INT. HOME-OFFICE OF ADAM LANG – LATE AFTERNOON
Camera begins on a close-up of the dust jacket of an open
book over-turned on a disheveled desk, first the front cover
with the title and author:
THE PINE CONE CONUNDRUM
...then panning left to the back cover with quotes from
“Sparkles with inexhaustible wit and inventiveness.”
-Shirley Abrams, New England Reader
“Lang's creative well runs deep and wet.”
-San Fransisco Times
“Truly marvelous... The only question now is how Lang could
possibly ever follow such a first-rate success.”
-Boston Book Review
Desk is in a dark office with only a single desk lamp
lighting area. Pan continues unstopped revealing but not
dwelling over other items on the desk, framed picture of
embracing couple on vacation, dictionary with iPhone propped
up on its side against it, stacks of magazines, including
The Economist and Maxim, and books, by Hemingway, Tolstoy,
Flaubert, Wolfe; a row of a dozen novels by ADAM LANG
displayed on bookshelf just behind desk, a box of tissues,
an empty coffee mug and coffee stain rings on yellow legal
pad with a few sentences of scratched out writing on it,
lots of crumpled yellow sheets and some crumpled tissues,
pair of crossed legs in sweat pants resting on corner of
desk, finally ending on glowing Apple logo on scratched and
dented (i.e. well-used) back of open laptop sitting on lap.
Shot of laptop screen with empty word processor window and
feet in socks in the background behind screen.
Extreme close-up of blinking cursor in midst of whiteness.
Extreme close-up of ADAM's eyes blinking with same frequency
as blinking cursor.
Shot of screen and socks but goes to blackness, and back,
as if seen through the blinking eyes of ADAM.
Extreme close-up of ADAM's eyes still blinking in time with
Extreme close-up of cursor again intermittently going to
blackness such that 'blinking' cursor never actually appears;
it is flashing on when eyes are closed and disappears when
eyes are open, and then slowly phases into always appearing;
it is flashing on when eyes are open and disappears when eyes
Extreme close-up of ADAM's blinking eyes again, in his bored
SOUND OF IPHONE RINGING
Still in extreme close-up ADAM's eyes spring and stay open
staring ahead momentarily then look hard peripherally toward
the phone with no motion of head or face.
Close-up of iPhone with HAL's name flashing.
Wider shot of dark home-office including bookcases full of
books and various knick-knacks, desk and lamp, scruffy-
looking, 30-something ADAM in repose in high-backed office
chair, laptop on lap. There is a couch that looks as if it
has been slept on recently and often. The window blinds are
all drawn but it is obviously bright and sunny beyond them.
ADAM eventually reaches for phone and presses 'talk' button
but says nothing.
HAL (V.O. telephone)
Adam?! Adam! Thank god you picked
up! I've been leaving messages
every twelve hours for days! Adam!
Tell me you're writing. Tell me
you're too busy writing to answer.
Relax Hal. I'm writing.
INT. HAL'S OFFICE
HAL, a man in his mid-50's with white hair – what little
there is left – is ADAM's agent. He's wearing a nice suit
talking into a land-line phone at a beautiful, uncluttered
desk. His office, on a high floor of a tall city building,
is luxurious with large windows.
Adam! Tell me the truth. The draft
deadline's only six weeks from this
Friday. Tell me the truth!
INTERCUT between ADAM, sloppily dressed, in his dark home-
office and HAL, well-clothed, in his bright office, mixed
with occasional dialog of each heard as telephone voice
Hal. I'm writing as we speak, Hal.
ADAM exaggeratedly flutters fingers on keyboard.
As we speak.
CUT TO HAL'S OFFICE.
SOUND OF FAST TYPING is heard over HAL's phone.
(now even more worried)
Oh fuck! That's what I thought!
You only fake-type that fast.
Oh fuck, Adam! Tell me you're not
blocked. Tell me you are not blocked.
You know I got you that six month
extension. I had to bend over
backward because it's been almost two
years but I got it. And the advance...
