Premise: After two fame-seeking Millennials are outed for their plans to fake a sailing adventure blog, no one believes it when they really are ship-wrecked and lost at sea.
About: The first half of the story pokes fun at our obsession with fame and lampoons our dependence on smart phones. In the back half I play with what might happen when you take away the phones. Do we remain tethered to societal whims and expectations? Or do we gain clarity about who we are and what we really want?
I took some chances with the back half. Yes, indeedy. Curious if it works.
Thanks ahead of time to all who check it out!
Writer: Stephanie Jones
Details: 89 pages (this is an updated draft from Amateur Offerings)
The weekend is only hours away!
Unfortunately, so are those box office receipts for The Dark Tower, which, by all accounts, is dead on arrival. I’m surprised they made The Dark Tower, actually. I always found it to be the least appealing of King’s work, a mish-mash of an experiment masquerading as one giant story. In my experience, when something isn’t clear in written form, it doesn’t translate well to movie form. Movies need focus.
Which is actually a great segue into today’s script. Let’s Be Famous tackles the ubiquitous millennial desire to be famous without having to earn it. The question is, does it focus enough to convey that theme? Let’s find out, mateys!
Susan works at an office downtown where she spends the majority of her time watching Youtube videos of internet-famous people. Fred, her boyfriend, hangs out all day at home with his cat, “Cat,” and the two occasionally make videos for his Youtube Channel about cat communication.
Susan and Fred yearn for a better life, a life that includes actual excitement.
That’s when Fred gets an idea. Why don’t the two of them hop on a boat, travel around the world, and vlog about it? They’ll be famous. Susan isn’t into it, but it sounds better than staring at Youtube videos all day. So the two hit up their parents for money, buy a boat, and quickly learn that they have no idea what they’re doing.
No problem. They’ll just tell everyone they’re traveling the seas, go out just far enough to make it look like they’ve left, then sneak back to shore when no one’s looking. Take a few sea-selfies, post them on the site over time, and “voila,” it’s like they really are traveling the world!
Unfortunately, a huge storm hits the second they leave harbor, and they’re forced onto a life raft. Soon after, the man who sold them the boat, “Captain Caboose,” arrives to save the day, but not really, since he kidnaps Susan and boots Fred back onto the life raft (with his cat). Susan then begins an S&M relationship with Captain Caboose (no, I’m not kidding). Will Susan come to her senses? Will Fred and his cat survive? Will the two of them ever become famous? Check out Let’s Be Famous to find out!
This was a wild ride.
Okay, where to get started…
This isn’t the movie I thought I was being pitched. I thought this was going to be about two friends who want to be famous. Like young versions of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Instead, it was about a couple. I don’t know why that didn’t work for me. But something about a relationship felt less funny.
Maybe if Fred and Susan’s relationship were easier to grasp, I’d change my mind. But I could never get a handle on it. Did they like each other? I never read a genuine moment between them. And, if anything, Susan seemed to despise Fred (there’s a moment early on during a dinner date where she’s annoyed by pretty much everything he says).
So I kept asking, why is she even with him if she doesn’t like him?
This had a ripple effect on the rest of the script because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking for from their relationship. For example, had we established at the beginning that they were on the verge of breaking up, but they decided to go on this trip as one last attempt to fix their relationship, I’d understand the dynamic. These two are either going to figure it out or not.
Instead, the relationship was vague, to the point where you could’ve easily categorized them as friends. In my experience, when relationship dynamics are unclear, the rest of the script is unclear. And that’s kinda what I felt.
I mean, at a certain point, Susan starts an S&M relationship with Captain Caboose mere hours after her “boyfriend” (again, I’m reluctant to use that term since I’m still not convinced what they are to one another) is booted back out onto a life raft. Susan did hit her head. And I think it’s implied that that’s the reason she’s not being herself. But, like a lot of the script, I was never 100% sure.
That was another problem. The writing was so manic, the story never has a chance to breathe. This was particularly problematic in the setup, as I would constantly find myself a couple of minutes behind the writer. We’d arrive at a scene and I’d be asking, “Wait, how did we get here?”
For example, there’s a moment where Fred and Susan are about to begin their voyage, and out of nowhere, there were these – I guess internet reporters? – there to document the event. I realized, “Oh, they must’ve told these guys to come here to get it on record that they really did leave on this trip.”
But why was I only finding this out now? We needed that scene six pages ago where one of them said, “We need to document this so that people believe us.” “How do we do that?” “We’ll call some people. From the smaller Youtube channels. Get them here so that they see we’re really leaving.”
But virtually none of the script is set up like that. We’re just SLAMMED into scene after scene and it’s our job to keep up.
I can’t figure out if this is Steph’s writing style or if she simply wrote this script too fast. Whatever the case, this would be the first note I’d give her. SLOOOOOOWWWWW DOOOOWWWWWNN. Take your time setting up the characters. Take your time setting up their relationship dynamic so that we understand it.
I mean we don’t even get a proper scene where we see that these two desire fame above all else. Without that scene, it doesn’t make sense that they’re going through all of this hubbub in the first place. And I suspect that that scene wasn’t written because this script was written too fast.
For me, personally, my checkout point was the S&M stuff. While comedy has no rules (whatever makes someone laugh makes them laugh), I need some logic to my comedy. If it’s literally ANYTHING GOES and there’s no rhyme or reason to any decision whatsoever, I don’t think that works. Why would a woman let her boyfriend die in some lifeboat while simultaneously agreeing to engage in sexual fantasies with some disgusting old weird man she’s known for 30 minutes? It’s just odd.
Something tells me this script wasn’t properly outlined. And when you don’t outline, you just go wherever the pen takes you. And while that can feel exhilarating as a writer, it rarely feels that way for the reader.
A friend of mine growing up used to love going out on a boat and dragging an inter-tube along the back. He’d send me back on that tube then drive around the lake like crazy, whipping and snapping, zigging and zagging, desperately attempting to get me to fall off. That’s exactly what I felt like reading Let’s Be Famous. Being dragged around like that can be fun for 2-3 minutes. But longer than that and it gets exhausting.
If Steph wants to continue with this script, I would build the story around friends, not a relationship. I would take time to set the story up. I’d let the scenes breathe. I would establish what each character’s main issue was (they want fame). And I would focus more on the theme of fame and what it does to people, rather than bring in a joke character (the captain) who works at the expense of your script’s theme.
That’s just me though. What did you guys think?
Script link (new draft!): Let’s Be Famous
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: The other day we talked about saying NO to your characters. When you say no, it creates conflict. That forces your character into action, which almost always results in a better scene. So in Let’s Be Famous, both characters need money to buy a boat. They each go to their parents and what do the parents do? They hand over money without hesitation. They said YES instead of NO.