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Ok, I’m in the home stretch of preparation. I’ve finished my treatment – which is the extended blueprint for the script. I’ve expanded all the beats into a blow by blow story. I’ll post it below, but I confess, I’m feeling squeamish about showing you the outline for the film I want to write. But see me be brave. Having promised to blog the process, I guess it’s time to show you what a charlatan I am.

That said…

There are lots of ways of doing this. The following story is told in about 72 paragraphs – 72 ‘units of action’. They will divide out into one, two or three scenes, resulting in a script that will be between 100-180 scenes long.

The following is six A4 pages long – which works out to about two pages an act. I’m happy with that. Some producers and a lot of funding bodies want the ‘treatment’ to be much longer. For most it’s a sort of insurance policy that you will deliver what they are buying. I see it as micro-managing the story – tying the writer into delivering solutions to problems they haven’t even considered yet.

Anyway – this is my idea written out long hand:

TREATMENT: TOMMY COOPER IS A GOD

Young TOM Cooper (15) arrives home in the endless summer afternoon of school holidays. He lives in a suburban paradise on the edge of the Australian bush. Garden hoses arc with Elysian abandon. Mr Wilson, a neighbour, is washing his car on his drive way. Fairies dance in the cooling air.

Tom lives with his Welsh Grandmother, IDA (70). Granny Cooper has a lot of energy for a 70 year old… but she also has emphysema – she’s sweet though, and funny. She lets young Tom have a go on her oxygen tank.

They sit together in the Australian summer heat – passing the oxygen mask backwards and forwards while watching television.

They particularly like the Welsh comedian TOMMY COOPER – so much so (the joke goes) that they named young Tom after him. Gran has a collection of VHS tapes that they watch all the time.

Sometimes their neighbour IZZIE (13 ) comes to visit. She’s completely at home in the Cooper household. Treats the place like home – getting a drink, turning off the beeping microwave, fetching Gran her remote control.

Dusk. Tom is in the backseat of a family car with his parents at the wheel. It’s the same summer of love. Going to the beach, miles away.

In the back of the car, comedian Tommy Cooper is teaching Tom a magic trick, (illusion, what is real)? Tom’s mother smiles at him in the rear vision mirror. Tom looks at her with love.

Tom awakes from a nightmare. Gran soothes him, it was just a dream – it might have been a dream, but it seemed awfully real.

Bright summer’s day. School holidays are brilliant. Tom is practising his magic tricks at the kitchen table. It involves swallowing a sword – although it’s more like slippery spaghetti. The real Tommy Cooper tries to help him, but he makes Tom laugh so hard he chokes on the spaghetti.

If Gran notices that Tom’s talking to no-one, she doesn’t comment. At least he’s happy. It seems young Tom has an invisible friend.

Izzie, the neighbour, comes for breakfast. (Her parents work difficult shifts so she’s at Tom’s house a lot.) Tom does his trick for her at Tommy’s suggestion. He puts the slippery scarf down his throat and pulling it out his stomach.

It’s a hit.

She laughs as much as Tom did. She loves him, even though she’s only 13.

Tom asks if she thinks he’s ready to show Miranda. Izzie is supportive. She’s complete blind to the fact that Tom sees her like a little sister and all his desire is for Miranda.

Tom gives a performance for the neighbourhood kids. It all goes wrong (à la Tommy Cooper) but the kids think his tricks are lame. MIRANDA (16) is particularly appalled. How embarrassing for her that Tom finds her attractive. Izzie tries to defend her friend – and ends up in a fist fight with Miranda. The kids turn on Tom  saying he’s ‘gay’ – won’t even have his own fights.

Izzie blurts out that they should be nice to Tom. “His parents died in ‘that’ accident.” But that only make everyone turn on her. She’s broken some unspoken rule of childhood.

Tom runs home in distress. Miranda nick-names Izzie ‘Thick Izzie’.

Back at Tom’s place. Tom won’t talk to her, so Gran and Izzie have a chat. We get the feeling that this tight suburb is in financial strife. That Izzie’s mum (a nurse) is having to work double shifts because of the strike at the mine.

Finally, Tommy relents. He lets her in to his room, where together, Tom, Izzie and Tommy Cooper work up a magic trick for New Year’s Eve. Izzie pretends she can see Tommy Cooper, but she can’t.

New Year’s eve comes like rush. Tom has an elaborate magic trick (which we’ve seen him practicing) but at the last minute – he adds fireworks.

