The weirdness continues. Today, we go back to the turn of the millennium to check out a script that was once considered to be one of the craziest in Hollywood.

Welcome to Weird Scripts Week! This week I’ll be reviewing odd scripts, odd ideas, and writing that’s just plain odd. It will all culminate Friday when I review the strangest premise I’ve ever reviewed on Scriptshadow. To check out yesterday’s shark-tastic entry, click here. Otherwise, slather yourself in Jake Gylennhaal selfies and prepare to milk some sluglines.

Genre: Weird
Premise: After a dying scientist creates a talking cow, a team of people decide to market her into the biggest thing since prime rib. That plan goes about as bad as you’d expect it to.
About: For those too young to know who Richard Kelly is, at one point in the early 2000s, he was the equivalent of, say, Nicholas Wending Refn, a writer-director with an edge to his work, a filmmaker whose every move inspired geeks to imagine what he’d come up with next. That buzz died down after the Donnie Darko director released Southland Tales, a sprawling tale that seemed to pack every genre known to man into a single movie. What’s become lost in the Richard Kelly lore is the fact that he did a lot of writing both before and after Darko, so he has quite a few scripts out there. Bessie was written a year before Donnie Darko came out.
Writer: Richard Kelly
Details: 116 pages (Valentine’s Day draft, 2000)

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Oh yeah.

You knew we had to push the envelope with Weird Week. James Bond fighting robot sharks was pretty out there, but if we wanted to truly enter Kookoo Land, we needed a script and a writer so batshit bananas, I’d get calls from the local mental asylum asking me for the writer’s contact information. That moment has come, my friends. It’s time for Bessie, the walking-talking cow.

35 year-old manager Ron McKittrick is sick of managing the career of his Justin Bieber like star, Sebastian Knight, particularly after Sebastian is accused of raping a fan. A day after quitting, he gets a surprise call from an old friend who demands that he come up to Iowa. She’s got a surprise for him.

McKittrick begrudgingly heads to the land of baseball fields that talk to you, but anger turns to delight when he learns of the reason he was brought in. His friend introduces him to Bessie, a walking talking cow with the mental capacity of a 3rd grader and a special affinity for Ashley and Mary Kate Olson. McKittrick’s friend wants him to manage a team that will introduce Bessie to the world, and make billions of dollars in the process.

This team consists of Dominique, a culturally-agnostic music video director more pretentious than an all-night poetry slam, Katherine, a lawyer with a temper quicker than Uwe Boll after a failed fund-raising campaign, and Kimberly, an ugly fat teenager who McKittrick makes his personal assitant after she tells him that if he doesn’t, she’ll start hooking for cash.

“Team Bessie” hops in a tour bus and starts travelling across the United Sates. Unfortunately, there are a few bumps along the road. When Team Bessie gets in a diner brawl with a bunch of rednecks, the cops are called in and it looks like their moo-happy secret is going to be milked onto the 24 hour news cycle. That is until Bessie screams a high-pitch yowl that somehow makes all the locals pass out while keeping Team Bessie awake and fine.

As Team Bessie gets back on the bus, they start to wonder if Bessie isn’t keeping a few secrets from them. It doesn’t take long to figure out she is. It turns out Bessie can levitate things, telepathically talk to people, and oh yeah, might be Jesus Christ!

When the group finally gets to Hollywood, Bessie’s had enough. She drops the 3rd grade act and reveals that she’s actually the smartest person-cow in the world. She demands to speak with Mary-Kate and Ashley immediately or else she’s going to blow up Los Angeles or something. It’ll be up to McKittrick to come up with a way to stop Bessie, but as we all know, once it’s out, you can’t put the cow back in the barn.

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Keanu was hot off The Matrix in 2000. Could he have played McKittrick?

I’m trying to think of a way to discuss this script productively. I’m not sure it’s possible though.

I suppose that with “Ted” having come and gone, a movie about a talking animal shouldn’t phase us. But this is nothing like Ted. Bessie is closer to the meals they used to serve me at college. You’d go down the cafeteria line, they’d put a bunch of stuff on your tray, and afterwards, you’d try to figure out what each dish was. Those were some tough times, I tell ya. I mean, the milk at our school was blue. BLUE MILK. How’s that for a cow reference?

