overviewgeneral notesstory
characterstechnical notespage notes

 

 

                                             TITLE: DIRTY MONEY                      WRITER: Omitted
                                             GENRE: Action-comedy                       LOCALE: U.S., Peru
                                             NUMBER OF PAGES: 105                      ANALYSIS BY: Paul Young
                                             SUBMITTED BY: JTN Entertainment, Inc.                                             

OVERVIEW

DIRTY MONEY contains the basic elements of a strong action/comedy, driven by a powerful and unique central relationship. Although it contains some exciting and charming scenes and moments, this draft fails to generate enough narrative, dramatic, or emotional power as a result of a number of major problems, including:

1. Underdeveloped, formulaic main storyline.

2. Superficial, one-dimensional leading characters.

3. Unfocused central relationships.

4. Two structural weaknesses.

5. Lack of theme.

A rewrite must dramatize the inner lives and problems of the principal characters, as well as the involvement of members of the Washington elite and intelligence communities in worldwide drug cartels. It should focus on the fierce determination of one man to expose this connection to save his life and that of his partner, and dramatize fully the stunning dilemma of a woman who learns her father is a prime force in the international drug trade, and must decide whether or not to turn him in.

GENERAL NOTES

1. The primary narrative elements – the Washington political underworld, the NSA, and the Latin American drug trade, are crucially underdeveloped. Each is dealt with only superficially as nominal background to the action, and this misses the opportunity to unite them in a way that maximizes their collective power.

One way of approaching this problem is for Ernest Kittering to be a U.S. government official – e.g., a Senator or White House Chief of Staff, rather than an investment banker, and for Vasquez to be a military strongman who runs Peru with an iron hand, rather than a private drug dealer. The action then could be driven from the U.S. Senate or White House here, and the President’s palace, drug farms, and military installations in Peru, allowing the creation of more dynamic characters, conflict, and high-powered action.

The story then could be developed as follows: A U.S. Senator or White House Chief of Staff (formerly NSA Director), and the President of Peru, once partners and friends, have fallen out and now threaten each other with exposure or destruction, generating a political and personal war into which Dodd is drawn. He is almost killed during what appears to be a routine assignment, forcing him to have to find out what is really going on.

After being assigned to go to Peru, he finally uncovers evidence that leads him, via Vasquez, to his superiors at NSA, and eventually to the Senate or White House. Together, he and Kittering succeed in getting hold of the evidence (the videotapes) and bringing down the mastermind, who happens to be Kittering’s father.

2. The Washington storyline must take us deep into the secret world of transactions between government officials and drug dealers, allowing us to see the connection up close – the vast sums of money that change hands, the chain of secret alliances between Ernest Kittering and those who move the drugs and cash, the layers of insulation between the penthouses and the streets.

Most importantly, the shock to Ernest Kittering when he realizes that his empire has been penetrated by Dodd and his daughter, and his struggle to decide how far he will go to stop them, needs to be dramatized as forcefully as possible. There are scenes and moments of great power and intensity to be elicited from this unusual and powerful situation.

3. The NSA (the Puzzle Palace) should be explored in detail, exposing its core. We should go inside secret buildings, see the massive computer/satellite coding and decoding systems used to monitor private, government, and military communications – (e.g., handwriting can be read from a satellite), showing us how the systems works, and how it can be abused. We should see the lengths to which Halloran will go to keep his NSA empire intact and protect Ernest Kittering, his friend and partner, but only by having Dodd followed, roughed up, and warned off, but eventually by ordering him and Kittering killed.

4. The Latin American drug trade needs to be dramatized more vividly, and in greater detail, showing its real power, and the scope of its operations. One way this could be accomplished is if Vasquez is President of the country. Another is for him to be one of several drug lords who control the market.

Whatever the choice, through Vasquez, we should see the entire process at work – farms, production and distribution systems, security forces, money laundering through a network of renegade banks, etc. We should see how these men avoid capture, break colleagues out of prison, murder adversaries, and pay protection to local and U.S. officials to enable them to flood U.S. cities with drugs.

(a) The Dodd/Kittering relationship: Working partners with strong romantic and sexual tension that remains unresolved until the end.

(b) The Kittering/Ernest Kittering relationship: Her difficulties and ambivalences in dealing with her father as the enemy.

(c) Ernest Kittering’s crisis as his empire comes tumbling down. The fact that his prime adversary is his own daughter. The realization that he must either have his daughter killed or lose his empire.

(d) Halloran’s push to consolidate his power at NSA, his plans for Ernest Kittering to be president one day now threatened by Dodd.

(e) Halloran ordering Farnsworth to have Dodd and Kittering killed, causing Farnsworth to have to deal with being caught between two sets of loyalties – NSA and the Director, and Dodd.

f) Vasquez finding himself at war not only with other drug dealers who want him dead, but with his U.S. allies, who are prepared to sell him out because Dodd has acquired the incriminating videotape.

6. By focusing almost exclusively on the surface action, this draft lacks a clear theme or universal element, limiting its narrative, dramatic, and emotional power. However, there are a number of thematic ideas and values latent in the material that could be elicited to give it added force. Possibilites include:

(a) Dodd/Kittering: Learning to trust/learning to love.

(b) Farnsworth/Dodd: Friendship is more important than professional duties, whatever the cost.

(c) Kittering/Ernest Kittering: How far must a person go to uphold what is legally and morally right? Must we turn in someone we love, whom we know is a criminal? How far will a man go to protect his assets? Will he kill the person he loves most in the world to achieve this end?

STORY

Act One

Halloran selecting Dodd for the assignment, to Dodd being sent to Peru to negotiate the release of Kittering (pp. 1-38).

Although the section establishes the basics, there are too many missed opportunities, resulting in a segment that skims the surface of the story, lacks intensity and drive, moves too slowly, and ends too late (p. 38). Concerns, and areas for development include:

1. The Las Vegas sequence (pp. 6-19) works well, but is much too long at fourteen pages for its importance to the story, and should be trimmed. We need to see more of Dodd’s feelings not just about being a fish out of water, but also the fact that suddenly someone is trying to kill him. This man is a computer scientist, who suddenly finds himself in the line of fire. His surprise, shock, fear, anger, and suspicion about what’s really going on all must be part of what he goes through as he barely escapes with his life.

