UPDATE: We have ditched this idea in favour of this one! Here’s my first kick at it. Skeletons are pretty plain and stark, but it feels solid. Feedback, suggestions, reactions encouraged via comment or email. I’m starting the actual script Monday. Speaking of Monday, that evening I will be at this event, featuring a trailer co-directed by our own Tate Young, if you feel like giving feedback in person!
1. HOME MOVIES AT DRINK’N
An event screening childhood movies that features the Play’n Advantage toy with some vintage ads and PSAs thrown in for extra backstory. We meet Alexander, the cognitive Advantaged, Jessika, the empath, and Carson, the dexterous bar owner. They are part of the same Advantaged scene and know each other but are not together. Jessika sings a song called Recall Blues.
2. THE MORNING AFTER – ALEXANDER
Hungover, Alexander stumbles to work. There’s an annoying light computing ad on his way, which he blurs out in annoyance. At his work, a medical testing facility where he is a guinea pig, he’s chastised humourously by a worker he’s on good terms with, Will.
3. THE MORNING AFTER – JESSIKA
Jessika has breakfast with her boyfriend, who breaks up with her — she sells access to her life to a few thousand subscribers, and the pressure to perform’s too much.
4. THE MORNING AFTER – CARSON
Carson, cleaning up his bar, explains to someone trying to book a show at his bar that he only books Advantaged bands.
5. ALEXANDER’S POWER
Alexander is filling out crossword puzzles as fast as he can write. Will, observing from a distance away, talks to a doctor saying that being hung over doesn’t seem to affect his abilities. The doctor says that killing a few braincells is probably good for Alexander.
6. JESSIKA’S POWER
Jessika walks her ex to work, sympathizing with him to an almost insane degree. A guy suddenly appears with flowers for her and is immediately knocked out by a trank dart — she explains that her subscribers protect her from other subscribers who break the fourth wall, in order to keep her willing to be online.
7. CARSON’S POWER
Carson is on a chair, which is balanced on a chair, writing tonight’s specials on the board. He’s being observed by two unseen people, who comment that he’s a hard worker, and practically normal. Then he jumps down with uncanny ease.
8. TESTING UNIT
Alexander is still working on the crossword book and conversing with a fellow test subject, who asks him why he’s doing this when he could be working for way more money. He explains that they’d want his brain, and here they just want his body.
9. JESSIKA’S INTERVIEW
Jessika finishes walking her ex to work and gives him a big hug. He is baffled. She walks home. In the background is the audio from Dr. Robinett, talking to her about relationships. She says that the same thing that draws people to her eventually pushes them away.
10. INT. DAY – DRINK’N
Jessika walks by an electronic sign that says, “Don’t be sad, Jessika”. This gives her a wry smile as she goes into Carson’s bar to pick up something she’d left there. She mentions that their anniversary is coming up of their standing appointment with Dr. Robinett, which is how they met. Carson suggests getting together, and that he knows how to get Alexander to come.
11. ALEXANDER SHOPPING
Alexander is staring at a row of salad dressings. A cog he knows comes by and asks him the criterion, economic or caloric. They have a brief discussion about it, and then he mentions that Drink’n is having an encrypted puzzle night. Alexander is excited by this.
12. INT. DAY – JESSIKA’S STUDIO
Jessika is working in her studio on a sculptural work involving the basic shapes the Toy took, a Teddy bear, blocks and a ball. Superimposed over her vision is the chat from her subscribers. She vocally responds to it, seemingly from boredom, until it gets too raunchy and she turns it off.
13. EXT. NIGHT – DRINK’N
Outside the club the bouncer shakes his head and passes back a card. He’s got the wrong answer. The next guy gets waved in. Inside the club we can see Alex and Jessika and Carson are all hanging out.
14. INT. NIGHT – DRINK’N
The three of them are laughing about some foible of the Doctor. They talk about how they felt about his invasive but sometimes insightful questions, and the impressions they had of each other from across the waiting room. Jessika mentions in passing that it’d be great to hear his voice again, and Carson takes note of this.
15. EXT. NIGHT – DRINK’N
Alexander walks Jessika home, he’s a bit drunk. They talk about how together Carson is. How he remembered when they were younger how Carson was a hoodlum and he was on the verge of discovering light computing. But then he missed the chance to patent it by a few days, and Carson straightened out and was now a successful bar owner. A pillar of the community.
16. LOCKPICKING MONTAGE
Carson closes up for the night and pulls out his skimask and lockpicks. He effortlessly breaks into an office and steals a bunch of files. Playing over this is an interview with the Doctor as a surly teen. He admits that he wants to be bad, because he’s not like them — the baseliners — even though he can pass and be accepted among them.
17. INT. MONITORING ROOM
Will is putting on his uniform in a room full of monitors. Alexander is crashed out on the couch, hungover again. He asks about “her”, and is told they’re reviewing the footage. He asks about the “invisible man”, and is told there’s nothing out of the ordinary. He leaves the room and we see him bring some pills to Alexander, then collapse in a nearby chair to chat.
