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Written by Alvin Tan
FADE IN: EXT. UNIVERSITY SQUARE - DAY Students dressed in graduation robes are seen chattering joyously among themselves, posing for photographs, and accepting congratulatory handshakes. Several booths sell tacky university merchandise. Most people have a glass of punch in their hand. A few others are stealing snacks from the refreshment counter. A graduating student, BENJAMIN TEE, sits on a bench with a blank look on his face. He is 23 years old, easy on the eyes, with a short stature but nonetheless projects confidence in his mannerism. BENJAMIN (V.O.) My name is Benjamin Tee. I am 23 years old. Today is graduation, supposedly a very happy day. People tell me that completing university is a big achievement and that I should feel proud. (beat) But the truth is, I feel completely average. For there are a thousand others graduating today. Nothing makes me different- nothing makes me better than these lemmings of the rat race. Nothing yet, at least. A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN calls out to Benjamin from nearby. MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN (O.S.) Benji! Benjamin looks towards her calmly, as she approaches him. The middle-aged woman is Benjamin’s mother, MRS TEE. Despite her age, she appears to still be an expert with cosmetics and jewellery. She gives off “corporate lady” vibes. MRS TEE What are you doing here? You’re up next. Mrs Tee ushers Benjamin through a sea of bodies towards the stage area. Along the way, a few friends congratulate him to the point of almost saluting him. Benjamin musters weak smiles in response.
INT. UNIVERSITY HALL - LATER The DEAN passes out scrolls to a series of STUDENTS as the MASTER OF CEREMONY reads names off a list on a grand-looking stage. The hall is filled with guests seated in neat rows, who intermittently erupt in applause. Benjamin and Mrs Tee sneak to their seats. MASTER OF CEREMONY (formal) Ladies and gentleman, we will now present the awards to the FirstClass Honours recipients. On the floor, Mrs Tee pats Benjamin on his back. Benjamin’s father, MR TEE, looks on proudly with a smile. Mr Tee is a healthy middle-aged man, the stereotypical Chinese father -serious and not too generous with smiles and compliments. MASTER OF CEREMONY (CONT’D) The First-Class Honours award is conferred to outstanding students who performed exceptionally well throughout their academic career. This year, we are pleased to present this award to two students. Down the row, a MALE STUDENT, tilts his head slightly forward and looks at Benjamin, smirking, almost cockily. He is WILLIAM CHOO, Benjamin’s classmate and chief academic rival. MASTER OF CEREMONY (CONT’D) This year’s recipients are: William Chong. There is a big applause. William stands up with a broad smile, clenching his fist of victory at waist-level. He strides towards the stage as if he had been waiting for the moment all his life. The Dean presents the award to William. William poses proudly with his trademark smirk, while photographers clamour before the stage to take shots. The camera flash is almost blinding and the shutter clicks are incessant. Benjamin looks at William calmly but does not clap. MASTER OF CEREMONY (CONT’D) Benjamin Tee. Benjamin, walks up to the stage with in a confident stride, certainly “quieter” than William. As Benjamin receives his award, the photographers behave likewise. DEAN (personally to Benjamin) Congratulations. Now you go out there and take over the world!
BENJAMIN (smiling perfunctorily) I’ll try my best. Both of them turn to face the audience for one last round of photographs. EXT. UNIVERSITY SQUARE - LATER Benjamin and his parents are socialising with a middle-aged couple. They are ANDREW LEE and JENNA LEE, Benjamin’s uncle and aunt on his mother’s side. Andrew, a laid-back man, is a partner at an uptown law firm, a boutique legal practice that he co-owns with another lawyer. Jenna looks like an out-of-touch-with-society housewife, meek and mellow. ANDREW (beaming at Benjamin) Congratulations. BENJAMIN Thank you, thank you. ANDREW (holding glass up) As a long-standing proud member of the sleaziest profession in the world, I hereby welcome you to the exciting world of law. (all laugh) I remember graduating from law school 35 years ago. (solemnly) Wish I could go back to school, because the work is hell. BENJAMIN That sounds lovely. They all chuckle nervously. There is a brief moment of awkward silence. Mr Tee clears his throat and turns to Benjamin. MR TEE Anyway, Ben, listen. Um. (slightly hesitant) So we talked to your Uncle Andrew, you know, about your job and stuff. We set up an interview at Uncle Andrew’s firmBENJAMIN (incredulous, interrupting) Ah.
MR TEE (finishing his sentence) ...Tomorrow. Benjamin appears a little insulted that the adults have made arrangements on behalf of him in his absence but maintains composure. ANDREW (trying to cut tension) Well, um, just drop by at 10. And you tell the sweetheart at the reception... (sheepish) Angela, by the way, whom I think you’ll definitely adore. (continuing in previous tone) Anyway, you tell her that you have an appointment with me, and I’ll see what we can do about getting you in. (winks cheekily) You know, pull strings, fiddle with knobs, things of that nature. Benjamin remains silent with an I-don’t-know-whether-to-thankor-hate-you look on his face. BENJAMIN Uh, sure. Thanks. (pauses) Well, I’ll, um, be right back. Gotta get some food. Benjamin retreats with a forced smile. REFRESHMENT COUNTER While taking some snacks, Benjamin is joined by William. William, noticing that Benjamin is alone, strikes up a conversation with him. WILLIAM (warm smile) Ben... BENJAMIN What do you want? WILLIAM Woah, easy, just wanna say congrats. BENJAMIN Uh huh, thanks. You too.
