In the writing of this script, I used quite a few influences from other films and genres that I very much enjoy. First and foremost was Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind, as I wanted to be able to imply that the main character was slowly but surely losing his mind over the course of the short film. Given that I only have three minutes of film in which to accomplish this task, I took the route of keeping it open-ended as to whether or not the events in the film were taking place strictly in Vincent's head, or if it was a straightforward series of tense events that was happening. However, I wanted in the script (and, as we continue, the direction/cinematography) to imply that there were those two potential explanations for the events of the film.
This being an attempt at a thriller, I also took influence from a myriad thriller films from the 1970s and beyond as inspirations for cues to sell the conspiracy and the strange underbelly of what is seemingly an ordinary world. I enjoy seeing fantastical things on screen that you wouldn't normally experience, and so I wanted to turn a college campus into (at least for one person) a conspiratorial murder mystery with vague machinations and plans. Marathon Man was a huge inspiration for me, as it also featured a young college student having to deal with heady, suspense-filled events beyond his control. The electronic means by which Ogilvie reaches out to Vincent clandestinely (via instant messaging) was loosely inspired by an early scene from the sci-fi technothriller The Matrix. The meeting between Ogilvie and Vincent, and many of Ogilvie's mannerisms and eccentricities were inspired by Donald Sutherland's character in JFK.
The storytelling point of view I chose was of a seemingly ordinary man, with mundane problems and a vague circle of standard friends, being slowly ripped from that normalcy into things he does not understand. The choice of an open ending, potentially at the height of the tension, was made for both time and dramatic purposes. With this short a film, you only have so much time to explore a character's world and mind; therefore, I made a choice to present the most enticing hook that offered a microcosm of Vincent's descent into madness. At the very least, the script itself is the most encapsulated way I could think of to show the cracks in Vincent's world and psyche, leaving him a mess by the end as he has witnessed either a real or imagined murder. The final line, "Please, let it all have been a bad dream," is meant to be ominous - an admission of the "it was all a dream" trope as well as a straightforward subversion.
B. DIRECTING AND CINEMATOGRAPHY
As I direct this film, I wish to use many of the shot compositions and stylings of the aforementioned thriller directors, plus a great deal of style in the tenser sequences that could be found in Adrian Lyme's Jacob's Ladder. My mission statement as I direct this film is to gradually let the camerawork and the look of the film grow darker and much less stable, until Vincent himself is doubting his reality as the film comes to a close. As both the first and last scenes of the film involve Vincent waking up, I wish to use the same exact close-up of his face, perhaps with the alarm clock in the background. The beginning scenes will have shots that are comparatively far away from the characters - medium shots, mostly at even angles, with fairly stable composition. Vincent's initial wakeup scene will be shot not unlike college comedies and dramas, with deliberately even framing.
With Vincent's dorm room established as his safe place, with friendly roommates and a calming effect on him, I will gradually introduce more oppressive elements to the film. The scene in Professor Gibson's classroom will juxtapose his niceness with a vaguely threatening sense of 'bigness' to the room itself - long shots of his classroom, perhaps with a bit of dolly movement back and forth along the empty chairs after class is dismissed, will visually indicate the impression of Vincent being watched. This is crosscut with still-stable closeups of Vincent looking at Tracy and his other friends, to denote his lack of awareness at what is going on.
The next scene, in which the homeless man confronts him and yells at him on the street, will start to introduce some of the Jacob's Ladder-esque use of handheld camerawork and low angles to indicate the uneasiness Vincent feels when his world is shaken. Once the homeless man grabs him by the arms, shots will switch to uncomfortable, low-angle close-ups, with a bit of handheld sway to them, to symbolically infect Vincent with this man's instability. This handheld look will continue after the van comes up to take the Man away, leaving Vincent in a close-up shot, allowing the audience to see his surprise and confusion. The calculated lighting of the previous scenes, taking place indoors with lights we can control, will be abandoned in exchange for natural light in this scene, ideally creating a subtly overcast effect that will increase as the scene continues. The directing and cinematography will return to stability and even, well-exposed lighting in the cafeteria scene, as Vincent returns to the normal world to relay his experiences. However, the shots of Vincent will be slightly closer than before, to note his growing paranoia in the back of his mind.
In the scene with the IM conversation, the camera will be at a slightly low angle, at a desk-level view of Vincent on his computer. Close-ups of Ogilvie's conversation with him will be intercut with increasingly closer shots of a concerned Vincent. During this scene, only the back of Brad's head will be visible out of focus in the back of the frame, showing just how insular this strange conspiracy has become.
