*A draft script for a Film Festival*
Nathan had seen them all, every one of these pathetic quotes about making the most of each day. Blah, blah, blah…insufferable nonsense. He had read every self-help book on the market, blabbing on and on about living in the moment, live as if you were to die tomorrow. Whatever. For months, even years, he would have a moment of weakness and be totally inspired after reading one of these books. He’d charge out into the world, full of ambition and empowerment and renewed energy. But it was a fleeting moment and like a caffeine high, any temporary buzz would come crashing down to earth with an even greater low each time. Life is indeed short; but it can also feel like forever too.
Nathan was tired. And bored. Perhaps more bored than tired. Life was extraordinarily generous to him, he knew he had been dealt a perfect hand of cards in this game called life. And like any talented opportunist, he had played his hand superbly. He was a success by nearly any measure but the reality was he felt like he was simply going through the motions. Nothing seemed to get his heart racing anymore, to have adrenaline running through his veins. He forgot how it felt to feel like he was living on the edge. He had become comfortably numb. In fact, most days of the year were unremarkable. They began, and ended, with no lasting memories of anything in between. Most days had no impact on the course of his life. He simply went through his mundane routine, living one day after the next with nothing extraordinary occurring in his daily life. Nathan was on autopilot, lulling himself into an unaware coma with minimal expectations.
But, secretly, he lived for the spark. That precious moment, a moment out of the ordinary. It may just be a few seconds, a chance meeting with someone special, or a few hours or even days. Something to shake him out of his routine and elevate him out of his increasingly smaller world. He knew this spark was buried deep within him, as he had experienced momentary flashes of bliss. These moments gave him hope and short-lived optimism, propelling him to just continue on, patiently waiting for the next spark to ignite his senses. He lived for these moments, but they were so few and far between these days of doldrums. Perhaps that’s what made them so special, like a rare rainbow of brilliant colors that wash over a gloomy day.
One late night into the dark hours of the morning, Nathan was flipping through channels battling with his insomnia. All the familiar infomercials were on. He had bought the steak knives, the magic vacuum cleaner, and virtually every other worthless item they were peddling on TV on previous sleepless nights. It was all now collecting dust in his garage. Then, like a channel losing frequency, the screen faded in and out. It was stormy outside and Nathan thought his satellite dish was flailing in the wind. But the channel quickly restored order, with a crystal clear picture and an immaculately groomed spokesman took over the airwaves. He was impeccably dressed, in a pure white suit, pressed white shirt and black tie. His grey temples perfectly complemented his salt and pepper hair, and his confident smile came crashing through the screen. It was the oddest commercial: Bored with your life?…Lost that desire to live? Throw some fuel on the fire and go out in a blaze of glory…Hire an assassin…You heard me, put a contract out on your own head…But not just any bounty hunter…here’s the twist: you have no idea who it is or when it will be. It could be someone you know…A loved one, a distant relative…friend or acquaintance….It could be tomorrow, or next week, or five or ten years from now…Everything done discreetly…We will integrate into every aspect of your life, searching for the perfect assassin to end your life. Your ultimate enemy will not be us, it will be someone in your own life…Fee is $100,000….You will never receive frther communication from us…Send a check via certified mail to The Company…We will not cash it until ready to commence…Once you see the funds cleared from your bank account, it is GAME ON….The beginning of the end!
