Monday, January 19, 2009

Week One, Day One - "Laid On"

LAID ON
Written by Joe Janes
January 19, 2009
1 of 365 Sketches Project

CAST:
BOB CRANSTON – mid-30’s
MR. WILLIAMS – mid-50’s

(Lights up on Bob Cranston in his office cubicle. He is packing stuff from his desk into a cardboard box previously used to store reams of paper. He looks sad. Mr. Williams enters carrying a thick, but not cumbersome, stack of files.)

MR. WILLIAMS
Cranston?

BOB
Yes, Mr. Williams?

MR. WILLIAMS
What are you doing?

BOB
Just packing a few things. It’s all my stuff. No office supplies. Except, these binder clips (pulls box of clips from box) Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.

MR. WILLIAMS (not concerned)
Just binder clips, Bob.

BOB
Oh, so it’s okay if I…

MR. WILLIAMS
No.

BOB (putting box of binder clips down on the desk)
Right. Of course. Got to do the right thing here. Leave with a clear conscience.

MR. WILLIAMS
Bob, you weren’t laid off.

BOB
I wasn’t?

MR. WILLIAMS
No. We would have told you.

BOB
I thought you just forgot. I didn’t want to make it awkward for you.

MR. WILLIAMS
Well, you’re not.

BOB
But so many people were. Good people. Digit Dave, in accounting, and he just bought a house. And Peggy, Pregnant Peggy. She’s pregnant. Kidney Ken – Does he know?

MR. WILLIAMS
He’ll find out when he comes out of surgery.

BOB
And Married Mike –

MR. WILLIAMS
Just got married. I know. These are difficult times. That’s why we need people like you, Bob Cranston.

BOB
People like me?

MR. WILLIAMS
People like you who work really hard and don’t ask for much.

BOB
I don’t, do I?

MR. WILLIAMS
When was the last time you got a raise?

BOB
Three years ago.

MR. WILLIAMS
And for how much?

BOB
An extra 40 bucks a week. It’s really come in handy.

MR. WILLIAMS
$40 a week’s what I spend at Starbucks. It’s only two grand a year.

BOB
Wow, when you put it like that, it’s like I’m robbing you.

MR. WILLIAMS
Hardly. When was the last time you asked for a raise?

BOB
I’ve never asked for a raise.

MR. WILLIAMS
What was your Christmas bonus last year and every year since you’ve been here?

BOB
A coupon for Crazy Bread from Little Caesar’s and a box of Clementines. I keep the crates the oranges come in and store audiocassettes in them.

MR. WILLIAMS
You still listen to audiocassettes?

BOB
Right here in my cubicle. (He holds up a large portable cassette player from the cardboard box.) With my headphones on, of course (holds up large headphones).

MR. WILLIAMS (plucks a cassette out of the box)
Foreigner. Nice.

BOB
I know how to rock, Mr. Williams.

MR. WILLIAMS
Bob, with the one raise you received and all that crazy bread, have you ever complained about anything?

BOB
No, sir. Never.

MR. WILLIAMS
Precisely. That’s my point. The ten people we let go all asked for raises and promotions over the years and got them. They prospered and ambitioned themselves right out of employment. You, Cranston, you have no ambition.


BOB
I just want to do a good job.

MR. WILLIAMS
Which is good enough for me. I like employees that don’t want much. (Bob starts thinking about this) Now, why don’t you go ahead and unpack that box and get back to work.

BOB (sans enthusiasm)
Right away, Mr. Williams.

MR. WILLIAMS
Oh, and here’s Pregnant Peggy’s work folders. You’ll need to cover her load.

BOB (very matter of fact)
Sure thing, Mr. Williams.

(Mr. Williams turns to leave.)

BOB
Mr. Williams?

MR. WILLIAMS
Yes, Bob.

BOB (avoiding eye contact with Mr. Williams, a little angry)
There is something I want.

MR. WILLIAMS
Okay. (pause) What?

BOB
I want this box of binder clips. For my home. For my own personal use.

MR. WILLIAMS (leaning in)
You go ahead and take home a box of binder clips, big guy. But let’s just keep it between you and me (he slaps Bob on the back).

BOB
Thanks, Mr. Williams. You’re the best.

MR. WILLIAMS
No, I’m really not.

(He exits. Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” plays as Bob joyfully gets back to work. Blackout)



MY COMMENTS

Well, I notice that I am using actor signals more than I normally would. A signal is where I write in parenthesis after a character's name about how they are saying something, "sans enthusiasm," for example. In a production situation, I hate these. It diminishes the actor's opportunity to discover how the line could best be delivered. And quite often, the writer doesn't have the best take on it. An actor will often find a better more interesting way. However, I'm very aware that you are reading this, probably alone, and to yourself. I think in this case, it acts as a way of painting the picture more for a lone reader. Many screenwriters do this in even more elaborate depth because they know their first hurdle is one person sitting alone in a room, reading.