The scene between Ogilvie and Vincent will have the darkest lighting of the whole film; filmed at night, only overhead lamps and the like will be used to implement shadow in various interesting ways. As Ogilvie and Vincent speak, their conversation will be shot alternating at medium low-angle shots (to show the oppressive nature of Ogilvie and the dark sky above them) and long high-angle shots from roof level (to demonstrate how much they are being watched). When their conversation is interrupted by mysterious forces, and Vincent hides, the perspective will change to close-ups of Vincent's face behind grasses or the wall of the building he is hiding behind. The dialogue between Ogilvie and the two men will be muffled in the distance as they are filmed in long shots, and the lighting will only really show three silhouettes backlit by headlights and overhead lamps. The reveal that Professor Gibson is the one who shot Ogilvie will happen in a medium-shot, cutting back to Vincent's perspective, whose formerly straight shots will slowly tilt into a waving, constantly changing Dutch angle. As Vincent stumbles out of the area, a Snorricam-like shot of Vincent's face as he stumbles and runs will be used as tense, discordant music builds (Brown 2002). The shot then fades to black, and smash cuts open to the same shot that we opened the film with - the whole scene consists of that same shot, directly over Vincent's face, as he looks straight into the camera and says his final line.
Brown B, Cinematography: Theory and Practice. Taylor & Francis US, 2002.
Howard R (dir), A Beautiful Mind, perf. Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Ed Harris. Universal Pictures, 2001.
Lyne A (dir), Jacob's Ladder, perf. Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello. TriStar Pictures, 1990.
Rabiger M, Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics. Taylor & Francis US, 2007.
Schlesinger J (dir), Marathon Man, perf. Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider. Paramount Pictures,
Stone O (dir), JKF, perf. Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1991.
Wachowski A, Wachowski L (dirs), The Matrix, perf. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss.
Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999.
int. dorm – day
Resting in his bed, we see VINCENT. A quiet, unassuming college student, the alarm goes off, and his eyes quickly OPEN. Sighing in indignation, he sits up and gets out of bed. Looking at the clock, he sees that it’s 9:30. First thing he does, as he does every day, is sit down in front of his computer.
You know, you’ve got class in a half hour.
VINCENT turns around to see BRAD, his slightly nerdy roommate, sitting up in his bed, about to get down. VINCENT gives a small grin.
As touched as I am for your concern, trust me when I say I’ll be fine.
Do what you like; but you know that test’s gonna kick your ass if you don’t show up for review today.
I’ll be on time, okay, Mom?
Fair ‘nuff. Say, were we all going to head up to Waffletown for supper tonight?
Yeah, I’ll ask Rowan and Tracy if they wanna go.
Vincent exits the room.
int. classroom – day
In a relatively large college classroom, a handful of students sit in their chairs, listening to PROF. GIBSON, an affable, energetic professor.
In one cluster, VINCENT sits with his friends TRACY and ROWAN. TRACY is a beautiful girl, and by the way VINCENT looks at her, we can tell he’s more than a little smitten. ROWAN is the jock of the group, but still has his moments of intelligence.
Okay, everyone, you’re dismissed. Don’t forget that the test is two class periods from now, so study up.
Vince, you wanna grab lunch?
Yeah, in an hour or two, I was going to walk to Mike’s apartment and grab a game from him, but I’ll see you. Same place?
They nod, and the three leave the classroom.
See ya later, professor.
Catch you around, Vincent.
VINCENT is walking down the street, bookbag in hand. Suddenly, a disheveled man, with stubbly face and desperate eyes, runs from across the street and grabs him.
You have to help me! They’re watching, they all are!! You have to be careful, they’ll take you away if they know you know!
VINCENT is merely looking at the man, shocked. He can’t even react, especially as suddenly a car pulls over and two men run out and grab the MAN.
They’re watching!! They’re watching all of us!!
The two men say nothing as they drag the Man into the car and drive off, leaving a stunned, motionless VINCENT.
int. cafeteria – day
VINCENT is sitting with TRACY and ROWAN, eating their lunch.
and they just drive off. They didn’t even try to explain anything, it was just that guy screaming at the top of his lungs to me.
What was he saying?
I don’t know, something about how “they’re watching me” and that “they’ll take me away” or something, he was rambling.