Chapter 1: Nathan goes to work the next day, tired and totally distracted (location is San Francisco in a skyscraper in the Financial District with foggy view of Bay Bridge). His to-do list is overwhelming, full of broken promises and procrastination. He simply keeps pushing out dates, carrying over last week’s list into this week, buying himself more time to accomplish goals he realistically doubts he’ll never fulfill. Nathan starts to question all aspects of his life and whether any of it is worth going thru the motions anymore. It’s a gray gloomy day but even darker inside his soul. He skips out of work early and goes to Saint Dominic’s, a church near Little Italy that he had gone to throughout his childhood but recently abandoned. God has forgotten me long ago so why shouldn’t I forget God?, he reasoned. Reluctantly, he strolls into a confession booth and completely opens up, sharing his darkest secret of pure apathy. He has an engaging dialogue with an older Priest who’s been with the church and in the community for 40 years. The voice behind the curtain seemed familiar as he had sporadically come to confession here during his childhood which gave him a sense of comfort. But the Priest didn’t enlighten him or give him any new great encouragement. Rather, just listens attentively and says “be well, my child” and Nathan saunters off. Nathan ends the day completely bummed out with no will to live so he remembers the ad and sends off the check for $100K. The moment he drops it off into a PO box, he instantly feels a lift, a levity, almost an unbearable lightness of being.
Chapter 2: Nathan wakes up the next day and feels, inexplicably to himself, fully inspired to face the day even though he knows the check will not be received for another day or two. So his life is not in jeopardy but oddly he seizes work with a positive attitude and the entire day with renewed energy (give examples). Just living with the realization his life could be over very soon is oddly invigorating and keeps him focused on each passing moment.
Chapter 3: The following day Nathan finally makes move on a gal (Sarah) that always flirts with him in the lobby of the office building and asks her out. Why not, he figures, it may be my last date on this planet. They have a great conversation over dinner and Sarah alludes to Nathan’s spirit and joie de vivre, commenting he appears to be enjoying every precious moment as if it were his last. Nathan doesn’t think anything of this comment other than it’s charming. No romance that evening but Nathan is so taken with Sarah that at the end of the evening he asks her out again tomorrow night. Meanwhile, he checks ATM balance daily now and no $100k withdrawal from bank account. The following morning, Nathan goes into the bank and talks to the manager who indicates the withdrawal request was actually made yesterday and the process just takes a few hours to clear the funds meaning…Game on! As he reminisces about the dinner conversation last night, he starts to suspect Sarah may be his assassin. So this evening on their date he goes crazy with energy/excitement/passion, figuring it may be his last. He feels like he’s living on the edge (Example: walking near the Golden Gate bridge – Nathan leaps up on the bridge and hangs precariously over the edge). And, where he may have otherwise not tried to close the deal with romance, he fearlessly pursues her as all his usual walls & boundaries come crashing down. His heart is open –no fear since there may be no tomorrow. They end up passionately making love, his heart bursting like fireworks in heaven. He’s so content and fully satisfied, Nathan tells Sarah to go ahead and finish the job, just kill him now, it’s a perfect night to die. But Sarah has no clue what he’s talking about. Nathan presses on and as the dialogue ensues, she gets angry for being accused a killer and now livid for his reasons to rush into bed with her. Sarah throws Nathan out of her apartment and tells him never to call or see her again.
Chapter 4: Nathan goes back to work but asks himself why, what’s the point? He hates his job and abruptly quits. Walks the lonely streets of SF. Goes back to Saint Dominic Church in hopes of finding some inner peace and it’s closed! He curses God and the priest in the confession booth. Feels God has betrayed him and now feels more lonelier than ever. He goes down to Fishermans Wharf to enjoy some delicious crabs and writes out a bucket list. After all, if death is imminent, he might as well go out in style with a final wish list. Top of the list is travel but Nathan knows he needs to reconcile a few things first.
Chapter 5: Nathan visits his ailing Father whom he hasn’t spoken to in years. They get into very heavy talks, ripping off bandaids that covered deep scars. It’s all very emotional but then it tearfully culminates with a beautiful reconciliation. Nathan and his sister have had an estranged relationship too but now she is very taken aback by Nathan’s new behavior as he visits her with a new attitude and sense of humility. She is secretly impressed as she did not think Nathan had the ability to forgive and reconcile with their Father. By patching things up with his Father, Nathan realizes he now improved his relationship with his sister too, a dynamic he was oblivious to before. He feels grateful and deeply touched by improving these family relationships, marveling at how such deep rooted pain could be uprooted and resolved.
