"A Work In Progress" Screenplay by Donald Ford
2008 Don Ford Productions
Disclaimer: The following film is based on true events. 1 BACKSTORY 1 FADE IN FROM BLACK On a cold November day in 1984 a young couple (Donald Alexander Ford Jr. and Carol Anderson Ford) enter Evanston Hospital in Evanston Illinois. Carol is six months pregnant. A nurse leads them down a hallway out of sight. DISSOLVE TO Nurses and doctors surround a table. The nurses busily hand scalpels and tools back and forth to the doctors as they hurriedly work. Donald Alexander peaks threw a round window. Suddenly one of the doctors appears to grab a hold of something. The doctor then dramatically holds up a very small baby boy into the air. DOCTOR It is, a boy! The boy is still covered in a bloody mess. Donald Alexander’s face quickly turns white and he faints to the floor. A nurse rushes over after seeing him faint. NURSE Uh, we got another fainter! FADE TO BLACK DISSOLVE TO Carol lays in a bed with Donald Alexander sitting by her side. They gaze into a little plastic box next to them. Inside the box is their tiny baby covered with electrodes and a feeding tub up it’s nose. CAROL ANDERSON FORD Awe, isn’t he cute. DONALD ALEXANDER FORD JR. He kinda looks like a little alien to me. Carol hits Donald Alexander on the shoulder. CAROL ANDERSON FORD Thats your son!... What should we name him?
DONALD ALEXANDER FORD JR. I’ve got the perfect name, we should name him Harrison, you know just like Harrison Ford. CAROL ANDERSON FORD Are you kidding. Thats just stupid. DONALD ALEXANDER FORD JR. Well what would you suggest then, hmm? CAROL ANDERSON FORD How about Donald, like you and your Dad? DONALD ALEXANDER FORD JR. Well, that might get a bit confusing when mail starts coming for him. CAROL ANDERSON FORD Ok, we’ll call him Donald Arthur. Like king Arthur, because he’s a fighter. DONALD ALEXANDER FORD JR. Ok, I like it. There’s my little king, alien, son Donald Arthur. Carol hits Donald again on the shoulder. NARRATION And so young Donald Arthur Ford was born November 28th of 1984. Little did he know that he would become more than just a very little baby, but a creative mind. A mind influenced by some of the greatest men of all time. (dramatic) Men like Charles Bronson. Men like Silvester Stallone. Men like Arnold Schwarzenegger. These men created some of the greatest cinematic visions of all time. Films like "Death Wish 3", "Rambo" and "Predator". Little did Donald Arthur know that these would be the inspirations for his own future masterpieces. Masterpieces like "Gnome"... FADE TO BLACK
SCENE ONE: RAISED ON MOVIES
2 FADE IN FROM BLACK
A young Donald Arthur sits between his mother and father on a couch watching the TV. The VCR hums along and images of a long laconic figure with a huge gun appears on the screen. Donald watches intently as the figure approaches and aims his huge hand-canon at the camera. CLINT EASTWOOD "...you’ve got to ask yourself a question, do I feel lucky? Well do ya PUNK!"(Dirty Harry 1971) DONALD ARTHUR FORD (Inner Thoughts) It was right then and there that I knew I wanted to be like him. NARRATION As little Donald Arthur sat there between his parents, it’s then that his love affair with cinema began. DISSOLVE TO 3 SCENE TWO: "GNOME" 3
A montage of Donald watching different films. As the montage goes on Donald ages. The montage ends with Donald as a teenager watching "Predator" with several friends. One of them has a bowl cut and glasses. His name is Ben. ARNOLD SCHWARTZENEGGER "What the hell are you"(Predator 1987) DISSOLVE TO Donald and Ben sit next to each other in their semi rowdy English class. Their teacher Mr. Johnson enters the room. MR. JOHNSON Ok, everybody, shut up. The class gets quiet. MR. JOHNSON It’s your senior year, and that means your all special. Special enough for a big final project. (CONTINUED)
The class moans. Mr. Johnson hands out an assignment packet to everyone. MR. JOHNSON For your assignment you have three choices. You can write a research paper on a topic of interest, do a book report or write a story and make a short movie out of it. Ben and Donald’s eyes widened. Donald and Ben look at each other. DONALD ARTHUR FORD We are doing that! BEN You know what, lets do a parody of "Predator". But instead(cut off) MR. JOHNSON Excuse me I’m not finished yet! BEN Sorry Ben turns back to Donald. BEN (quiet)But instead of a Predator lets make it a Lawn Gnome. A montage begins of Donald and Ben attempting to make their movie. First they are shown at their desks arguing over the script. Next they are shown with their friends in the cafeteria and they are all arguing over the script. Finally they are outside in a forest dressed in camo chasing a little man in a red pointy hat with an Illinois shirt on. One of the actors yells cut and they all begin to argue again. The following narration happens over this montage. NARRATION Ben and Donald would go on to start their first filmmaking experience. They brought along their friends and chaos ensued as none of them had any idea of what they where doing. What resulted was a short film that has grown a legendary cult status throughout the hallways of New Trier High School, even after it received only a B.
DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts)There was something special about making a movie. I think it was the collaborative experience. Or perhaps it was the joy of creating something and forgetting about reality for a time. FADE TO BLACK 4 SCENE THREE: FILM EDUCATION NARRATION Don soon graduated from High School and tried to put "Gnome" Behind him. It was time to get serious about filmmaking and that meant education. Donald’s film education would begin at Oakton Community College. Taking a film history class with Dr. Doll taught Donald the evolution of filmmaking from the silent era to contemporary film. The class gave him the terminology and the, so called "rules" of filmmaking. Donald learned about editing and cinematography. Possibly the most influential thing that Donald got out of his film history class was how styles and genera’s related to eras of filmmaking. Donald became fascinated in the "Film school era" of the 1960’s and 70’s, because of its experimental spirit and low budget sensibilities (Wexman). A montage begins of Donald watching many different films. The films include action movies like "Bullitt" from the 60’s as well a westerns like "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". As the montage progresses the films change from the sixty’s and 70’s to the 40’s and 50’s. Films like "Casablanca" and "The Roaring Twenties" can be seen. Donald is aging and his film interests are expanding. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) As I learned more about filmmaking I discovered more films. I began to study them for their (CONTINUED) 4
craftsmanship. I studied the acting and I found myself researching certain directors to find out more about their films and style. Some of my favorites quickly became, Clint Eastwood, Sergio Leone, Don Siegel, John Ford, Michael Mann, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. As I researched via the internet and DVD special features I learned about how these individuals worked. I was inspired, finding out that each director had his or her own unique approach to making their movies. I was also inspired by how these particular filmmakers seemed to control their own destinies, and seemed able to work beyond the confines of the industry standards. That’s what the "Film School Era" of the 60’s and 70’s was all about. It was about breaking free of the studio system and doing radical things, such as, shooting on location or letting actors improvise entire scenes(Wexman). All of my favorite directors and actors where either part of creating this movement or born out of this movement. FADE TO BLACK 5 SCENE FOUR: MIAD AND JOSE NARRATION After completing 2 years at Oakton Community College Donald would move on to The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. This is where he planned to develop and find his style as a storyteller. He would have to figure out if he could fit in with, the art crowd, first. 5
Donald sits in a giant room with all the freshmen sitting in rows of chairs. All the administrators run up and down the isles handing out a bundle of papers. Donald appears a bit overwhelmed. He looks around and sees a sea of spiked hair, tattoos and piercings that are everywhere but in peoples ears. Donald looks at his bland clothes. They seem colorful compared to all the black most others appear to be wearing. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) My first impression of MIAD and Milwaukee where a bit frightening. I felt like an outsider in a sea of outsiders. After getting used to the place and finding a few non-depressed souls I could relate to I began to settle in. DISSOLVE TO Donald struggles putting together a wooden chair model he is working on in the industrial design lab. A huge and intimidating looking Latino guy sees Donald’s struggles and comes over to the table. Donald looks up at the huge man towering over him. He introduces himself as Jose and he is a fellow student in the class. JOSE You look like you could use a hand with that. DONALD ARTHUR FORD You a teacher? JOSE No, I’m a freshman. Donald starts laughing hysterically. JOSE Whats so funny? DONALD ARTHUR FORD Your, a freshmen. No way. NARRATION Little did Donald know he just met his guide to Milwaukee and a good friend who also shared a love for the same kinds of films he loved. FADE TO BLACK
SCENE FIVE: "SAFE HOUSE" Donald sits in the passenger seat of Jose’s Jeep as they drive through the south side of the city. They are scouting locations for Donald’s first major movie project at MIAD. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) With Jose as my guide we drove along looking past the glamor of the city. We saw things like run down warehouses, railway bridges, dilapidated streets and dirty open lots. Just driving around and seeing the reminisce of an ancient city inspired my story. I could feel ideas building inside me. The grit and grime of it added to my inspiration. I wanted to create a short film that was an homage to the cop films of the 60’s and 70’s. I could see the grittiness of those films in the back allies and seedier areas of Milwaukee. I had an excuse to explore places I never thought I would and I got to know "the real" Milwaukee. Donald sits at his computer late at night writing. He tries to ignore his drunken roommates as they meander in and out of the dorm room. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) I created a story about a witness and two cops trapped at a safe house. They are protecting the witness while two other bad cops are on their way to kill the witness. I wanted the story to be a rich character driven drama. However I let my love of the films that it was inspired by get in the way. My final script lost the story and the characters because I focused too much on making the movie a tribute to the films that influenced it. I made a grave mistake and included
CONTINUED: clips of the films in the movie to help as transitions and as part of the plot. As the cops sit in the safe house protecting the witness they watch classic cop films. It seemed like an interesting way, to both relate the films to the characters and also homage them at the same time. Unfortunately my characters where too paper thin to even relate and I ended this project unhappy with the final results. NARRATION Donald’s failure on "Safe House" kept burning at him. Other projects came and went and when senior year came it seemed the perfect time to revive and reinvent "Safe House".