2. The Farnsworth/Director relationship is written too close to the surface, needs more substance. We need to see more of both the legitimate and seamy sides of the NSA and its people. For instance, Halloran, the ambitious technocrat, and Farnsworth, the dedicated employee/civil servant, should clash openly, as Farnsworth realizes his boss is involved in illegal activities.

3. Ernest Kittering should be seen not only in collusion with Halloran, but masterminding the flow of drugs and cash, showing us not only his empire in operation, but also his ruthlessness. Then, we can watch Dodd being set up, and feel the true power of the forces arrayed against him.

4. At the party at Ernest Kittering’s house, the reveal of Kittering as EK’s daughter must focus on the fact that she and Dodd are, unknowingly, going up against her father, driving the story forward in a powerful and compelling way.

5. A stronger bond needs to be established between Dodd and Farnsworth. Farnsworth is the one man in the NSA who really cares about Dodd, and we should see the evolution of that relationship.

For instance, Farnsworth’s concerns for Dodd as he sees him becoming more deeply enmeshed in this situation creates great ambivalence in him. He is loyal to Halloran and NSA; but his knowledge that if he keeps low he’ll be able to collect his pension soon and retire is no comfort when faced with the fact that Halloran is willing to have both Dodd and Kittering killed, and that he will end up being the man who gives the orders.

6. Dodd’s efforts to uncover what is going on also should be dramatized in greater detail. He would not simply accept the assignment without question. He might probe Farnsworth, Kittering, other friends or colleagues at NSA, check computer files on Farnsworth and Halloran, hunting for clues.

Maybe he goes to an old friend, an ex-NSA man, for help, only to be told that he’s involved in things too big for him to handle, and that his life is in real danger. We should sense the ominous presence of the threat to Dodd, even if we don’t yet know exactly what it is – e.g., his phone is tapped, he feels he is being watched, shadowed. Another friend might tell him to stay alert – people have been known to disappear.

7. The first act also should expose us to more of Dodd as a person – where he came from, what his interests, hopes and dreams, fears and problems are. One approach is that he is a former mathematics teacher used to working in a room with a computer, but who now must learn to use a gun and defend his life. Whatever the specifics, we must like him, feel for him and the problems he must solve, as he works his way through his deadly dilemma. See also below – CHARACTERS.

8. The Dodd/Kittering relationship should be much further along by the end of the act. We should feel not only the romantic and sexual tension between them, but the beginnings of a charming, action-packed relationship, as she, the street-wise professional, finds herself partnered with an attractive, intelligent, academic, who must learn to fight for his life in the streets against an unknown enemy. His journey to Cuzco to rescue her will gain added emotional power if we have already witnessed the dawning of their romantic and sexual interest in one another.

Act Two – First Half

Dodd flies to Cuzco, to Dodd and Kittering escaping into the jungle (pp. 38-60).

This section lacks drama, complexities of story, character, or relationship, and narrative drive, resulting in limited emotional involvement. By the mid-point of the act and the film (p. 60), the only narrative element is the attenuated surface story of Dodd trying to rescue Kittering from Vasquez. Areas for development consideration include:

1. The Dodd/Kittering relationship. As written, it consists almost entirely of flippant dialogue relating to their sexual chemistry, and this is not enough. We need to know each of them better, see their ingenuity and teamwork in the face of danger, their growing closeness as they realize they must stick together to save one another. Possibilities could include:

(a) He works out a plan for them to backtrack and find out who’s after them, maybe tailing Farnsworth, their supposed ally, and she exposes a tough core, a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, surprising him.

(b) He says something about being a computer scientist, not a field agent, revealing his fears; yet we sense something in him is enjoying all this excitement.

(c) He probes her about her father, and she refuses to talk about him, or what may happen as the investigation unfolds. Dodd sees her anger and frustration, tries to comfort her. A moment. They grow closer, then argue about some detail like who gets the window seat on the plane home, reverting back to their normal wariness.

Whatever the specifics, this section needs a significant advance in the Dodd/Kittering relationship – heightened electricity, mutual suspicions, and growing personal feelings, alongside problems of survival, and what they must do to get out of Cuzco alive.

2. Vasquez and his drug empire. Whether as the President of the country, or a major drug dealer, we need to see more than just his house and flamboyant entertaining style. We must witness the enormity of his entire drug operation – growing fields, slave labor, processing and distribution, gun battles with competitors and the law, payoffs to officials in high government offices, etc. The utter ruthlessness with which Vasquez and his colleagues operate must be dramatized fully, so that we know Dodd and Kittering are in serious trouble. Generating comedy out of Vasquez and Rosa is fine, as long as it does not violate the dramatic underpinnings of the story, or trivialize the real danger to Dodd and Kittering.

3. The individual and collective stories of Ernest Kittering, Halloran, and Farnsworth. These should be intercut with the progression of events in Cuzco. Possibilities include:

(a) As Dodd and Kittering try to get away from Vasquez, growing closer as things become more dangerous, Ernest Kittering rages about being vulnerable now – the first time in his life. He orders Halloran to get Dodd and recover the tape, whatever it takes. Halloran is angry about being exposed, blames Ernest Kittering. They argue, lock horns, but realize that they must do this together.

(b) Halloran orders Farnsworth to get the tape, and kill Dodd and Kittering. Farnsworth is stunned, but has no options.

(c) Kittering now knows she’s on a collision course with her father, doesn’t know what to do about it, or how she will react if push comes to shove. Dodd tells her it’s already past shove – people will come to try and kill them, people sent by her father. They have no choice but to fight back.

Act Two – Second Half

Dodd and Kittering escaping with the other prisoner, to Vasquez sending Kittering back to the U.S. to get the second tape, keeping Dodd as hostage (pp. 60-71).

The events that occur here – lucking into the members of the revolution, making love, being captured by Vasquez men works well enough as far as they go. But the section is underdeveloped, and contains one of the screenplay’s two major structural problems – it is ten pages in length. Narratively, the end of the act is when Vasquez sends Kittering back to Washington to get the tape (p. 71), triggering the long chase that leads to the climax and conclusion. However, since the mid-point of the act – Dodd and Kittering escaping, occurs on p. 60, the second half totals eleven pages.