Oh god! Tell me you got some
chapters at least. Adam, I'm gonna
come up there.
ADAM (V.O. telephone)
Don't be crazy! I'm fine.
Give me something. Anything. Give
me a synopsis. Whadda you got so
(now worried himself)
Yeah. What's it about? Love story?
Who's the protagonist?
A man who... a man, he is... a man...
A man who is a man?! What's that?
A man who's just getting over a
and... he... and he... can't seem to...
get over it.
Oh fuck! You're blocked! You're still
(talking over each other)
Hal relax! I'm not blocked. I'm
just a little blank right now. I'll
be fine. Plenty of time.
I bend over backwards to get you six
months and now with six weeks you've
got “a man who's getting over a
divorce, but can't get over it”. Oh
fuck. Adam, I'm coming up there.
Hal, don't be ridiculous. Jesus
Christ. Creativity. It's, it's,
HAL (V.O. telephone)
I know, I know.
Sometimes it comes in fits and
spurts. Besides, you know me.
When I get motivated six weeks is
I know, I know.
Remember “Scent of the Albatross”?
I did that draft in... in... what?
A month? After that flu cruise you
booked me on. Jesus. Remember?
'Flu cruise'. You were burnt out.
I was trying to get you to relax a
little. Take it easy. How could I
have known there would be a ship-
wide outbreak?! And anyway, didn't
it turn out to be food poisoning?
Every port forbade us entry or, or,
even permission to dump our ballast
water. Christ. The whole boat stank.
It was awful. Even the sea birds
stopped following us.
Alright, I get it. I get it. But,
see? You got the draft done. Right?
Right? That's the important point
In a month I got it done. A month,
Hal. Six weeks is nothing.
I know. I know. You can be fast
when you want to.
It's not a question of want, Hal!
It's about inspiration!
Isn't that cruise when you met
Don't remind me. It was an omen.
Lemme tell you, never get involved
with a girl you meet while quarantined
Oh c'mon. I always liked her. You
two stayed together, what, 8 years?
That's not bad.
Yeah well, you'd have thought being
confined to quarters with nausea while
sharing a bathroom the size of a
refrigerator would've been good
practice for marriage. Sort of
accelerates the intimacy factor,
Speaking of intimacy, how's Jess?
She's fine. She left me but she's
Oh fuck! Adam, I'm coming up! I'm
coming up! Don't worry about a thing.
That's why I pay you, Hal. Ten
percent so you do all my worrying
for me and I can stare in peace at a
blank screen for days on end.
(rubbing his forehead)
-END SCENE ONE-
INT. BAR – BACKGROUND NOISE OF CONVERSATION AND LOUNGE PIANO
MUSIC – EVENING
In a quiet, somewhat crowded bar, ADAM sits with KAREN, an
attractive, brunette woman in her early thirties. They are
at a table against the back wall, nursing beers, in the
middle of a conversation.
Full on the mouth?!
Oh my god.
Max, the principal second, said he
saw tongue on the approach.
Oh god. Isn't she like seventeen or
A prodigy! Her mom was waiting
Oh, but there's more.
There always seems to be with this
He starts the second half of the
concert with some mystery tempo.
I mean, it's not even the right
He's in three. We're in four.
Of course everyone just follows
Andrew. No big deal, right?
Uh'huh. The concertmaster.
Right. But Jones, he's got this
look on his face of shear panic.
I can imagine.
He's just turning white. Paler and
paler, right? But he keeps waving
the stick, until finally Andrew
cuts everyone off.
So then Jones pretends to cut
everyone off even though we've all
stopped playing already. He closes
his score, picks it up, turns toward
the audience, drops it to the stage,
'SLAP!', right? And says, “You'll
have to come tomorrow night to hear
what it was that I was just
Wow. That's actually not a bad save.
I know. I know. Got a good laugh.
Too bad his conducting can't be
Lemme guess. The audience loves
him because he's an accessible,
hackneyed, clowning pervert, and
the musicians hate him because he's
an aloof, perverted, clowning hack.