WILLIAM So what’s your plan after graduation? Where are you interning? BENJAMIN I don’t know, I mean, still weighing my options, maybe taking a break. WILLIAM (laughs, teasing) Weighing your options? A learned-looking PROFESSOR approaches the counter, clearly interested in the conversation between Benjamin and William. PROFESSOR (announcing his presence) Boys. BENJAMIN Sir. Sir. PROFESSOR (CONT’D) So what are you boys up to after all this? BENJAMIN (facetious) Dinner with the family I guess. PROFESSOR You know what I mean. WILLIAM (smug) Well, my plan consists of sucking up to some uptown law firm, where I’ll inevitably start at the bottom of the food chain of legal hell, and then praying that I’ll make partner in a decade so that I can get fat pay checks for playing golf. PROFESSOR Splendid. (to Benjamin) Same for you, Ben? BENJAMIN Well, sucking up to some firm is a thought. PROFESSOR The safest bet. WILLIAM
BENJAMIN But I’d rather explore my options a little. Take some time, find out what I like. PROFESSOR (didactic, preachy) I tell you what, boy. Criminal, property, insolvency, litigation, intellectual property -- they’re all the same crap. (stares into Benjamin’s eyes) You have to do what brings in the cash. WILLIAM (points his index finger approvingly at the professor) Bingo. BENJAMIN No, I mean, what I like outside of law, if anything. Both the professor and William nod instinctively as if they fully grasp Benjamin’s point of view. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) Besides cash. PROFESSOR (dismissive) Yeah, well, right. (beat) Either way, consider yourselves awesome for hitting first class. The both of you. I mean it. BENJAMIN Thanks... WILLIAM Easy enough to hit first class when you take the easiest classes... William jokingly punches Benjamin on the arm. WILLIAM (CONT’D) Right, Ben? BENJAMIN Almost as easy to as brown-nosing. William stops laughing, an ego-preserving smile left on his face.
BENJAMIN (CONT’D) And God knows what else. (beat) Enjoy your food. Benjamin leaves the counter. William is seen looking on, his ego slightly bruised. EXT. UNIVERSITY SQUARE Benjamin walks towards his family and relatives. On the way, suddenly, someone taps his shoulder. We hear a GIRL calling out to Benjamin. GIRL (O.S.) Yo Benny! Benjamin turns around only to find his hyperactive and vivacious girlfriend, CAROLYN TEO, running towards him and hugging him a la a koala bear hugging a tree. Benjamin lets her down and kisses her briefly on the lips. Benjamin holds on to her waist while maintaining eye contact dearly. BENJAMIN What up, baby? Benjamin plants another kiss on her cheek. At the same time, Carolyn waves and smiles at William. William reciprocates. CAROLYN (looking back at Benjamin) Just saying hi to the shining boy of the hour. (oops) Sorry, I mean, shining man of the hour. Benjamin takes a brief look at William but diverts his attention back to Carolyn. BENJAMIN So what are you up to later? CAROLYN Besides making love to you? BENJAMIN (chuckling) That would be later-later. I’m talking about later, period. CAROLYN (pouts) So we’re not making love twice then?
BENJAMIN (changing the subject) No, I’m serious. What about joining my family and I for coffee? CAROLYN Depends. Can I bring someone along? (beat) Two people, to be exact. Carolyn looks into the distance at her parents who are standing about 20 feet away, just observing the young couple. Benjamin acknowledges them politely with a wave and a nod. BENJAMIN (looking at Carolyn’s parents) Do I have a choice? CAROLYN (smiling dorkily) Well... INT. STARBUCKS CAFE - MOMENTS LATER Carolyn and her parents, MR TEO and MRS TEO, are having drinks with Benjamin and his parents. MR TEO So Benjamin, what’s your plan after graduation? BENJAMIN (trying to fake an answer) I don’t know, uh, maybe work for a good law firm. Pass the bar. MRS TEO That sounds terrific. MR TEE (cutting in) In fact, Benji has an interview lined up at Lee and Lim tomorrow. Starting out under the wing of his own uncle, my brother. BENJAMIN Too much info, pa... Benjamin and Carolyn break into a conversation of their own. The faint, indistinct chattering of their parents can be heard in the background.
BENJAMIN (CONT’D) (whispering) Why exactly do old people like to ask about our plans after graduation? CAROLYN (whispering back) Hell if I know. It’s annoying. BENJAMIN (whispering, winks) What’s your plan anyway? CAROLYN (whispering, enraged) Oh, fuck you! Mr Tee notices that Benjamin and Carolyn are engrossed in their own conversation. MR TEE So Carolyn, what’s your plan? CAROLYN (assured) Oh, I actually got an offer from Ernst and Young. Going to start as a junior associate and then move up the ranks. And maybe get my CFA soon. MRS TEE That would be auditing, right? CAROLYN Yup. MRS TEE Very competitive. And lucrative. CAROLYN (sincere) Sort of. But I enjoy the intellectual challenge and the potential for growth that auditing offers me. (beat) Of course it doesn’t hurt that it pays well. The money is definitely a plus point. MR TEO I think it is the point. MR TEE Hear, hear. It’s all about the money.
