I Wrote That Crap (For America!)


Twice before, I’ve filled column-space during a slow week by regaling you with tales of misguided, unfortunate movie screenplays I either attempted to write, sell or film myself in days that… really… weren’t far enough in the past to justify how terrible some of this crap was. And both times, the reception has been pretty damn… good?

Seriously, of all my humiliating actions this is the one you people are going to encourage? For real? Nobody wants to step in and go “Bob! We like you! Stop highlighting your own bad work for cheap laughs, unquestionably poisoning your own prospects for future employment in or adjacent to the creative side of this industry!”? Nobody? Nobody at all?

Egh. Fine, then. Here’s another sampling, you misery-addicted shame-gluttons.

Our theme this time around? Projects with military, terrorism and/or patriotic themes… of which there are a noteworthy but unsurprising number of in my backlog. I won’t sugar-coat the reason why: I was cobbling most of this stuff together in the early-2000s, with 9-11 (the anniversary of which, of course, just passed) still a very recent event and Iraq/Afghanistan/etc a constant presence in the media and popular culture. If the goal was to be “current” and attention-getting, that was pretty much the only game in town. As you’ll gather, my attempts to mine current events for sellable screenwriting were… less than successful.


Original writing date: 2002 – 2003
This was probably the closest thing to “not dreck” I managed to dig up from the archives; in the sense that I can maybe sort-of picture this being an actual movie if written by someone who isn’t College Sophomore Bob. My aim? A rousing action movie set amid the War On Terror… with an American Muslim hero.

Before you praise Younger Me’s seemingly progressive, diverse-and-yet-unifying attempt at creating a different kind of American action hero… he starts out as a terrorist.

In the story, our hero is a seemingly-“assimilated” twenty-something combat/weapons expert dispatched by Al Qaeda to the U.S. (New York, specifically) as a long-term sleeper agent in his mid-teens. But in the time between then and 2001, he’s grown to reject his original ideology and embrace a kind of quiet American patriotism. When 9-11 hits, his first instinct is to get out of dodge (he’s sure his origins will be found out and wants to spare his friends the possibility of getting tainted by association) …but he’s stopped when his childhood best friend – now an infamous full-bore terrorist – shows up at his apartment with a whole Sleeper Cell, expecting him to join them for a second wave of post-attack violence.

Instead, he only feigns allegiance in order to thwart a bombing and then take them on in car-chase/gunfight/martial-arts brawl across the city that ends with the now-engraged childhood best friend absconding back to Afghanistan with the hero’s kidnapped girlfriend in tow. This builds to a finale wherein the two friends-turned-enemies finally having it out one-on-one right in the middle of the Battle For Kabul, with “highlights” including hand grenades being deflected with roundhouse kicks, a knife-obsessed terrorist lackey getting his hands on an “Ancient Ceremonial Scimitar,” multiple motorcycle chases and a guy getting punched into the blades of a helicopter.


Original writing date: 2005 (with early drafts from 2004)
Here’s how my mind works: At some point in a conversation with a friend (or possibly my brother…) around 2004 or so, I heard someone use the term “break the ice” in regards to the dating scene for what seemed like the first time in awhile. My thought? “Break the ice. Icebreaker. That sounds like an action movie. Could you do an action movie about dating?

My premise? “Icebreaker” is the professional nickname of a struggling, luckless actor living in Los Angeles. In between auditions, he supplements his income (and polishes his acting skills) as an unorthodox type of relationship-coach: Fellas, can’t close the deal with that Special Someone? For a nominal fee, he’ll act the role of a can’t-take-no-for-an-answer sleazeball and make gross, borderline-harassment “passes” at the lady of your dreams… so you can “happen upon the scene” and win her affections by kicking his ass. Don’t worry about hurting him – he’s got extensive stunt-fighting skills, so he’ll be fine. Oh! And it goes without saying that Icebreaker is “in reality” a shy, super-nice, misunderstood guy luckless in love himself; and that at one point he gets a self-righteous monologue about how Modern Women and their “crazy mixed signals!” making men all confused is what “really” created his career niche; because I was writing this as a College brat and was thus a shameful idiot.

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The “plot” is where this fits in with the “theme” this week: Having finally landed a date with a great gal who might actually like him, Icebreaker takes a big payday that involves going outside his typical accepted parameters of how aggressively jerky he’ll pretend to be… and then goes even further overboard (we’re talking pre-Tucker Max Tucker Max here) when the “hero” fails to appear and he has to improvise and stall for time. The guy doesn’t show up, so instead Icebreaker takes a real violent beating from multiple real angry club patrons; ultimately winding up unconscious in a back alley…

…and wakes up wanted for murder! Someone killed the woman he was hired to hit on, he’s the prime suspect, and she was the wife of a cop who’s now hunting him down. As Icebreaker sneaks/fights his way around the city trying to solve the mystery and clear his name, he uncovers the truth: The cop now on his tail was, up until yesterday, the ultra-zealous leader of an anti-terrorism task force; and killing his wife (and framing Icebreaker for it) was all terrorist ploy to get his eyes off the ball so that they can smuggle a bomb into the United States! And since only Icebreaker knows this, and no one will believe him, it’s up to him to save the country… and also deal with the fallout of his would-be girlfriend finding out he’s “that jerk they call Icebreaker!”



Original writing date: 2003
For those who don’t know, I live adjacent to Salem, Massachusetts and spend a lot of time there. It’s a city best (only?) known for the historical tragedy known as the Salem Witch Trials, and in modern decades has parlayed that infamy into a lucrative tourism industry that has expanded from witch-related to a kind of year-round Halloween Party. Did you see Paranorman? Okay, exactly that. Not even a parody.

Even more recently (or, rather, recently when this was being written) it’s developed a sizable community of real-life Witchcraft, Wiccan and Neo-Pagan practitioners; which at the time held a certain fascination for me. This was an attempt to marry that “scene” – which was getting some nominal media attention as part of a broader early-00’s “mainstreaming” of Goth Culture with a military-themed heroic action movie… because, as we’ve established, something is profoundly wrong with me.

In the story, a Hot Goth Chick (there was one or more of these featured prominently in every damn thing I was writing at the time) get accosted by some unsavory bros on her way out of an Occult Supply Shoppe, only to be rescued by the timely appearance of a handsome hunk of a soldier (in uniform, no less!) who happens by and drives them off. He ends up hanging out with her and her motley crew of pals (“cute” crosses a lot of boundaries, apparently), who turn out not to just be Goths but a no-kidding coven of amateur Witchcraft aficionados.

Amid the ensuing courtship/walking-tour-of-neo-paganism-as-imagined-for-purposes-of-this-stupid-movie business, it gets found out that soldier boy has a latent natural knack for The Craft himself, so he joins the party and soon enough they’re making some full-on, straight-up Harry Potter-style sorcery happen – strengthening his relationship with the girl but also alienating him with a jerky, religiously-inclined associate in his army unit.

Eventually he and said unit ship out to Iraq, where he faces further skepticism and prejudice over his newfound spiritualism… until something goes wrong during a dangerous mission that strands his team at the mercy of a huge contingent of enemy troops – with our hero’s mastery of Magick (amplified by a psychic connection to his lady-love back home) as their only hope of victory.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet. Recently, he wrote a book.

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Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.