The result of this structure is a section that is rushed and superficial, lacks narrative, character, or relationship development, and unbalances the act and the film. Development possibilities include:

1. Dramatizing more of the resistance movement. As written, the story virtually bypasses the resistance, using it only as background to the capture of Dodd and Vasquez. Opening it up would allow us to meet other members, hear debate about what to do about Vasquez, feel the intensity of the people, and see the lengths to which they are prepared to go to get rid of him.

At a rally, we could see how Dodd and Kittering are moved by the passion of the speakers, and shocked at the extent of Vasquez’ tyranny over these people. Their realization that there are other ingredients, other human beings, involved in this situation, deepens their commitment to get Vasquez and Ernest Kittering. They tell the people they will do everything they can to help, knowing it means confronting Kittering’s father.

2. Intensifying Farnsworth’s dilemma. After arguing with Halloran and being threatened by him, Farnsworth reluctantly sends men after Dodd and Kittering with orders to get the tape and kill them. After ordering his men into the field, Farnsworth can’t live with it, goes there himself to warn Dodd. At the same time, Ernest Kittering brings in his own manpower to do the job, agonizing over what he might have to have done to his daughter.

3. Deepening the Dodd/Kittering relationship. One way of approaching this is as follows: Instead of their doing the predictable thing – having sex, they get right to the point of no return, then hold off. It just doesn’t feel right to either of them. This is not the time for romance. Lives are in danger, and there are real problems to be solved, not only their own now, but also those of the people whose lives are being destroyed by Vasquez. Their attraction to one another is obvious, and the sexual heat palpable; but they will wait. No touching. They will work together until this is over. The fact that they grow closer, and that there is unfinished romantic and sexual business between them, will add narrative, dramatic, and emotional power to the segment.

Act Three

The Cessna with Kittering and Rosa on board landing at Lima, to Dodd/Kittering and Farnsworth/Rosa in bed in their respective apartments (pp. 71-103).

Act three needs a total rewrite, a wholly different approach to the story, and a restructuring of major character and narrative elements, as a result of two major problems:

1. The broad, comic style of the section undercuts its ability to tell the conclusion of the story in a forceful and compelling way, breaking down into broad, sexual farce when it should be powerful and intense. The act must escalate the tensions as the story moves toward confrontation between Dodd/Kittering and Ernest Kittering and Halloran. Comedy to lighten the material is fine; but allowing the finale to become a comic chase with broad sexual overtones diminishes the power not only of the act, but of the screenplay.

2. The act contains a critical narrative error, which is also the screenplay’s second major structural weakness – the almost total absence of Dodd from the end of the story. This is a major flaw, and virtually destroys interest in the film. Dodd is our hero. We have followed him through the twists and turns of the story , and now want to see him bring it to a conclusion. As written, act three is almost entirely a chase to the finish for the tape in Washington, while Dodd remains a prisoner in Cuzco. It must be redesigned to allow Dodd to drive the action, either alone, or with Kittering.

One approach to solving these problems is as follows: Dodd is sent back to Washington for the tape with Kittering. They escape, are helped by members of the resistance movement, or sprung by an NSA agent with orders to torture them for the missing tape. Dodd kills the man. He and Kittering get back to Washington, with help from Farnsworth. After arriving in Washington, Dodd is the architect of a plan to hunt down and trap Halloran and Ernest Kittering, using Kittering as partner and decoy. As part of the action, Dodd also should be directly responsible for Vasquez’ downfall.

The strands of the story all should be brought together here – the climax of the Dodd/Kittering relationship, the machinations of Ernest Kittering and Halloran as Dodd and Kittering get closer, the ambivalence of Farnsworth about having to order Dodd and Kittering killed, and Vasquez’ fury at the knowledge that if Dodd and Kittering get away with the tapes, his entire empire will crumble.

There also are opportunities in this act to create extraordinarily powerful moments and actions between Kittering and her father, whom she now must confront with evidence that proves him to be her enemy. His realization that if he doesn’t kill his own daughter, he is finished, and hers that she must arrest her own father in order to survive and save Dodd, contain the stuff of powerful and compelling drama, almost entirely unrealized in this draft.

The ending itself is weak and anticlimactic because we don’t see Halloran and Ernest Kittering caught. We must see them arrested, the event covered by the media, their friends and colleagues in Washington watching on the news, Kittering filled with ambivalence as the police handcuff her father and take him away. Whatever the specific choices, we must witness their downfall. In addition, the story should not end on a piece of sexual shtick between Farnsworth and Rosa, two supporting characters, but with a romantic reunion between Dodd and Kittering. Having shared this adventure, saved their lives, and dealt with the problem of her father as the enemy, they figure out not only that they work well together, but that they might as well keep doing it forever.

CHARACTERS

DODD

Superficial, unfocused, and lifeless, he is a formula action hero who deals with everything at the surface level, and has no inner life. As written, he is one of the major weaknesses of this draft. Areas for development consideration include:

1. His internal life and its relationship to his actions. Because the audience knows nothing about what’s inside him, they will be unlikely to care about him and what he does. His actions are confined almost entirely to his surface functions – going to Cuzco, finding the tape, getting back to Washington, etc. A prime example is that he finds one half of the tape, realizes he was being targeted, makes an offhand crack to Halloran about being set up (p. 22), then takes the assignment and goes to Peru to get Kittering, without referring to the incident again, or demonstrating any feeling about almost being killed, probably by someone inside NSA.

But this is a man who makes his living with a computer, not a gun. Now, someone is trying to kill him, and he finds himself catapulted into the world of hard action, his entire orientation to life shifted, his life itself in danger. An ordinary man in his situation would have powerful feelings about all this – the danger, the shadowy people at NSA – his employers, who might be the ones after him, etc. But we see none of this. We need to see how he handles his fears, how resourceful and determined he is to stay alive and get to the bottom of all this, what kind of guy he is, how he handles himself under fire.

One possibility is that he starts his own investigation into everyone connected with his original assignment, conscious of the fact that he’s under constant surveillance, he could be killed at any time. Yet it never deters him. He bootstraps himself over his fears, hunts down possible leads, questions old friends and former NSA employees, trying to find a crack in the armor of his adversaries. Through it al, we feel his grit and commitment, his refusal to roll over for these sinister men and their deadly game.