If I had to guess, I’d say this is a satire. But of what, I’m not clear. People maybe? The universe? I guess it could be a satire about Hollywood and our obsession with anything that’s marketed to us, but it’s just so damn weird, I’m tempted to take it at face value. Maybe this is just about a cow, who has the power of telepathy, and is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Taking a step back, I did notice a few teachable moments. Whenever you write a script, one of your biggest goals is to give the reader something to look forward to. A destination. A culmination. If you’re not creating that desire within the reader, it becomes harder and harder to keep them engaged.

Remember when you were a kid in those endless family car trips? What did you keep asking? “Are we there yet?” “Are we there yet?” If you don’t keep reminding the reader where we’re going, you’re risking that same kind of agitation. It’s your job to keep reminding the reader: “Hey, this is where we’re going, this is how we’ll get there, and this is how long it’ll take.”

I’m not saying you have to provide exact times. But it should be clear how much closer we’re getting to our destination. So many writers keep their readers out of the loop and if we’re out of the loop, we can’t complete the task.

The opposite of this is something I call “drifting.” This is when you’re allowing the story to unfold, but not giving the audience any indication of where it’s going. Going back to the car trip analogy, it’s like asking your dad, “Are we there yet?” and hearing the response, “Anybody need to go to the bathroom? There’s a rest stop ahead.”

If you “drift” for too long, the audience/reader starts to lose focus. And loss of focus is the death-knell for any read. If that drift goes on for as little as five pages, the reader is done with your story.

So here, Team Bessie jumps into this tour bus but Kelly doesn’t immediately make it clear why. There’s a vague notion that we’re going somewhere with Bessie, and the marketing angle of Bessie is mentioned, but we’re still not clear why getting into this van helps achieve this goal. Are we going on some sort of 19th Century presidential campaign, where we go from town to town, introducing Bessie? I don’t know. Nobody explains it to me.

I get on writers about this all the time but it’s REALLY important. Too many writers are obscure when it comes to WHAT their characters are doing and WHY. That’s fine if you’re creating a deliberate mystery (“What’s the smoke monster?”). But if we’re talking about nuts-and-bolts story beats, you got keep us in the loop!

By the time we figure out we’re going to Hollywood to announce Bessie to the world, it’s way too late in the story. By that point I’d drifted off into several daydreams. One of which involved a talking moose named “Gerald” who had the ability to teleport.

Compare the differences between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Look at how BIG of a deal was made of the Ark in Raiders (heck, it’s right there in the title!). So we’ve got something to look forward to right from the get-go. The importance of the Ark is reinforced a dozen or more times throughout the script, making us only more obsessed with reaching the destination. Imagine if the Ark had only been mentioned in a single scene leading up to the climax. Do you think our anticipation for what was in the Ark would’ve been nearly as obsessive? Of course not.

With Crystal Skull, we’re not really sure what we’re after. At first it’s a crystal skull, but that seems to be a small piece in a much bigger murkier puzzle that only gets less clear the further into the movie we go. You could see a bit of this in Tomorrowland as well. We knew we were trying to get to Tomorrowland, but we didn’t really know why, and after not knowing for so long, we just got bored and checked out. This could’ve easily been solved had the writer tried harder to keep us in the loop.

Having said all that, Bessie probably isn’t a movie that should be broken down via conventional methods. In classic “Weird Week” fashion, it creates its own rules, and you either buy into them or you don’t. Heck, you’re talking to a guy who thought Birdman was a pretentious taxidermy experiment gone awry. And there are a lot of parallels between Bessie and Birdman. To really get a feel for this script, you should check it out yourself, which is why I’m including a link. Read it and let us know how you feel!

Screenplay link: Bessie

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Every screenwriter should write this kind of script once in their career – a script where you throw logic and form and rules out the window and let your instincts and imagination guide you. I’ll be honest with you. 99% of the time the end result will be disastrous. But doing so will teach you to TAKE CHANCES, to BE A LITTLE CRAZY, and to GO WITH YOUR GUT. And you’ll need those muscles every once in awhile if you’re going to be a great writer.