18. EXT. EVENING – DRINK’N
Carson calls Alexander over when he sees him passing the bar, and gives him the discs he stole. Alexander is delighted by the old-tyme discs. Carson asks him to bring them to the gallery where Jessika’s curating a show next week. He evades Alexander’s question of where he got them by mentioning that they might have a password on them, which excites Alex.
19. INT. JUNK SHOPPE
Alexander is looking for a drive that’ll play the discs. As he does it, and gets it set up, there’s a voiceover of the Doctor asking why he liked puzzles so much. His answer is that there’s always an answer, and you know when you’ve solved it. Unlike problems in the real world, which are very poorly designed. When the disc asks for a password, Alex’s face lights up.
20. INT. TESTING LAB
Alexander has a reef of printed paper and is cracking the encryption by hand. Will sits down beside him and asks him about it, then mocks him about it. He invites him to have dinner with him and his girlfriend, but he already has plans to go to the gallery. He says they should come with him instead.
21. INT. NIGHT – GALLERY
Jessika has curated a show of Advantaged themed art, and is working the crowd. She explains how one piece expresses how the Advantaged can never have kids with the same advantages they have, now that the toy is no longer available. Alexander shows up to give the files to Carson and Jessika, and Will and his girlfriend Marcie mill around feeling out of place.
22. INT. DAY – JESSIKA’S KITCHEN
Jessika is doing dishes and listening to an interview of when she younger, talking about how she decided to get an Octopus tattoo when she heard the news that it went extinct. Then she leaves and the door is shut, but then the Doctor makes some final comments about the session that Jessika finds fascinating.
23. INT. NIGHT – DRINK’N
It’s puzzle night, so Alexander is there when Jessika comes in and gets them both together. She tells them about the trailing tape at the end of the interview and asks them if they found the same with their interviews. But neither Alexander or Carson has gotten around to listening to it yet. Carson gets someone to cover for him at the bar and they leave.
24. EXT. NIGHT – ROOFTOP
The three of them are laughing, listening to the Doctor’s grim diagnosis of Carson as a teenager. Then they listen to one of Alexander, but he keeps skipping through because he finds his optimistic younger self depressing. Weirdly, at the end of the interview, the Doctor uses the intercom to confirm with the secretary that the file has been sent to Aethercom.
25. EXT. MORNING
Alexander, on his way to work, sees that annoying light computing ad. His eye catches on a tiny line at the bottom that identifies it as an Aethercom property. This stuns him.
26. INT. MORNING TESTING LAB
Will greets him as he comes in, but Alexander just gulps down his pills and starts sketching a diagram in his book. When Will inquires, Alexander just mumbles something about “a sufficiently complex problem.” Will smiles indulgently and heads off down the hall.
27. INT. MONITOR ROOM
Will’s relaxed saunter speeds up and his eyes focus and he slams into the room. We see now that the monitors we’d seen before are only a small part of the room, which is abuzz with action. He puts on glasses, is handed a clipboard, gives orders and heads into the war room.
28. INT. MONITOR ROOM
When Will leaves, Marcie continues training a new girl. She explains the Code Red protocol, explaining that when a subject was on the verge of a new idea it was their job to review the recent past footage for clues, as well as that of their network. She flicks through a shot of Drink’n, showing Carson at work, as well as Jessika’s live feed.
29. INT. WAR ROOM
Will is smacking his hand on the whiteboard, which reads “Sufficiently Complex Problem”. There are a bunch of acronyms on it, which he is getting people to brainstorm possibilities for. They are joking around a bit until Will cracks down on them, saying that this fucking goose only lays a golden egg every 10 years.
30. INT. MONITOR ROOM
Karen, the new girl, walks Marcie through what she’s pieced together — showing Jessika arriving at Drink’n, then them leaving the room. Then she shows the feed of her doing dishes and listening to the interview, toggling between the “Hang out with Jessika” and “Be Jessika” perspectives. Jessika’s notably affected by what she hears at the end of the tape.
31. EXT. FIRE ESCAPE
Will is out having a smoke when Marcie finds him. She mentions they found something, he nods. He’s somewhere between the stoner and the boss persona. She mentions that he’d fired up the guys in the war room, and he shrugs saying that though his dad was always down on it, being a theatre major has been really useful for this job.
32. INT. TESTING LAB
Alexander is in full research mode, looking up stuff and putting it into his diagram trees, which are now three or four sheets spread out on the floor. A worker comes by and asks him if he’d like more paper, and he says yes. The worker provides a stack, and jokes about letting him know if he wants different colour crayons.