Chapter 6: Introduce the Assassin. Tell story from his point of view. Assassin receives an anonymous letter in the mail, stating he needs to urgently meet regarding someone he knows. Proposition comes from a mesmerizing/hypnotic figure who very convincingly outlines the reasons Nathan must die. (From here on out, weave chapters from Nathan’s and Assassin’s perspective) .
Chapter 7: Nathan finally follows thru on something he had procrastinated for years, volunteering for a non-profit (charity/homeless shelter/RedCross). He has a profound experience as he meets and interacts with people in desperate need, and now realizes what a blessed life he has compared to these people. He goes back to Saint Dominic Church and the confession booth, this time not seeking help but just to express his gratitude with an improved attitude. The same priest listens but no offers clear guidance or direction, just simply listens quietly as he is too stunned at this new positive behavior to offer feedback as it’s a complete reversal. Nathan is casually disappointed at the priest’s noncommittal attitude but is still too buoyant to let it affect him.
Chapter 8: Nathan flies to Rome, a top item bucket list destination. While walking the streets during the day playing the American tourist, he bumps into an old friend from the Bay Area that he hasn’t seen in six months. Dylan claims to be in Italy on business. They catch up briefly and agree to meet for dinner. Nathan immediately presumes Dylan has to be his assassin. How else to explain this random visit on the other side of the Atlantic? Tonight’s the night, he surmises. May as well go out with a bang and order the perfect final meal and make this entertaining. After an amazing dinner at a renowned Trattoria, with Nathan acting weird and overflowing with nervous energy, Nathan slips and falls badly on a slippery cobblestone street in a dark alley. Dylan is hovering over him as Nathan tells him to go ahead and finish the job. Dylan says he has no idea what he’s talking about and that he truly is here on business. He extends his hand and offers to help him back up on his feet. Dylan reiterates he works for the international division of Starbucks and tells Nathan he is exploring opening new coffeehouse locations in Italy. Nathan is fascinated and finally believes him. They chat some more over a bottle of wine and Dylan says he is traveling to Milan for business in a couple days and asks Nathan to join him.
Chapter 9: Nathan and Dylan are in Milan and Nathan feels so rejuvenated and refreshed. He feels his life has renewed purpose with a new lease on life and now has an epiphany: he wants to live. He wants to go into business with Dylan and run a independent coffeehouse in Milan, using the expertise garnered from Dylan. After much persuasive coercion, Dylan agrees to help him and tentatively offers to join him in this endeavor and quit the corporate world. Nathan gets all enthused and calls the phone number of The Company to cancel his Assassin request. But the number is disconnected. He frantically rushes to an internet cafe to search for the website of The Company but that too is gone. Things go horribly wrong as he suddenly realizes he has absolutely no way now to contact The Company now and rescind the Assassin agreement. Nathan panics with this new self-inflicted dilemma. He now wants to live but has now way to communicate this. The Assassin is on the loose and Nathan can’t call it off.
Everyone he meets is a potential killer. Every piazza, every church, every cafe/bar, he is looking over his shoulder in total paranoia. He is in a total state of Fight or Flight, with adrenaline rushing through his veins. He sees a familiar face in several different scenarios, but cannot discern reality from his imagination. Everyone looks like a threat to him now, but who is he and how does he know who/where Nathan is all the time?
Chapter 10: (Written from Assassin’s POV): The Assassin has been tracking Nathan for weeks now, from the Bay Area to all of Italy. He increasingly does not understand why Nathan would want to end his life as Assassin views so much truth, goodness & beauty. Nathan and the Assassin have made eye contact on several random occasions, but Nathan has no idea who he is. Finally, after several near misses and close calls, the Assassin tracks Nathan down in an alleyway behind the Duomo in Milan and holds him at gunpoint. Nathan pleads for his life, begging on his knees, but the Assassin shoots him. Nathan gasps his final breath, staring at his Assassin in disbelief. He could see the magnificent cathedral in the distance. And then his world went black.