At this point, Benjamin appears slightly annoyed. Mr Tee calls out to a WAITER, who promptly arrives, to order another cup of coffee. BENJAMIN (curt) Wait a minute. All four of the parents turn to Benjamin, eager to hear his input. Benjamin’s parents look at him and anticipate his speech, not with an intent to understand but to reply. Benjamin stares into space to avoid awkward, judgmental eye contact from his parents as he launches into a monologue. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) It’s not always about the money, is it? (beat) I thought we’re supposed to find ourselves and explore what we truly love to do when we’re young. Especially when we have no commitments. MRS TEE (coaxing) Benji... BENJAMIN Let me finish, ma. Mr Tee grabs Mrs Tee’s hand, perhaps as a sign to exercise restraint, while shaking his head slightly. Mr Teo and Mrs Teo seem to be listening intently. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) I mean, really. Most of us young things are smart, diligent, and ambitious in many ways. We should be able to do anything we want to do and be who we want to be, but we just voluntarily surrender ourselves to the hopelessly empty, UNHEALTHY 9-5 corporate lifestyle. (on a roll) And it’s not like we do that after years of unsuccessfully pursuing our passion, living the life of a starving artist, or when we want to start a family and have to be realistic. Noooo... We do this fresh out of school! (MORE)
11. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) Our best years of youth, GONE, because some arbitrary person decides that success must come in the form of being chained to a desk 10 hours a day writing reports, being forced to wear a noose around our necks, being made to punch cards to clock in every morning, and having to put ourselves through punishing hours of commuting to-andfro every single BLOODY day!
Mr Teo and Mrs Teo stare at each other while raising their eyebrows. Carolyn holds Benjamin’s hand in full view of everyone as a sign of support and pride of Benjamin. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) We should be doing the things that we absolutely love and building a career out of it, even if it means making less money than working in an office. We should just do what makes us happy. Hearing that, even Carolyn snickers at the thought of making less money. Mr Tee appears quite offended that his own 9-5 corporate lifestyle, which has afforded Benjamin the good life, has been belittled to a pulp by his own son. MR TEE (challenging Benjamin) And what do you absolutely love to do, if being a lawyer is such a, how do you say, humiliation to you? BENJAMIN (annoyed) I don’t know. In response, Mr Teo and Mrs Teo smile as if Benjamin had just said something cute. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) I don’t know what I love to do, but I don’t think law fits the bill, as much as I think I like it. MR TEE Yet that is all you’re trained in, no? BENJAMIN I think it’s unfair to presume I cannot learn and grow beyond my law degree.
MR TEE (oh yeah?) That’s very inspiring and all, but it’s not like you ever had a talent outside of getting good grades. Mrs Tee takes a sip from her cup of coffee, silently listening to the rather tensed conversation unfolding before her. BENJAMIN (ignoring Mr Tee) All I want is to really live a great life, truly achieve something extraordinary, significant, something completely remarkable. I just want to... matter. MR TEE (approval-seeking) Sure, we all do, until we have to renovate the kitchen or pay for the kids’ education. MR TEO Then that’s when we get real. MR TEE (assured) Exactly. BENJAMIN (defeated) Yeah. (beat) Fine. CAROLYN (whispering to Benjamin) I love your speech. The way your face lights up in passion as you argue your points. You’d make a damn fine lawyer. BENJAMIN It’s not a speech. And no, I’m not a lawyer. INT. BENJAMIN’S HOUSE - NIGHT Benjamin, Mr Tee, and Mrs Tee enter the dark house and turn on the light. They appear exhausted. The mood among them can only be described as tensed. MRS TEE (whiny) I’m going to take a hot bath now.
MR TEE After you. PIANO AREA Benjamin retreats to the corner of the room, where a black upright piano sits. He lifts the cover of the piano, gets into proper sitting position, and heaves a big sigh. He sits motionless for a few seconds with a listless look while staring into his reflection on the glossy piano surface, barely blinking. Numerous award plaques and trophies sit on the top of the piano, a testament to Benjamin’s prowess in school. Benjamin starts playing The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, totally engrossed. Halfway through, Mr Tee steps near the piano, resting his arm on the top of it. His face is dark like ash. MR TEE Can we talk? BENJAMIN (still playing) Sure... Noticing that Benjamin is not giving him full attention, Mr Tee closes the score book. Benjamin is forced to stop playing but only bows his head in discontent for a few seconds before looking up at Mr Tee again. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) What? MR TEE (inhales deeply) Listen, I don’t want you arguing with me in front of other people again, you understand me? BENJAMIN (defensive) I wasn’t arguing, I was just trying toMR TEE (raising voice) Trying to what? (beat, lowers volume) Trying to what? Benjamin does not respond to Mr Tee’s taunt.
MR TEE (CONT’D) I hope you know how important the interview tomorrow is. BENJAMIN (muttering under his breath) Yeah. Important to whom? MR TEE To everyone. To you, me, your mother, even your Uncle Andrew. (beat) Everyone wants to see you succeed. Benjamin heaves a heavy sigh. MR TEE (CONT’D) I know you’re an adult, and you have a mind of your own. And you want to be your own man, or whatever you call it -- doesn’t matter. In the mean time, Benjamin becomes increasingly restless. He stretches, cracks some knuckles, and shakes his legs. MR TEE (CONT’D) But I think starting out with Uncle Andrew can’t be wrong. You can always do something else if discover that you don’t like it later. BENJAMIN You mean after wasting months or even years... MR TEE Wasting? How can you judge something you haven’t tried? BENJAMIN (smart-alect) Neither have you. MR TEE We know Uncle Andrew well. He’s a good man. So don’t you waste this golden opportunity. (trying to persuade) Many of your classmates would kill for the chance to work at Lee and Lim, you know that? (beat) So don’t ruin it. Don’t ruin your future. (MORE)
