SCREENWRITERS vs. ZOMBIES
The Los Angeles Screenwriters Social Club – SCREENWRITERS vs. ZOMBIES
A Los Angeles stage farce by Alan Nafzger
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SCREENWRITERS vs. ZOMBIES – The Los Angeles Screenwriters Social Club
Blind Barista: Young. Not a screenwriter, yet. Blind from birth but chooses to work across the street from the epicentre of Hollywood power. He serves Hollywood’s second most sought after commodity, coffee, and he listens. He’s the most perceptive of the group.
German Poacher: A screenwriter in his early 40s. Writer of Tobit, an adaptation of the bible’s Book of Tobit. His selling strategy is to appear as religious or non-religious as possible, depending on who he’s speaking to. Sometimes he confuses who he’s speaking with. He’s a member of an L.A. parish, a church, a synagogue, AND a mosque.
Myra Breckinridge: A lesbian in her early 20s. Writer of Wichita. It’s a script about a lesbian Native woman, who learns to turn plains animals into zombies as a weapon against the Texas Rangers who betrayed her father and butchered her village. She’s all about revenge. Works in a CPA’s office and in her spare time she completes bogus documents for the IRS that show just the correct pattern to trigger an audit for the oppressive filmmaker.
Frances Houseman: A less than an elegant woman in her late 20s. She’s the writer of the only Christmas Rom-Com set in Minneapolis. She’s the antithesis of the #metoo movement and has always used her body and sexuality to get what she wanted. She might be the only one in the group that is politically correct. She is the most sensitive of the insensitive disgruntled rabble.
Turtle: A surfer in his late 30s. Writer of Verity’s Surfing Movie, which is about a woman with Alzheimer’s and is hanging out with a young tribe of surfers as a way of coping with and fighting the disease. Perhaps Turtle was a professional surfer if there is such a thing. But drugs and age pretty much ended any subsidized travel he had. Routinely, pitches nails in industry parking lots. Basically, he is Jeff Spicoli.
Eric Cartwright: Black writer in his 30s. He has a right-wing and western gait. He is huge, wears boots and carries a .38 in his right boot. He’s the writer of the 10th Cavalry. He only became interested in writing when some “genius,” the morning after the Oscars, remarked on GMA that black actors weren’t winning because “they are being forced to act out roles written as white characters,” roles written by white writers. Once, burned an agent’s luxury car and called five cops and an insurance investigator and told them it was insurance fraud.
William Adama: Hispanic. A former soldier, failed screenwriter, and handy man with surveillance. He’s written a script called The Deuce Four, where a platoon allows themselves to be transformed into vampires rather than lose a battle in Iraq. They keep the position and unleash vampiric hell on the terrorists, who have their own vampires. He could have gone into one of the intelligence services, but he spent his educational allotment on a community college film arts degree. He eavesdrops on the big player’s phone calls. Hacker and movie pirate.
The Professor: A screenwriter in his late 70s. Retired professor and writer of Lenin’s Body, a script that was dramatically (miraculously) bought by the Russians. He’s gained a bit of acceptance with the establishment for accomplishing such an impossible feat. But, he’s being (informally) ostracized by the less fortunate writers who have formed a fraternity of ignored writers.
Joe: A writer who is there only a moment but has a reputation for suing anyone who makes a baseball movie.
Prologist: Just another messed up writer.
Here Today: Here and then you never see him again.
Undead Talent Agents: Sam Rothstein, Max Cohen and Les Grossman
Premise: A blind barista and six screenwriters witness a zombie event from a coffee shop, which is directly across the street from the dominant Hollywood talent agency.
Setting: Los Angeles coffee shop.
Time: The present.
SCREENWRITERS vs. ZOMBIES (PROLOGUE)
BEFORE RISE: The PROLOGIST stands in front of the curtain and sets the tone of the play that will follow.
How do “theatre people” start a stage play? I take it’s not FADE IN? SETTING? Well, we’re here.
I have to admit I’m a little nervous. You’re the only audience I’ll probably ever see. You see I always saw myself as a film-maker… that’s never made a film.
If you’re on drugs, this is a theatre, and you are about to see a stage play. They wouldn’t waste disk space filming this; so I staged it. It’s not how I dreamed of Hollywood, but what the hell; here we are, about to be pissed off together.