  • Bifferspice

    ok, i didn’t bother downloading yesterday’s script, but i’m all over this. it sounds brilliant.

  • lesbiancannibal

    haha Uwe Boll losing it, quality. “retarded wizard in a forest”

    I do love a German accent – like this guy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjwofYhUJEM

  • ripleyy

    Wouldn’t there be a point during this where [you] would just stop and reevaluate your life? This is just a shower thought Kelly had during three in the morning while hyper off a Twizzlers sugar rush. Yeah, it sounds hilarious but somewhere during writing you would probably sit back in your chair and think… what am I doing with my life? Is this why my wife divorced me for her personal trainer? Are my cats embarrassed of me?

  • SinclareRose

    I get it. Sometimes you just have a story screaming in your head and you have to get it out. There are some stories, though, where you have to say to yourself, “This is that one I’m gonna shove in the back of the drawer….”

    • Bifferspice

      have you read it?

      • SinclareRose

        Not this one. I was just talking generally. Did you pick this one up?

        • Bifferspice

          I’ve read the first twenty so far, and enjoyed it. Nothing too mental so far. It’s well written.

  • IgorWasTaken

  • UrbaneGhoul

    I wrote a script where an inventor builds a rocket from a train to bring a deposed Moon Princess back to the Dark Side to reclaim the planet from a Confederate Raider who traveled there on a magic carpet. Oh and the Inventor’s family was killed by the Confederate Raider.

    What’s everyone else’s weirdest script?

    • brittany

      When I was in eighth grade, I wrote a script about a woman who was drowned in a motel bathtub. After she turned into a ghost, she teamed up with her “living” friend and vowed to seek vengeance on the man that killed her. Sadly,10 pages of the script was the woman putting condoms and douches in people’s carts at K-Mart for shits and giggles. So, yeah… It kind of meandered from there, to say the least. Hey, I was only 14 when I wrote the thing, lol. I should have added a talking cow, that would have been perfect.

    • Felip Serra

      I was inspired by “Heart of Darkness” when I wrote this…

      Set against the European floods of 2002, our protagonist (the script is written in the first person and from his POV. We never “see” him.) is summoned to Prague by British playwright Tom Stoppard, who moonlights as the Minister of Culture for the Czech Republic…

      You see, filmmaker Werner Herzog wanted to make a film adaptation of “Austerlitz” by W.G. Sebald and part of the book takes place in the former concentration camp Theresienstadt, located in Terezin. The Czech Republic said no; they didn’t want “that” kind of attention. Herzog being Herzog went ahead and did it anyway… So our protagonist is sent out to stop him!

      Among his crew traveling “up river” is a soldier who only speaks “mathematically”, a man who may/may not be Sebald himself (who died the previous year), and an anti-Semitic polar bear named Fassbinder who has a huge fascination with Napoleon… When we finally get to Herzog he lures our protagonist into making the film with him… Meanwhile the ghost of Orson Welles is pestering Herzog, who professes that he has never seen “Citizen Kane”…

      So. That’s it, in a nutshell. I’m still charmed by it but think it’s better suited as a short story. Who knows, maybe someday…

  • Gregory Mandarano

    I just outlined the past three years of my life, and honestly it could make a decent script. Betrayal. Failed relationships. Endless career struggle. Numerous deaths of friends and family. Cancer. Als. Money problems. Legal issues. Law suits.

    I might try writing it once im done with my sub script. It probably wouldnt take long to bang out a first draft either, since I lived it.

    Working title: I Also Shall Be Released

    This script would be a contained drama. I know its weird script week. This script weirds me out. Imagine if I wrote it and it was good? Id be baring my soul to the world. Frightening.

    • Will_Alexander

      If you’re serious about this, I say make it as real as possible. Don’t fictionalize anything. If you’re gonna do this sort of thing, do it all the way. Regardless of the final product, I think honesty is the way YOU’LL get the most out of it.

      • Ninjaneer

        Speaking of making a biopic as real as possible, I’m on page 95 of your Tesla script.

        Very much enjoying it so far and am really hoping your producer is able to get this made!

