SCREENPLAYS

I love writing prose, but is there a better life than writing screenplays, including comedy skits and television shows, for a living? To write prose in this day and age of Twitter and Instagram is tantamount to Dickens reciting passages of Martin Chuzzlewit from inside a boxing ring to a crowded, boisterous crowd of WWE fans. A writer wants to be read, even if it means an audience listening  to and watching actors read his lines.

DEAR ADOLPH

(WGAw No. 1944710)

Quarterfinalist in the 2019 Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition.

LOGLINE: A beautiful German art historian is given the chance to save fifty million lives if only she will travel back in time to have sex with Adolph Hitler.

SYNOPSIS: Maria is a young beautiful art historian living in 1972. She is a native of Munich but the story begins with her and her boss visiting America to study, first, Hitler’s paintings now kept in a U.S. Government basement, and, then, Picasso’s work at the MOMA. Meanwhile, back in Munich the PLO kill Israeli hostages at the Olympic Games and Maria’s parents die in a car accident on their way to a divorce lawyer.

She returns to Munich where Virgil, from the year 2072, convinces her to journey back to 1919 to seduce Hitler, a virgin, and nurture his art career to prevent the coming Nazi carnage. He warns that she must keep Adolph from ever meeting Rudolf Hess, but Hess sees and becomes infatuated with Adolph from the start.

Maria and Adolph, now married, relocate to Paris where they seek out Picasso as a mentor. Adolph goes through a three-year artistic journey from being a glorified duplicator to a profound modernist, though Hess continues his siege by writing him Nazi propaganda. At the moment when Adolph achieves his lifelong dream of becoming a successful artist, Maria announces that she is pregnant, and so Adolph orders their return to the Fatherland.

Back in Munich, Virgil takes Maria to our known timeline to witness Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch and to tell her that all that is left for her to do is to make sure that her Adolph does not show up at the Burgerbraukeller on that fateful night.

Out of nowhere, Adolph gives Maria a manuscript he has written about how he became a successful artist punctuated with insightful chapters on Art Hihstory. Maria is blown away and then realizes that it has no title, to which he offers one, “My Struggle,” whereupon Maria does the translation, “Mein Kampf.”

BUT just then Hess shows up to demand that Adolph come with him to address a mob on the verge of a food riot. Now Adolph devolves to his natural talent of whipping up the anger of a Jew-hating mob. All seems lost as it looks like Adolph will take part in the Beer Hall Putsch and thus ensure subsequent war and genocide.

She sets to work by convincing the Nazis that Hess is a Jew. Hess is murdered by one of the SS men. Maria feels so betrayed by her husband that she informs the police of the coming Putsch and adds that it may be best to kill one Adolph Hitler.

On the night of the Putsch, Maria goes home with the knowledge that she has completed her mission. In the living room, she sees a painting -- a stunning portrait of her done by Adolph. She breaks down while saying, “You saw me…You saw me.” Meanwhile Adolph is at a podium -- but not at the Beer Hall -- rather at an event to celebrate the publication of his book.

Maria begins composing a letter that starts “Dear Adolph..."

In the final scene, Adolph sits in front of her portrait finishing up the Dear Adolph letter that hints of Maria leaving him forever, though she does love him. He is distraught, but just then he hears her voice, “…did you really think I was going to leave you to your own devices?” He stands up to greet his beautiful wife who then cocks her head and says, “What do you say we conquer the world…without killing anyone?”

MY VIRAGO

(WGAw No. 1892630)

Quarterfinalist in the 2016 (under the previous title HUBRIS THE GREAT) and 2017 Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competitions.

 

LOGLINE:  A delusional librarian is besieged by a host of Philadelphia underworld figures as he searches for his biological father while having to choose between his dying mobster mother and the love of his life, Virago.

 

SYNOPSIS:

This script, MY VIRAGO, has undergone three total rewrites and new titles. The original version was called I AM PETE ROSE, YEAH! when it was enough about the famous real-life baseball player, Pete Rose, that it required him to appear in the movie. Therefore, I decided to write him out of the script so that the story could be more about a new, more colorful and interesting protagonist, HUBRIS THE GREAT. This version became a Quarterfinalist in the SCRIPTAPALOOZA SCREENWRITING CONTEST and was also analyzed by three Hollywood professionals, an agent, an Austin Film Festival judge and a script consultant, Christina Gray Then I read, and decided to obey the exact dictates, of the two screenwriting bibles, Save the Cat and Syd Field’s Screenplay so that now, in MY VIRAGO, the script is above all else a love story between Hubris and his former heroin addict girlfriend, Virago, whom he might lose if he does not grow from a snobby intellectual to a man of action.

