in our shabby clothes, and so we only continued to the pharmacy…”

By the time the two returned, frozen hands clenched tight in their respective pockets, the three honeybees were gone. The table was empty, a void, and the many diners behind it seemed ashamed to be so exposed, as if they were missing something vital.


"This post is an abortion."

"This post is an abortion."

As D.T. Max’s March 9th “New Yorker” profile on David Foster Wallace (and the excerpt from his upcoming posthumous novel “The Pale King”) demonstrate, the word “genius”–when naming a person and not a piece of them–always fails to do the subject justice. Following his suicide last year, Wallace’s name has been in the news frequently, and it’s rare to find it introduced without “genius” as qualifier. But is the word really so crucial to our understanding of Wallace as a man and his accomplishments?

The works of authors labeled geniuses are expelled to a dry and stiff land of books we will never read. It is only when one finally descends upon one of these books–out of necessity or a nagging curiosity–that one discovers those boring old Tolstoys, Melvilles, and Woolfs are actually alive and uncomprehendingly vital. Before the cape of “genius” is thrown off, it’s almost as if we expect to find ourselves reading the work of monuments.

Wallace doesn’t deserve to be called a genius, but one gets the sense there is more than a little genius in his work. He struggled through an at times paralysing depression which focused his attentions on finding and demonstrating a cure for modern living’s symptomatic depression and ennui, and he believed good writing should help readers “become less alone inside”. His prose evokes Pynchon: rich, manic, and dense (the first paragraph in the New Yorker excerpt runs over seven columns)–yet contrary to what one might expect from a writer whose work seems, at first glance, so deliberately difficult, Wallace always kept his audience in mind. As he put it, one must be “willing to sort of die in order to move the reader”, and “all of the attention and engagement and work you need to get from the reader can’t be for your benefit, it’s got to be for hers.”

“The Pale King”, unfinished at the time of his suicide, is “about being in the moment and paying attention to the things that matter.” The main characters all work at the IRS. Their jobs involve tasks that are mind-numbingly tedious and boring, but require just enough mental work to keep them from shutting their minds off entirely. Their job is to push past this boredom, to embrace it until just beyond the breaking point, where the work, because of the endless repetition, becomes transcendent and meditative. One of the workers, reaching this state, levitates.

What strikes me most about the profile, and about Wallace himself, is his overwhelming sincerity. In him there is nothing of the pompous or pretentious, only the very real doubt of one struggling to come to terms with oneself as a writer and a person. He displays a child’s innocence and excitement once he is married and feels that his personal life is in order, even if his writing is going poorly.

He teased Green about what a good husband he was. She remembers him saying, “I took out the garbage. Did you see that?” and “I put tea on for you when you were driving home.”

The account is definitely at odds with the regularly understood conception of “genius as brute”, or “genius as single-minded automaton”. To be a genius in those terms means that one sacrifices everything else for the sake of some Platonic higher-calling, but one gets the sense that Wallace, throughout his life, was more concerned with being human. Perhaps it is more satisfying to think of Wallace’s suicide in terms of his failure to complete “The Pale King”, as if he was a modern-day Gogol driven insane by “Dead Souls”, but this interpretation ignores everything that Wallace stood for. “I only want adult sanity,” he once said, “which seems to me the only unalloyed form of heroism available today.”

Wallace’s death, ultimately, was one by “bad days” rather than fatal artistic nihilism. He had been taking Nardil, an antidepressant, for twenty-two years when his doctors convinced him to switch to something else for health reasons. But nothing stuck. Eventually Wallace decided to go without an antidepressant entirely. His wife, Karen Green, was worried. She believed it would take “a Jungian miracle” to get him functioning again. He wrote e-mails to Jonathan Franzen, constantly revising and pushing back his expected recovery time. “GQ” hired him to do a profile on Barrack Obama for the 2008 election, but he cancelled. In the summer he drove out to a motel, hired a room, and took an overdose of pills, though he called his wife in time to get him to a hospital. He told her he was glad to be alive. But Wallace’s life remained precipitous. Green believes she can pinpoint the exact moment Wallace decided to kill himself. “That Saturday was a really good day. Monday and Tuesday were not so good. He started lying to me that Wednesday.” Two days later, he was dead.

The Needy Lie


Fantastic! This entry now comes with a “plain english, less abstract bullshit” summary below!

Over time comfort becomes passiveness, passiveness becomes idleness, and sentences and thoughts lose all inertia. Impetus dissolves and every statement is misunderstanding. The body lives an unsatisfying half-life, scrambling from crumbling shelf to crumbling shelf in an effort to appease itself.

Thoughts twist, motivations and purpose wither. A man finds comfort in the presence of his family: his family is a balm and the problem is ignored. Neediness forms, and, once unleashed, grows. Family can be real, imagined, electronic, platonic, or sexual.

“A sentence worded directly or succinctly has less meaning than one made intentionally ambiguous.” Writing directly is a betrayal of reality: as if reality, because of its resistance to definition, is inactive. “The sentence doubts itself. Nothing is sure, don’t you understand that? My thoughts are nothing; I am nothing. Everything I do shakes and quivers like a dried leaf hanging in the wind.” Every thought uttered, typed, or imagined, doubts itself, doubles back and doubts again. Waking up, a recursive loop forms. Every atom in the man’s body is sick with doubt, trembling and doing dry heaves.

Lynda Barry describes creativity as action. Werner Herzog believes it is athletic; it inhabits the same teleological sphere as traveling on foot. On some level a dog is a necessary purchase because of the activity it demands. Your routines and the dog’s routines merge and become one. The dog is an action stimulus. The necessity of tending to fields and farm animals, or traveling long distances under one’s own power, reveals itself. Our bodies are active, not built to live in an abstract mind space. The only world where thought is equivalent to action is that of the conscious, disembodied, cloud.