I started out the day anxious about what I was going to write. I had it in my head that I was going to start with a comic monologue. I was looking for clues for something that would get the wheels turning in my brain. I read a short article about Alexander the Great. Nope. I played an on-line Scrabble game. Nope. Just ended up challenging my brother on using the word "majora" and I won. It is not in the dictionary, foo'. While reading the list of news headlines on The Drudge Report, I had stuck in my head the image of a man packing items up from his desk. Timely, of course. And my billionth contribution to the plethora of office sketches out there. But I couldn't shake it, so I wrote it. The first draft was only two pages, unformatted and I was finished by 10am. The rest of the day, I putzed around, wrote a draft of tomorrow's scene, an extended blackout, and came back from time to time to tweak this scene. A major change was going from "staples" to "binder clips." My sole reason for doing this is because "Bob" was beginning to remind me of "Milton" from Office Space. Staples put him too close to stapler obsession. They are still not-so-distant cousins, but making that one change helped me make other changes, such as the end when Bob asks for what he wants. Silly, but binder clips made the man stronger.

Feel free to leave me questions or feedback in the comments section.

JOSS WHEDON

Joss Whedon did an interview recently where he ran down his top ten writing tips. Worth checking out, regardless of what you think of the Whedonverse. The dude's a crackerjack writer. You can read the article HERE.

SKETCHFEST

Sketchfest is over and I saw some very fine shows. Don Hall and I vow to have a show in there next year. While I saw good stuff, I do need to add an 11 to my post title 10 Things You Should Please Stop Doing In Your Sketch Revue - NOW!!! Number 11 - Stop using an audience member to demonstrate how to pick someone up. I saw it three out of five shows.



14 comments:

Lori said...

I am Bob. Almost.
I liked it.
And binder clips rock. Especially the extra large ones because you can use them for Chip Clips.

Simi said...

Using parentheticals/actor signals is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it is for those who feel they need to have a "correct" looking screenplay or something, but I think they are important. And don't get me wrong, it's cool to have a scene go in a new direction when actors start to play around with it, but it should have a very specific direction on paper.

I think stage direction is more important than dialogue. The way something is done or said usually funnier than the actual content of what is said. Does this make sense?


Anyways, embrace the parentheticals. Sketchfest can be remarkable, but needs some quality control. And godspeed with the next 364 days. Check americanelf for inspiration if your enthusiasm starts to wane (it's a daily comic strip diary (a brilliant one), going more than 10 years now...if James can do it 10 years, you can survive 364 days.)

Jeannie said...

Joe-
1) This is a lot of work you have taken on...
2)For someone like me who has not taken a formal play/sketch writing course, this is extremely helpful to read..
3)Yet one more thing that reminds me of my slacker habits....
4)You are now on my Daily Read list along with AWG
5) I have finally figured out that you and AWG were lost at birth on an alien planet years ago, dropped on earth like Moses in the reeds and found each other in Chicago....

Joe Janes said...

5) I have finally figured out that you and AWG were lost at birth on an alien planet years ago, dropped on earth like Moses in the reeds and found each other in Chicago....

Thanks, Jeannie. That made me laugh! Although, I think Don is more like the Edward G. Robinson character in The Ten Commandments.

Enya's Assassin said...

Nice start, Mr. Janes. Nice and tight. Only 364 to go . . .

One suggestion, I wonder if it might be better for you to post a sketch one day, and then post your comments regarding that sketch the next day. That way anybody leaving feedback has to do so from a place of letting the sketch do all the talking for itself, and then the writer can answer the feedback and give his take on what he was trying to say then.

Just a thought.

Have fun!

Joe Janes said...

Thanks, Chris. I don't know if I can post about the a scene on the next day. Once I post it, I'm on to the next one or two or three (I'm only one up, right now). We're still figuring this stuff out. Not sure what's the most valuable thing to do. I could just not comment in the post and just respond to feedback and questions here. What do you think about that?

David DeVries said...

It's a nice, tight and simple scene to start off with. Although, I would have added more yelling, because I've recently realized that pretty much all of my scenes have yelling in them.

But actually, I'm thinking of trying to write a scene everyday myself, so you've inspired me.

And by the way, thanks a million for writing about HORSE! on your blog and coming to see the show. It was really appreciated.

Enya's Assassin said...

I suppose what I'm saying is, when you write a scene, and then write the "educational" part for the benefit of other writers, just post that with your next day's skectch posting. Even if that means your not directly responding to feedback because you wrote your background stuff about the scene the day before. That way your feedback is always coming from a place where I can only tell you what I thought of the scene, and I'm not looking for the things you talk about, like parentheticals or whatever.

I guess the short way of saying it is, post a scene, then post your comments about it the next day, whether you wrote them the day before or not.

David - I saw Horse. Nice work. You guys freak me out a little, but it was good to see some of your weird shit on stage instead of just on the page. Loved the energy. Some of it didn't work for me, but I was never bored!

Joe Janes said...

I'll think about it, Chris, but it seems odd to separate it from the scene itself. But that just might be my brain trying to compartmentalize things. On the website, it wouldn't be all that separate, just a short scroll down.

Dan In said...

Joe Janes ... you're a funny guy and you're writing is funnier. Good job, can't wait to read more. I dig your comment section too. Gave me more insight on your journey to writing it.

you're an inspiration joe!

Joe Janes said...

Thanks, Dan. Cool to have you chime in.

Henri D said...

Binder Clip Bob.
The alliteration continues!

Joe Janes said...

That's going in the rewrite, Henri! Thanks!

idjar said...

Excellent beginning. The parentheticals help emphasize subtlety.