There is considerable dramatic (and comedic) potential in the story of a man who ordinarily works with his intellect being forced to return to the jungle and live by the code of violence. But we must see his fears, doubts, resolve, determination, and triumph dramatized, as he learns to think like a field agent, use a gun, fight hand-to-hand, and rise above his limitations to solve the problems that threaten his life.

2. His passivity. One of the major problems with this character is that he is reactive to virtually all the primary events of the story, rather than driving them, and is offscreen for most of act three. The screenplay must be redesigned to create a much more dynamic and active role for him. He must conceive and execute unusual, imaginative plans and actions that continually drive the story forward. Possibilities could include:

(a) Finding the first clue that points to Ernest Kittering. Having to tell Kittering that their adversary is her father.

(b) Facing off directly with Halloran, challenging him in the hope he will make a mistake and leave himself vulnerable.

(c) Engineering the escape from Vasquez’ prison.

(d) Getting them back to Washington in time to stop Halloran and Ernest Kittering.

3. His life outside NSA. We know nothing about any aspect of Dodd’s life that does not relate directly to the surface events of this story, impoverishing him as a character, and limiting his appeal and power. His life and history are relevant to our ability to connect with him and care about him. We need to know whether he has friends or relatives, how he came to be working at NSA, what happened in his life that made him so awkward with people, etc., elements that will help to make him a fully dimensional character.

4. His skills as a computer scientist. Although he’s a computer expert, his skills are never utilized. He could just as easily be a high school drama teacher as an NSA computer expert. We need to see him use his resources to drive the story forward and trigger the climactic events of the film. Possibilities include:

(a) The ability to crack the codes of secret NSA computer systems, generating clues to the mystery of who is trying to kill him.

(b) Creating or utilizing a sophisticated computer virus to fool or inactivate NSA computers.

(c) Jamming NSA signals by using secret computer commands, throwing attempts by Halloran to have him killed into disarray.

One way of developing Dodd that addresses the above concerns is as follows:

A former mathematics teacher who went into computer science after massive teacher layoffs, Dodd ended up in cryptography at NSA, likes the challenge of coding and decoding work, but rebels against the authoritarian, Big Brother, conditions. He’s bright, funny, a loner, uncomfortable with people, teaches math to kids in a juvenile detention center in his spare time. He is shocked to discover himself chosen for a field mission, then stunned to discover that someone inside NSA or FBI is trying to have him killed, presumably for the tape. But who? And what is on the tape?

He has no idea what to do, who to talk to, whom he can trust. He starts to confide in Farnsworth, but senses danger. Likewise with a friend in his department. Finally, against his own impulses, he tells Kittering, explains that he’s got no choice but to find out who wants the tape badly enough to kill him for it, or else just sit around until someone shoots him.

She says he’s crazy, a hacker, never even fired a gun. Reluctantly, he asks her to help. She agrees. The chemistry between them is strong. They argue constantly, partly because of his inability to work as a team player, and partly her natural toughness and no-nonsense style.

After the shock of discovering her father is their adversary, they realize they have no choice but to work together to solve this, and that they must go up against him. Dodd has to learn to respect and work with her, and she has to learn to let her guard down enough to let him make a contribution.

Dodd’s story is that of a man who works with his mind catapulted into the world of hard action and physical danger, where he must learn to survive with his life constantly in danger. A stylish guy, who bootstraps himself over every problem that presents itself, he toughs it out at every turn, trying to act like a pro and stay alive in the world of guns and knives and severed body parts. His story also is that of a loner unable to trust other people, who must learn to depend on someone else, a woman, and work as a part of a team in order to stay alive.

Other development possibilites include:

1. He is a former marine or police officer, who has left the business because of his distaste for the violence. He used his skills to learn computers, found he had a knack, created a better life for himself out of the line of fire. Now, he is forced to return to carrying a gun and living in the kill-or-be-killed world he had rejected. This jams him, making him falter at a critical moment in the story – e.g., can he really pull the trigger? He does what he has to do, rising above his own limitations to save Kittering, but knows that if he survives he’ll quit NSA, will never again take a job in which someone could ask him to kill.

2. The Dodd/Kittering relationship is badly underdeveloped – superficial, trite, lacking character and dimension. Other than their sexual attraction, there are virtually no dynamics between them, the screenplay barely touching the surface of a potentially interesting relationship. Possible approaches could include:

(a) They work together to solve their problems of finding the tape and staying alive, fighting their obvious sexual attraction to one another all the way. Along the way, after clashing over almost everything, they find they really like each other. For instance, from the moment he arrives in Cuzco, there are arguments over plans and methodology. He says that although he was sent to trade with Vasquez for her release, they must search the place, and find the second half of the tape. She says they should get out now, worry about the tape later. He says they can’t prove who they’re up against unless they get the tape. She says they need to be alive to prove anything, and if they don’t get out now, they never will. They argue. The heat rises, bursts to the surface. They have sex, are captured.

After this, during the prison and escape segments, there is awkwardness, neither able to deal with their feelings, each unsure of the other, danger around every corner, and the prospect of having to face her father still looming over them. Added to this, there is suspicion by each that the other might be a plant for Halloran, further dividing them. When Kittering is nearly killed by Vasquez’ men, feelings change. They come together, happy to have found each other, still arguing, etc.

(b) Instead of the obligatory sex scene and romance used in this draft, they do not have sex, but remain working partners throughout. The relationship begins with their working on opposite sides, being run by their respective superiors, pitted against one another. As the conspiracy unfolds, they cautiously join forces, eventually developing not only a strong partnership, but a mutual respect that runs parallel to their sexual attraction. There is no overt romance, but a resonant suggestion of it evolves as the story unfolds, underneath their buddy-style, constantly disagreeing interaction, escalating to the climax – will they or won’t they?

3. The Dodd/Farnsworth relationship. As written, both men operate as functionaries, saying and going only what the surface levels of the story require. But there is considerable unexplored dramatic potential here. Friendship, professional and/or personal rivalry, suspicion, hero-worship, mentor/pupil bond, or combinations of the above, could underlie what is now a superficial, characterless relationship. One possibility is as follows:

Dodd has worked with and for Farnsworth for years, learning much of what he knows from him. While Farnsworth is a skilled mathematician, brilliant with codes and ciphers, he never really became comfortable with computers, and now has been kicked up to an executive level. Dodd, on the other hand, showed an intuitive grasp of computer logic, and was able to bring these skills to his training with Farnsworth, so that each learned from the other.