DISSOLVE TO 7 SCENE SIX: "BLUE LINES" Donald looks down at a piece of paper on his desk. It reads "Senior schedule". On the schedule reads "Senior Thesis". DISSOLVE TO Donald walks into a computer lab and sits down. He see’s fellow classmates around him. It is the first day of his senior year. Jamal his instructor walks in. JAMAL Hey gang. Hope you all had a good summer. I hope you all have been thinking about your thesis because your finally here. Donald begins to daze off. He begins to run several ideas through his head, but one keeps coming back to him. Images of his previous film "Safe House" flicker in his mind. DISSOLVE TO a week later... Jamal stands in front of the lab and everyone has proposals with them. 7
JAMAL Let’s hear what you got? DONALD ARTHUR FORD I want to completely remake "Safe House". I want to start from scratch with it. New script, new characters but the same basic premise of cops protecting a witness against other cops. I want to create a character driven drama about corruption, redemption and morality. NARRATION Donald’s quest to remake "Safe House" would bring him both challenge and great reward. In order to create the type of professionalism he wanted he would have to cast professional actors and put together a competent crew to help him. DISSOLVE TO 8 SCENE SEVEN: SCRIPT WRITING 101 8
Donald sits in his familiar chair typing like a mad man. His eyes are blood shot and it’s nearly 2:30am. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) My first duty was to write a good story. My main goals for my remake where to fix the flaws of the old one. I saw those flaws as a lack of character development and a lack of a clear story. I kept the main ingredient’s of good cops, bad cops, witness. I wanted to also make sure that my dialog sounded different and unique from character to character. After one semester of work and winter break I had an unfinished 45 page draft. It had great potential unfortunately I was running out of time to film a 45 page script. I now had to cut down (CONTINUED)
and undo much of the work I had done. I ended up chopping the entire first half of the script off and focusing on the meatiest and most dramatic parts, which where in the ending. I condensed much of the information told in the first half into flash backs. I ended up eliminating less important characters and even combining parts of them into main characters. It all ended up working into a slick streamlined script of about 15 pages. I had no idea if it was well written. I did know it was substantially better than the original "Safe House" and I had my strong characters and good story. Donald stops typing. DONALD ARTHUR FORD whew DISSOLVE TO 9 SCENE EIGHT: CASTING Donald sits at his desk staring at his phone. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) I hate phones. I have some kind of phone phobia and now I have to call a bunch of strangers to find out if they want to be in my movie. Eh, I’ll just email instead... Donald puts down the phone and turns on the computer. NARRATION Ah, the internet. Possibly one of the greatest inventions ever made. Originally designed to bring millions of teenage boys, free erotic thrills it can also connection complete strangers. This feature would come in particularly (MORE) (CONTINUED) 9
NARRATION (cont’d) handy in the casting of Donald’s senior film. Once logged into cyberspace all Donald had to do was place an add on the mighty Craig’s List. With a well worded add Craig delivered a plentiful bounty of creepy strangers claiming to be actors and then those actual actors that Donald actually cast in the film. The best part of it all is, Donald was actually able to do it without barley touching a phone. That’s truly amazing. Montage of Donald looking through tons of resumes. Photos of the actual cast spin out to the screen one by one until the entire cast is on screen. Donald reclines back in his chair and satisfyingly puts his hands behind his head. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) Apparently my add on Craig’s list was pretty good because I got a huge response. I also found out that all the actors who decided to be in the film seemed to love the script. I was quite shocked because I wasn’t sure how good or bad my own writing was. They claimed to like the witty and sarcastic tone. I believe that without spending six months developing and tweaking the script It probably would not have attracted as many actors. I also have to thank all of the fellow MIAD students and creative minds that helped me perfect it. DISSOLVE TO 10 SCENE NINE: LOCATIONS 10
A montage of Donald looking at different locations. He looks at city locations like tunnels and bridges, and rural settings like farmland and cottages.
