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The Gardens

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Logline:

A young Hollywood hotel resident is forced to confront the artificiality of his surroundings when he gets mixed up in a friend’s desire for fame through a movie star’s contest to find a new screenwriter.

Background:

SETH RICHMOND, 20’s, quiet, brooding, and indifferent is the son of a famous actor that was murdered in a fight with a paparazzi photographer. The incident exposed Seth’s father for what he really was — a gambling addicted womanizer who left nothing for Seth and his mother MARGARET RICHMOND, 50’s. Strapped for cash, Seth and his mother try to make ends meet by sharing a 1 bedroom apartment at a slightly rundown hotel in Hollywood called the Highland Gardens.

GEORGE WILLARD, 20’s, is the most popular resident of the Highland Gardens. George’s parents own the hotel which brings him into contact with a lot of characters staying there. A young aspiring writer, George writes about the people he meets at the hotel in a blog called Hollywood Reel.

Premise

In this adaptation of The Thinker, we see Sherwood Anderson’s short story about a young man’s inability to participate in life set in modern day, celebrity-crazed Hollywood. 

Seth Richmond is The Thinker. Picking up several years after the death of his father, Seth is still deeply affected by the experience of losing his dad and discovering that he wasn’t the man of integrity he portrayed in his films. He does nothing. He says nothing. Instead of helping his mother pay the rent on their suite at the Gardens he is content to sit and watch her go to work while he sits on the balcony and scoffs at the meaningless chatter of the “Hollywood phonies” staying at the hotel.

The only resident of the Gardens Seth can tolerate is, GEORGE WILLARD, 22, son of the hotel owners and aspiring writer. Seth enjoys spending time with George because he writes about the comings and goings of his neighbours in a matter-of-fact way that removes the pretension out of their daily activities. This is the closest thing in the Gardens Seth has to reality. 

Like everything else in Seth’s life, truth is revealed to be just another illusion when he finds out George is participating in a contest hosted by JAMES FRANCO, 36, famous actor, to find a new talented screenwriter for his next project. The two come to blows when George wants Seth to use his connection to his deceased movie star dad to elicit material for a love story out of, HELEN WHITE,19, a troubled young famous actress living at the Gardens with a house arrest bracelet on her ankle.

Seth will have to make a decision. Can he accept that things will never be as they seem? Will he realize that all reality is part fiction? Can he go through with George’s plan to use Helen in a scheme to create a fictitious story about love? Will he deny the basic premise of storytelling and not change by the end of this short film? Will he do nothing and live a grotesque, non-existent existence in a place that produces endless amounts of make belief? Or will he finally do something, say something and start living.

What will happen in The Gardens?

THE ASSIGNMENT

Step 1 - Selecting the text:
Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio seemed perfectly suited for a modern day adaption that would have its central character, George Willard, living in a run-down Hollywood hotel while recording the mundane existence of the misfits living there; or “Grotesques,” as Sherwood calls them. Selecting a particular grotesque to focus on proved a challenge, but one story stuck out as the ideal vehicle to explore the artificiality of Hollywood and the construct of storytelling.

That story was The Thinker, which features the grotesque Seth Richmond, a young man affected by truth in a variety of ways that force him into a passive existence. HIs mother is a recorder of sworn truth at the local courthouse. His father was a locally famous man that was regarded with great virtue until he was murdered trying to bury truth. It seems like everyone Seth comes in contact with in Winesburg is working within some kind of make-believe construct of personality, grandstanding in an attempt to get noticed in some way, and living behind a veil of public perception.

I couldn’t think of a better story — along with the contest itself — to explore the modern day dilemma of finding truth amongst the flood of information that our celebrity obsessed culture demands, truth in the construct of fictions, and trying to find meaning in a world that’s becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate between reality and fiction.

Step 2 - Drafting the script:

READ THE SCREENPLAY

Step 3 - Writing a log line:

A young Hollywood hotel resident is forced to confront the artificiality of his surroundings when he gets mixed up in a friend’s desire for fame through a movie star’s contest to find a new screenwriter.

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