Hollywood probably won’t make a movie about me

There’s nothing cinematic about the life of a stay-at-home parent. There’s the tedium. Of course. When you’re not brokering time-shares on the iphone or throwing out empty threats of “no TV”, you’re sitting in a café writing a blog. There’s nothing sexy about any of it. You’re lucky if you can squeeze enough material out of these sorts of days for a blog post, much less a movie.

BUT…Hollywood needs a good movie about a stay-at-home dad. Because what is there left really? So, in the event that any of the eight people reading this blog run a movie studio…

But before I get into it, let me give a little back-story to the idea.

I have a writing partner. He lives in California. That’s what I tell people, that he lives in California. I keep it vague hoping they’re imagining LA and that we’re a big deal. Really, he lives in San Francisco. If LA is where young hopefuls go to sell their souls for the big and little screens, San Francisco is where they go to write shitty short story collections that no one will ever read. This is what JP is doing. He’s doing it because someone has to. I guess. During the hayday of our partnership (about a year and a half ago), we were writing original TV scripts and meeting with semi-high powered producers (Comedy Central, NBC, and some others). The future looked pretty sunny. Like, LA sunny. Then JP started getting uppity, started speaking his mind and disagreeing with me about things like plot and characters. In short, he ruined it. We still talk, still throw around ideas and are still hopeful that we’ll get back to it when one of us (me) comes up with the right idea. But he’s still holding onto this unhealthy vision of himself as something more than my typist and it’s kind of a drag.

Here’s the idea I pitched him:

A stay-at-home dad of two kids has been struggling mightily to finish the novel he’s been working on for about eight years. He can’t motivate himself. He used to have prospects, be part of the game. Five years as a stay-at-home dad has put him in a professional no-man’s land devoid of creative juices. If he can get this novel done he’s certain everything will change. It’ll sell. His long-suffering commuting wife will be able to quit her job and stay home with the kids. He’ll suddenly find himself with an identity, some respect. He’ll become a man again; financially supportive, emotionally absent. The key to it all is the completion of this novel.

But there’s one other problem. He’s got another kid on the way. He’ll be right back at the beginning, warming pumped breast milk six times a day and changing endless poo-throughs. He’ll be sapped of all energy and mojo. His fate as an emasculated, mom-man will be sealed. Still, he can’t do it. He can’t write the damn thing. He’s blocked, he’s lazy, he’s consumed by self-doubt. (some of this is possibly autobiographical).

One night, at a local stay-at-home dad support group, someone jokes about hiring a hit man to take himself out. Keith (the main character) has his eureka moment. He goes and finds a guy who knows a guy. Soon enough, at a bar, properly drunk, he signs his life away.

He gives himself one month (corresponds to baby’s due-date) to finish his novel. If he doesn’t produce, he’s a dead man. That’s the lead in, or Act I.

After weeks of plumbing the potential depths of this premise, we realized that’s all there is. What does he do through Act II? He either has to write the novel or not write the novel. If he writes the novel the movie’s over…and the movie was really really boring. So then he has to not write the novel. So, then he has to spend all of Act II running from the hitman. Fine enough. But then Act III… what kind of satisfying resolution could possibly come from this? He either has to die or not die. He can’t die. So he lives…but what happens? He can’t complete the task in the way he set out to. That’s not how movies work.

So, after much deliberation, JP and I decided that the only way the premise could work is if after Act I the movie went off in some other direction entirely, somewhere where the either/or trap doesn’t apply. In which case, what’s the point of the premise?

I’ve included this little window into my frustrating and as-yet failed screenwriting life for a couple reasons. For one, the above premise is a little bit autobiographical. I haven’t hired a hitman, nor am I quite dumb enough to think that publishing a novel will bring me money or satisfaction in the way Kieth (or JP) thinks it will. Nor do I belong to a stay-at-home dad support group. I can’t think of anything more emasculating. But I am expecting my third child and, while I truly am very excited about it, it will definitely set me back a bit career-wise. If that’s possible. So, there’s some biographical info that the blog had, up till now, been lacking.

The second reason I included this little behind-the-scenes snippet of two miserable writers overthinking themselves into a creative abyss is to offer this movie idea that we’ve all but given up on, to the general public (all eight of you) and see if we can crowd-source this sucker to daylight. Wouldn’t that be cool? To have other people do the work for me? As they say, necessity and imminent new babies are the mothers of invention.

So, feel free to solve our Act III conundrum in the comments below. You won’t get any writing credits when the movie comes out but then again neither will we. That’s the sad truth of writing for the movies. And that’s, I suppose, why JP is still trying to write that novel, and, to some degree, why I’m writing this blog…ownership of something…anything.

How’s that for depressing?

Comments

  1. I wasn’t depressed until I read this.

  2. How about making it so he has to write the novel while running from the hitman and being a sahd dad. Maybe the hitman could deliver the baby in a happy ending.

  3. Mr. Mom was a big hit, if memory serves me, and written by John Hughes. All that I remember is the vacuum cleaner “Jaws”, but there’s some precedent for success. I’d pay to see your movie.

  4. Nice work man. Good post. Good blog. I’d give my ideas about Act III but I have my own failed literary attempts in my closet and I fear any help I give to other struggling writers would increase the possibilty that they will be succesful before me and that would REALLY piss me off ;)

    Keep it going.

  5. I think the plot’s got legs. How about if he goes on the run in Act III and starts blogging about his daily struggle to survive as a way to communicate with his family? His blog goes viral and soon millions of people are following his life-or-death adventures, and debating about whether it’s real. It’s a weird twist because he’s famous like he always wanted, but not in the way he wanted and it’s meaningless because he’s not with his family. In the final scene he’s trapped by the hitman and gives up to face a brutal end. In the European version of the film he gives an eloquent tear-jerking last message for his kids and wife before he’s shot in the heart (“what??? No way!!”;). In the US version he gives the tear-jerker and it looks like he’s done when another hitman, hired by his family with the millions they’ve made from selling the rights to his story, takes out the first hitman. A lot of group hugging ensues before they joyfully eat the face off the dead hitman (Borneo version). I see Jim Carey in an Eternal Sunshine type performance as the SAHD, Gary Oldman as the first hitman who is so dedicated to honor and his craft that he will not give up the chase despite the crazy circumstances and, in a wild twist, Art Garfunkel as the 2nd hitman.

  6. Ben,
    This blog is fantastic and is now added to the bookmark toolbar.
    Someday, maybe not soon, but someday you *must* write about our unfortunate accidental meeting at that “specialty shop” in Berkeley. Please give me a fake name to conceal my identity though.

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