DONALD ARTHUR FORD The next step is to get my locations. I already had my aunt and uncle’s summer cottage in mind. It had a great hunting cabin motif to it which I liked. I wanted there to be a stark contrast between the city and the rural areas. I wanted there to be a sense of these City cops stuck out in the country where they didn’t belong. It was amazingly easy to get permission to film there from my aunt and uncle as well as the Kenosha County Sheriffs Department. Getting locations in Milwaukee proved to be much harder. Milwaukee wanted permits and money. There seemed to be much more red tape involved. Amazingly things ended up working themselves out. One of my cast members is a Milwaukee Firefighter so he was able to cut right through the red tape and we got our gritty city location. DISSOLVE TO 11 SCENE TEN: FILMING Donald and a small cast and crew carefully make their way out onto a frozen lake. Donald begins to set up a shot and direct the actors. NARRATION After six months of preparation the grand moment arrived. Donald Ford and his cast and crew began to roll tape on March 8th. Two weekends separated by spring break was all the time they needed to film "Blue Lines" DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) One of my favorite directors is Clint Eastwood. He is a filmmaker who includes everyone in the collaborative process. He lets actor improvise and when he directs it is direct and to the point (Tanitch). I (CONTINUED) 11
CONTINUED: approached "Blue Lines" in a similar way. I had great actors to work with. I made the environment friendly for suggestions. We even improvised an entire scene just to add some character depth. Making the experience open and collaborative was wonderful and very rewarding. The actors truly appreciated it as well. My lead actor, Tom Lodewyck even told me that, "...it was the most fun I’ve had making a film in years". That for me was the ultimate compliment. I enjoyed working with the actors. They found their inspiration on the pages of the script and i didn’t need to explain much to them. Thankfully they got it from the written words. I allowed them to explore their characters from there. It’s the same way I explored the space and compositions with the camera. I used my knowledge of the symbolism of camera angles. For instance I used a lot of low angles and close ups to create feelings of tension as well as claustrophobia inside the small cabin spaces. Once we started shooting outside I went for wide panoramic shots to emphasize the size of the space and create a different kind of feeling. In many ways the wide camera angles I chose are an ironic statement because the characters are just as trapped out in the open as they where inside. That is the way I was thinking while we where shooting the film. NARRATION Filming "Blue Lines" is an experience the cast and crew will soon not forget. But for Donald it was time for the editing.
DISSOLVE TO 12 SCENE ELEVEN: EDITING 12
A montage of Donald sitting at his computer. Occasionally he gets up and paces and the montage ends with him bashing his head into the computer monitor. DONALD ARTHUR FORD (inner thoughts) It is time to edit 600 minute of footage down to 15 minutes, and I only have three and a half weeks to do it. Let the hair pulling begin. After finishing a grueling filming schedule it is time to jump into the editing. This is often easier said than done and that was the case for "Blue Lines". It took four days of procrastination to finally get motivated to start editing. Just going through 600 minute of footage to select the best footage was hard. There was so much good footage to choose from. It often feels like being a kid in the candy store. You want to have all the candy but you can only have one. It’s still a better scenario to have a bunch of candy rather than a bunch of garlic. Editing is all about decisions, thats one of the reasons it took me so long to start. I had to stop procrastinating and when my mind was right, make the decision to start editing. I found once I started, the footage cut together pretty well. Sometimes things are meant to fit and they seem obvious and other times they have to grow on you. For me editing is a very organic experience. I let the footage dictate a visual rhythm. I think this comes from my influences of 1960’s and 70’s (CONTINUED)
filmmaking. It was a very experimental time in filmmaking (Wexman). I found that after editing the footage some of the music I chose naturally fit the rhythm of the visuals. I had built a good editing rhythm. Perhaps while I was looking for music on the royalty free sites the visuals where playing in my head so subconsciously I was able to find tracks that had similar rhythms. Thats when you know your one with the piece. I find i work best when I am completely lost in the material. Thats can go for all facets of Production. Whether I’m writing, filming or editing I can escape reality for a while. NARRATION Even though Donald may think he has completed editing on "Blue Lines", we all know the urge will creep back up to him to go back and tweak it some more. They say that one never finishes a movie, one only abandons it. Well good luck with that. From the days he sat between his parents to "Blue Lines", we have brought you a nice little tale of a creative mind. I hope you all enjoyed this somewhat interesting and possibly bizzar look into the mind of a filmmaker, or so he calls himself. Donald is seen walking off into the distance. The end credits roll