While Farnsworth is garrulous and effusive, Dodd is slyly humorous, his style peeking out from under an otherwise taciturn demeanor. The bond they have formed over the years is a friendly professional rivalry – the challenge of solving each cipher puzzle they are handed, spawning a real underlying affection between them. Once Farnsworth is ordered to have Dodd and Kittering killed, and Dodd realizes that even though the power originates with Ernest Kittering, the weapon will be Farnsworth, putting them on opposite sides of a life/death struggle, the action will be complemented and enriched by the dramatic conflict between them arising from their feelings for one another, and the history of their relationship. This, or any comparable dynamic is needed to animate and dimensionalize this relationship.

Whatever the specific creative choices, it is critical that Dodd be rewritten to solve the problems discussed above. The narrative, dramatic, and emotional power of the screenplay depends on a Dodd whose style and actions, needs and problems, compel our interest. Caught in a situation for which he is ill-equipped, his story must include not only the external events of the adventure, but also those of his inner life, the journey he makes as a man, while trying to survive in an unfamiliar, chaotic, and dangerous world.

KITTERING

Too one-note and obvious to arouse strong interest as written, and, like Dodd, has no inner life. Other than her sex scene with Dodd, and the sexual banter between them, nothing about her life, internal or external, is dramatized, despite the fact that she falls in love with Dodd, the protagonist of the story, and that her primary adversary is her father, a powerful and compelling situation. Thus, she is a character with considerable unexplored potential. But we need to understand more about her, care about her, root for her in her relationship with Dodd, be involved in the stunning predicament of having to face off with her father in order to save her life and see justice done.

Much of this depends on knowing more about her, seeing her up-close. For instance, how and why did she get into this line of work? She was well-educated, could have had any job she wanted in Washington as a result of who her father is. So why did she choose to go into field work, put her life on the line? What kind of woman is this? One way of developing her is as follows:

Ernest Kittering had been an OSS agent during World War Two, later was a station chief for the CIA in various locations. She grew up in the business, living close to the world of covert operations and the street life, and so it seemed natural, comfortable for her. In contrast with Dodd, a white collar man, she likes the action, being in the field, perhaps even the danger, anything not to be just one of the girls. Now, after too many years, she’s sick of it, feels unfulfilled, but doesn’t know what else to do with her life. She’s never had time for anything serious with a man, and has started to miss it, fully aware of the ticking of her clock. She wants some other kind of life, but doesn’t know what.

Into this steps Dodd, a bright, charming guy from the tower trying to stay alive in her world, the one sh’s trying to get out of. Part of him is excited by all this adventure, even the dangers, and this conflicts with her waning interest in all this – she’s seen it all before. We should see her ambivalence as she finds herself drawn to Dodd, but feels awkward trying to act like a normal girl, feels she’s forgotten how to be a real woman. When he risks his life to save her in Cuzco, she knows he’s special, and that something will happen between them. This excites her more than anything in years, but also tilts her off balance.

When they find out that it is her father who is behind all this, and that only if he is stopped will they be put out of danger, the enormous emotional upheavals and strategic problems it creates for her jams her badly, and for a while she is in shock. Finally, she and Dodd come up with a plan to bring her father down, and she responds to his friendship, supportiveness, and sensitivity to her awful dilemma. He recognizes how brutal this is for her, admires her guts and style, and is angry that he is unable to do anything about it, other than help her get through this and come out alive. She and Dodd, two people who have spent their lives being totally self-reliant and self-involved, come together and learn to work as a team and depend on one another. In the process, they fall in love.

It is important to capitalize more on the natural drama inherent in the Kittering/Ernest Kittering story. The basic elements are there for a riveting story about a tough, independent woman, who must face her worst problems and darkest feelings when she discovers her father is a drug mastermind whom she must stop, and a man who must have his daughter killed or face destruction.

From the moment she discovers his involvement, until their final confrontation, their actions should resonate with the intensity of their conflicted feelings about this brutal predicament. A story that contains problems of such enormous personal dimensions offers the potential for classic drama, not only enriching the characters and relationships, but enhancing the narrative, dramatic, and emotional power of the screenplay as a whole.

FARNSWORTH

Functionary and essentially characterless as written. He simply does what the story requires of him without contributing any point of view or feelings about his having to have Dodd and Kittering killed. We need more understanding of him and his relationship to Halloran and the NSA to let us inside him and enable us to understand his needs and problems. Some possibilites:

(a) He is a man with an agenda of his own – to serve his government – i.e., he is fiercely patriotic, and sees his actions, even the distasteful ones, as having to be done for his country. Thus, he may be willing to risk not only his job, but his life, by going up against Halloran, the Director, when he learns about Halloran’s connection to Kittering.

(b) He has powerful ideas about what’s right and wrong, whose loyalty to the Agency prevents him from doing anything against it. This would result in a profound ambivalence in him as he carries out Halloran’s order to kill Dodd and Kittering, one he cannot resolve until the end, when he proves himself to be a good guy and helps Dodd trap the Director and Kittering.

(c) There is a missed opportunity to develop of strong relationship between Farnsworth and Dodd – the handler and the handled, mentor and pupil. Farnsworth may be doing his duty, but likes Dodd, and doesn’t like manipulating him. He is tortured when Halloran orders him to have Dodd and Kittering killed, finally flies to Cuzco to warn them. We need to feel his ambivalence as well as his growing respect for Dodd. Since Farnsworth is Dodd’s only NSA ally, his actions and feelings are important to the story. Developing a growing friendship between them that conflicts with Farnsworth’s career interests will add emotional power to their relationship and the film.

HALLORAN

Ineffectual. Too soft. Not nearly intense, dangerous, or sinister enough. We must feel this man’s ambition and lust for power in every word and action. We must meet a man whose primary pleasure is manipulating people. Critically, we need to know the nature of his involvement with Ernest Kittering, how they came to be partners, the dynamics of the relationship. Some possibilities:

(a) Halloran wanted into the drug business, and there was Ernest Kittering.

(b) Ernest Kittering sought him out, and their relationship grew over the years, their families close personal friends, etc.