33. INT. MONITORING ROOM
Will watches this unfold on the monitors, and then gets Marcie and Karen to show him what they’ve found. They show him Jessika listening to the interview, and wonder who it is she’s being interviewed by. Will knows — it’s his father. Someone bursts out of the warroom with the idea that he’s inventing some kind of robot diplomacy.
34. EXT. ROOFTOP
Carson and Jessika look down at Alexander’s huge diagram tree drawn out on a half-dozen sheets. Alexander explains that the Doctor sold the light technology plans Alex had developed to Aethercom, which is why he’d missed the patenting by only a few days. But that isn’t the truly creepy part, he begins to say.
35. INT. MONITOR ROOM
Will and Marcie watch as the three Advantaged kids burst into Drink’n, angry. Carson climbs up and knocks down the camera, and Jessika smashes it. Will rubs his face, and says he needs a smoke. As he leaves, someone else says that Jessika’s feed has gone offline. He nods wearily. What should I do? he asks Marcie, and she suggests to start revising his resume.
36. INT. CAR
Carson, Alexander and Jessika are in a car headed somewhere. Jessika is adjusting to being offline. Carson and Alexander have figured out that after the recall, the Play’n Advantage employees were simply moved to another company — the company hired to provide the kids with therapy sessions. They suspect Dr. Robinett is still alive.
37. EXT. CAR
They drop off Carson at the back and leave him scaling a fence. They go around the front and talk to the security guard. Alexander asks for Dr. Robinett, and uses a stack overflow technique to trick the address out of him. They drive off, picking up Carson who confirms that the place is empty a decoy.
38. EXT. PARK
Will is eating his lunch on a park bench. Someone next to him is reading a book, and he strikes up a conversation. He asks her if she considers it unethical to keep bees for honey. Isn’t it a natural byproduct of them living their life? She agrees, adding that they’re an inferiors species anyway, and they’re lower on the food chain. Will asks, but what if they were higher?
39. EXT. OUTSIDE THE MONITORING OFFICES
Alexander double checks the address when they get there, surprised that it’s so close to his work. Carson and Jessika exchange a look.
40. INT. MONITOR ROOM RECEPTION
Karen is at the desk when the three of them come in. She claims there’s no one by the name Robinett here, and Jessika tells her she’s lying. Karen immediately admits it, she starts to gush about how big a fan she is of her and how people are going crazy since she’s been offline, the chatrooms are going nuts… they push by her and through the door.
41. INT. MONITOR ROOM
At first, no one notices the three of them. With most of their monitoring disabled they are just killing time and joking around. Alexander notices the feed with the empty testing lab and has a puzzled look on his face. Marcie is the first to recognize them, and then the rest of the room does.
42. INT. MONITOR ROOM RECEPTION
Will is coming back from lunch. He hears Jessika demanding to see Robinett. He is clearly not looking forward to this.
43. INT. MONITOR ROOM
Will comes in and hangs up his coat. Alexander is stunned. Will admits he’s Dr. Robinett. His father was the Doctor they’d seen when they were a kid. He ushers them into the war room.
44. INT. WAR ROOM
Will sheepishly erases Alexander’s diagram acronyms from the whiteboard, and explains that his father was an idealistic man. He discovered the Advantage technology and wanted two things: one, to make sure it was safe, and two, that it be available to everybody, not just the economically advantaged.
45. INT. WAR ROOM
Doing human testing, especially the long term testing he needed to do, would require the end product to be very expensive. So he released it as a toy with a pre-programmed destruct date to create a small test group of unwitting volunteers. The fake recall scandal allowed for therapy sessions that were a way of monitoring their mental health.
46. INT. WAR ROOM
The intent was for the test to run until the Advantaged had children of their own — a full generation. However, the company ran into money problems in year 14, and his father had to compromise by selling Alexander’s idea. But after his death, they had to figure out a way to continue the project, so Will came up with an idea to subsidize the continued monitoring.
47. INT. WAR ROOM
Now that the Advantaged are cool, Will sells the surveillance content to cultural outlets. Jessika asks that if the recall was a fake, could the toys be manufactured again? He said hypothetically they could, but a few years ago a critical componant of the process was lost: an enzyme found only in octopi ink. So the toys can’t be recreated after all.
48. INT. MONITOR ROOM
They say that the company is pointless, then, and Will takes them into the room where people are milling about. Tell them it’s pointless. Tell them they’re out of a job, he says. He can’t. And they don’t — they leave of their own accord.
49. EXT. OUTSIDE THE MONITORING OFFICE
A slow shot of the three of them leaving the office, melancholic at humanity’s loss. Jessika touches her octopus tattoo, and then a node behind her ear.
50. INT. MONITOR ROOM
Someone pops up and says Jessika’s back online. There’s a cheer on the floor. Will announces that they’re down to code orange. Marcie asks him how it went. He says that, empath or no, she bought it — the octopus thing played into their fatalism. So I don’t have to revise my resume? says another worker. With a small smile, Will says, not for a while, anyway.