15. MR TEE (CONT'D) Don’t ruin future Christmas and other gatherings with Uncle Andrew.
BENJAMIN Fine. MR TEE Don’t ruin it, I mean it. BENJAMIN (exasperated) I said yes. MR TEE Good... Good... Mr Tee touches Benjamin’s head, which Benjamin obviously abhors. Benjamin reopens the score book. He tries to play Michael Learns to Rock’s “That’s Why (You Go Away)” but stops a few seconds into the verse. He smashes some random keys with both hands. Almost simultaneously, Mrs Tee, whose head is wrapped in a towel, comes out of the bedroom with a stunned expression. BENJAMIN’S BEDROOM The night is quiet. A neat library of books reside on levels of book shelf. Everything seems to be in order and there is little clutter. A freshly-ironed suit and tie hang on the wall. There are a stack of documents and a suitcase on the desk. Benjamin sits on his bed wearing a singlet and shorts with a thousand-yard stare, deep in his thoughts. He is spinning a book on his finger. His mobile phone rings and vibrates on a side table, but he ignores it completely. INT. BENJAMIN’S BEDROOM - MORNING The alarm clock rings at 8.30 a.m. Benjamin, looking absolutely exhausted, brushes his teeth while staring into his reflection in the mirror. He combs his hair neatly with wax, and he puts on his tie. INT. TRAIN STATION - MORNING Benjamin waits just before the yellow line at a suffocatinglycrowded train platform while eating a bun. He jostles his way to a train door when it arrives.
INT. TRAIN CARRIAGE - MORNING Benjamin stands in the middle of the carriage only to be sandwiched with barely enough space to surf the morning news on his mobile phone without touching the sweaty back of another. A WOMAN coughs, Benjamin makes a disgusted face, even though he has nowhere to run to. From time to time, the train stops, shifting the weight of the mass onboard, causing passengers to struggle to maintain their balance. The day has not been kind to Benjamin, and it is only getting started. EXT. OFFICE TOWER - MORNING Reading from a small placard in his hand, Benjamin scours the city area for the correct location like a lost tourist. Benjamin finally arrives at the office, a magnificent futuristic building with possibly 70 storeys. His watch shows 10.12 a.m. INT. OFFICE TOWER, LOBBY - DAY Benjamin walks towards the lobby registration counter. A sizeable line forms at the counter. BENJAMIN (pissed off) Oh, for God’s sake! INT. LEE AND LIM OFFICE - DAY The elevator door opens. Benjamin slips out before as soon as a gap appears in the door and rushes out of it with an anxious look, hastily barging in the office. He approaches the reception, barely catching his breath. The RECEPTIONIST, ANGELA, is in her early 20s, sweet-looking to boot as claimed. She is engaged on the phone. Benjamin turns to the glass door and fixes his hair and clothes. Angela finishes her phone call. BENJAMIN Hi, I’m supposed to see Mr. Lee at 10. My name’s Benjamin. ANGELA (empathic smile) It’s 10.15 a.m. BENJAMIN And what’s your point?
ANGELA Nothing. (beat) Hold on. Please take a seat. Benjamin sits down, his eyes darting around the reception area. The lighting is exquisite, almost hotel-like, while the carpet is clean. An abstract art piece hangs on the wall. Angela picks up the phone and dials an extension. ANGELA (CONT’D) (to the phone) Hello Mr. Lee, Benjamin’s here. BOARD MEETING ROOM Andrew picks up the phone. ANDREW So he’s finally here. Send him in. RECEPTION AREA Angela stands up and walks towards Benjamin. ANGELA You may go in. This way please. Benjamin picks up his suitcase and buttons up his jacket. He wipes sweat off his forehead. OPEN WORKSPACE As Angela leads Benjamin through the open workspace, Benjamin looks at the working employees. People can be seen talking on phones, passing around documents, and even making copies. A WOMAN in an office suit has three thick books open on her desk as she flips through yet another furiously while biting a pen in her mouth. Another MAN is explaining a contract to a female PARALEGAL seated at a desk, who nods with each of his instruction. Right before entering the board meeting room, Benjamin sees a motivational poster that says “Success will not come to you unless you go to it”. BOARD MEETING ROOM There is a long, mahogany meeting desk in the centre of the room. On the side facing the door, Andrew sits second from left in a row of four people.
Third from left is the other managing partner, ROBERT LIM, a balding fat man who nonetheless is a powerful, sharp litigator. The other two are SENIOR ASSOCIATES, EVA and JASON. All are dressed smartly. Upon entering the room, Benjamin walks towards the table, shaking the hand of every interviewer while saying his name. They seem friendly enough to him. BENJAMIN (apologetic, worried) First, let me apologise for being late. See I was looking for the place, and I mistook another building forROBERT What if this were a court trial? Benjamin freezes for a good five seconds. Robert takes a look at Andrew (”This is not a good start!”) and then back at Benjamin. Andrew shrugs a little. ROBERT (CONT’D) All right. Please, sit down. Benjamin promptly takes a seat, leaning forward to the table and interlocking his fingers. ROBERT (CONT’D) So sources say you’re smart. (beat) And diligent. BENJAMIN I’d like to think so, sir. I was one of two students who got awarded First-Class Honours this year. Robert does a quick scan through Benjamin’s resume and then looks up at Benjamin. ROBERT Are you obedient? BENJAMIN I’m sorry? ROBERT (enunciating) Are you the type who do as he’s told? Or are you the smart-ass type who talks smack when there’s work to be done? Andrew breaks eye contact for a short moment while thinking of the right answer.
