The current world both frightens and fascinates me. Ever since Donald Trump was voted in, I have been trying to solve the puzzle of why people are ready to give leadership to those who were once seen as jokers, TV celebrities, comedians really. What happened to us? Did our lust for fame and the need to be entertained finally win us over? Are we returning to our roots, our primal urges? We already have the bread, so is it time for the circus?
Enter Carl Jones. A struggling stand up comedian. A nobody.
But Carl has dreams. He has ambitions. A desire to be somebody, to be respected, to be listened to. He doesn’t want to be an entertainer at hen parties and stag dos. He wants to perform the biggest material on the biggest stages - he wants to be a star.
So when opportunity comes calling and Carl is invited to join a political party to help change the country for the better, he doesn’t hesitate. He jumps on a tour bus and rides from city to city, making his wildest dreams a reality.
This painfully current comedy drama is about Carl's journey towards stardom, which almost costs him the people he loves the most: the love of his wife who is pregnant for the third time and hoping that she will finally have the daughter she's longed for. The affection of his older son who is about to get married but suffers when his family falls into disarray. And finally, the respect of his younger son, a bright and sharp lad full of unconventional opinions and ideas.
At the very last moment, Carl sees the horrors his blindness caused. Not only has he almost destroyed his family, he has brought the country to the verge of a collapse too.
This is a rite of passage story about a man blinded by his ambition. A story of an ugly duckling that becomes a swan only to realise that he still cannot fly. It is a heartbreaking comedy about the absurdity in which we all live.
In this day and age, it seems we are picking our leaders on the basis of their likability, rather than their merit. We treat the general election and life changing decisions as if they were votes on the X-Factor. We are losing our ability to think critically and are led to believe that the the opinion of a common man has the same value as that of an expert.
I wish to tackle these issues through the story of an everyman: Carl hates his job and thinks he can do a lot better, but is kept in check by his circumstances. He wants to be heard, he wants to be loved. These primal urges are the roots of ambition and greed which most of us can relate to.
However, the screenplay I am about to write and the subsequent film pride itself on the fact that this is not ‘just another social drama.' This goes well below the surface, breaking the crust and exploring the imperfections of the current system and the people caught within it.
This is illustrated in the final act when Carl and the party realise that even though they have succeeded, they can’t overthrow the establishment. It is just too strong, too big, too deeply rooted. Of course the moral message is not that resistance is futile, quite the opposite: In the very last scene, when Carl talks to his newborn daughter, he assures her that even though he failed, one must carry on.
This film is being developed for a strong character actor. His performance as well as the entire film will feel like this is something that could easily happen. Even though the story deals with a slightly heightened reality, it is not a social drama with gritty imagery and handheld camera work. It will feel very real and perfectly possible. The advantage we have is that the period we currently live in regularly offers these situations and makes them seem plausible to an attentive audience.
The visual style of this piece is intended to serve the story, but at the same time will carry an element of artistry. I intend to use a fair amount of close-ups on people’s faces - each act begins with one. It is the inner transformation, the change the characters go through the camera has to capture expertly. The close-ups are a beautiful tool, but can’t be over used and since we are to talk about grand things such as the nation as well as city centre gatherings of large number of people, (extreme) wide shots will be often used.
The initial plan is to shoot on Arri Alexa cameras with anamorphic lenses which would give us the curved quality I am after, but this of course is to be decided with the chosen DOP. In subtle parts of the story, I would like to work with lower light levels and use shadows as part of the lighting design. In public and while on stage, we would work with the beams of light creating the desired effect of a fancy showbiz world.
The sound, just like the film itself, will alternate from intimate settings to large crowds. On smaller scales, I would like to use gradual, imperceptible fade outs of the background noise up to the point of audibility, thus reaching total focus on the dialogue. In the crowded situations, I will absolutely avoid the ‘large crowd’ sound effect and will seek distinct voices coming from all directions in order to paint the mass in a human way.
Apart from the occasional crowd extensions, which I will try to avoid as much as possible, there are no distinct visual effects to be used. In the edit, just like with the camera work, the cuts will act as part of storytelling rather than artistic choice. The colour grading should reflect the fact that the film is dealing with real issues of real people and will only enhance and unify the colours and shades captured.
I would like to think about this film as ‘intelligent mainstream’. The last thing I want do is a philosophical socio-political thesis. Quite the opposite: I am looking to create an entertaining rollercoaster ride, which is engaging, comprehensible, thoughtful and, of course, entertaining.