I wrote this stage play in screenplay format… not to mess with the director and actors… but because that’s the only way I know how to write and I don’t have time to learn anything else.
So help me with the math… if 400,000 scripts are written and only 4,000 are actually produced each year, I guess I need to write 100 scripts a year? If that’s not the correct math, well muddle that; it’s my math. I’m about 40 short of my needed 100… so maybe I’ll just write my story for the stage.
So this stage play thing is working out like I planned… I didn’t leave the producers any space to say this theatre is too expensive, cause it’s not. So, here goes. What you are about to see is how I wrote it and just the way I saw it that day and well… we’ll see what happens.
About the F-word at Christmastime; I’ve had a few complaints. We did a reading and this little girl… the girl playing the slut and then backing her up predictably was the holy roller, self-righteous Catholic or non-Catholic, depending on who he’s talking to. You might hear it tonight; maybe not. Well, the characters are as complicated as the actors; it’s Hollywood.
However, I’m gonna say the F-word when I want because I’m pissed and I’m tired of eating Los Angelino shit. I’m going to keep saying and writing what I want until some S.O.B. of importance reads my damn script!
How many of you out there are as pissed as I am?
So if you’re a theatre geek… and you passed on action or participating tonight and wanna look down on me because of the screenplay format issue… THE WAY I WRITE… You should have a lot of company in this town.
I hate that. The poodle readers will critique the hell out of the margins and typos… the exposition is too much or not enough. They seem aware of the subject but there isn’t enough exposition, or they aren’t aware of the topic (totally ignorant of it) but there is too much exposition. What?
So I say, what about the story? And they say, “Oh, that’s fine… great… wonderful.” So you’ll produce it? “Well, that’s a bit of a stretch…” Fine. What the…?
About the actors behind the curtain, I like ‘em, and they might perform the entire play tonight… I guess since all they want is the exposure, they’ve gotten over all the exposition. Or they haven’t and might walk out after the second act. In that case, you can read in the establishment trades about how smart they were to cancel this performance.
The industry is NOT going to like this… it’s like if you satirize Hollywood you better… well they have rules… I like to think that broke the rules tastefully… Well, they aren’t gonna like this, not like you’re gonna like it.
Listen, if I told you I had cancer, would you stick around for the end of the play? The problem with cancer is, in this town, an audience hears that a screenwriter has it and they automatically think he’s lowered himself to the “sympathy read” and that’s messed up.
I don’t have cancer, but if it makes you sit five minutes longer than you normally would, well that’s messed up too.
I don’t have cancer, yet. Not yet anyway. I’m only a little desperate. I’ll let you know when my bank account is empty.
People ask me how I wrote this and I tell them I write better when I’m a little tired. So, I don’t sleep for two or four days, drink a lot of coffee; you know so you’re sort of messed up. And this is a farce, right? So it’s all good.
Speaking of farces, you stay up three or four days and anything you write (action-adventure, rom-com, drama) it doesn’t matter what you’re going for, it’s going to turn out to be a farce. So maybe that’s what happened here.
Another thing people ask me about is, is the story true? It’s true or nearly true or it potentially could be true if I stay in this town long enough.
Fuck, if this doesn’t work I’m going back to Nebraska.
I mean if I stopped saying the f-word and started saying “true” in the places I genuinely feel pissed, will you stay in your seat the entire 90 mins? Because that’s a deal I’m not willing to make.
I may have just managed to make myself agentless for life, but that’s probably less than a year so I’ll get over it. Not the cancer, but I’ll get over the pricks in this town. You’re probably not a prick. There is a sign out front warning you people.
Well, you might have realized I’m a bit bitter… or maybe just jaded. But, I don’t know what that has to do with how you consume this story. There aren’t any margins or typos… tonight, not for you. And if you’re an agent, GET THE FUCK OUT!!!
If you weren’t willing to read it on paper… this isn’t Amazon audio books, you wanker.
I have to go myself. That’s part of the deal I have with the actors, that I won’t lord over their portrayal of six failed screenwriters in a coffee shop.
I’m sure you saw that Avenue of the Starts thing on the news?
Are you happy in L.A.? No? I’m not either. But we better begin, before it gets any worse.
