Today we go racing back to Black List’s past to see if a forgotten screenplay can sneak its way back onto the Hollywood Highway.
Premise: A high-speed chase on the streets of LA told through multiple points of view.
About: Iranian-born Massy Tadjedin penned today’s script, which landed on the 2007 Black List and was picked up by Dreamworks. Massy is a really good writer and has written such scripts as The Jacket and Last Night. Curious to see why this one was forgotten.
Writer: Massy Tadjedin
Details: 126 pages – March 23, 2007 draft
Scriptshadow suggestion: Will Smith for Jay?
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up “Wednesday.” I knew I liked the writer but that’s all I had to go on. That and the script revolved around a car chase. That’s what interested me most. How do you make a car chase interesting for 120 minutes? And it was quite a departure from Massy’s last script – a slow-moving character piece about the temptations in our everyday relationships. To put it bluntly, the script’s existence didn’t make sense. Which is exactly why I wanted to read it!
And read it I did. To the tune of 45 pages of, “Are you f’ing kidding me? This is what this script’s about? A guy who robs a bank for $800 and the police chase him?” Even within the most lenient of critic’s circles, this seemed like a giant miscalculation. But this is why reading scripts is so fun. Because, sometimes, right when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something happens that changes it up again. Read on to find out more…
“Wednesday” introduces us to a bunch of characters right off the bat going through their morning routines, the most important of whom are Jay and Carrie. Jay looks down and out, a guy who’s at the end of his rope. He’s even got an infection in his right eye that’s bleeding. Never a good thing.
The perky 26 year-old Carrie, on the other hand, has her whole life ahead of her. She’s young and upbeat and happy. She’s got a big meeting today, something we get the feeling is going to change her life.
Oh, her life’s going to be changed all right, but not by that meeting.
Jay, whose disastrous existence we’re getting bits and pieces of along the way, appears to be the victim of a bad divorce. And now his ex-wife’s dating some slimy asshole who he doesn’t trust around his daughter. But there’s nothing he can do about it. He’s gotta suck it up and hope everything turns out all right.
But that doesn’t explain why Jay, all of a sudden, walks into a bank and steals $800. He runs outside, hops in his car, and makes an escape. As he pulls up to a light, Decker, an off-duty cop, spots him and thinks he’s up to something. But there’s only so much he can do as he doesn’t have the authority to follow Jay (for some unstated reason).
Still, he goes after him and Jay’s forced to ditch the car at a gas station where he finds none other than Carrie, innocently pumping gas. He throws her in her car and starts round 2 of this high speed pursuit. Carrie’s freaking out, naturally, and keeps trying to get away, but at a certain point, realizes they’re in this together until the end.
All of this was fine. Not good, not bad. Just fine – one of those scripts you try to tolerate and muscle through. That is until the twist comes. All of sudden, almost midway through the script, we cut to the day before, where we meet all of our characters again, this time, however, before they’ve gotten into this mess. Hmmm, wasn’t expecting that. All of a sudden, Wednesday got interesting.
It’s funny because everything just slooooowed down. We go from 60 to 0 within a few seconds. It’s here where we learn more about why Jay robbed the bank (he’s behind on child support), what Carrie’s big interview is tomorrow (she’s a writer who’s written her first novel) and why Decker’s been suspended.
With this new information, we see tomorrow’s chase through much different eyes. We now have WAY MORE sympathy for what Jay is doing, which throws the third act into another gear. Before we wanted Carrie to escape Jay. Now we want them to be together! But can a carjacker and his kidnapped victim really fall in love during a 12 hour car chase? That’s the question “Wednesday” asks.
Overall, Wednesday was a wild ride (yes, I went there). It’s interesting because I don’t think a movie’s been done about a city car chase yet, where that’s the entire movie. It happens so much out here you’d think they would’ve made a film about it. Maybe they did and it went straight to video, I don’t’ know.
But if someone were to make a movie about it, I think they’d do well by following Massy’s lead. You can’t fill up an entire 120 minutes with a car chase. You just can’t. We’ll get bored. So splitting things up so that we meet the characters before the chase started was a smart move.
It’s also another example of dramatic irony, which was a Scriptshadow Secrets obsession of mine – one of the easiest ways to pull an audience in. Once we jump back in time and are meeting our characters, all we’re thinking about it, “You guys don’t know it, but tomorrow you’re going to be involved in a 5-alarm car chase,” and that pulls us in in a way that introducing the characters’ lives first couldn’t have done. For example, one of the main characters dies in the chase. To see him alive again, not knowing that he’s going to be a goner in 24 hours, is captivating in the strangest way.
There were some problems with Wednesday though, some almost catastrophic. The script starts with a MASS INTRODUCE (this is when you introduce a bunch of characters all at once) and as we all know, if you don’t pull off the mass introduce perfectly, the reader can lose track of the characters quickly. You only get one shot to introduce your characters and if you don’t do it well, we might spend the rest of the script mistaking two key characters for each other, and if that happens, it’s practically impossible to enjoy the script.
Complicating things was the script killer move of giving key characters names that started with the same letter. We have three important characters here (all women) named Cynthia, Camille and Carry. What are the chances we’re going to keep all of these straight? Not good. But even worse when you’re coupling the names with a mass introduce. There are still people in this script who I’m not 100% sure they are who I think they are. And that stemmed from the sloppy opening.
And even with the snazzy twist in the story, it still doesn’t address the issue that for the first 45-50 pages we’re watching a chase happen between characters we don’t know or care about. Remember – it’s NEVER about the chase. It’s never about how creative or cool or unique or grand you can make the chase. It’s about the PEOPLE GETTING CHASED. If we don’t care about them, the chase is worthless – A rule that shined brightly in this script. I didn’t care about the chase for the first half, but cared deeply when we cut back to it in the final act.
What I’m happy about, however, is that Wednesday is different. It’s got something to it that’s a little bit unexpected, which is why it caught peoples’ eye. Never forget that. You always want to approach something slightly differently so your script has a fresh feel to it. Otherwise, your screenplay’s going to experience a head-on collision on the 405.
[ ] Wait for the rewrite
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Beware the “Same Age Phenomenon” in your script. We all tend to write characters that are around our age. Not just for our leads, but for everyone. The real world is peppered with people from every age bracket, so this is not realistic. Outside of Carrie, every damn character here was “in their 40s.” Is there a single person in LA not in their 40s? I think so. Branch out. It’s okay to try other ages.
What I learned 2: With Wednesday, I realized how powerful the “reevaluation device” was when done right. Take us back to the characters before things got out of control and you can completely change/manipulate how we perceive those characters. This basically makes the final act (or whatever follows) a completely different movie. Not every story is going to be designed this way, of course, but it’s definitely an idea to play with if you want to shake your script up. Not everything has to be told in linear fashion.
What I learned 3: Is your script a tweener? - I think I know why this script was forgotten. It’s one of those tweeners. It doesn’t fit easily into any marketable genre. It’s not really an action film. It’s not a “romantic comedy on the run.” It’s not Crash. It’s sort of stuck in that netherworld, somewhere between all those genres. That’s the hard thing with scripts. They have to be different enough to catch people’s attention, but the same enough to justify a 50-70 million dollar marketing campaign.