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Cyberspace Open 2011 Entry

Rather than rehash what this screenwriting contest is again, please read last year's entry and my comments about how the judging differed from what was advertised. I still need to post up what I sent in for the Final Round that I didn't qualify for, but still got my entry scored. Heh.

The scene prompt this year was a tricky one and I think a lot of writers are going to crash and burn on the particulars. Here's what I had to write about:

Your PROTAGONIST and his or her LOVE INTEREST are at odds. One of the protagonist’s schemes has gone terribly awry, and the love interest has had it. Write a scene in which they have it out – but in an unconventional way. Their words seem measured and reasonable; but the subtext says another thing entirely. You may use additional characters other than the ones specified.

Note From Contest Management:

This is going to take some crafty, non-on the nose writing here. For example, they can talk about boiling water, but it’s clear they’re really talking about something else. Use sarcasm or body language or timing or other means to convey your true meaning.

Egad. In case you're not sure what subtext means, it's the difference between what is being communicated by the words and what the actions convey. If someone is saying, "I love you!", while punching someone in the face, there's subtext happening.

I listened to a screenwriting seminar where the beginning of Pulp Fiction was offered as an example of text vs. subtext. The text is Vincent and Jules talking about Royale with Cheese and whether foot massages are like cheating. The subtext is two hit men driving someplace, getting out their guns, and then getting Marcelus' briefcase and killing people. Other than the comment, "We should have shotguns for this gig," there is no clue as to who Vincent and Jules are and what they're doing until they get into the apartment.

So, without further fondue, here is my entry, Afternoon Delight:


We are high above a large green meadow, looking down. Dense
woods border the perimeter. The sky is blue and the clouds
are fluffy, floating over the rolling countryside.

A BURST OF FLAME appears small on the ground. The flames
rise upon a pillar of smoke toward us as a SMALL ROCKET races toward us and EXPLODES! The FIREBALL and SMOKE and DEBRIS obscure our view, but rapidly fade as we descend through it.

We near the ground and see a VAN with three people nearby -
ADRIAN (30s, average-looking scientific type), NEIL (early-
20s, indie rocker style), and SARAH (late-20s, hot librarian
type) - gazing up into the sky.

Adrian looks aghast; Neil looks annoyed; Sarah looks bemused.

You're right. This was a totally
better use of our money than building
a deck with a hot tub.

I don't understand what happened.

Being a biochemist means I'm not as
versed in this astrophysics stuff,
honey, but I think the scientific
term is, "It blowed up real good!"

Adrian turns toward a LAPTOP perched inside the van.

I told you we needed intermix chamber
heaters to prevent cyrofractures.

They would've added too much weight.

Not that much and it would've
prevented this.

We won't know what really caused the
failure until we examine the debris.

It looks like most of it came down
over there. Good thing it wasn't
windy. Let's go pick up the pieces.

Neil starts off but stops when he realizes he's alone. He
turns and sees Adrian scrutinizing the laptop.

Hey, you stay here. I'll go get it.

Sarah looks thoughtful as she watches Neil trudging off.
She reaches past Adrian in the van and produces a BEACH BAG,
pulls out a TOWEL and spreads it on the grass.

Such a lovely day.

She strips off her clothes, revealing her BRA and PANTIES.
Adrian doesn't notice.

(muttering to himself)
Manifold pressure at ignition was
nominal. Control surfaces were
responding nominally.

Sarah pulls a tube of SUNTAN LOTION out of the bag and begins to slather it on. She takes the CLIP off her hair, letting it cascade down her shoulders. Everything is in slow motion.

You know he looks up to you? He
worships you like I first.

Adrian is focused on the computer screen and traces the graph with his finger.

Pressure builds at mark-15 seconds,
but within anticipated parameters.

Neil disappears into the woods. Sarah lays back and closes
her eyes, basking in the sunlight.

Neil and I have a lot in common.
Like utterly inoperable bullshit
detectors until it's too late.

There's a spike at mark-17, but it's
inconclusive when failure occurred.
The rez of the beamed telemetry isn't
fine enough. We'll need the FDR data.

He turns from the laptop and sees Sarah lying there.

What are you doing?

Since you boys will be sifting clues
for a while, I'm going to do some
experiments in UV radiation exposure.

Wearing that? Come on, someone will
see you.

Who? Neil or someone investigating
whether Canada has attacked?

It's not appropriate.

My bikini covers less. Would you
care if someone saw me in that?

Don't be trite.

She stares at him with a then-what's-the-problem expression.
He shrugs and turns back to the laptop. A long silence.

What do you think happened?

You didn't listen.

I heard him. It just wasn't a
practical idea.

Since when has practical been a
sticking point for you?


I'm sure Felix would disagree.


Cages with LAB ANIMALS - RABBITS, RATS, MONKEYS - line the
walls. Nothing unusual other than the LARGE CAGE on the
floor with a sign reading "FELIX" and A RABBIT THE SIZE OF A
GERMAN SHEPHERD in it. It turns to us and speaks.

You know, I had a computer programming
class with Mark Zuckerburg once. He
invented Facebook.


Adrian turns back to the laptop, shame-faced.

That was...unfortunate.
I apologized to him.

I wish you'd let Walt take a look at
him. He may be able to...

Mossberg is a quack and none of his
research is going to amount to
anything grand! He lacks vision,
which should be obvious to you on a
daily basis there.

Oh, I've appreciated the differences
between you two, working there. He
is certainly not at your level.

Neil returns dragging the MANGLED TAIL SECTION of the rocket.

Where's the rest of it? Where's the
nose and FDR? I need that; the
telemetry was too coarse here.

Neil tosses the wreckage at Adrian's feet.

It's stuck up in the branches of a
tree. You're going to need a tall
ladder and a pole to knock it down.

I think the school's maintenance
shed has some ladders. We'll get
one and come back.

You do that. You should consider
bringing a rope, too.

Adrian drags the wreckage behind the van and loads it in.
Neil notices Sarah on the blanket, glistening in the sun.

Uh, hey, Sarah.

Sarah props herself up on her elbows and looks seductively
at Neil. She lightly brushes her hand down her stomach.

Neil, have you ever considered taking
a position where your input would be
more greatly appreciated?

Ummmm...What do you have in mind?

Adrian comes back around the van toward them.

Well, Mossberg is looking for someone
more like you and is always interested
in exploring new ideas and techniques.

Yeah, someone should clue the guy
in. Let's go. If we hurry, we can
get the ladder and back here before
it's too late.
(to Sarah)
And put your clothes on, will you?
You're making Neil uncomfortable.
(to Neil)
Sorry, Neil. She doesn't get it.

So I've gathered. You know, despite
the obvious, I think this day may
lead to a triumph.

I agree. A notable huge success.

Adrian sighs and looks at the others.

Thomas Edison had a thousand failures
while inventing the electric light.
Perhaps today should be properly
viewed as a learning experience.

I certainly learned some things today.

Excellent! One day, you'll thank me
for this, Neil.

Results are due in about a month. Stay tuned, sports fans.


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