BENJAMIN (sounding phoney) Well, sir, I pride myself in fulfilling the duties entrusted to me. At the same time, I try to exercise leadership and take calculated risks to contribute to the organisROBERT (slightly annoyed) No no no no no... We don’t need risk-takers here. We’re a law firm, not an acrobatic circus. BENJAMIN (idealistic) I thought doing the right thing is always inherently risky. Robert leans back in his chair, sizing up Benjamin, before leaning forward again. ROBERT Okay, let me lay it down for you in simple terms, okay? (beat) I’ve got a law firm to run, and a lot of the work we do here is pretty standard; there’s a system to everything. And it works. (matter-of-fact) Don’t mess with it. You mess with it, you mess with me. You mess with me, I mess with you, you follow? BENJAMIN Yes, sir. ROBERT Our firm is considered the BEST IP practice in the country. And we did that without any of the risk-taking that you speak of -- just pure excellence in service. (beat) And I don’t want no bullshit in my firm like you running late or wearing a badly-ironed shirt to a client meeting or using the wrong tenses in your documents, you got that? BENJAMIN Yes, sir. Robert takes a sip from his glass of water.
ROBERT (changing the subject) Water? BENJAMIN No, thanks. Robert slides a mineral water to Benjamin anyway, which Benjamin consumes out of obligation. ROBERT (exhaling after swallowing water) Now let me ask you a question. Say if another firm comes along and offers you an extra thousand dollars on top of the salary we offer you, would you jump ship? BENJAMIN Definitely not. ROBERT And why not? BENJAMIN For one, because they’re not considered the BEST IP practice in the country. (beat) And I only work with the best. Robert smiles broadly and looks at his colleagues on both sides, who are also noticeably smiling. ROBERT That’s the spirit. The last person we’d wanna hire is another leapfrogging prick who’s loyal to nothing but money. (beat) Well, I guess we’re about done here. Now would you excuse us for a minute? BENJAMIN Sure. Benjamin exits the room, leaving his briefcase inside. WAITING AREA Benjamin sits at a sofa facing the board room. Robert, Andrew, and the two senior associates are seen discussing something seriously, albeit indistinctly. Eva then stands up and walks towards the door.
EVA You may come in now. BOARD MEETING ROOM Everyone in the room is now standing in their original positions. ROBERT (finally mellow) What can I say, Benjamin, except welcome to Lee and Lim. Robert and Benjamin shake hands. ROBERT (CONT’D) Now, Eva will show you to your place, and we’ll get you started right away, okay? BENJAMIN No problem. OPEN WORKSPACE Eva walks alongside Benjamin through the aisles. Eva seems professional, her suit obviously a designer label. Her earrings are something straight out of Swarovski. Her footsteps are quick, like her words. EVA I’m Eva, by the way. BENJAMIN Oh, hi. EVA I think I’m three batches above you. I graduated First Class, too. Eva then stops at a small cubicle with nothing but a telephone and a computer. Two memos are nailed to the wall of the cubicle: a list of extension numbers of everyone in the firm and a list of websites for legal research. EVA (CONT’D) Okay, this is your place. BENJAMIN Mm hmm. EVA (pointing at the first memo) This one here is the list of extension numbers of everyone. (MORE)
22. EVA (CONT'D) Don’t bother walking, just call. (point at the second memo) This one’s a list of all the sites we use for research. To look up cases, statutes, journals, filing records, et cetera...
BENJAMIN Got it. EVA Great. Now, hold on, and I’ll be back. Benjamin sits down on the chair, a comfortable office chair with wheels, as Eva leaves. He daydreams while looking at the pale ceiling. He stares at the memos, his fingers dancing on the table. Suddenly, a stack of files -- probably 5-inch thick -- is dumped on his table. EVA (CONT’D) (grabbing a chair from the adjacent cubicle) Okay, let’s get started. Eva sits next to Benjamin, tutor style. EVA (CONT’D) So these are a few of our old client files, on trademarks. You like trademarks? You know your trademark law? BENJAMIN I got an A for IP law, does that count? EVA Excellent. (grabs one file, flips through documents in it) Now, each of these files contains all documents related to the case: meeting minutes, search reports, letters of advice, case briefs, statutory declarations, communications with the registrar, et cetera. (beat) Your job is to study them. Pay attention to the search reports and client communications, ‘cause that’s what the juniors usually start out with. BENJAMIN All right.
EVA That’s all. If you need anything, I’ll be in my office right there. (points to an office) Okay? BENJAMIN Okay, so that’s it? Just study them? Eva chuckles for a moment. EVA If it’s real work you’re looking for, trust me you’ll get it very soon. This is just filler work, the thing you’re supposed to do when no one needs you to do anything else. BENJAMIN What’s YOUR filler work? EVA Mine, believe it or not, is to read IP law trade journals and online portals and write reports out of them. (beat) I’ll leave you to it then. Benjamin gets down to work by flipping open one file, browsing through it cursorily. All he sees are walls of text. He flips through a few more files, and then a blank overwhelmed look on his face. Benjamin looks on the right side of his cubicle. He sees a girl in her mid-20s, CYNTHIA, typing away furiously at the keyboard, her hair in a neat bun. Benjamin peers over the plastic divider wall. BENJAMIN (apologetic) Sorry if I’m interrupting, but I’m Benjamin. It’s my first day here. CYNTHIA (taking a break) Hey... Cynthia. Both shake hands awkwardly over the divider wall. BENJAMIN How long have you been here? CYNTHIA I passed the bar last month, so... a year?