 

The story takes place during three days in Philadelphia. It is about a bombastic 25-year-old librarian, Hubris the Great, nee Bart Bannon, the son of an infamous lady crime boss, Carol, who has had a schoolgirl crush on the self-proclaimed “baddest of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies bad boys,” a fictional player of that team, and also named Bart Bannon. Hubris refers to his mother as Medea, the lady of Greek myth who murdered her own children. She is now dying of kidney failure. Hubris has never been told the identity of his biological father. There are four possible candidates, including Bart Bannon. The various twists and turns of the plot involve four items that keep changing hands: a murder weapon, an illegally harvested kidney, a briefcase filled with $50,000 and an autographed Bart Bannon rookie card that is marked with incriminating stains. Meanwhile, the actual Bart Bannon is in town for three days to sign autographs.

There are flashback scenes to the night, in the spring of 1993, when Bannon was ejected from a Phillies game and thereafter walked into a South Philly bar owned by the much younger version of the crime lady, Carol. This is the same night Bannon signs the rookie card, and it is also the night that sets in motion the next 25 years of an organ-trafficking business. Present, too, are all four of the future Hubris’ hypothetical daddies. Aside from Bannon, they are Ruly Carpenter, the only humane member of the quartet, and who will become Hubris’ psychiatrist; Pete Giamatti, who will be become a surgeon, though only as Carol’s partner in illegal organ transplants; and Dallas Green, who will become a Philly Police Captain courtesy of Carol and Giamatti’s corrupt influence. At the end of the night, after Bannon has left the bar, a woman is raped by Green and murdered by Carol, while the newly signed Bart Bannon card becomes stained with both the woman’s and Green’s blood.

In the present day, the story begins with Hubris and Virago in a mismatched relationship that owes more to his manic imagination than to actual compatibility, but then deepens and becomes more real as they are thrown into, and threatened by, the events of the next three days. These events are initiated when Giamatti, who is in possession of the card and kidney, plays hard ball with his partner, Carol, demanding that she give him $50,000 or else she gets no transplant. Green and Carol want that card, him so to rid the world of evidence to his crime 25 years ago, and she because of her love for the older Bart Bannon. Giamatti gets shot dead at the end of Act One, with Hubris as a witness, whereupon the four main articles exchange hands. Now Hubris, and by extension his beloved Virago, become the target of various criminal elements all bent on regaining at least one or all four of the articles. He gets knocked around so much that his Hubris the Great persona, which is a defense mechanism he created at the age of fifteen, begins to crumble from the Midpoint to the end of Act Two. Hubris has now had all the delusional sense of superiority beaten out of him, and it is at this point, while sitting on the steps of the library alongside Virago, that he comes up with a plan to outmaneuver all the bad guys AND to find the identity of his biological father AND to save his Virago.

THE TROUPER

(WGAw No. 1853354)

LOGLINE: A beautiful Minnesota singer/actress, who once made a purity vow to her strict Pastor father, collaborates with a Little Person in Hollywood in an effort be a star while trying to avoid compromising her principles.

SYNOPSIS:

Annette Noren has received praise all her life as the singing star of her father’s church, as Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota and as the valedictorian of her Performing Arts College. Charlie Lonigan is a Little Person from Kansas who is also immensely talented as a song and script writer, but, unlike Annette, he has received nothing but abuse because of his size, and in fact, once in LA, the only way he can make rent is to allow NBA players to bowl him, illegally, down a private alley. Annette and Charlie meet in an LA comedy club where Charlie makes a deal with Annette's agent in that he will write Amy Schumer-like stand-up routines for Annette in exchange for the agent trying to sell one of Charlie's screenplays. The problem is that Annette, in portraying this vain and obscene stage persona, has to compromise many of her Christian ethics. Her dilemma is compounded when her mother leaves her father and both parents end up stalking Annette in LA?

