Genre: Sci-fi Drama
Premise: (from Black List) In a world where your life can be saved, uploaded to a computer, and restarted in the case of your untimely demise, a husband returns from the dead, suspecting his wife may have been involved in his death.
About: “Where I End” ended up with the fifth most votes on the 2017 Black List. This isn’t the first time screenwriter Imran Zaidi has made the list, though. He had a script all the way back on the 2011 Black List titled, “Jurassic Park,” about a group of high school friends who ditch school to go see Jurassic Park. Zaidi is also adapting The Fellowship for Alien Detection at Paramount.
Writer: Imran Zaidi
Details: 119 pages
A few weeks ago, I told you guys that I’d read the first page of two scripts to decide which one I was going to review that day. This is the script that lost that battle. It was the dialogue that did it in. But it wasn’t *just* the dialogue. It was the context of the dialogue. This is a conversation that takes place between two people who literally met 30 seconds ago. Below, we see the second-half of the conversation…
“If we’re mostly nothing, why don’t we pass through each other?”
“Electric force. Repulsion.”
“Without it, there’s no such thing as touch.”
“Can I tell you something, Anik.”
He glances down at her hand, still clasped in his.
“This doesn’t feel like repulsion to me.”
Oh man, that last line. I went to college in Wisconsin so I consider myself an expert on cheese. And that line is certified. In my experience, a bad first page leads to a bad script 99% of the time. Could Where I End be the exception to the rule? Let’s find out.
After that first scene, we cut to years later where we find out that not only are Theo and Anik happily married, but we’re in a future where people can save their memories and consciousness in case they die and have their insides rebuilt from scratch. It’s not uncommon to do one brain download per month, just so you don’t have to jump back too far to get to your last memory.
When Theo goes in to do his monthly “download,” he wakes up to find out that he actually died five days ago, and that this is a rebuild. Confused, as most people are when they die, he finds out that he was walking by the cliffs, as is his daily routine, and fell.
Since Theo has never had problems with balance before, he goes to the cliff where he discovers a lighthouse with intermittent photo footage of his path. He’s shocked to see the footage from that day, as he sees a photo of him and Anik walking! And then 30 seconds later the two of them stopped and talking, and then 30 seconds later with Anik, alone, calmly staring over the cliff.
Theo’s wife murdered him.
The question he needs to find out is, why? In going over the footage with his home assistant, Oscar (basically Amazon Alexa 20 versions from now), they agree that Anik knew he would be rebuilt. So she wasn’t trying to kill him. Which leaves only one possibility. Theo found out something about his wife in those five days since the last upload, and this was the only way she could make him forget.
So begins a long investigation into his wife’s background, a background he thought he knew, but clearly didn’t. In fact, when he goes through Anik’s entire list of friends, he finds that she’s known no one for more than five years. Five years back seems to be the cutoff for, well, everything when it comes to Anik.
And that’s only the beginning. When Theo discovers that Anik has secretly been going to a clinical psychiatrist, he looks into the doctor, only to learn that this isn’t your average clinical psychiatrist. And that the extent of this man’s relationship with his wife goes down a rabbit hole so deep, there may be no way back out.
So the big question. Is this another victim of the 99%? Or does it leap into that elusive 1%? I’m happy to say that Where I End makes the 1%. And it’s because the story design is so clever.
I’m always telling writers, you have to find a new way into things. Whatever the regular thing is, that’s not going to work in a business this competitive. You need to find an angle. How many Whodunnits have been written until this point in time? 10,000? 100,000? It’s nearly impossible to write a murder mystery that today’s savvy audiences can’t solve.
So with Where I End, they eliminated that problem by finding a new angle. Instead of whodunnit. It’s a whydunnit. And because the story world Zaidi created is so clever – with consciousness uploads and near A.I. level virtual assistants – it’s a really compelling question. At one point while reading this script I had to run an errand and all I kept thinking about on that errand was, “I wonder what’s going to happen next??” I can’t remember the last time I was so eager to get back to a script.
But it’s not just the mystery that makes this good. It’s the way the story is designed. When coming up with ideas, you want ideas that are going to do a lot of the work for you. What I mean by that is that the idea alone is going to give you scenes where, even if all you bring to the scene is your characters, we’re still going to be entertained.
And that’s exactly what this setup achieves. Once Theo knows that Anik killed him, but Anik doesn’t know that he knows, every scene between the two is good. You don’t even have to write that great of dialogue because the sub-communication of Theo alone is so interesting. He has to not only act like he doesn’t know anything, but act in love with the person who murdered him.
75 pages in, this script was an [x] impressive. I was even thinking, “If he nails the ending, this might get a [x] genius.” But whodunnits (or, in this case, whydunnits) always come down to their endings. Since the driving force of the story is that final revelation, then if that revelation doesn’t deliver, you leave the script asking, “What was the point?” It’s like going to the Super Bowl only for it to end up in a tie. Sure, it was entertaining along the way. But I want that thrilling finish!
Where I End suffers from a bad case of TooComplicatedEndingItis. It’s somewhat understandable because we’re talking about a future world with rules that need to be sorted out and explained. But what I liked so much about the script up to that point was its minimalism. There was a lot going on and yet it was all covered so simply. To take that to the other extreme with the ending didn’t work for me.
With that said, this script holds too much promise for me not to recommend it. It may not be perfect. But it’s a great example of what you can come up with if you explore time-tested tropes from a new angle.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: You’re always looking for tweaks. Tweaks tweaks tweaks. There are so many tropes out there, so many cliches. But if you can tweak them in an interesting way, it can have a profound effect on the entertainment value of your script. “Who killed y?” That’s boring. We’ve seen that. “Why did x kill y?” That’s a way more interesting question. And it’s the tweak that got this script to Top 5 on the Black List.