Understanding (screenplay)

Written by Brett Zeck
Edited by Jacob Wishnek

FADE IN:

EXT. OF A DORM HALL – EVENING, JUST BEFORE SUNSET

Outside of a dorm entrance a few couples (each pair separate) are enjoying themselves on a beautiful fall day. One pair breaks off and the male goes inside as the female leaves the screen.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. OF A DORM ROOM – EVENING

ELIOT surveys Netflix on his laptop, all comfortable in his bed.

NEAL walks into the dorm with a look of frustration, drops his bag on the floor and stares out the window. His hair is slightly damp and he is wearing a zip-up jacket.

NEAL
I am an idiot. I’m really an idiot.

ELIOT closes his laptop and directs his attention to NEAL.

ELIOT
I mean, yeah, tell me something I don’t know. Who is it this time?

NEAL
(sigh)
That girl I met during Fall Fest, we just had coffee –

ELIOT
(dances eyebrows when pronouncing ‘coxswain’ immaturely)
The coxswain for the rowing club or the one with the irrational obsession over cats?

Cutaways are overlaid ELIOT’s previous question to visually depict the two girls. See production notes on page 1.

NEAL
Seriously, dude? You just ruined both girls for me… But, it doesn’t matter which one it was now.

ELIOT
Damn it, Neal. You didn’t start profusely sweating again, did you?

NEAL
(prolonged silence, proceeds to remove jacket revealing wet shirt)
I don’t know how to talk to girls! And I don’t even like coffee. I thought I’d be better at this, I mean there’s a 60-40 ratio here and –

ELIOT
Shut up and close your eyes.

NEAL
Close my eyes for what?

ELIOT
Just do it. You’ll learn something.

NEAL proceeds to close his eyes with a questioning look. The screen fades to black.

DISSOLVE TO:

ELIOT and NEAL now find themselves standing in a nearly empty study room with just one GIRL in it. They are out of her sight behind an obstruction (a pillar or bookshelf). ELIOT has changed clothes: a black bandanna and a black T-shirt. NEAL is now dry (see production notes). ELIOT and NEAL speak lowly in a whisper so that the GIRL doesn’t hear them.

NEAL
Eliot, where are we? Did you change clothes?!

ELIOT
(tightening knot of bandanna)
Shhh. Never mind that, you’re in training now. See crazy cat girl over there- what do you see?

NEAL
I see a girl (to girl) H-hey there, I –

ELIOT slaps NEAL.

NEAL
Hey!

ELIOT
She can’t see you!

NEAL
What?

ELIOT
She can’t see you! That’s not how this works! Now- what do you see?

NEAL
Uh, a coffee from the Daily Grind, a laptop, and a book…

ELIOT
No, my son. She is the book… read her.

NEAL
(ignoring ELIOT)
How do we get back to the dorm?

ELIOT
(slaps his back)
Think, Simba. What. Do. You. See?

The camera narrows in on NEAL’s eyes in a vertigo/dolly zoom effect as they grow big and brighten just as ELIOT places his hand on NEAL’s shoulder, as if he were transferring some kind of special ability to him. (Note: if the vertigo effect cannot be accomplished, sub in a pull-string lightbulb above NEAL’s head that ELIOT turns on as they both look on at the girl, into the camera, for a similar but less awesome epiphany effect.)

NEAL
(eyes widen and brighten and speaks fast)
She’s reading a textbook from her Women Studies 202 Introduction to Feminist Thought class, a heart shaped sticker residue is left on her laptop, and the drink from the niche-hipster hyper-local coffee shop is a large half caff scalded almond milk latte, four pumps vanilla, one pump cinnamon, meaning that she’s a free thinking woman who has just ended her relationship with her boyfriend of six months because he couldn’t understand that feminists want gender equality, not matriarchal superiority, and she has a refined taste in regards to the preparation of her caffeinated brews, so I should approach her cautiously and lie about my affection for coffee no matter how horribly destructive I think it is to the livelihood of my taste buds.
(gasps for air)

ELIOT
(silent for a moment, teary-eyed)
I am impressed, young grasshopper.

NEAL
(dripping with sweat again, a little astonished by himself)
How did I know all that? Where did that come from?

ELIOT
You had it in you all along, padawan. That’s the power of understanding women. Now, go speak to her.

NEAL
(reluctant)
But, I’m sweating again. That’s a bad sign, man.

ELIOT
Neal, once one has the power of understanding within, infinite possibilities await. Certain physical… setbacks no longer impede connectivity between you and those you wish to understand.

NEAL
Wait- what are you saying?

ELIOT
I’m saying you’re an ugly piece of –

NEAL
Hey! I –

ELIOT
(cuts off NEAL and speaks quickly)
It explains why the coxswain girl from Fall Fest is dating that guy that looks like Beans from “Even Stevens.”

At this point, ELIOT and NEAL break their whispering and the GIRL notices in the background. To which ELIOT and NEAL are oblivious to.

NEAL
(shocked, slightly mad)
Who – WHAT – Why didn’t you tell me she was seeing someone! I thought I was on a date with her earlier!

ELIOT
(apathetic to NEAL’s worries)
I thought you were upset about freaky feline girl?

NEAL
(disregarding ELIOT’s question)
I asked the coxswain girl how far she wanted to go!

ELIOT
(air quoting “first date”)
Why on earth would you say that on a first date?

 NEAL
(a look of realization crosses his face)
We were talking about school! Like how far we were pursuing majors… I didn’t mean anything like that!

The GIRL packs up and leaves (in the background, on screen) while ELIOT and NEAL continue to argue, still oblivious to her actions. The final scene is the GIRL walking out of the study room, looking down at her cat shirt littered with hair, passing ELIOT and NEAL out the door. They both stop bickering and watch her leave with embarrassed looks.

END SKIT.

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