BENJAMIN Awesome. I’m going to ask you a question, it’s going to seem random, but I’m asking anyway. Are you happy? CYNTHIA I’m sorry? BENJAMIN Are you happy? You know, do you like the work? CYNTHIA Do I like the work? Cynthia inexplicably bursts out in a muffled laughter while shaking her head and then gets back to work. BENJAMIN (murmuring to himself) The fuck is that supposed to mean? A time lapse of the clock is shown from 10.40 a.m. to about 1 p.m. One by one, the staff and lawyers leave for lunch. Eva and Jason emerge from their offices and walk towards the cubicles. JASON (to Benjamin) So... Benjamin, right? Let’s get lunch. (jokingly, impatiently) Food, food, food! BENJAMIN (closes file) Um, okay. INT. AMERICAN STEAKHOUSE - DAY Jason, Eva, Cynthia, and Benjamin are having lunch in a crowded restaurant. The lunch crowd is reminiscent of the morning train crowd -- noisy, humid, and too-close-forcomfort. Everyone seems to be dressed in a suit and tie and eating rather quickly. JASON You know I just bought a new car last week. EVA (disapproving, envious) No, way. What happened to your Honda Accord!?
JASON Traded it in, of course. (dangles car keys) For my brand-new BMW 3 Series. Cynthia face lights up, in obvious awe and admiration. CYNTHIA (wolf-whistles) Damn... (self-pity) Oh God, I wish I didn’t have to drive my Chevy for another year. EVA Oh, come on. I was driving a freaking Toyota Yaris at your age. You’re lucky they had a pay rise last year for all associates. CYNTHIA Yeah, thank God. Can’t wait for the year-end bonus. JASON (chipping in) You know, I heard my friend at Rodyk and Davidson gets a 12-month bonus. (dissatisfied) Those lucky bastards! CYNTHIA (commiserating) Argh, screw them! EVA Now you regret not joining the gigantic, prestigious firms, eh. CYNTHIA Would be nice to be able to afford three vacations a year. We don’t get enough off-days already as it is. Jason and Eva groan. JASON Oh, don’t remind me. EVA Yeah man. Benjamin, being a newcomer, politely listens to the conversation unfolding before him. He enjoys his meal, but his non-participation was not unnoticed.
JASON So Ben, do you drive? BENJAMIN (slightly embarrassed) No. I mean, not yet. JASON Well, you should. I mean, you’re a lawyer now, know what I mean? Gotta look the part. BENJAMIN Yeah... JASON Anyway, you should consider yourself lucky. Lee and Lim takes in only one rookie each year, and they’re known to be very picky. EVA (nodding) It may sound self-promotional for us to say this, but, yes, many of your peers would kill for your spot. Benjamin chews on his food while nodding. He swallows his food and waits for the conversation to quiet down. BENJAMIN Can I say something? About the car thing. Jason, Eva, and Cynthia look at Benjamin in eager anticipation. EVA Uh, sure. BENJAMIN (cautious, tactful) I’m just saying, but why does it matter what kind of car we drive? Isn’t it already a blessing to have just any car? What’s the deal with this whole changing cars all the time thing? JASON (exclaims) You know, YOLO! EVA You only live once.
BENJAMIN (ignoring the superficial responses) I mean, it’s a damn vehicle. I wouldn’t even buy a new car, much less a new EXPENSIVE car. That’s just bat-shit crazy. (shifting his eye contact between all three) Do you know that new cars lose 20% of their value upon purchase? People just buy a depreciating piece of junk metal all the time that’s twice, THRICE the price of an equally-good second-hand car. (beat) I mean, I can buy another secondhand car with the savings. Shit, I can invest the savings in the stock market and double my money in a year with the right counter. Literally being paid for buying a car. JASON (defensive) Well, let’s just say that some of us are not that money-minded, and we just enjoy having nice stuff. I don’t know, is that such a crime? BENJAMIN (pauses) No, I guess not. (beat) But are you happy? JASON (smiles widely and dangles car key again) What do you think? INT. LEE AND LIM OFFICE - DAY Benjamin heads back to his cubicle, walking ahead of Jason, Eva, and Cynthia. The other three whisper among themselves while stealing glances at Benjamin. OPEN WORKSPACE Benjamin slumps on his chair. Andrew drops by and sits on Benjamin’s desk, his usual informal style. He is holding a stapled document. ANDREW So how’s it so far, Benji?
BENJAMIN I’m still alive. ANDREW (laughs) Good to know that. (stops laughing) Listen, about what you said during coffee yesterday, I respect you for that. I really do. BENJAMIN (sarcastic) Yeah. ANDREW That fire, that youthful I-can-doanything-and-nothing-can-stop-me spirit. Almost reminds me of myself when I was younger. (beat) But you’ll lose a little of that after a while. Benjamin just stares at Andrew. ANDREW (CONT’D) Oh, yeah. Anyway, I need you to help me out with something. So basically we’re working with this restaurant downtown, Organofoods. They sell that organic food crap. They want to trademark their name in several jurisdictions, you know, the usual -- the US, the UK, Europe, Japan, China, India, Australia, and us. BENJAMIN (nodding, paying attention) Okay. ANDREW And they’ve asked us to advise them on whether they can do it. (hands document to Benjamin) Cynthia’s done all the research already, but it’s all over on this piece of paper. Basically they can, she’s done a check in the database, I double-checked it, and nothing comes up. Benjamin examines the piece of document, two sheets full of scribblings scattered everywhere.