“Plain English, Less Abstract Bullshit” Summary: At a low point in my life I became an indecisive ghost. I could not do anything for myself. Now, much later, I feel better– but my indecisiveness survived in my writing and, by extension, psyche. That might strike you as a weird order. It’s not. I’m by nature a reserved person. Some days I do most of my re-evaluation through written words and sentences. This post is an exploration of that.

Oh Mugabe, You “Son of a Bitch”


I wasn’t going to post this but then I was like “Why not put something up that will pretty much bar me from ever going to Zimbabwe as long as Robert Mugabe is in power?” and “Hey, you know what, people could be offended, but I am used to alienating half my audience.” Thankfully the Prime Minister is okay, but unfortunately since the last time I clicked on that link his wife has died. That’s very, very sad.

Name Withheld: adshlssfa#

me: wha wha wha what?????
11:12 AMName Withheld: Zimbabwe’s new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been involved in a car accident, his party says
I have very little doubt they’re trying to kill him
11:13 AM me: yeah, that’s ridiculous
prime ministers don’t just get in car accidents
11:15 AM Name Withheld: I’m assuming he isn’t dead, mind you
11:17 AM me: Mugabe is pretty ridiculous
of course everyone knew this was coming, but… it’s still pretty audacious
11:19 AM Name Withheld: MT: we won the elections!
RM: no. we’ll stay in power, thanks
MT: but we won!
RM: well okay, you can have the second position
MT: …okay…
RM: …unless you get in an accident
MT: what?
RM: nothing.
11:20 AM me: haha
11:21 AM RM: Listen, I’m thinking of outlawing seatbelts.
11:22 AM Name Withheld: RM: also, I bought you this new car
11:23 AM me: RM: Meet your new driver! Don’t worry about the scars. He got those in knife fights, that means he’s tough. He can protect you.
11:24 AM Name Withheld: MT: but I like walking
RM: Prime ministers don’t walk, do you want the job or not?
11:27 AM me: RM: Don’t forget. We’ve got that meeting with the voters who definitely do not have cholera. Unfortunately something’s come up for me so you’ll have to pull double duty. I know you can handle it, big guy! I believe in you!
Name Withheld: RM: here, have a slice of bread. pats on head
11:28 AM RM: oh, and make sure you take Mugabe street there, I want you to see the new, definitely working stoplight
11:30 AM me: take this gun with you. it definitely doesn’t work. feel free to joke around with it as much as possible. The people love it when you pretend suicide
Name Withheld: RM: oh, why am I even joking around? I’m going to kill you, Morgan. You are going to die.
11:31 AM it’s been really great working with you though, you’ve taught me a lot about how to keep control of my dictatorship
11:32 AM me: RM: I’m definitely putting you on my resume when we approach the World Bank. Good times
11:33 AM Name Withheld: hahah
we’re pretty terrible people
but since he is so much more terrible, it’s okay
11:34 AM I mean if I had to rate myself on a scale of terribleness, and he was at the end, I’d rate somewhere around mother theresa I think
11:35 AM me: haha I think that is about accurate

Hopefully this car crash is the catalyst for positive change in Zimbabwe– it could just as easily have the exact opposite effect, but maybe it won’t, this time.

The Passive Sentence

I don’t know when exactly I noticed the passive sentence shivering out in the cold, or what prompted my decision to take it in. But shortly afterwards I noticed that it wasn’t quite so helpless as I’d imagined. Its teeth– why did it have teeth? –were much sharper than I expected, something I discovered while trying to bottle-feed it back to life. I think some of the bile on its tooth-edge found its way into my bloodstream, eventually taking up residence in a pronounced tumor just above my left elbow. For the past several weeks I’ve been trying to excise it, messily.

Hubris, man. I don’t know when I took the passive sentence in but I’m sure it was sometime between here and high school, most likely a period when I thought I was so clever (oh really, you too?) I didn’t have to play by the rules. I also implicate “the essay”: one of the few water marks for writing while in school, its taught style reliant on the bureaucratic passive sentence as a rule. Don’t forget my parents, teachers, and Mike Harris, all perfectly acceptable (and time-worn) scapegoats. Hey Mike! Why don’t you get off your high-horse and teach me some grammar, why don’t you?

You’d think my change in philosophy would be due to the critiques received in the writing program I am currently enrolled in. And you’d be right, but only vaguely. My appraiser has never actually stumbled on the root of the problem, only spouting such useful tidbits as “Sometimes your writing seems inexact…”

It definitely was! For all I know, it could still be. But I don’t think I’ve received any direct advice regarding language. What my mentor does note is dissatisfaction, which doesn’t exactly make my failures easy to pinpoint. I suddenly understand the travails of perpetual has-beens, such as Toronto Blue Jays minor-league pitcher Ricky Romero. Drafted in the first round, he was picked above so many future stars that his failure as a prospect is frequently noted by detractors of the Jays’ current general manager J.P. Ricciardi. His raw “stuff” described universally as “electric”, Ricky’s repeated failures have to do with his mental makeup, specifically his ability to “keep it together” during games. By all accounts he approaches the game sincerely and seriously. So how do you correct his breakdowns? I don’t think the Jays know. I imagine the pitching coach pulling him into his office after a particularly terrible game.

“Ricky, you’ve got a tendancy to fall apart.”


“You know, you really should work on that.”

“You got it, coach. I’ll make the majors, I will!”

“Attaboy, son.”

A single tear rolls down the coach’s face as Romero exits triumphantly.

Anyway, I’m working on it. My higher faculties (and my spell check) focus on the problem of the passive sentence like a shark trailing a straggler in a school of fish. I guess I could be neglecting a whole slew of other problems. I probably am. But one thing at a time, right?