(c) He is a member of some secret society or fraternity, or is a Hoover-style autocrat with personal files on everyone, which allowed him to cut himself a piece of Ernest Kittering’s pie. This would result in a relationship that is hostile and dangerous, an uneasy peace between men who hate each other. Whatever the specifics, Halloran must be more sharply drawn, and a much tougher, more dangerous man. He is not interesting or compelling enough to be a rogue Director of the NSA.

ERNEST KITTERING

The primary antagonist, and father of the leading lady, both roles and situations underdeveloped in this draft. Here, too, a character with considerable dramatic potential is not realized. In business, we should witness his brilliance and ruthlessness in his dealings with everyone, whether government officials or people from the drug world. He tolerates no failure, no fools, no excuses. The job gets done, and the people who fail are dealt with harshly – e.g., firings, warnings, beatings, etc.

We should see his professional and social ambitions at the highest levels – e.g., the White House, Senate chambers, corridors of power, and watch him simultaneously operating a street level drug distribution operation. Possibly, he really thinks he can be President one day. Or he might be a megalomaniac, who turns hysterical and brutal at the first signs of dissent. Whatever the specifics, we need to se the kind of man he is outside his relationship with his daughter.

Possibilities for deepening the father/daughter relationship could be based on a long-running family tension that affects their dealings with one another, because of something he once did to her mother, brother, fiance, etc. – e.g., he drove one or all of them away with his demands and judgments and manipulations.

Perhaps his constant disapproval of her being in the business, and not finding a husband or settling down and having a family has become a sore spot between them. But through it all, his love for her would be clear, in marked contrast to the icy efficiency and ruthlessness that characterize his business dealings. After spending a lifetime as the dictator of his own empire, he now finds himself face to face with his worst nightmare – the only person who can bring him down – the daughter he loves.

VASQUEZ

A cliche as written. However, if he was a dictator or powerful drug lord in business with a high-level U.S. government official, other dimensions could be added both to him and the story – e.g., his quest for ultimate power in his own country, the capacity to influence U.S. policy by being in business with top Senate or White House officials, as well as the NSA, and power players like Ernest Kittering.

Whether he is a private dealer, or President of the country, however, he needs to be more unusual and off-center as a man. Maybe he’s a Rhodes scholar, an ex-Notre Dame football player, a computer expert, or amateur archaeologist. Perhaps he speaks impeccable Oxford English with no accent, or is a world-class wrestler or chess player, or has an extraordinary art collection. Whatever the specifics, he needs added dimensions to offset what is otherwise a Latin drug dealer stereotype.

In addition, whether Vasquez and Ernest Kittering are developed as high-level officials or not, some personal dynamic between them is needed to give their relationship added power – e.g., former colleagues in the drug business, who have fallen out and now are threatening to destroy each other. As they go head to head, not only are both operating at their most ruthless, their struggle for dominance becomes the battleground on which Dodd and Kittering fight for their lives.

ROSA

A nice attempt at an offbeat character, but ultimately she suffers from being too one-dimensional and silly. She and Vasquez have the makings of an intriguing and charming couple, particularly if their playing both with and against each other can be developed. Most importantly, we need to see her drive to get rid of Vasquez played against her attraction to him. As written, she comes off as a clown, a waste of an entertaining and unusual character.

TECHNICAL NOTES

1. Structure – The two major structural problems – the short second half of act two, and the almost complete absence of Dodd from act three, have been discussed above.

2. This draft includes a number of scenes that are episodic, do not advance story, character, or relationships, and thereby are gratuitous. Their presence restricts narrative drive, pace, and momentum, limiting the dramatic and emotional power of the screenplay, and depriving it of its natural energy.

The scenes are: The Dodd/Jane scene (pp. 2-3), the Khyber Pass Restaurant scene (pp. 24-27), most of the Ernest Kittering party scene (pp. 29-35), the Vasquez mansion suite scene (pp. 42-44), the Director’s office scene (pp. 44-45), the Insect itching scene (p. 62), the Cessna engine trouble scene (pp. 72-73 and 75-76), he Vasquez Japanese gardens scene (pp. 73-74), the Republican party scenes (pp. 79-82), and most of the cabbie scenes (pp. 84-97).

These scenes should be cut, or revised to provide material that contributes to narrative and/or character development.

PAGE NOTES

pp. 1-38

1. The opening (pp. 1-10) does its job, but is not nearly taut or involving or exciting enough. We must be catapulted into a strange and sinister world in which our hero is clearly in real danger. In particular, there needs to be more dramatization of the NSA and its operations – the sinister facility and its robotic workers, its whole satellite and communications and computer systems. We could watch some of the stunningly complex coding and decoding processes on huge computer screens, as the facility tries to crack some Chinese military code, etc.

2. As an element of this, there needs to be a more dynamic introduction to Dodd and Halloran. As written both are too soft, and the opening too tame. We could feel the menace in Halloran’s suave style as he politely, but pointedly forces Dodd to take this assignment, and Dodd’s shock, as well as his resourcefulness when he suddenly finds himself in this life-threatening situation.

3. The Dodd/Jane and the Dodd/Marine scenes (pp. 2-3, 3-4) are superfluous and should be cut. One possible replacement would be a segment that dramatizes Dodd dealing with having been thrown to the wolves – e.g., target practice, martial arts workout, trying to get an NSA friend to help him figure out why he was put in the firing line, helplessness at not really knowing where to turn, the resonant specter of someone clearly out to get him.

The dialogue in this scene is cliched, and should be polished – e.g., How come we didn’t work out? You left me. I’m a dummy sometimes. You wanna try again? It’s taken me a long time to get over you, but I’m ready now.

4. The Dodd’s penthouse scene (p. 13) works nicely. The reveal of Kittering as an FBI agent is strong and handled with charm. We feel the beginnings of an explosive relationship between these two.

Dodd’s closing line – God Bless America (p. 13) is not funny, and too soft to end the scene. It should end with Kittering showing her badge, jabbing Dodd with the gun, revealing herself as an FBI agent, perhaps with a touch of pleasure in surprising him.

5. The Sal’s mansion scene (pp. 16-17) is very effective. The twist, Mario shooting his boss, is a shocker, and plays very well. The scene might gain added tension and fun played with Dodd yelling into his crotch-mike, as he tries to avoid being killed.

6. In the scene outside Sal’s (pp. 18-19), there is a missed opportunity to establish a much more personal and dynamic relationship between Dodd and Farnsworth. Possibilities include: Mentor/pupil/adversary, growing friendship/adversary, mutual professional suspicions, etc. Whatever the specifics, their relationship would be enriched by a growing bond between them as they are forced on opposite sides of this life and death issue.

