NYC Midnight challenge round 2

Genre: Comedy
Setting: The North Pole
Object: Crutches

Pole to Pole



CHRISTINE, a perfectly coifed Asian woman in a tropical print dress addresses the camera.


They've made it to the finals. Our Pole-to-Pole contestants have traveled for hours, and now arrive at their secret destination.

Behind her, a huge screen shows brightly a painted helicopter landing on a vast expanse of ice. A CREW MEMBER opens the door, and helps 4 CONTESTANTS step out. They wear blindfolds.


CAMERA OPERATORS, MIC OPERATORS and CREW swirl around the helicopters.

The 4 blindfolded contestants, 2 men, 2 women, are taken by the hand and walked to a flag stuck in the ice.

They stand there, attempting to look heroic.

In the background, a head in a pointed cap pops up from a crack in the ice. No one sees it, and it ducks away again.

Trucks and generators are all on one side, leaving the view behind the contestants empty and imposing.

THE DP walks out from one of the trucks, and shouts


And...cut. Keep your blindfolds on. Stay in place, OK.

The contestants are bundled up in fashionable gear.

TOM, late-30s, square-jawed and not much over 5'2", flaps his arms across his chest.


Fuck it's colder than a witch's tit out here.

BRANDI, 21, with blonde braids and cocoa skin, tilts her head, and puts her hands on her hips.


Are you for real? Who says that?


Hey, can you fucking guys get it together? Are we ready to proceed here already?

The camera operators huddle together. They ignore Tom.

CHAD, mid-20s, tall with dark hair, is shifting back and forth, and tugging at the neck of his coat.


Where are we? I didn't think anyplace was this cold in July.

STEPHANIE, late-20s, perks up.


Actually, the seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed. They must have brought us south of the equator.

She tilts her head back, trying to see under her blindfold.



Unbeknownst to our finalists, one camera has continued to film them.

On the video screen:


All I know is this [beep]-ing place is [beep]-ing cold and I'm [beep] [beep] that this is taking so [beep]-ing long.


What is it with you and that mouth?


I just hope this doesn't chap my skin. I don't want my cheeks to be all red.


The DP approaches, camera and crew move back in place.


All right, folks, we're going again. And five, four, three

He motions 2 and 1.

The contestants put on their game faces again.

One of the boom operaters seems to have shrunk in size. And... are his ears pointed?

The contestants pull off their blindfolds with clumsy, frozen fingers. They look around.


Well, I'll be f....

He looks at the camera a moment.


...a monkey's uncle.


You have a serious problem. I don't know what kind, but you got it.



He spins in a circle.

Stephanie pulls a compass out of a pocket.

She excitedly steps up and down, and starts bouncing around.


This is so cool! Do you know where we are?

The others just look at her.


The North Pole!


Where are the elves?

Brandi rolls her eyes.

The tiny boom operator slowly backs away, and slips away from the crew. An ASSISTANT carrying coffee sees him, and his jaw drops.


Christine walks over to a stage with a stripper pole, and the logo "Pole to Pole".


They've danced all over the world. Now, our contestants must dance in freezing temperatures, on a pole at the North Pole.


The floor is ice. Chairs are set up in front of a small stage with a stripper pole. Heaters are set around the stage.

The contestants stand in front of it staring.


I suppose the pole might be warm enough once the heaters get going.


Fuck this.

He stops out of the tent.


I never understood how that troll made it this far.


Tom stomps past the crew trucks, muttering. Something catches his eye. He goes to a crack in the ice, and suddenly the elf reaches up, grabs his ankle, and pulls him down.

He gets stuck a moment at chest height, struggling to pull himself back out. Then stops.


Fuck me.

He disappears from sight.


The other three contestants are at a sound board, getting their songs ready to go.

The elf darts out, holding a pot, and runs to the stage. He smears something greasy on the pole.


A small audience hoots and hollers, while music plays.

Chad stretches, to the side of the stage, with big movements designed to draw attention. Stephanie hobbles on crutches.

Brandi, in a sexy dress, tries to dance, but can't get any friction on the pole. Every time she tries to climb up it, she slips down fast.

The audience boos.

She makes one last desperate attempt, flinging her legs upward, and wrapping them around the pole - only to slide down and land hard on her butt.