Not true. Nobody thinks he's aloof.
So are you still stuck?
It's been, what, two months?
No. Not that long.
Yes, that long. Since Jess.
ADAM doesn't speak but just stares at his beer.
C'mon Adam. You said yourself it
wasn't going anywhere.
So what's the difference? I liked
where it was. I didn't want it to
go anywhere. Why does it always
have to go somewhere? A relationship
isn't a road trip.
If you both think it's in a nice
place, sure. But...
The irony is, whenever a woman says
she wants her relationship to go
somewhere what she really means is
she wants to settle down.
That's not true. It just means she
wants something deeper. More
But ultimately settle down.
Well is that what Jess wanted?
No. Jess wanted a lawyer from
Providence named Todd. But that's
And you should be. I count on you
for advice about the female kind.
Why else would I be 'just friends'
with such a hottie?
Look. You hadn't written in over a
year since Evelyn left. All you did
was mope around like a zombie. I
figured you needed someone to get
you back in the game. She was good
for that, right?
She was no Ev.
Of course not. She wasn't supposed
to be. She got you back in the game,
Not to enable, but have you heard
from her at all?
Yeah, I told you. Providence.
No. I meant Ev.
She was engaged. That's the last I
heard. About a year ago.
Well Jess played her part. Transi-
tional. I think you need to move
on to something more substantial.
I don't have time for that now. I
got this draft deadline coming up
Sounds to me like you've got plenty
of time. You're not going to break
your block staring at a blank screen.
You know that. I really think you
need a distraction.
And where, pray tell, am I to find
Women are all around you, Adam. You
just need to take some initiative.
Uh'huh. Go right up there and
You know I'm no good at that. I
need to get a smile, a look or
You're getting too old. You can't
be waiting around for a look.
Boy, you really know how to build a
I'm serious. C'mon. You're a
writer. Can't you come up with a
line or two?
I got lines. Don't worry about me.
Good. Let's hear some.
Yeah. I'll critique.
Oh, I don't... I like to feel
I'm not talking about rehearsing.
Just let me hear one. Give me your
best one. C'mon. I'm sure it's
(thinks for a moment)
Alright. This one's great. It's
casual yet gets them feeling a
little sympathetic towards you right
Sympathy, huh? Okay. Lay it on me.
So you're sitting at the bar and I
come up to you...
ADAM takes KAREN's hand and stares into her eyes lovingly.
She returns his gaze with a touching smile.
...and say, “You know, of all the
women in this bar, you're the one
who reminds me of my dead sister
(silent for a beat)
How on earth did ever get married?
(still holding her hand and gazing into
her eyes lovingly)
They said it was some bad mollusks.
-END SCENE TWO-
INT.ADAM's HOME-OFFICE – NEXT MORNING
ADAM's at his desk with his feet up. He's got a yellow
legal pad on his lap with lots of scribbled out lines on it.
He writes something. Then erases something with a grey,
maliable art erasure. Then scribbles several lines out
comletely and puts his head back on the chair in despair and
stares at the ceiling. After a moment his eyes reveal an
idea and he snaps his head upright again staring ahead in
thought. He grabs a pencil, looks at the dull tip then
sticks it in the automatic sharpener. But instead of
writing with it he leans his head back, stares at the
ceiling again and flings the pencil upwards. Immediately he
covers his head with his arms as the pencil falls back onto
the desk. He sharpens several more and resumes flinging and
EXT. LEXUS ON CRODWED HIGHWAY – LOUD TRAFFIC NOISE/CAR HORN
INT. LEXUS – QUIETER TRAFFIC NOISE
HAL's driving on the highway talking on his cell phone. We
only hear his end of the conversation.
Richard, I'm telling you, he's
working on it as we speak. He's
working feverishly as we speak...
No! He's not sick! It's an
expression! He's working very
Yes! You'll have the draft--
Yes. On time.
Chapters? Well, I, uh, I don't kn--
I know. I know.