7. The scene in which Dodd views the tape (p. 19) is too tame for this important piece of business. The tape should be more graphic and shocking – e.g., people involved in kinky sex, or simulated extreme violence, etc., giving it a sinister and dangerous quality, a visceral dramatization of the kinds of people Dodd is up against.

8. The NSA HQ segment (pp. 20-24) cries out for a closer look at the place and its labyrinthine operations, as well as a more intense Halloran/Farnsworth relationship. The NSA possesses the most sophisticated electronic equipment for intelligence gathering in the world. As the story progresses, we should see some of this machinery in operation, witness something of the complexity of the coding and decoding operations, including their advanced methods of surveillance, as well as the misuses and aberrations of the system.

In particular, we should feel the conflict between Halloran and Farnsworth, two powerful intelligence professionals, over the use of Dodd, and ultimately over Halloran’s ordering Farnsworth to have Dodd and Kittering killed, We could meet other NSA personnel who might be friends or enemies of Dodd, who warn him about what can happen to him if he doesn’t play the game.

Dodd’s line, Is her job stressful, is cute, but most of the rest of the dialogue in this scene is forced and obvious – e.g., No, Agent Dodd. I got your letter. We need you more than they do, etc.

9. The Khyber Pass restaurant scene (pp. 24-26) is superfluous, other than Kittering warning Dodd about the safe deposit box. If it is to remain, it should be rewritten to add dimension to Dodd and his relationship to Kittering and/or Farnsworth. For instance, we should see Dodd’s realization that he has been set up, and feel his determination to find out who is trying to kill him and why.

10. The bank scene (pp. 27-29) does its job, but the dildo gag is tasteless and unnecessary. The scene is dull and lacks the kind of intense cat-and-mouse confrontation between Halloran and Dodd that the story requires – e.g., Halloran trying to trap Dodd, Dodd one jump ahead, etc.

11. The Kittering party scene (pp. 29-34) is largely filler, and should be rewritten to take us deeper into the Washington political underworld, for instance, exposing Ernest Kittering’s connections with other power brokers inside the Loop, a mysterious hold he seems to have on Halloran, his unabashed ambitions to be President.

The strong feelings he and his daughter have for one another, and her disagreements with his political positions also should be established here, setting the stage for the eventual confrontation between them.

Halloran shows up with Mona, a bimbo, diminishing his impact as a tough and dangerous adversary for Dodd. But Dodd’s escorting her out of her embarrassing predicament is heroic and stylish.

The Dodd/Farnsworth apartments segment (pp. 34-35) does its job, but no explanation is given for why Dodd would hide the key in Farnsworth’s bathroom. No special relationship between them has been established, and since there are thousands of other places he could have chosen, picking Farnsworth’s apartment feels like a contrivance. If, for example, a Dodd/Farnsworth friendship is developed, per the above, it would be plausible for Dodd to hide the key at Farnsworth’s.

12. The Halloran/Dodd coffee shop scene (pp. 36-38) works, but contains a minor problem: Halloran tells Dodd about two severed body parts – Sal’s head, and Kittering’s finger. Two such similar pieces of business detract from one another. More importantly, the idea that Dodd would actually believe that Vasquez might trade Kittering for Sal’s head strains credibility. Something else should be traded for Kittering, e.g., evidence against Vasquez and his relationship with a U.S. government official.

pp. 38-60

13. The Cuzco airport landing scene, with Vasquez’ army, band, and women (pp. 38-41) is charming. Its only significant problem is that it casts Vasquez in a comic light, a first impression that is tough to overcome, weakening his effectiveness as a real threat to Dodd and Kittering. A quick look at Vasquez’ menacing side – e.g., supervising the torture or other mistreatment of those who oppose him, could be added to the existing scene, for instance, before the Cessna lands, enabling us to see both his craziness, and the real danger he and his operation present to Dodd and Kittering.

14. The Vasquez mansion suite scene (pp. 42-44) is a throwaway, a wasted opportunity to develop the Dodd/Kittering relationship beyond the superficial. We should see some of their fears about the dangers they are in. Possibilites include: Will he be able to get her out, his fish-out-of-water problems as a computer scientist trying to operate as a field agent, his knowledge that there are people out there trying to kill him, his concern for her.

In addition, her exterior toughness should be contrasted with her real fears of Vasquez. The beginnings of suspicions about her father’s involvement could be added here, heightening the emotional intensity.

This scene relies too heavily on forced, flippant banter – e.g., Show a little respect for your emancipator. Emancipate me and I might, etc. Her closing lost cause line is thoughtful and touching, tells us more about what kind of woman she is.

15. The Halloran’s office scene (pp. 44-45) is soft. Halloran and Farnsworth are just too tame for their high-powered jobs. Both characters need work. One approach is as follows:

Farnsworth objects to the use of an inexperienced agent like Dodd, the danger to him, etc., while Halloran says all that’s important is the mission – Dodd is expendable. Farnsworth’s shocked reaction to this could have great force, and tell us more about his feelings for Dodd, as well as his growing concerns about how the NSA is being run. When Halloran finally orders him to kill Dodd and Kittering, the hostilities between them could explode into open anger, the seeds of which should be established in this scene.

16. The Vasquez/Rosa segment (pp. 46-50) shows their off-beat and quirky relationship, but is too broad and should be toned down. Some of the threat and sense of real danger is lost by drawing them so close to comic opera characters. One possibility is that Vasquez gives Dodd and Kittering a tour of the operation, allowing us to see the extent of his power – people in his private prison, his relationship with other drug kingpins, the ongoing wears between them as spies are caught and killed, etc.

These, or any comparable elements, will provide an underpinning of legitimacy to Vasquez and dramatize his real power and menace. This will play nicely against the more comic elements to his personality and his relationship with Rosa.

The dialogue in this scene is banal and obvious, e.g., You want those filthy words to be your last.

17. The Dodd/Rosa bedroom scene (pp. 50-55) is charming, a nice piece of business with Rosa and the razor. The scene is much too long at five pages for its importance to the story, and should be trimmed to half or less. Dodd’s you’re beautiful, but the razor won’t help line, is cute.