Claude Salberg becomes the agent of both Annette and Charlie, as he tries to get the latter’s screenplay produced with Annette as the lead. Claude takes such a keen interest in this project because the screenplay reflects his own frustration in being a short man. The premise of Charlie’s screenplay is that the average height for an American male is five-ten, and so what happens is that, in a supernatural flash, every man’s height shifts to the other side of the five-ten midline, for example the five-six Claude would become six-two, while Shaquille O’Neal would shrink to four-seven. This simple change in male height disrupts all personal and professional relationships. A producer bails on Claude, at which point he decides to produce it himself, using Annette’s sudden YouTube stand-up fame, which is parleyed into an in-your-face Maybelline commercial, to attract investor’s and viewer’s interest.

ME THE STAR

(WGAw No. 1859842)

Quarterfinalist (under previous  title THE ALGORITHM) in the 2016 Academy Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting Competition.

 

LOG LINE: There is a new app that enables everyone to star in their own movie, only the next upgrade may lead to a global catastrophe unless a group of reluctant, anti-social-media heroes can save the day.

SYNOPSIS:

The story takes place in Los Angeles where The Algorithm, the more centralized successor to the Internet, has its headquarters and its Rehab program to rehabilitate those with low involvement in Social Medea. The three people called to Rehab are a washed out male Hollywood player, a 22-year-old lady Luddite and a young man, Vint, who is a computer programming genius. Their instructor is a charismatic African American woman who preaches the necessity of Social Media but who may in fact not be a True Believer. The first act ends with three random events that gives each student extra incentive to raise their KLOUT score, which is a measure of one’s involvement in Social Media.

Meanwhile, there is an app called MeTheStar, having been written by Vint, which allows users to access the world’s now ubiquitous cameras to create three-act films of events in their lives. Vint’s evil business partner, Carson Dax, is now trying to push the envelope for the launch of MeTheSUPERStar, a program that encourages users to be a star in their own movie in REAL TIME – that is, it melds Reality with a Virtual environment.  This pushes the world to the brink of an apocalypse, as a commercial airplane pilot envisions himself in a Star Wars movie; and SWAT team members comport themselves as unrealistic action heroes. Thus our Rehab students must get Vint to the building where he can outmaneuver Carson Dax and The Algorithm so to “save the freakin’ day.”

LEAVE THE BROTHER ALONE

 

This was actually my first screenplay, but I wrote it before I really knew the rules of screenwriting, and so I do not include it on my list of official screenplays. Thus I made a book of it that can be purchased to the left.

 

LOGLINE: A young man appears on a TV talk/advice show against his better judgment, which leads to a break-up with his girlfriend, followed by a relationship with a mail-order android and then a confrontation with the blowhard talk show host.

 

Now throw in cameos of The Artist Formerly Known as Prince playing an android skilled at heart surgery, Vanna White as Ninja-star throwing, Glock- wielding defender of New Age dogma, and Marilyn Manson as a Home Depot-shopping house-husband – and you got an un-producible screenplay. At the same time, it reads like a Shouts & Murmurs story from The New Yorker.

 

I also wanted to tell the tale behind the zany plot and dialogue of LEAVE THE BROTHER ALONE. In a long, testy preface (taking as my model, George Bernard Shaw) I describe my loathing of Dr. Phil, and how the famous sweaty TV talk show host has spawned a generation of chronic advice givers. I converted this specific part of the intro onto my most popular blog (over 1000 hits and counting). Below is the link to how I really feel about this human pestilence:

 

WHY I HATE DR. PHIL

 

I also tell how Dr. Phil, this modern-day plague, ended up inspiring me to teach myself screenwriting before writing LEAVE THE BROTHER ALONE. The tone darkens in the middle when examining the stress of trying to be a “winner” in such a society. I then take the reader through the comical adventures of ME trying to sell the work to agents and producers. Hence this book: LEAVE THE BROTHER ALONE: A PREFACE AND AN UN-PRODUCIBLE (THOUGH READABLE) SCREENPLAY.

FOLLOW ME

  • Facebook Classic
  • Twitter Classic
  • c-youtube

© 2015 by James Francis Johnson. Proudly created with Wix.com