Tom tries it out on the girls. It goes brilliantly, hilariously wrong, and Tom ends up with a bolt in his head. Gran and Izzie look down on him in alarm as they realise it’s not part of the act.

An ambulance rides out of the night.

We see that dreamy image of his mother, looking at him in the rear vision mirror again.

Tom wakes up in hospital – a beautiful nurse (Izzie’s mum?) is looking down on him – her face soft with the pleasure that he’s woken up.

“Do you remember your name?” 

“Tom Cooper.”

“Where are you?” 

“Hospital, I think.” 

“What happened?”

 “There was an accident.” 

With every answer the nurses’ face beams wider and wider as she writes his answers on her clipboard.. “Wait til the doctors get a load of you.” She leaves to get a doctor, then ducks back for one more question.

“What year is it?” 

“2006.” 

She looks concerned. “What was the accident?” 

“A sky rocket exploded up my nose.”

She’s disappointed, “I’ll get the doctor.”

Tom looks around – seeing his own hand he’s appalled that it’s not that of a boy, but a full-grown man. He screams. Pulls down the sheet – a man’s hairy body. He looks into a shiny surface – a man’s face.

The doctor’s return with the nurse. It’s GROWNUP IZZIE, not her mother. Ten years have passed. GROWNUP TOM is 25 years old.

Tom is disoriented. It seems he’s been living a different reality. Nothing we have seen was real. For starters, there was no ‘fireworks’ trick that put him in hospital. He was in the same car accident as his parents. They died in the accident.

There are those eyes in the mirror again…

The doctors tell Tom that his Grandmother came out from the UK to nurse him through his coma. She brought the tapes in to play to him, told him stories, but nothing worked.

She didn’t have emphysema, she didn’t need oxygen. That was all for Tom. And the magic trick with the tubes? A tracheotomy and gastric tube to feed him with.

Izzy tells Tom that his Grandmother only died recently. When she tells him about her death – Tom seems to change. The doctors credit Izzie with saving Tom’s life. She saw that he had become distressed, and they prescribed sleeping pills. Instead of calming down – he woke up.

Later, when they’re gone – Tom and Tommy discuss the disparity in his memory. The nightmares. Gran helping him. The trick with the fireworks. The constant beeping of the things in her house. How will he ever be able to trust what is real again? The one thing Tom insists on, is Tommy not talking when they’re in public… 

…which incites Tommy to try and make Tom crack up or seem mad when they’re in public together.

After 10 years playing Rip Van Winkle, Tom needs to learn to walk again. Izzie and Tommy Cooper help him – by making him laugh.

While they walk up and down strengthening his muscles, Izzie fills in some real world gaps. Facebook, sexting, pants that show undies, and tattoos. She shows him all the YouTube memes he’s missed – on her mobile phone, which excites him most of all. He wants one.

Lawyers come and tell Tom that his Gran sold his parent’s house to pay for the medical expenses. He has a small annuity and a little plot of land – which, together, is enough for him to live on.

Once he’s stronger, Izzie teaches Tom how to drive. His Gran’s car is still there for him to use. He’s a spectacularly shit driver, but Izzie and Tommy persist. They drive out to a small farm that is still in Tom’s name. It’s in ruins – a caravan out on a couple of acres of olive trees, which is all his.

Tom is now a 25 year old man, with the life experience of a 14 year old. Still, what’s he going to do? He and Tommy Cooper move into the old caravan, and start trying to fix the olive grove.

He is still learning how the world works. His interests are those of a 15 year old who’s willing to explore some of the pleasures of adulthood. X-Box, McDonalds, Jaeger bombs and house music.

He runs into GROWNUP MIRANDA at a local bar and she takes him out clubbing. Turns out she’s 26, with two small kids and a divorce. She’s working for a mining company. Although the mines have closed down, there are still large deposits of gas. Tom thinks it’s hilarious – mining for gas.

He makes a bunch of childish fart jokes. Miranda takes a moment to see her advantage – and then she laughs along. A retard with an abandoned olive farm and a gigantic natural gas reserve is an attractive proposition to Miranda. She explains that he doesn’t need to sell the farm – just the mining rights.

Tom is pleased. Miranda is finally showing interest in him. He even gets a kiss out of it – but he’s so immature he laughs, and makes Tommy Cooper jokes.

Even Tommy Cooper is embarrassed for him.

Izzie is still visiting Tom bringing him up to date with everything he’s missed. She tells him about The War in the Middle East, Memes, Metrosexuality, and Speed Dating. Tom has a lot of catching up to do, and quite a lot of fun doing it.