18. The Vasquez bedroom scene (pp. 55-56) does its job, but is weakened by Vasquez’ flippancy, which obviates the threat to Dodd and Kittering. Possibly, he should talk about some of the other things he has to deal with in his operation, describing how the government payoffs, killing of rivals and spies, etc., works, how easy it is, and how smooth it makes everything, enhancing the real sense of Vasquez as extremely dangerous.

19. The prison escape scene (pp. 57-60) is soft, and written too lightly. It can retain the humor, but needs a stronger dramatization of the danger to Dodd and Kittering. Maybe Dodd actually has to come right up to the point of doing it with the guard, before being extricated by Kittering – i.e., he is willing to go to the wall to get them out of there, but ultimately doesn’t have to.

The escape itself is much too easy, needs obstacles – sirens, guards, tracking dogs, laser night-vision goggles, etc., to enhance the dangers to Dodd and Kittering.

pp. 60-71

20. The itching scene (pp 60-62) is gratuitous as written, and should be cut or revised to provide material that advances story or character. Possibilites include: Ernest Kittering dealing with his discovery that his daughter knows about him, pressuring Halloran to get the tape by any means, the Halloran/Farnsworth dispute over NSA methods, and the targeting of Dodd and Kittering.

If the scene is kept, it should be rewritten to deepen the Dodd/Kittering relationship. Possibilities could include: They have just found out that her father is involved. She’s stunned, livid, the anger suppressed. Dodd feels for her, tries to comfort her. She tells him to keep his distance. Later, she reacts badly to the insects. He sees this tough FBI agent go to pieces, again tries to comfort her. Because of her vulnerability, she allows it, sees what kind of man he is. They grow closer.

21. The jungle/warehouse scene (pp. 63-67) works well, but does not go far enough. Enrique and Susana should be much more vocal and passionate in telling Dodd and Kittering how they feel about Vasquez, how deep the opposition is to him throughout the country. We should feel the sense of impending revolt against drug lords.

22. The Dodd/Kittering bedroom scene (pp. 68-69) is formulaic and predictable. We have waited half the story for this moments, and it turns out to be anticlimactic and obvious. They have sex. Other approaches to the scene could include: (a) She is preoccupied with the involvement of her father in this situation, and is in no mood for sex or romance, despite her attraction to Dodd. (b) Dodd feels it’s inappropriate, despite his attraction to her, and the opportunity. He says it’s more important they try and figure out how to get themselves out of this alive.

These, or any comparable elements that draw them closer together would give their relationship more power, and be less familiar than the expected, obligatory sex scene in the current draft.

pp. 70-103

23. The Cessna engine trouble scene (pp. 70-73) is contrived, and should be cut or justified narratively. Possibilities include someone having tampered with the engine, or pilot error.

24. The Vasquez/Japanese gardens scene (pp. 73-74) is a throwaway. Dodd and Vasquez both need more interesting things to say. Possibilities include: Vasquez’ ambitions for his empire, his protectors in Washington, taunting Dodd that he’s a sacrificial lamb. Dodd’s responses must show his style and refusal to be intimidated – e.g., by baiting him, accusing him of destroying the lives of children, generating a verbal battle, a plan calculated to distract Vasquez so Dodd can get away.

If Farnsworth has arrived, or sent someone to help Dodd, this is the moment for them to act. They break Dodd out, enabling him to get Vasquez’ half of the tape, and return to Washington to retrieve the other half, and save Kittering from her father.

25. The Washington hotel room scene (pp. 75-82) is too light, needs more intensity and sense of urgency. The coincidence of the Republican meeting in the room next door, with someone recognizing Kittering as Ernest Kittering’s daughter stretches credibility. Kittering’s escape should show her inventiveness, but needs to be powerful and harrowing – e.g., facing death hanging from the side of the building, etc. The segment can be lightened with comedy, but should not itself be a comic piece of business, as in this draft.

26. In the NSA checkpoint scene (pp. 83-84), the sexual banter between Rosa and Farnsworth is too broad, diminishing Farnsworth.

27. The cab segment (pp. 84-94) is unbelievable, the comedy much too broad for this story. The sexual business between Rosa and Farnsworth is overdone, breaking the emotional mood of the end. The segment is too long at ten pages, and technically could be cut without affecting story or character. If it is kept, it should run no more than two or three pages.

28. The Halloran’s car scene between Kittering and her father (pp. 95-96) is not strong enough. Her attitude to him would be much more forceful and hostile, and she would pull no punches in telling him what she thinks and how she feels about what he’s done. We should feel the intense ambivalences on both sides – the daughter who realizes she must turn in her father, the father who knows he must have his daughter murdered or lose everything.

29. The finale on the yacht Athena (pp. 97-102), is soft, lacks narrative and dramatic power. As discussed, there are major story and structural problems with act three, primarily as a result of Dodd having been out of the action since p. 70, now appearing to perform a final stunt. The act should be redesigned to include Dodd as its prime mover, from the time he leaves Cuzco until the end.

Possibilities can include: Getting away from Vasquez, returning to Washington ahead of EK’s men, finding Kittering before her father’s men get to her, getting both halves of the tape, and arranging an final confrontation between Kittering and her father.

30. The chopper scene (p. 103) works well. The I don’t like you business with Vasquez and his pilot is cute and funny.

31. The resolution to the Halloran/Ernest Kittering story (pp. 103-105) is anticlimactic and soft. They just disappear. We need to see their downfall – e.g., the media covering their arrest, seen by their friends all over town. In addition, there should be a final confrontation between Kittering and her father. The whole history of their relationship, what he did wrong as a father, their love for one another, the agonizing dilemmas on both sides, the knowledge that one of them must lose, but that both will lose, should be dramatized here. This scene can contain some of the most powerful, compelling moments in the film, as father and daughter face each other.

32. The final Dodd/Kittering scene (p. 105) is soft and thrown away, depriving the audience of an emotional high at the end. It needs to be filled with excitement, tension, and fun, as they realize they want to be together.

Finally, to end this film with a piece of sexual burlesque between Rosa and Farnsworth does not do justice either to the central characters or the story. The ending should involve a resolution to the Dodd/Kittering relationship – e.g., the beginnings of a romantic future for them, and perhaps their hopes that their ordeal in this adventure will lead to a few less drugs in the streets.

Share