The Lost Works (#1)

TV control roomI was tempted — just for a moment — to call this The Lost Oeuvre, but it really doesn’t rate such a highfalutin title. (And until just now, I had no idea “highfalutin” was a single, hyphen-free, word.) Considering that “works” can refer to drug-taking gear, that word seems just right.

Going through some old stuff, I came across typewritten copies of a few scripts from my film student college days. Not just film, but television production, too. I ended up becoming a computer programmer, but for a while I aspired to be the next George Lucas (or more likely, Quentin Tarantino).

For fun, I thought I’d share one of the ones I’m not too embarrassed by all these years later.

elevator buttonsKeep in mind that: [A] I was in college; [B] It was Los Angeles in the mid-1970s; [C] We smoked a lot of weed; [D] And were entirely too full of ourselves (as most college students tend to be).

What follows is a short teleplay I wrote and directed for my Junior year Television Production class.

I stumbled across it while cleaning this morning and found myself reading it with fond memories. A lot of the stuff I did back then will absolutely never again see the light of day, but this one didn’t seem completely awful.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you:

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Purgatory

We see an empty elevator, the type of elevator that one might find in a large downtown office building. The door slides open, and STANLEY steps into the elevator. He pushes the button for his floor, and stands watching the numbers over the door. Suddenly, the lights go out, and the elevator is plunged into darkness! When the lights come back on, we see that Stanley is no longer alone in the elevator; he has been joined by PETER FINCH. Finch carries a notebook…
Hello, Stanley.
STANLEY (surprised)
Do I know you?
No, not directly anyway. My name is Finch, Peter Finch. You may call me Finch.
Pleasure to meet you,… I guess.
What happened?
Ah, well you might ask, Stanley. I don’t really know how to tell you this,… but, you’re dead, Stanley.
Stanley stares at Finch for a moment. Then enlightenment crosses his face.
Oh! I get it! Where’s the camera?
Stanley peers into the elevator buttons.
STANLEY (cont)
Hi Mom! Hi Dad!
I think you’re getting hysterical. I don’t blame you, of course, but you’ve got to accept this, Stanley.
STANLEY (rallying)
I don’t feel very dead!
How would you know? Have you ever been dead before?
I’ve been really tired…
FINCH (interrupting)
Doesn’t count, Stanley.
Stanley is beginning to accept.
How did I die?
Well, do you remember when the lights went out a little while ago?
STANLEY (doubtful)
FINCH (waxing poetic)
That was a power failure that plunged the whole city into darkness..
STANLEY (interrupting)
It was two o’clock in the afternoon.
FINCH (irritated)
Well then it didn’t plunge the whole city into darkness. This elevator, however, did plunge; down, down, down…
I was only on the third floor.
You forget the six sub-basements.
No safety brakes?
FINCH (shrugging)
Poor maintenance.
It was beyond terrible, Stanley. You were crushed beyond recognition…
Stanley makes a last bid for his life.
I think one of us is going crazy. Who in the hell are you?
FINCH (proudly)
Actually, you hit it right on the nose. I represent one of the Afterlife Alternatives.
The who?
Heaven and Hell.
STANLEY (eyes wide)
Which are you?
STANLEY (incredulous)
You’re the Devil?
Oh, no! Perish the thought. I am a Devil. In fact, I only started today.
STANLEY (upset)
I don’t want to got to Hell!
It really isn’t that bad. Besides, you might not even be going.
At that moment the elevator doors slide open and the ANGEL steps in. She also carries a notebook.
Hello, Stanley! How are you… considering?
STANLEY (hopelessly)
Great,… considering.
FINCH (to Angel)
Hi! My name is Peter Finch…
ANGEL (simultaneously)
Peter Finch. Yes, I know.
(to Stanley)
Well now, Stanley, let’s see how your mortal life has been.
He hasn’t been to church in four years…
The Angel consults her notebook.
True, but he does send his children…
FINCH (interrupting)
The fact remains…
ANGEL (continuing)
…And he has been good to his wife
Now Finch consults his notebook.
What about the Seaside Motel two years ago?
That only happened once!
ANGEL and FINCH (together)
Once, Stanley?
Well,… twice.
Alright, three times.
And it did end up helping his marriage.
FINCH (angry)
Oh, come on now. If he breaks the fifth commandment, he breaks the fifth commandment.
You mean the sixth.
FINCH (disdainful)
I really wouldn’t know.
Down to business, Finch. I’ll trade you the last two times at the Seaside Motel for…
(checks notebook)
…that hanky panky with his new secretary.
Hey! Nothing happened…
Exactly. It really was a minor offense.
FINCH (doubtful)
Well,… how about all three times at the Seaside Motel for not going to church?
Throw in that perfectly harmless stag party last September, and you got a deal.
FINCH (outraged)
Perfectly harmless? Are we talking about the same Stanley, I wonder?
ANGEL (reaching)
Compared to the others, Stanley was a… a perfect angel.
By this time, Stanley, who is largely being ignored, has sunk to the floor of the elevator, head in hands.
Who disappeared with the girl in the cake?
ANGEL (angry)
They didn’t do anything.
FINCH (starting to yell)
And why not? Stanley was too drunk. That’s why not.
ANGEL (yelling, too)
A Little Wine For Thy Stomach’s Sake!
FINCH (still yelling)
It sure didn’t help the rest of him!
ANGEL (also still yelling)
Hardly the sin of the century!
I never said it was!
They both stop to catch their breath and glare at each other.
FINCH (calmly)
I’ll trade you that phony land deal and not going to church for all three times at the Seaside Motel.
ANGEL (still mad)
That’s hardly any deal at all. I’ll trade you one of the times in the motel for the stag party.
We hold on Stanley on the floor and begin to fade out as the two Representatives continue to argue.
All three times, and you’ve got a deal.
Two times. I’ll throw in the secretary.
Oh, no. That’s too easy. How about…