The handwriting is barely intelligible and there are inexplicable symbols everywhere, like obscure statutory references and arrows (what do they mean?). ANDREW (CONT’D) Yeah... Now what I want you to do is to draft an LOA for the client based on Cynthia’s findings. BENJAMIN Alloway? ANDREW L-O-A. Letter of advice. Just three pages of grammatically-sound prose that incorporates all of this. BENJAMIN (anti-climatic) So you want me to type a letter, basically. ANDREW Yes. And then email it to me at the end of the day so I can send it off to the client. Benjamin sniggered a little. Andrew notices. ANDREW (CONT’D) Something funny? BENJAMIN Nothing, but uh, this is going to be billed at partner’s rate, right? Not associate’s rate? ANDREW Of course. $500 per billable hour. BENJAMIN So Cynthia did the research, I’ll be doing the letter. What do YOU do, Uncle Andrew? ANDREW (laughs) I provide my name. Andrew leaves the table, and Benjamin gets down to work immediately. Benjamin starts typing, “Dear sir,” stops for a moment, stares at Cynthia’s incoherent document, and then at Eva’s stack of documents before sighing.
OPEN WORKSPACE - MOMENTS LATER The office clock shows 7 p.m. Benjamin is packing up and tidying up his desk, getting ready to leave. He carries his briefcase, but peers over to Cynthia’s cubicle, where she is still furiously working. BENJAMIN Not leaving? CYNTHIA Nah, still have to finish this one up. BENJAMIN Why do you work so hard? It’s not like we’re paid overtime. CYNTHIA I don’t know. Maybe just to look good in front of the partners. Plus, Jason and Eva work even longer hours. I really don’t want to lose out. BENJAMIN Lose out!? Benjamin is incredulous. He shakes his head as he leaves the office. EXT./INT. CAROLYN’S CAR - NIGHT Carolyn’s car is parked on a quiet street. Benjamin and Carolyn are in it, with Carolyn at the driver’s seat. They each have a bottle of beer in their hand. CAROLYN (teasing) How’s your first day, Mr. Big Shot Laywer? BENJAMIN I don’t know, I don’t really want to talk about it. CAROLYN (rubs Benjamin’s shoulder) Aww... BENJAMIN It’s just paperwork, like, I’m a clerk or secretary or something. And the people seem like they have a stick up their asses all the time. Like, Robert Lim, that partner, high-strung dude. (MORE)
31. BENJAMIN (CONT'D) And my colleages are so, so... (gesticulating) Dull. Like, lifeless. Misguided or something.
CAROLYN Well, you don’t have to be like them. (beat) And at least your uncle’s looking out for you. BENJAMIN Yeah, about my uncle. You know he actually bills our clients for work he didn’t do, at his rate? CAROLYN What do you mean work he didn’t do? BENJAMIN Like, my colleague and I did everything. All he did was just send the end product to the client under his name. CAROLYN Okay. So? BENJAMIN (ticked off) So? Don’t you think that’s a little dishonest? And we don’t even get paid for that. CAROLYN What are you talking about? You have a salary, right? BENJAMIN Yes, but these are billable hours. For each billable hour, the lawyer is entitled to 30% commission, while the firm gets 70%. I should by right be billing it out under my name -- at $250 per hour. I spent 3 hours on that bloody letter he asked me to type today. 3 times 250 times 40% equals to $300, which is what I should have been paid... in addition to my salary! CAROLYN Hey, chill... Benjamin just maintains a very discontent look, staring at the dashboard.
CAROLYN (CONT’D) On the bright side, you get to do that like 10 years from now, right? Benjamin is unpersuaded. CAROLYN (CONT’D) (tries to tilt Benjamin’s chin towards herself) Benny Benny... Where’s my Benny Benny? Benjamin manages a obligatory smile. CAROLYN (CONT’D) (sexy, seductive eyes) Come on, let’s just drop the whoile work thing. Let me take this off you. Carolyn climbs on top of Benjamin and kisses his face and neck, slowly making her way to Benjamin’s lips. Benjamin starts to hold her waist and rubs it passionately. He fondles Carolyn’s breast, and Carolyn begins to moan. CAROLYN (CONT’D) (impatiently, panting) Do it now. Do it now. Benjamin clumsily unbuttons Carolyn’s blouse and dives in sucking her succulent cleavage. Carolyn moans loudly! INT. LEE AND LIM OFFICE - DAY Benjamin punches his card as he enters the working space, a depressed look on his face. OPEN WORKSPACE Benjamin flips through the files given by Eva. The phone rings, just minutes after Benjamin sat down. Benjamin picks up the phone. BENJAMIN Hello. JASON’S OFFICE JASON Hey, Ben, Jason here. Can you come to my office for a while?
OPEN WORKSPACE BENJAMIN Where is it? JASON (O.S.) I can see you. Benjamin looks around and finds Jason on the phone, waving his hand. His door is open. JASON’S OFFICE Jason is busy typing away. JASON Sit. Just wait for a while. Benjamin sits down. Stacks of documents on Jason’s desk, too. JASON (CONT’D) (looking at computer screen) And... (punches Enter) Done! Jason looks at Benjamin. JASON (CONT’D) So how’s everything? BENJAMIN Good, good... Good. JASON Great. Okay, listen, I’m going to need your help. Jason places his hand on a stack of documents about 4 inches high. JASON (CONT’D) Here are some cases just reported this year on patent infringement. These are the full judgments, so what I need you to do is to do a one-page case brief for each of these cases. (flips through stack) I think there are like... Let’s see... 10-15 cases or something. BENJAMIN Okay...
