Joe's Plan

This eight-page screenplay was written for the second round of NYC Midnight’s Screenwriting Challenge.

Here are the rules, via the NYC Midnight site:

There are 3 rounds of competition. In the 1st Round (June 14-22), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment (see examples of past assignments here). Writers have 8 days to write an original short screenplay no longer than 12 pages. The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (July 25-28) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write an 8 page (maximum) short screenplay. Judges choose a top 25 from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 5 page (maximum) screenplay in just 24 hours (August 23-24). A panel of judges review the final round stories and overall winners are selected!”

The Genre for this heat was A Ghost Story. The subject was A race. The character was a 10 year old boy

This post wasn’t done in the traditional screenplay format that was required by the contest. For info about formatting screenplays, here’s a PDF sample (thanks to Oscars.org)

The LOGLINE (that’s professional screenwriter lingo for “a brief summary of a television program, film, or motion picture providing both a synopsis of the program’s plot, and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest) is:


Joe wants to keep the family from losing their beloved beach bungalow. His recently deceased grandfather is a can-do kind of guy, but he’s too busy coping with afterlife issues to help.

So here is,

JOE’S PLAN

INTERIOR SCENE – MORNING, UPSTAIRS BEDROOM, A BEACH BUNGALOW IN SANTA CRUZ

The bedroom is unfurnished aside from a rumpled sleeping bag. JOE, a red-haired, ten year old boy wearing a “Santa Cruz” t-shirt and jeans peers out the window at the moving truck outside. He walks to the stairway, looks downstairs and sees his mother, ANNIE, packing boxes. She’s nervous, red-haired and slim. MURPHY, an aged but fit man wearing motorcycle gear, sits on the floor, smoking. It becomes evident that Murphy is a ghost (and that Annie can’t see or hear him) when she makes a turn to the left and walks right through him. Murphy is startled when she does that, but then he sighs.

MURPHY
You always ignored me when I was alive. Why should anything change now?

(Annie notices that photographs of Murphy are still hanging on the wall. She takes them down. Joe comes down the stairs.)

ANNIE
I can’t believe I left these pictures up. I’m so frazzled trying to sell this place, I’m losing my mind.

JOE
(picks up a picture)
That’s Grandpa, on his motorcycle.

ANNIE
Yup, riding without a helmet, just like the day he died. Seventy-five years old and still acting like a teenager.

(She tosses the pile of photographs into the garbage pail.)

MURPHY
Hey!

JOE
Mom, don’t throw those out! Grandpa wants you to keep them.

ANNIE
Grandpa WANTED me to keep them. Get your tenses right.

(She sees Joe is upset and softens her tone)

Ok, you can keep them, but don’t think Grandpa was a role model. He was a clever inventor, but he had no common sense. He was fired from his own company! The CFO called him “bonkers.”

MURPHY
..after the S.O.B. emptied the company till.

ANNIE
(packing again)
Then there were his charities. Like ‘Balloonists against Bulimia’.‘ Motorcyclists against Melanomas’ …

JOE
‘Sailors against Sepsis’ …

ANNIE
He meant well, but he was the world’s worst money manager.

(Joe shrugs, then walks into the kitchen. He climbs up on to the counter, balancing carefully. He opens the cabinet doors, one by one, and finds that they’re empty.)

ANNIE
Joe! You’re walking on that slippery counter. In socks! Get down!

JOE
I’m looking for cereal.

MURPHY
There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts up the street, kiddo. Coffee and sugar-fried dough, the breakfast of champions.

ANNIE
I said get down!

(Joe leaps down, landing evenly without wobbling.)

ANNIE
Give me strength! I didn’t mean that you should jump.

(She roots around in a box, pulls out air freshener and sprays it directly at Murphy’s cigarette. Murphy grimaces and waves his hand)

This house still stinks of cigarettes. Daddy smoked a pack a day. He wouldn’t stop no matter what Mom did.

(She stops spraying)

I remember, I’d be watching TV and he’d say “Make yourself useful, go get me some smokes. And don’t tell your mother.” And I would get them! (she shakes her head)

(Joe finds a cup in the sink, fills it with water, sits down and drinks it. Murphy sits next to Joe. Annie starts spraying again, and walks into the next room. Murphy and Joe both sneeze.)

JOE
(turns to Murphy)
Grandpa, if you’re a ghost, how come you still sneeze?

MURPHY
I have no idea, kiddo. The afterlife sucks, there are so many things that make no sense. I can pick up things that are made of fabric, like sheets, but I can’t pick up a glass of whiskey and drink it. I can smoke, I can walk through walls but I can’t fly. So, am I a solid, a liquid or a gas? (He stubs his cigarette out in his hand.)

JOE
(Points to Murphy’s undamaged hand.)
That’s pretty cool.

MURPHY
Huh, Yeah.

ANNIE
(returns)
Joey, the Millers have offered to watch you while I bring the movers to the storage space. Is everything ready to go? Did you pack your bike?

JOE
I was going to go bike riding with Tommy this afternoon.

ANNIE
(she sighs and gives Joe a hug) I know you’re going to miss this house and your friends. But your grandfather owed nine thousand dollars in property taxes. I don’t have that kind of money.

JOE
(looking down)
I know. Are we bringing Grandpa’s boat with us?