        Of course I love nerdy stuff so I’m definitely biased towards liking this so I might be unknowingly ignoring story issues. But based on how good I thought your Hightower script was I’m sure this one is very solid despite my bias.

        I’ll send you an email with notes tonight or tomorrow. Great job!

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Grats on your Tesla script will!

        And honestly, I’d probably never write this script. By the time I’m done with my current project, I’ll want to jump right into something else. Probably a tv pilot I have outlined called MINOR CRIMES about a police detective that gets turned into a kid while investigating a nanotech firm, then blackmails his police chief so that his partner adopts him so he can keep the investigation going.

        Though I’m not sure if I’d ever write that one either! I dunno. I’ll worry about it another time! I’m done with dramas! Give me action and thrills!

  • Felip Serra

    “For those too young to know who Richard Kelly is…”

    Wow. It has really been 14 years since “Donnie Darko”… Time does fly…

    I will say though that the Nicholas Wending Refn comparison is a touch too kind for the writer… Had you said “Richard Kelly is House of Pain and “Donnie Darko” is his ‘Jump Around'” you would have been closer to the mark…

    • Brainiac138

      Kelly still has more talent than Nolan.

      • Felip Serra

        I respect that but it’s also subjective; if Kelly has talent I’ve never seen it, or, perhaps more accurately, his talents have never gelled with my tastes. I will say it certainly takes a measure of audacity to concoct something like “Southland Tales” even if I don’t care for the film…

        But again, he believed he was God’ gift and his arrogance was misapplied. Had “Darko” done big box office maybe he could have gotten away with it. But it didn’t, so now we sit here and go “Oh, that guy. I wonder what happened to him…”

      • Ninjaneer

        Quick correction. You accidentally said “more” when you meant “far far less” ;)

    • S_P_1

      Donnie Darko is a cult classic.
      The subtle difference in my opinion is Donnie Darko had a slight amount of plausibility coinciding with the outright weirdness.
      When he started reading about metaphysical states that tied the movie together. Essentially the movie starts after he dies. So basically its an afterlife / dream journey.
      Donnie Darko is one of those movies that hits ALL the right cultural chords.

  • Frankie Hollywood

    Gerald will be here soon…

  • Randy Williams

    I liked what I read of this, and what really nailed it for me, was when this motley crew meets Bessie for the first time, it’s a disaster, with Bessie not uttering a word and trashing her pen and needing to be tranquilized and McKittrick still says, “We are all going to be so rich”.
    That kind of blind optimism from characters is intoxicating for me.

    The script is dated Feb 2000, and mentions room number 911. The world changed soon after this draft was dated. A lot of that optimism vanished.

  • Poe_Serling

    Talking animals have been a staple of film/TV forever. Plus, you never know who might just show up to interact with them. Here’s one of my favorites:

    • klmn

      That’s great. Now I want to see the whole episode to see who won – Clint or Mr. Ed.

      I’d bet on the horse.

      • Poe_Serling

        The whole episode is just a click away on youtube. Added bonus: Donna Douglas as Clint’s girlfriend.

  • Mike.H

    I’m strangely turned on by Bessie’s giant milk sac; I’ll seek help ASAP!

  • Mike.H

    A little voice in my head wondered if we’ll see BALLS OUT script this week?

    • drifting in space

      Wouldn’t be complete without it.

    • Citizen M

      I think we’ll get the cow fucker one.

  • fragglewriter

    I agree. I’m trying to put a spin on a Noir, and I have an idea, but don’t know how much of it should I furnish to the reader. It’ll make more sense as you go along, and definitely towards the end. The character count is low, about 7 -8.

    I tried reading the Birdman script and it wasn’t for me, but after listening to Micheal Keaton at the New York TimesTalks where he discussed his input into the movie and the final outcome, it’s just astounding how much of the script differs from the final product.

  • klmn

    Hey Carson, are we going to see your llama-man script this week?

    • GoIrish

      I’ve been quite curious about this script myself.

  • klmn

  • Ninjaneer

    I had to travel an hour and a half to find a theater playing Donnie Darko when it came out. I was glad I did because it was a unique movie. I loved it and was highly anticipating Richard Kelly’s next movie.