JASON And each case brief should establish the issues, the rule, the precedents referred to, the reasonings, et cetera. No more than one page for each case. Jason reaches out to another piece of paper and passes it to Benjamin, which Benjamin studies. JASON (CONT’D) And this is an example of a good case brief. Cynthia did this. Any questions? BENJAMIN Nope. OPEN WORKSPACE Benjamin dumps the stack of case judgments on his desk. He begins flipping through the first case judgment, highlighting important bits as he goes along. He then types something on the keyboard. OPEN WORKSPACE - NIGHT Benjamin is packing up, the moment he has been looking forward to the most. His wristwatch shows 8.30 p.m. Just when he is about to stand up and leave, the phone rings. Benjamin closes his eyes and sighs, letting it ring a good 5 or 6 tones before picking it up. BENJAMIN Hello. ROBERT (O.S.) Hi Ben, Robert here. Would you come into my office? ROBERT’S OFFICE A spacious office. Personal decors sit on a shelf behind the table. Robert is holding on to his computer mouse and clicking intermittently, eyes glued to the screen. Benjamin knocks on the door. ROBERT (eyes still glued on the screen) Yeah, come in. Benjamin enters.
ROBERT (CONT’D) So you’ve been doing the case briefs for Jason, right? The ones on patents? BENJAMIN Yeah. Robert moves a stack of documents to the middle of his desk. ROBERT Now, these are on copyrights. I trust that you can do a good job. I’ll need them by next week. SERIES OF SHOTS Benjamin punches his card in the morning. Benjamin is typing furiously on the keyboard. Jason dumps a stack of documents on Benjamin’s alreadycrowded desk. Robert calls for Benjamin from the board meeting room, asking Benjamin to fetch coffee for the client. Benjamin rushes to the board meeting room with coffee, accidentally spilling it. Benjamin punches his card in the morning. Benjamin is typing furiously on the keyboard. Benjamin is drinking coffee from a cup. The phone rings, and Benjamin answers and says he will be there right away. Benjamin is now eating lunch in the office, a takeaway box from a food court downstairs. Benjamin stretches and cracks his knuckles. Eva dumps a stack of documents on Benjamin’s already-crowded desk. Benjamin punches his card in the morning. Benjamin is typing furiously on the keyboard. Andrew dumps a stack of documents on Benjamin’s alreadycrowded desk. Benjamin browses sexy bikini Japanese models on the web while eating a sandwich lunch.
Another stack of documents is dumped on Benjamin’s desk. Benjamin punches his card in the morning. Benjamin is typing furiously on the keyboard. The phone rings. Benjamin eats an aspirin while massaging his temple. Benjamin punches his card in the morning. Benjamin watches YouTube while eating takeaway McDonald’s. Another stack of documents is dumped on Benjamin’s desk. The phone rings. Benjamin punches his card in the morning. Another stack of documents is dumped on Benjamin’s desk. Benjamin slumps back on his chair, totally overwhelmed. END SERIES OF SHOTS INT. BENJAMIN’S BEDROOM - NIGHT Benjamin dumps his jacket and briefcase on his desk. He slumps on to his bed without showering or changing his clothes. He closes his eyes for a few seconds, his head on the pillow. His cellular phone receives a message. Benjamin opens it. It reads, “Big school reunion on next Friday for Class of 2014 @ Marriot Ball Room. Let’s go!” Benjamin reads it out aloud, and types, “ok!” and then promptly falls asleep. INT. LEE AND LIM OFFICE - MORNING Benjamin greets Angela as he enters the office, tired and sleep-deprived. Benjamin punches his card. OPEN WORKSPACE Benjamin drops his briefcase on his desk. A Post-It is pasted on his desk, reading, “See me. -Robert”. Benjamin is stunned, trying to recall all the wrong things that he might have done. ROBERT’S OFFICE Benjamin knocks on Robert’s door. Robert looks up at Benjamin, a stern look on his face. Disaster is brewing.
ROBERT Come in. Sit down. Benjamin enters and sits down, hesitantly. ROBERT (CONT’D) So how do you think you’re doing so far? BENJAMIN Okay, I think. ROBERT (nods) Okay, huh. (beat) You know, I don’t think you have any problem with your work. I’ve seen your stuff, it’s good. (beat) The problem is your attitude. Benjamin is looking quite lost now, considering that he comes in on time every day. He is also courteous and professional as far as he can recall. ROBERT (CONT’D) Just answer me truthfully. A few days ago, you were surfing pornography on your computer, is that true? BENJAMIN (immediately) No. Robert stares at Benjamin as if he was expecting a different answer. BENJAMIN (CONT’D) (reaffirming) No. I’m not sure what you’re talking about. (stares at the floor, thinking) Unless you mean the swimsuit models I was browsing? ROBERT There you go. BENJAMIN (indignant) But that’s not porn. ROBERT That’s not work either, is it?
BENJAMIN I was having my lunch actually. And my friend sent me this linkROBERT It doesn’t matter when you did it. What matters is that you still did it, and it reveals your character. BENJAMIN (increasingly defiant) Well, lunch is technically my own time soROBERT Yeah, about your own time. It’s been brought to our attention that you may have been sullying the pristine reputation of our firm through your deeds. Benjamin looks confused. Speechless. ROBERT (CONT’D) Have you or have you not, since working here, been having sex in a car with your girlfriend in public? BENJAMIN I... ROBERT (louder) Yes or no? BENJAMIN (closes eyes) Y-Yes. Robert flips out. ROBERT Mother of God! Don’t you know that it’s a criminal offence? You’re a bloody lawyer for God’s sake! And so immoral... Jesus!
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