ANNIE
No one would buy that old thing. I’ll leave it here. Hopefully someone will steal it.(She looks through her purse) You haven’t had breakfast. Want an energy bar?

MURPHY
Don’t eat that, kiddo! They taste like paste and wood chips.

(Joe eats it.)

MURPHY
I can’t look. Blah!

ANNIE
Be good for the Millers. (She kisses Joe on the forehead) I’ll pick you up after dinner.

(Joe checks to be sure that Annie is walking out the door and Murphy is looking out the window. He quickly takes the opportunity to sneak upstairs.)

INTERIOR SCENE – UPSTAIRS BATHROOM

The bathroom is bare, even the shower curtain has been packed away. Joe looks under the sink and finds a bag he’s hidden there. He pulls it out and puts it on the sink. Then he takes some mascara out and puts it on, sloppily.

MURPHY
(walks in the bathroom, sits on the toilet)
Finally decided to come out of the closet, eh?

JOE
I’m not gay.

MURPHY
Oh, so you’re a cross dresser. I’m cool with that. I always liked Eddie Izzard.

(Joe sprays powder dye on his hair, makes it look grey, pulls his grandmother’s old windbreaker out of the bag, puts on her old fabric bucket hat.)

MURPHY
Okay, now you’re getting into a whole new class of weird. What is going on?

JOE
(puts on lipstick)
I’ve got a plan.

(Joe pulls a wallet from the purse and checks to see that his grandmother’s driver’s license is in there. Murphy looks at the wallet.)

MURPHY
Marta was so sensible. She didn’t eat red meat, didn’t smoke. She shouldn’t have died before me. (he touches her wallet) Goddamn cancer.

(Joe looks at him sadly, about to say something.)

MURPHY
(interrupts)
So, what’s your plan?

(Joe doesn’t answer)

MURPHY
Not gonna tell me, eh? There’s a reason why your friends call you ‘honey badger’. You can be pretty badass when you set your mind to something.

Hmm…you don’t want to sell the house, so you’re planning to steal something to pay the back taxes. You’ve got the perfect disguise. Who’d suspect a little old lady?

(Joe shakes his head, dye powder falls into the sink.)

JOE
Guess again.

(He puts the wallet back, carries the purse and walks through Murphy.)

EXTERIOR SCENE – THE BACKYARD

MURPHY
(follows Joe as he walks towards his bike)
Hey! Tell me! You should know not to piss off a ghost, kiddo. I can be pretty damned scary when I want to be.

(Joe is about to get on his bike when Murphy jumps in front of him. The air shudders. Murphy turns into a rotting, maggot-infested ghoul. Tendrils of burnt ectoplasm drift from his gnarled fingers. An unearthly roar emanates from his fetid mouth. Joe is surprised, but not as scared as he should be.)

JOE
Grandpa, get out of my way. I’m late.

MURPHY
(Turns back into normal ghost)
But … you’re supposed to be scared. Why aren’t you afraid of me?

JOE
No matter what you say, no matter what you do, you’re still Grandpa.

(Murphy smiles with trembling lips, watching Joe as he gets on his bike and rides away.)

MURPHY
(runs alongside bike)
You can see why it’s so aggravating to be dead. I shouldn’t have to run, I should float. And I can’t fix any of this! The laws of physics don’t apply.

JOE
(pedaling)
Uh huh.

MURPHY
(stops running,gasps)
Like, why am I so out of shape? (he shouts as Joe rides away) It shouldn’t be this way! (He pulls a cigarette from his pocket and makes a flame to light it with a snap of his finger.)

EXTERIOR SCENE – EARLY AFTERNOON, A CROWDED MARINA

A banner above the Marina entrance reads “Solo Sail Race Today – Top prize, $10,000.” Joe, still disguised as his grandmother, gets off his bike and walks to the sign-in desk, where the ORGANIZER, a middle-aged man in a polo shirt and khakis is welcoming competitors.

ORGANIZER
Just an FYI, ma’am, you have to be between 18 and 85 to participate in this race. Can I see your ID?

JOE
(Sees that the start pennant is already up)
Hurry up, I’m late … umm, sonny.

ORGANIZER
Marta Murphy … Yup, you’re on the list. Good to go.

(Joe runs to Murphy’s sailboat. It’s tied to the dock. He pulls the cover off. Murphy walks through the Organizer and other sailors and stands beside Joe.)

MURPHY
This is your plan, to win this race? That’s not just crazy, it’s stupid. You don’t know the first thing about sailing!

(Joe steps into the boat, takes the rudder out of the cabin and assembles it. Then he pulls the mainsail up.)

MURPHY
Okay, maybe you know the first thing, but you don’t know how to stay on the wind. Do you even know the difference between a tack and a jibe?

(A horn blows. Both turn towards the sound and watch as the start flag is raised.)

JOE
No, but you do. (he holds the mainsail sheet out to Murphy) You have to help me.

MURPHY
What?

JOE
You heard me. Make yourself useful!

(Murphy laughs, throws his cigarette into the water and jumps onto the boat. He brings the mainsail around and, with Joe’s help on the rudder, the boat slides away from the dock. With the wind in their hair, they quickly glide past the competition.)

MURPHY
(turning to the other sailors)
Eat my dust, losers! (laughs) I can sail the boat but I don’t add any weight. For once, being dead is an advantage. (turns to Joe) Good plan, kiddo.

JOE
Uh huh.

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
This entry was posted in writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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