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

16 responses to “The Lost Works (#1)

  • Hariod Brawn

    Good grief; I hope that’s not what happens. I think I’d negotiate a bit harder than Stanley though. I wrote a song for a kids TV series once; it was quite abominable.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Well, I was just guessing, of course. Not having actually ever died, I have no idea what — if anything — comes next. They do say you should write what you know… ah, maybe that’s the problem! :\

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Oh, Stanley was intentionally a bit of a milquetoast. Part of that is coded in his name, some of it in his past deeds. And, certainly, in his passiveness here, but then the poor fellow did just discover he’d died. When I cast him, I used one of the mildest guys I knew. Finch and Angel were much more aggressive friends — lawyer types, in fact.

      (In fact, now that I think of it, the gal who played Angel went on to join the Air Force, snagged a husband there, and ended up as — in fact — a prosecuting attorney for the state of California. At the time she was a theatre major!)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        (Video, in this case.) Unfortunately, no. 😦 That’s what makes these “the lost works” — I never got around to making a copy before they erased the tape for the next semester’s students.

      • Hariod Brawn

        What about “the not lost works” – got any of those?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Sadly, not really. The second half of my college days were fairly chaotic and wild (“interesting times” as they say) — much more than my films and TV productions was lost. I do have a 16mm short film that was shown at a film festival, and I may have a video production cassette (the old chunky kind first used by TV stations — about twice the size of a VHS) with some stuff, but finding a player? (And mag tape 40 years later? Even if I found a player, who knows what shape the tape is in.)

        Mostly all I have is some printed material and some fuzzy memories.

      • Hariod Brawn

        Do you have the 16mm short film in digital format too? If so, would you consider making it public here? You could almost certainly get that other tape transferred; something would be left to view wouldn’t it? Perhaps you don’t think it’s worthwhile? Someone recently sent me a CD of some garage band stuff I did 40 years ago, and you know what, much to my surprise it wasn’t half dreadful. 😥

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I don’t have any of it in digital format. I think that tape (if I still have it; if I can find it) might have suffered some heat damage somewhere along the way. It would be nice to transfer the 16mm just to see it again. It was patterned on those “music videos” that appeared sometimes on the Smothers Brothers show in the mid-1960s. They were usually done with the Mason Williams instrumental, Classical Gas. The video always consisted of a series of really quick shots — a montage of imagery.

        I used Topless Dancers of Corfu, a bouncy Moog piece by Dick Hyman from his Electric Eclectics album (which, along with Wendy/Walter Carlos’ Switched on Bach, were favorites of mine back then — the intersection of music and technology has always fascinated me). [And thank Google for helping me remember all these names!]

        If I ever do get digital copies made, I’d definitely share them (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours 😀 ). I do have a flier from a local company that does transfers of various home media to DVD. I’ve hung on to that thinking that maybe someday I’ll dig that stuff out and see if they can handle it (assuming its in any shape to be handled).

        I did find a YouTube of the Hyman piece. I haven’t heard this in at least three decades, and boy does it bring back memories. (Mostly of all the hours in the editing room cutting all those short shots together.)

      • Hariod Brawn

        Well, I got halfway through that clip, which was a courageous effort I thought. The drifting oscillators brought back many terrifying memories. [Long story – deeply scarred] ‘Bouncy’ you say? I suppose so, in a kind of ‘Gin and Trampolining’ way. o_O

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ha! In my defense, I wrote “bouncy” before I’d actually listened to the tune again. 🙂

  • dianasschwenk

    haha Poor Stanley! ❤
    Diana xo

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Heh, yeah! It’s nice being fought over, but…

      When I shot it, I added a bit at the end where Stanley is able to crawl out of the elevator unnoticed as the two argue. Of course, what then became of him is anyone’s guess! Maybe that’s where ghosts come from — souls who got away while the debate raged. 🙂

  • rung2diotimasladder

    Yeah, you know what? You need the purgatory representative. That’s where I’d want to go. That’s where all the Greeks are…Dante’s version sounds pretty nice.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Wow! Despite the piece’s title, that never occurred to me! Maybe because I wasn’t brought up Catholic, so it was never really a thing. (Ironically, I went to a Catholic university for their film school, and that’s where I learned most of what I know about Catholic life.)

      Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote a fantasy SF novel, Inferno, that takes its landscape from Dante’s work by the same name, but I never did get around to reading his Purgatorio (let alone Paradiso).

      Truth be told, I’m pretty weak on most of the classics. I still haven’t gotten through Moby Dick. Not enough spaceships and alien planets. 😐

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