Eh, he was just probably some crazy guy who escaped from some mental hospital and ran into you before the cops got him.
I suppose, but the guys who picked him up didn’t look like they came from any mental hospital.
Dude, just don’t worry about it, okay? You’ve got other things to worry about, namely that test Gibson’s giving for World History.
Yeah, I know. Listen, I’ll see you guys later, okay?
Hey, Vincent, did you want to study tonight?
Yeah, sure thing.
The three get up from the table.
int. dorm – night
VINCENT, TRACY, and ROWAN are doing more hanging out than studying, while BRAD watches TV in the room.
Ever notice that the difficulty of a teacher’s tests is inversely proportional to his coolness?
Yeah; Gibson’s an interesting teacher, but his tests are harder than crap.
(sarcastic, still staring at the TV)
Gee, you guys sound prepared. What’s the subject over, the professor’s personality?
Listen, I’m sorry guys, but I can’t study under these conditions. I should probably study in my room.
Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I’m headed out.
They walk to Vincent’s door.
See ya later, man.
See ya later.
The door shuts.
I don’t think so. You’ve droned on and on about how much you like her; you’re already best friends. Why don’t you just ask her out and then I can finally stop hearing about it?
Just keep playing your game.
As Brad says this, we see an IM window appear on Vincent’s monitor. He turns around to reply”
Wblower34: are you Vincent?
Vec542: who is this?
Wblower34: this is not important. Are you Vincent?
Vec542: fine, yes. How do you know my name. What do you want?
Wblower34: I need to meet you.
Wblower34: I cannot say.
Vec542: Then I don’t have any reason to do this.
Wblower34: You want clarification on what the man you saw today was speaking of.
Vec542: Who are you?
Wblower34: Meet me in 15 minutes in front of Kirk Memorial, at that courtyard with the circle of trees.
Vec542: This is some kind of joke, right?
Wblower34: Trust me Vincent, you will regret not meeting me tonight. I must go before this conversation is traced. Goodbye.
“Wblower34 has signed off”
VINCENT simply stares at the screen. He looks around at BRAD, who is still ignoring the rest of the world, and grabs his coat and leaves the room.
ext. kirk memorial – night
VINCENT is cold, waiting for the whistle-blower. Suddenly, out of the shadows, a man walks out, wiry, secretive.
You are Vincent.
Yeah, you the guy who IMed me?
You can refer to me as Ogilvie. I knew the man you saw abducted today.
What’s going on? How did you get my IM address? How do you even know that I saw the guy?
I know a lot of things about you, Vincent, but trust me, they know more.
(not buying it)
Who’s they? Wait, never mind, I know. A government conspiracy? Someone higher-up is trying to control all the college students in the country? Or even better: a nobody college student from one university, a freaking English major!
I know this is hard to believe, but can you really rule out the possibility that the man you met, a man who was a former associate of mine, met you by chance? Singled you out to try and reveal the truth to?
What truth? All he said was that they’re watching. Who is watching, why don’t you answer me that?
Since we don’t have a lot of time, I’ll make it short.
(car door slams, alarmed)
Hide! They’re here!
What, the men in black are coming to get me? Give me a break.
Shouting is heard from two figures who step out of a car in the street across the yard from the quad.
Hurry! They already know I’m here!
VINCENT, beginning to be a little alarmed, crouches and rushes to the other side of the building. Once there, he hides and sees the two men approach Ogilvie. Because of the light, they’re all in silhouette.
You really think you can warn him, Ogilvie?
Why are you doing this? He’s just a child! You’ve already gotten rid of Alderson, why the both of us?
Those are the kind of questions you don’t need to be askingor presenting to anyone else.
Now, where is he?
(on knees, incredibly afraid)
I didn’t see where he went, I turned around.
Well, if there’s nothing you can offer us, there’s no reason for you to remain.
A silenced GUNSHOT rings out, as Ogilvie drops to the ground, dead. VINCENT suppresses a scream, as he is terrified.
Clean this up; there’d better be no trace of him by morning.
As VINCENT looks closer, he makes out the silhouette of PROF. GIBSON as the man who shot Ogilvie. The men disappear, as VINCENT, panicked, quickly makes his way away from the building and escapes.
int. dorm – morning
VINCENT opens his eyes and gasps in terror, breathing heavily. His eyes are wide with fear, looking around him.
Please, let it all have been a bad dream
SMASH CUT to BLACK.