Someone greased this pole.

She hobbles off the stage, fuming.

Chad steps up, rips open his coat, and flings himself at the pole, trying to swing around it. His hand slips off, and he ends up falling off the other side of the stage.


Ow. Not fair.

Suddenly, Tom walks in, wearing shades. But...he's even shorter. And his clothes are baggy. It's the elf.

The other contestants stare.


Fucking cue my goddamn music, bitches.

A moment of dead silence, and then a song starts.

The elf hops onto the stage, and whips off his scarf. He wraps it around the pole, and shimmies as he rubs it up and down, cleaning the pole.

Off come the hat and sunglasses. The audience gasps.


On the big screen behind Christine, Tom, Brandi, and Stephanie sit in the yurt, bandaged. Stephanie's crutches are beside her.


And now, based on your votes from all across the nation, our first Pole-to-Pole champion!

The elf comes out, wearing nothing but a tiny thong and shades. He looks like a male model - shrunk in the wash, with pointy ears.


Thank you! Ever since the workshop branched out into adult toys, this has been my dream.

He takes a bow.


The Lie that Tells

Art is a lie but a lie that tells the truth.
- Pablo Picasso

In real life, how often do we address the truth directly? Do we discuss what personal history makes us act as we do? Do we bare our feelings? Do we admit our wrongdoings? How often do we even stop to examine these things? And does not examining them usually require a stop from the movement and action of our lives?

OK, yes - as artists, most of us probably engage in far more examination of truth, history, and motive than the average person. But most people (I have come to realize from the blank stares I sometimes get in attempting to start conversations on such matters) rarely think, much less speak, about such things.

In fact, I've dated men who act like the question, "Why?" was not even in their vocabulary, and who genuinely had never in their lives thought to question their motivations.

This is vitally important to understand when you are writing a screenplay. We must know the truth behind our story, the history of our characters, their feelings and wrongdoings... but they must rarely, if ever, speak of these things directly. Instead, they inform the choices and actions our characters take.

To discuss these truths too openly will make your story ring false.

I was reminded of this during last week's episode of NCIS. The team had a man in interrogation. At first, he lied, to avoid the consequences of his actions. His ranged from tone was matter-of-fact and casual to offended and outraged. Then, after further questioning - his tone changed and became more urgent. One of the observing characters noted that he was probably telling the truth because he was not pausing before answering, his answers were not overly elaborated.

This made me think: to communicate a believable truth in my writing, I need the character to have a sense of urgency, to act without hesitation, and to show things simply without excessive elaboration. (Think action movie)

And, to the opposite effect, if I want to communicate avoidance of truth (which is sometimes the whole point of a story) I should slow down the pace, add hesitation, and elaborate at length - particularly over irrelevant details. (Think drawing room drama)

In either case, however, the characters show or avoid the truth through their behavior and the tone of the dialogue - not through specifically speaking about it. Speaking about truth quickly becomes either pedantic and preachy or like watching a video of someone's therapy session.

There is an excellent post here examining some specific cases.

I will add, finally, that there can be times in a screenplay to reverse the rule and have a character directly speak a truth that's been only implied up to that point.

One use is comedy. Highlighting an aspect of a relationship or action that the characters involved have been avoiding. "Get a room already, you two." Best done by a tertiary or minor character (so as not to disrupt the primary relationships). A good example was also this last episode of NCIS, when a someone referred to one of the characters as a sidekick. This then played out through the rest of the episode in small comedic actions as this character attempted to step out of that role...but was not addressed directly again. Some screenplays even have a "fool" character whose role is primarily to say that thing that everyone is thinking but won't address.

Another use is the turning point, especially the mid-point. When the character is at their wit's end, and cannot figure out what else to do, they might have a moment of reflection in which they examine, find, and possibly even articulate their real motivations. The "a-ha" moment that gets them moving again and gives them the strength to face the rest of the challenges the story will throw at them. Just... keep it brief. Like the soldier being interrogated, they should speak the truth simply and with urgency.

Not to say there is no place in art for lengthy internal examination. Novels are an excellent medium for this. Film, however, is an external art. Moving pictures are most engaging when they are, well, moving.