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Cyberspace Open 2010 - First Round Entry

Last weekend was the first round of Creative Screenwriting magazine's Cyberspace Open 2010 in which contestants had to write a 2-5 page scene to a given premise. A few people who knew I was doing it wished me luck, but until now, they didn't know what I had to do and what I did. Here was the scene premise I had to write to:
Your protagonist is crushed. His or her plans have been dashed; his objective now appears impossible. And yet if he throws in the towel, bad things will happen. Write a scene in which a mentor, friend, love interest or enemy rallies or provokes your protagonist in an unexpected way. Be sure to give us your best dialogue here as your protagonist comes around and rises – or falls — to the occasion.
Egad. The practice premises from prior contests were all pretty easy, evoking all sorts of wonderful ideas. This, however, was a toughy. Fortunately, I have a story I've been trying to break for what seems like forever and it would have a scene like this, so I imagined the skeleton of plot I had and then wrote this four page scene:

JAKE (26, hipster style, looks fatigued) walks from his car
to an official-looking black SUV. The driver's window rolls
down revealing FBI SPECIAL AGENT HARVEY (late-40s, gruff, no-
nonsense vet). Jake hands Harvey a LAPTOP.

Harvey opens the lid and looks impassively at the image on
the screen. It's GRACE (25, pretty, stylish), her face
contorted in anguish.

Well, this explains your sudden desire
to finally meet in person.

Jake turns and shuffles to the cliff's edge and looks at the
sun setting over the city. Harvey comes up behind him.

How did this get so out of hand?
How did he find her?

The same way they found your roomie
Kyle, trying to get to you.

But why her? She's had nothing to
do with any of this.

You took something from Carmine and
while it served his purposes for a
time, now he wants it back. Since
he can't get to you directly, he's
chewing his way through everyone
around you until you give yourself
up or there's no one left.

Tears well up in Jake's eyes.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.
No one was supposed to get hurt.

Ah, the "victimless crime." Well,
there's always a victim. You know
that now, don't you?

They watch the sunset in silence.

What do I do? I am so screwed.

Yes, you are. This is what's called
a reckoning, Jake. It's last call
and now's the time to pay your tab.

You know, she was always trying to
get me to quit. Even after she'd
moved on from our thing, she'd make
these snarky comments like, "Nice
coat. Who bought that for you without
knowing they did?" That's how she

Sounds like she still cared about
you. Not that it's doing her any
good right now. I'm thinking she's
not a big Jake fan at the moment.

Jake wipes at his eyes and takes a deep breath.

So what can I do?

You can try and make things right.

How? What are my options? I don't
have any, do I?

You've got a few, but they're mostly
unpleasant, at best. Option 1: you
do what Carmine wants; trade yourself
for Grace; probably end up dead, but
not in a quick and painless manner.

Jake doesn't look too enthused about that prospect.

Option 2: you do nothing; Carmine
puts Grace's head next to Kyle's on
his trophy wall; you keep running.
Option 3: I take you in and you'll
go down for many, many counts of
fraud and identity theft. You'll
spend your best years in prison,
reflecting on how your "victimless
crime" killed two people unlucky
enough to know you, and Carmine will
have no trouble finding you there.

Jake really doesn't like the sound of that.

Option 4: you work with us; you go
to the meet; we pop Carmine; you
save the girl.
This is the one I'd go with.

If I help the FBI get Carmine, will
you let me go?

(ruefully laughs)
Absolutely not. This isn't some
movie where the cop lets a bad guy
slip away at the end because he helped
bring down the really bad guy. No,
Jake, everyone eventually suffers
the consequences of their actions.

Jake sneaks a glance at his car. Harvey notices.

Relax, I'm not going to take you in
right now. Your friend is in trouble
and you came to me for help.
Carmine's the big fish we want to
catch and maybe the D.A. will cut
you a break if you help us land him.
But, that's not my table, I just
bring 'em in.

Jake stops looking like he's going to bolt.

Do you think it will work? He said
no cops.

They always say "no cops," but he
doesn't really think you'll go to
the authorities. He figures someone
like you is more interested in saving
his own ass than anything else.

Jake turns back to the disappearing sun.

I remember my father used to tell me
when I'd try to talk my way out of
trouble, "Son, sometimes you just
gotta take the hit."

Sounds like a wise man.

He was. When he died my senior year,
Mom lost it and hasn't been the same
since. I just...drifted and avoided
settling down and being responsible.
(long pause)
And here I am now.

Here you are.

The sun has descended behind the skyline. Clouds trace fiery
streaks across the sky above the glittering city lights.
Jake's face shows a new resolve. He turns to Harvey.

Can you guys help me? Help Grace?

We'll do our best, but this is going
to ride on you. You'll have to play
it exactly as we tell you and don't
try to get cute. Just be a man and
it may work out.

(chuckles to himself)
You know, I always thought I was
"The Man" because I'd figured out
how to get everything I wanted without
punching a clock like everyone else.
I'd see them rushing off to work,
day after day, busting their asses
in jobs they hated just to make a
buck. I'd laugh at them. Now I'm
the joke, aren't I?

Harvey looks sympathetic, fatherly.

No one's laughing, Jake.

I'd be, if it was someone else.

Jake takes a last look at the skyline and walks toward his
car. Harvey calls after him.

Where are you going?

I'm following you back. It's time
to take the hit.
100 finalists advance to the next round and I'm guestimating 1500-2000 entrants registered. One thing that makes me feel better about my odds is that the organizers had to send clarification emails out on the night before the Monday morning deadline and add a note to the site indicating they were receiving a lot of questions indicating people didn't bother to read all the info and/or didn't know how to use their formatting software. If they're that bad at reading, can they properly write? (Hope not.)

Perhaps I should change the sub-title of DirkFlix from "Dirk watches movies. Then he writes about them." to something snazzy like "Dirk watches movies. And he also writes them."


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