Terrordise, A dark political comedy.
by V. N. Alexander
Logline: The Schwartz-Johnson family can’t wait to get to their new home in Paradise, a high-security gated community in Dallas, believing it will be worth sacrificing their privacy for the ultimate in safety against any kind of terror threat—-until Mr. & Mrs. Schwartz-Johnson are accused of terrorism themselves.
Long Synopsis: In the year 2028, close circuit cameras are everywhere and smiling citizens submit to intrusive body searches and bag checks by TSA agents, who now handle security at malls, stadiums, bus and train stations, as well as at airports. Military police are everywhere. President Clinton-Bush is winning the war on terror, according to billboards, and the surveillance state makes citizens feel safe.
The Schwartz-Johnsons, a New York family of four, travel to the airport in an armored taxi. Mohamed Johnson, a pudgy mild-mannered black man, can’t wait to get to their new home in an exclusive high-security gated community in Dallas called Paradise. His petite wife, Esther Schwartz, believes it will be a kind of utopia, providing the ultimate in safety against all kinds of terror threats, foreign and domestic. The children, tech-savvy edgy twins Elba and Able, are not so naive as their parents.
In Dallas they pass through the suburbs without noticing the widespread drought or the tree stumps that line the streets. Arriving at Paradise, they find, not just a gate and wall around the development, but a drawbridge and a moat, a Disney-style medieval castle wall and abundant trees, flowers, and fountains. The guards and lawn workers are dressed like medieval peasants. The new family meets their neighbor, Dallas waterlord Glorilee Cheney and her husband, Arthur. The children find a surreal playground in the development that includes a medieval torture rack and pillory.
The family befriends their Mexican housekeeper Esmeralda and the hard-working landscaping crew. After a while they begin to suspect that they are stealing greywater from Paradise to water their own gardens. This turns out to be true and Mohamed decides to help all of Dallas recycle their greywater.
Meanwhile agents with I.C.U, a private intelligence firm with lucrative contracts with the NSA, have been spying on the Schwartz-Johnsons, despite the efforts of the twins to keep the home clean. The I.C.U. CEO is using his company’s access to information to bribe politicians and pass legislation that his corporate clients, like Glorilee, want. Small-time I.C.U. agents likewise blackmail people and get special favors. Agent Rico spies on Janet, whom he finds attractive. Janet’s husband, Hunter, struggles to make ends meet and is hoping for a chance to work for Glorilee.
I.C.U. informs Glorilee about Mohamed’s waste water recycling plans and, in order to stop him, she accuses him of planning to poison the Dallas water supply. To avoid terror charges, the Schwartz-Johnsons have to escape over the gated community wall with the help of Esmeralda. Then they discover that Esmeralda and friends are doing more than water recycling. They run an “underground railroad” using empty sewer tunnels to help those wrongfully accused of terrorism by I.C.U. escape under the border wall into Mexico. The family–along with Hunter, Janet and their children, who have also had trouble with I.C.U.– make it to Mexico and join an ex-pat organic farming community with celebrity activists who have arrived ahead of them, such as Ed Snowden, Richard Gage, Amy Goodman, Dennis Kucinich and Chris Hedges (all making cameo appearances).
The film targets a demographic of those unhappy with NSA spying, wall-building, and privatization (Occupy groups, civil Libertarians, Greens, ACLU groups, and Progressives).
Style, tone and setting: On screen Terrordise should have the look of Jared Hess’s Napoleon Dynamite, i.e., a Wes Anderson film on tight budget. The overall tone is slightly surreal. In the opening scene there is a disconnect between the depressing world of the dystopian militarization of the United States and the cheerful Mohamed and Esther. When the Schwartz-Johnsons arrive at the Paradise gated community, long shots allow the viewer to register the absurd setting with the drawbridge, the landscapers dressed as French peasants, the lush foliage of the planned community nestled within a drought stricken suburb reminding the viewer of the Coen brother’s Barton Fink. The satire should mock the pretensions of the residents of the community, but also show the beauty of the castle-like homes. The children’s playground takes the Medieval theme to its absurdly logical conclusion as they children play with torture racks and actual Medieval weapons. But the playground scenes don’t become too dark; the childhood innocence keeps irony in play, as in Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.
Characters: The characters are lovable and absurd stereotypes.
Mohamed Johnson is a pudgy Black poet with a stale sense of humor, always awkwardly imitating different foreign accents making people more uncomfortable than amused. Esther Schwartz is tiny compared to her husband, about four foot ten. They are both happy and optimistic, completely unaware that their mixed race, Muslim-Jewish marriage might seem surprising to people in Dallas. Their children, Able and Elba, are edgy preteens, wearing school uniforms that are slightly Goth-like. Their precocious intelligence makes them somewhat sinister.
Esmeralda, the housekeeper, is a mysterious woman who ends up being the being the all-powerful mastermind behind the rescue of the families. Her son Luiz and Glorilee’s daughter Lily are in-love tweens.
