What Happens Next
What if they win
Let us pretend for a moment that the worst has come to pass: Hollywood studios have broken the craft guilds. Generative text programs have become the primary building blocks of entertainment: scripts are “written” by these programs, and other programs bring them to an approximation of life that is then shown on various screens.
Let us live, for a moment, in that world.
INT. OFFICE BUILDING - DAY (BUT YOU’LL NEVER NOTICE) A sickly green sheen pervades the hallway outside a small, windowless office that belongs, according to the nameplate next to the doorless doorway, to KAT CRIOLLO, SCRIPT ENGINEER. Glide in through the doorway to find Kat (35, clinging to one last shred of hope) being lectured by TOM GREEN (no relation, calls himself a “creative at heart”). TOM GREEN Right so like I know I said I wanted to up the Wes Anderson but I meant like, more RUSHMORE than FANTASTIC MR. FOX. You know, like... whimsical but not whimsy. KAT Have you seen — (thinks better of it) Okay. Sure. And you're good with this canceling out the Nolan? TOM GREEN What? No. We need the Nolan. The Nolan is essential. Kat allows herself the slightest furrow of her brow. KAT The program's having a hard time reconciling the two styles into anything coherent. Tom laughs. TOM GREEN Oh my god, you sound like such a writer. KAT (tightly) Old habits. TOM GREEN Ohhhhh right right of course. But so like, the dissonance. That's the point! I pitched it as the ultimate "you wouldn't dare" collab. KAT The program just doesn't have anything to work off that's already a synthesis — TOM GREEN (psychotically upbeat) Teddy said you were the machine whisperer. Like, you can get it to do anything. Including a genre-bending period neo-noir romance that combines the propulsion and grit of Christopher Nolan with the charm and exacting panache of Wes Anderson. KAT I'll have to... (thinks better of it again) Sure. I'll see what I can do. TOM GREEN Great, great. We've already got fifty mil behind this for marketing so like, this is priority one, end-of-day-today shit. KAT Totally. I'll get right on it. Tom flashes a rictus-like smile. TOM GREEN Take that, Mr. Blundy. Knowing she'll regret asking: KAT Who's Mr. Bundy? TOM GREEN Blundy. Ron. One of my AFI profs. Ripped my thesis film. "Lacked any artistic merit." Well, asshole, now my movie's gonna get made and you're on food stamps. (laughs) It's true, perserverance is everything in this industry. I bet that's how you got here. KAT Yep. An awkward pause. KAT (CONT.) So I'll have THE PONDEROSA to you by — TOM GREEN Oooh actually we had a title change. Since it needs to feel like the start of a trilogy, y'know? KAT Oh, it's a trilogy now? That changes the inputs. TOM GREEN Oh my god of course. Yeah. Now it's LONE PONDEROSA. Then TWIN PINES. You know. You get it. KAT Great. I'll have the first one to you by five. Tom checks his Apple Watch and makes a face. TOM GREEN Can you make it three? You know how the 405 gets. Exit Tom, not even waiting for an answer. Kat allows herself to breathe a: KAT (sotto voce) Ffffffuuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkk. On the monitor in front of her, she clicks away from a window containing a script to a video editor. She plays the video in the preview screen. It opens with CHRISTIAN BALE, centered in the frame, quirking an eyebrow. His hair is in two giant curls that turn from brown to orange. KAT Jesus Christ, where's the Burton coming from. She pauses the video and clicks over to a new window that contains a word cloud. She enlarges it to 250% and scans back and forth, going through phrases like "neo-noir," "Nolan, Chris (35x [PRESTIGE x3])," "Anderson, Wes (20x [exc. FMF])," "period (1849)" "circus." KAT Oh for fuck's sake. She clicks to "circus" and adds "[exc. DUMBO (2019)]," then switches back to the video editor and presses play. The camera dollies back to reveal Bale dressed in a red pinstripe vest, striding through a grove of massive trees just ahead of a forest fire. JEFFREY WRIGHT's voice plays as the shot changes to show Bale walking from left to right through the frame. JEFFREY WRIGHT (V.O) We never knew the real Vinny LaRoux. The background changes as Bale reaches the end of the frame: suddenly, he's heading up a concrete staircase, dollhouse-esque. As he climbs, we pull back to see an identical, upside-down staircase in our foreground, with another Bale walking upside-down. The color palette shifts, confusingly, from bright pastels to dingy greys, as though the program can't quite commit to a single look. A comment bubble pops up at the bottom of the screen: "FRAME THIS AS INTENTIONAL, REVOLUTIONARY USE OF COLOR" FLASHES of scenes now as on the soundtrack a peculiar mix of light strings punctuated by bursts of deep percussion begins to play: A YOUNG MICHAEL CAINE dressed as a miner at the far right of the frame. JEFFREY WRIGHT (V.O) But in the summer of 1849, we got a glimpse. SCARLETT JOHANSSON blows a dandelion into the lens. JEFFREY WRIGHT (V.O) Just a taste. An amuse-bouche of what never was. On an extremely long lens A GIANT REDWOOD, alone in a field, explodes like a stick of dynamite. Kat pauses the video again. Clicks over to the word cloud. CLOSE ON her face as she frowns, clicks, hits a few keys—not enough for a full sentence, maybe a word or two at most. She pauses, scans over her work, then clicks "generate." A film cannister icon spins for a few seconds on her screen. A title page pops up: LONE PONDEROSA a film by TOM GREEN Tom sticks his head in Kat's office: TOM GREEN Okay so also we need to add Chalamet in there now. KAT FRENCH DISPATCH Chalamet or DUNE Chalamet? TOM GREEN INTERSTELLAR. KAT Right. Sure. Of course. Tom dips back out. Kat highlights Tom's name on the title page and presses "delete." Nothing happens. THE END