    After waiting five years I finally got to see it… Southland Tales. WOW, talk about biggest upcoming movie disappointment I’ve ever had. Not only did I not like it but Southland Tales has firmly held it’s position in my most hated movies list ever since.

    The Box was OK. It was different, which is nice but it was nowhere close to redeeming him.

    Sidenote: After traveling an hour and a half to see Donnie Darko I found out it was rated R and I didn’t think I’d be able to get in. I had just turned 17. It was a small theater and I don’t there were any other movies playing any time soon that I could buy a ticket for and then sneak into DD. Finally my friend and I realized that the age limit wasn’t 18, it was 17. Disaster averted :)

  • Kirk Diggler

    On the DVD extras for Donnie Darko, I found out the film really resonated in the U.K. for some reason, with fan clubs and continued screenings. Since there are a lot of people from the U.K. that post here, anyone have any insight as to why it’s so popular (in the cult sense)?

    I watched it once, thought it was interesting but also incredibly silly in parts. Maybe I need a 2nd look. I did enjoy the Head Over Heels ‘music video’. And I totally forgot that Patrick Swayze and Seth Rogen are in the film.

    • Nicholas J

      Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion, Diggles.

      • Kirk Diggler

        I’d tell you to got ‘suck a fuck’ but I’m not sure what it means.

        • gregthegreg

          GO BACK TO CHINA, BITCH

          • brittany

            CHUT UP!

    • Eddie Panta

      ATTITUDINAL BELIEFS

  • S_P_1

    My pitch for a weird concept.
    A chewed out, walking, talking Honeycrisp, dispenses answers to all your SIRI-ous questions.

  • wlubake

    You love it when these crazy scripts work though. Imagine being in a pitch meeting for Being John Malkovich.

  • Citizen M

    I got to page 41 of this script. It’s an easy read, and a nice mixed-up cast of characters with potential for conflict, but Bessie was a bit of a disappointment. I can’t see her being anything more than a one-day wonder. So the whole reason for the road trip — to make squillions of dollars — falls away.

    The magic pixie dust that writers sprinkle over scripts to make one believe the impossible evaporated.

  • brittany

    Anybody remember the fat guy in a track suit from Donnie Darko? For some reason I always cracked up during that scene.

  • scriptfeels

    just finished reading Bessie. Donnie Darko is one of my favorite films, so that was one of the main reasons I picked it up.

    This script surprised me a lot. The dialogue, the small bit jokes, the wtf is going on Bessie scenes. Bessie’s character change. Also, the ending. Whaaaaaat. I loved it though.

    One problem Carson had with the script was its direction or focus. I felt that once team bessie was assembled they were going to sell Bessie to the public masses/hollywood and makes a lot of money, but there was a long journey before they got to that point, and when that happened it wasn’t how any of us were expecting to get there.

    i did think that some of the sexual scenes were over the top, for example when Bessie forced

    Dominique to suck her utters.

    The characters were for the most part interesting to me. They were each unique and I liked following McKittrick as our protagonist because there was always conflict.

    Overall, I haven’t read a script that felt this put together in terms of structure and character development compiled with a wtf premise that runs with it at full force. The second half of the script demanded my attention, but the first half was a little slower for me to read through. I felt that the genre here was dark comedy/talking animal movie. I really loved the script ‘The Voices’ and this is the only dark comedy talking animal script I’ve read since.

    Thanks for bringing this script to my attention Carson.

  • S.C.

    Sent! Hope you like it.

  • Midnight Luck

    yes.
    though I haven’t finished the final Season yet, only a few episodes in.
    But it is a great show. Right up there with SIX FEET UNDER and BREAKING BAD.

  • Midnight Luck

    I also have a Cow story.
    Does everyone at some point write a cow script?
    Kind of like boxing? All writers seem to at one point or another tackle a boxing story.

    • Tyler Givens

      I’d like to argue, but one of my first scripts was a boxing story. It wasn’t very good. I guess my holy cow is right around the corner.

  • scriptfeels

    Maybe one day dark comedy talking animal scripts will be trending and Bessie will see the light of day, until then lets all go back to watching our sequels, remakes, and superhero movies haha