In the silent era, writers now considered screenwriters were denoted by terms such as photoplaywright, photoplay writer, photoplay dramatist and screen-playwright. Screenwriting historian Steven Maras notes that these early writers were often understood as being the authors of the films as shown, and argues that they cannot be precisely equated with present-day screenwriters because they were responsible for a technical product, a brief “scenario”, “treatment” or “synopsis” that is a written synopsis of what is to be filmed.
Screenwriting is a freelance profession. No education is required to be a professional screenwriter, just good storytelling abilities and imagination. Screenwriters are not hired employees but contracted freelancers. Most, if not all, screenwriters start their careers writing on speculation (spec) and so write without being hired or paid for it. If such a script is sold, it is called a spec script. What separates a professional screenwriter from an amateur screenwriter is that professional screenwriters are usually represented by a talent agency. Also, professional screenwriters do not often work for free, but amateur screenwriters will often work for free and are considered “writers in training.” Spec scripts are usually penned by unknown professional screenwriters and amateur screenwriters.
There are a legion of would-be screenwriters who attempt to enter the film industry, but it often takes years of trial-and-error, failure, and gritty persistence to achieve success. In Writing Screenplays that Sell, Michael Hague writes, “Screenplays have become, for the last half of [the twentieth] century, what the Great American Novel was for the first half. Closet writers who used to dream of the glory of getting into print now dream of seeing their story on the big or small screen.”
A zombie (Haitian French: zombi, Haitian Creole: zonbi) is a mythological undead corporeal revenant created through the reanimation of a corpse. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works. The term comes from Haitian folklore, in which a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic like voodoo. Modern media depictions of the reanimation of the dead often do not involve magic but rather science fictional methods such as carriers, radiation, mental diseases, vectors, pathogens, parasites, scientific accidents, etc.
The English word “zombie” was first recorded in 1819, in a history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey, in the form of “zombi”. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the word’s origin as West African and compares it to the Kongo words nzambi (god) and zumbi or nzumbi (fetish). Some authors also compare it to the Kongo word vumbi (mvumbi) (ghost, revenant, corpse that still retains the soul), (nvumbi) (body without a soul). A Kimbundu-to-Portuguese dictionary from 1903 defines the related word nzumbi as soul, while a later Kimbundu–Portuguese dictionary defines it as being a “spirit that is supposed to wander the earth to torment the living”. One of the first books to expose Western culture to the concept of the voodoo zombie was W. B. Seabrook’s The Magic Island (1929), the account of a narrator who encounters voodoo cults in Haiti and their resurrected thralls.
A new version of the zombie
A new version of the zombie, distinct from that described in Haitian folklore, emerged in popular culture during the latter half of the 20th century. This interpretation of the zombie is drawn largely from George A. Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead (1968), which was partly inspired by Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (1954). The word zombie is not used in Night of the Living Dead, but was applied later by fans. After zombie films such as Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller (1983), the genre waned for some years.
An evolution of the zombie archetype came with the video games Resident Evil and The House of the Dead in the late 1990s, with their more scientific and action-oriented approach and their introduction of fast-running zombies, leading to a resurgence of zombies in popular culture. These games were initially followed by a wave of low-budget Asian zombie films such as the zombie comedy Bio Zombie (1998) and action film Versus (2000), and then a new wave of popular Western zombie films in the early 2000s, including films featuring fast-running zombies—such as 28 Days Later (2002), the Resident Evil and House of the Dead films, and the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake—and the British zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004). The “zombie apocalypse” concept, in which the civilized world is brought low by a global zombie infestation, has since become a staple of modern popular art, seen in such media as The Walking Dead franchise.
The late 2000s and 2010s saw the humanization and romanticization of the zombie archetype, with the zombies increasingly portrayed as friends and love interests for humans. Notable examples of the latter include movies Warm Bodies and Zombies, novels American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, and Bone Song by John Meaney, animated movie Corpse Bride, TV series Pushing Daisies and iZombie, and manga/novel/anime series Sankarea: Undying Love and Is This a Zombie? In this context, zombies are often seen as stand-ins for discriminated groups struggling for equality, and the human–zombie romantic relationship is interpreted as a metaphor for sexual liberation and taboo breaking (given that zombies are subject to wild desires and free from social conventions).