Chapter 11: Nathan wakes up, disoriented and confused. All vital signs are intact as he surveys the room from his hospital bed. Is he not dead? The doctor enters, flashing a smile, pleased to see his patient awake. With great bedside manner, the doctor informs Nathan he was shot with a stun gun, putting him in a temporary state of unconsciousness. The doctor inquisitively asks who would do such a thing, does Nathan have enemies?Nathan pleads ignorance, saying it must have been a random act. Convinced, the doctor signs his release papers and discharges him from the hospital later that day. Nathan feels he has a new lease on life but keenly realizes the Assassin is still looming and has a mission to finish.
Chapter 12: The days pass and Nathan feels more relaxed, although he feels an undercurrent of anxiety. The Assassin is out there in the streets, the same streets of Milan he explores every day. But the difference is he now can recognize the Assassin, even though he has no idea who he is. But he clearly was American, with a calm, soothing voice which just confused Nathan even more as he found it hauntingly familiar. One day, as Nathan was enjoying a gelato at the Galleria, thumbing through postcards from a street vendor, a familiar voice sidled up next to him and said, “Buon Giorno, a beautiful day for a stroll, no?” Nathan looked up, his eyes immediately recognizing the Assassin as his heart sank. “Shall we take a walk?”, the Assassin continued, letting the end of his gun point thru his pocket. Nathan gulped, but he noticed a tone that was not threatening in the voice. It was more an invitation than a threat, and Nathan felt he could have easily just sped away amongst the crowded Galleria. Instead, they both casually walked down the long corridor towards the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace). The Assassin breaks the silence, simply saying, “I’ve been following you from San Francisco to Rome to Milan, observing your behavior. Tell me, are you ready now to end it all?” The voice was so familiar yet still could not ring a bell. Nathan simply could not place where he’s heard this voice before. But he pleaded with this stranger, no, he had a change of heart, a mea culpa. Nathan continued on, explaining how he found new meaning to his life, a renaissance of sorts. He recounts how he had reconciled with his family, met an amazing girl in the city (Sarah), found gratitude by volunteering, loved his travels in Italy, his new partnership with Dylan, living in the moment with a spirit of joie de vivre. Nathan rambled on and on as the Assassin quietly listened, as they both sat under the magnificent Arch of Peace. Nathan essentially summarized all the amazing experiences he’s had in the past few weeks and then abruptly stopped in his tracks. “But why didn’t you finish me off last week when you had your chance?” The Assassin confidently grinned, pausing before saying he spared Nathan’s life because he had witnessed this transformation and was so taken with his new attitude and behavior that he simply could not do it. So he used the stun gun, as a preliminary test, just to see if this was what Nathan still truly wants. Nathan pleaded, “No, can’t you see, everything’s changed! I want to live now, to thrive, to live a life fulfilled and with purpose!” Nathan was grabbing his arm, desperate to convince his assailant, oblivious to the gun discreetly tucked away inches away from him. Are you absolutely sure, the Assassin asks, appearing to accept whatever answer Nathan offers. “Yes, yes! I am absolutely sure. I never appreciated the amazing life of good fortune I have but now do.” The Assassin looked deep into his eyes, perhaps exploring his soul, and simply said, “From Darkness comes Light, my child.” Nathan froze. “You…I know that voice now, you are the priest in the confession booth!” The Assassin confidently grinned a warm smile, acknowledging this without saying a word. “So of course you understand my journey, I shared all my despair and troubles with you in church! And look at me now!”. “Yes, my child”, the Priest answered, “don’t ever forget where you were, you have found a promising new life. I have seen such suffering and poverty, learn to help and bring joy to others. Carpe diem.” The Priest shook his hand and slowly walked away, leaving Nathan alone in a crowded piazza. Nathan never felt so alive and grateful for his existence.