Tom tells Izzie he wants to marry Miranda – says he’s always wanted to marry her, and help her raise her kids. Izzie thinks that’s laughable – since he’s still a kid himself. He says he’s not. She points out the egg on his shirt. He looks. There’s no egg and she flips his nose . He laughs like a child.

Izzie’s particularly concerned about Tom selling the gas on the farm. She tries to explain that things aren’t what they seem. That Tom never even spoke to Miranda before the car accident. Tom thinks she’s jealous, which angers Izzie. She’s trying to tell him that most of the stuff he remembers about his childhood is coma logic – it’s all a dream. “Yeah?” he replies, “and how do I know that any of this is real either?”

Tommy Cooper sits on the fence about it. He prefers Izzie himself, but he can see Miranda’s appeal to Tom.

Izzie goes to Miranda’s house to have it out. Miranda won’t have ‘Thick Izzie’ upsetting her sweet deal. It’s so cynical, Izzie is actually shocked. She argues with Miranda (Tom is too naïve for this) which sounds bad when Tom turns up and overhears her.

Tom’s sorry if he’s hurt Izzie’s feelings, but he doesn’t need her to fight any battles for him. After she points out how constant her love has been. Tom makes things worse by pointing out that she was paid (as a nurse) to look after him.

Izzie is terminally insulted. She became a nurse to look after him. She doesn’t like who he’s become. He tries to fight back, “You only liked me when I was in a coma.” He insults her beyond speech.

Tom talks to Tommy Cooper about his problems. Fighting with Izzie makes him realize how much he’s lost. His Mum. His Dad. His Gran. It seems to him it would be easier to move into the same world with  them – just let go and die. Tom is homesick.

Miranda tries to soothe Tom, but her impatience works against her. He overhears on her mobile phone talking to her ex-husband. He realizes that everything is not quite right. Maybe she does only want him for the gas lease under the farm.

Izzie would know what he should do, but now it’s Izzie who won’t budge. Tom may have lost her forever.

He goes to the library and researches his parents’ accident in the local newspaper. While reading it, he sees connections within all the stories. The eyes in the mirror were before the accident.

The Librarian, Mrs Wilson, recognizes Tom. She knew his parents, was friendly with his mother, and is able to give him some context about who he is. She tells him how loved he is – by them, by his Grandmother, and by Izzie.

He talks to Tommy about his problems, and starts to think that  Tommy may be is a guide from the underworld. His job is to help Tom let go of the living. To die, in short. But Tom seems like a nice kid to Tommy, with a lot to live for, so he makes a suggestion about how to win Izzie back.

He suggests Tom performs the first routine we saw right back in the beginning. The one that made Izzie laugh so much.

Tom can’t get Izzie to agree to a date, so he performs it for her in the hospital while she’s at work. It goes down a treat, amusing patients and staff alike.

At the end, he asks her if she could love him. She can. She does. She will forever. She kisses him, deeply.

Tommy Cooper smiles.

A strip of light tears across the darkness. Shadows lean forward. There is the sound of a respirator, heart monitor, a whispered voice, “Izzie.” As the image comes into focus it’s young Izzie and Gran.

Gran has tears in her eyes, “Tommy?” A nurse comes in. This time it is Izzie’s mum, she asks him the questions, “Name? Where are you? What happened? What year is it?”

Young Tom Cooper is in hospital after an accident – a car accident.  He  doesn’t know what year it is, but that his parents are dead. He identifies his Gran and Izzie. He’s going to be alright.

He looks around, there’s no sign of Tommy Cooper the magician. Young Tom understands for the first time, Tommy Cooper saved his life.

“I knew something was wrong right back at the beginning… Mr Wilson had the sprinklers on in the middle of the day.”

AFTER THOUGHTS

I thought a couple of things about this after I finished it:

1) How am I going to introduce Tommy Cooper into the real world. Actors love their entrances – but I don’t want it to be either ‘spooky’ or ‘over explained’.

2) I didn’t us my ‘cards’ in the end. I wrote it as prose (like you see above) with each little paragraph (hopefully) fleshing out into a sequence. Maybe I’ll do it at the end of the draft.

3) I did use the page template from Viki King’s book, How to Write a Movie in 21 Days and thought it was brilliant – very effective.

4) The time frame bothers me. I will be tinkering with that over a million drafts. Considering going back five years at the beginning (so they’re aged around ten) then forward five years (so they’re twenty.) …but in real life they’re 15.

Sheridan Jobbins is an Australian screenwriter, author, script mentor, script editor, producer, director, journalist, and television presenter.

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