I.C.U. agent Rico is the likeable small-time, chaotic-good con man. Glorilee is stock figure superficial rich Dallas evil character, and her cuckolded husband, Arthur, starts out bland but ends up being the hero-dad for his daughter, Lily. Longhorn and Precious are Paradise neighbors and friends of the Schwartz-Johnsons are stock figure rich Dallas good guys.
Hunter and Janet and their two kids make up a second family who are part of the sub-plot. They are the “normal” characters, with whom American viewers should most identify. Hunter and Janet are the over-educated, under-employed, debt-ridden hardworking suburbanites, going about their uninteresting lives, which are about to get turned up-side-down…and then end well.
Theme. Michael Moore’s attempt at a political comedy feature, Canadian Bacon, would come closest too Terrordise’s political themes, if only Moore had done less standard American slapstick and more ironic slapstick as in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Dr Strangelove defines the political dark comedy drama that works for Terrordise.
Production: Terrordise could be produced with low budget with a talented director of photography. The biggest expense will be renting the set for the gated community scenes which require access to a Castlegate community which actually exist in places like Texas, and Disneyland-like amusement park with castles, keeps, moats and drawbridges, as well as very brief scenes within 19th century robber baron mansions. Other usual/expensive scenes include a three-minute video-game-like dream sequence in CGI and one stunt with a fat man hurtling himself over a wall.
Ghost Soldiers, TV drama pilot
A special forces team, lead by Captain Israel Fitch, specializes in stealth actions and disarming the enemy. They can invade a compound in the middle of the night and have every man immobilized in a matter of minutes, often without a shot being fired. Fitch believes that showing an enemy that you are honorable is the best way to win a war. He knows his history and knows that armies lose when they were too brutal and inspire the population to fight back even harder.
Fitch and his men start becoming national heroes and their methods are being mimicked by other regiments. Fitch strives to catch the enemy alive so that they can learn as much information as possible from them. He tends to try to find out what the enemy populations’ needs and grievances are. And then gets information out of the enemy that will help end the war and call a truce. The weapons/oil industry leaders are becoming concerned. They make too much money off war.
Some enemy groups are even beginning to surrender to Fitch. He is becoming a hero over there too. The enemy groups don’t want to talk to the President; they want Fitch.
Fitch’s team are ambushed during the raid and slaughtered mercilessly. Fitch goes to the afterworld and meets other “brothers” throughout history who have been similarly deceived and killed by their own leaders. They form an army of ghost warriors (all different uniforms from different centuries) who return to the living world and take revenge against all the corrupt leaders.
Fitch’s ghost appears behind President in Oval office. Only the corrupt military manufacturer sees the ghost. He starts ranting and raving and gets shot by secret service. The Ghost Soldiers go after more of the bad guys. Since they are ghosts they can’t actually physically kill anyone and they have to scare CEOs into jumping out of windows or crashing their own cars. In the end Fitch’s ghost visits his widow and encourages her to teach their son never fight violence with violence.
The heroes of Ghost Soldiers are brave and competent soldiers who have learned, as the pilot episode “Friendly Fire” shows, that war is a racket. They use stealth methods to disarm and capture the enemy alive. When it looks like their actions might help bring an end to the war in Syria, they are killed by their own leaders and wake up in purgatory. As ghosts, they have the supernatural power of haunting the past and present. Their actions can change the future, but only very slightly. But since they have all the time in the world they keep revisiting past wars to try to change the outcomes so that the future can become, little by little, more peaceful.
In the second episode the special forces team will join Civil War soldiers, as well as soldiers from other eras, to go back to a day before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter. They go into slave country, organize a rescue mission, bringing hundreds of thousands of slaves to freedom in the Western territories, causing the Southern slave economy to crash and forcing the South to want to rejoin the Union. When the Ghost Soldiers return to purgatory after this mission, they learn that thwarting the Civil War had some lasting effects on the future of the U.S. (there are a lot of Black people in Wyoming and Nevada, and the U.S. had its first Black President in the late 90s,) but not as many improvements resulted as they imagined. There is more work to do.
In each new episode the Ghost Soldiers return in time to a different war and use their super stealthy methods to get the bad guys out of the game and to somehow prevent the bloodiest battles and to save as many lives as possible.
Fitch, the main hero, is super-motivated. If he can change the past enough, then he can change his own timeline, and that means that maybe he can somehow avoid getting killed and be back his wife and newborn son.
PILOT: “Friendly Fire”
EPISODE TWO: “Civil War”
Episode three: “War of 1812”
episode four: “Playing Both Sides WWII”
episode FIVE: “It’s the French, Vietnam”
episode SIX: “Persian Wars”
episode SEVEN: “Unrecognized Republic of Biafra”
SEASON FINALE: “The War to End all Wars”
SEASON ONE CLIFFHANGER: North Korea