Listen. I'm going to meet with him
soon and I'll let you--
Oh, of course he's making progress.
Yes I know it's been almost two
Yes, of course I've seen it. It's
brilliant! Brilliant. His best
work since, since, “Albatross”.
Richard. Listen to me. Things are
Uh... Well, it's about a man who...
a man, he is... a man...
INT. ADAM'S OFFICE
He is in same position leaning back in chair, feet on desk
which is now littered with newly sharpened pencils. But
this time he's playing with a balled-up art erasure
suspended from the ceiling by a piece of string like a
pendulum. As it swings back and forth he imitates a
magician's hands as if he's causing it to levitate and
INTERCUT BETWEEN HAL AND ADAM
HAL pulls in to the driveway of ADAM's house and getting out
ADAM's still playing with erasure pendulum. Now he's
throwing it in circles and catching it as it comes back
HAL approaches ADAM's front door.
ADAM, still playing, is startled by SOUND OF KNOCKING ON
DOOR causing him to miss catching erasure. It hits him in
the face and he topples over backward in his chair out of
ADAM answers door.
How bad is it?!
Will you stop being so melodramatic.
Don't give me that. I'm here to help.
Tell me. What happened with Jess?
Oh there's nothing to tell...
ADAM moves aside inviting HAL in.
INT. ADAM'S KITCHEN
In a very modern, expensive looking kitchen – all stainless
steel and black marble – that looks sparse and little used,
ADAM hands HAL a mug of coffee. Adam has just spent the
last few minutes bringing Hal up to speed on his personal
I've always said, never trust a
lawyer from Providence.
When have you ever said that?
I'm saying it now. Listen, Adam.
Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.
Now you'll have no distractions from
Karen says that's exactly what I
What, like model ship building?
No Hal. Not a hobby.
So join a bowling league.
A woman, Hal.
No, no, no, no. This is a blessing
in disguise. I think now that you're
unencumbered you should focus on the
draft for a while.
Well it's not been working that well
What're you... hung up on her?
No, no. Not that. Good riddance.
W-w-wait a minute. Back up. So far?
Whadda you mean, 'so far'?
Since Jess left.
Right, but... When did Jess leave?
Exactly how long has it not been
working? How long have you been
ADAM avoids eye contact.
Hal. I haven't written anything
worth keeping for a month and a half.
Jesus Christ! A mon-- How could--
Why didn't you tell me sooner?! A
month and a half?!
Give or take--
Why didn't you tell me?
It's embarrasing, Hal! It's not
easy to talk about. I kept hoping
it would lift. Besides, if Richard
finds out, you know, it's a black
mark, my sales are down--
Will you let me worry about the damn
publishers?! That's what I get paid
for. Okay? But I gotta know the
truth, Adam. I gotta know the truth.
Otherwise I'm useless.
I know, I know. I'm sorry, Hal.
Okay? I'm sorry.
Okay. Okay. Don't worry. Don't
worry. I understand. Now let's
figure out a plan.
Yeah. What have you tried so far?
Tried? I don't--
Yeah. You know. Techniques. Haven't
you learned any techniques over the
years for over-coming this?
I've tried everything, Hal. Only
thing that ever really works is
That's no good. We've only got six
weeks. What about... Stream of
consciousness. Or character profiles.
Or working outside?! Fitzgerald. He
Fitzgerald?! Fitzgerald was a genius
and a drunk, Hal. What're you trying
to do to me? I start emulating him
and the next thing you know I'll be
waxing verbose over the lost promise
of the liver of my youth.
Honestly, it's hardly ever been a
problem before. Nothing longer than
a few days anyway. Usually I'll go
to bed and my brain will just be
percolating all these ideas as I fall
asleep and then they get me out of bed
in the morning, excited to work on
But now, at night, I lay in bed,
empty. Totally empty. No ideas
floating around my head. Nothing to
look forward to in the morning. And
then I just worry. I dwell on my
insecurities. I convince myself I
deserve to be in the state I'm in and
then I lay there consumed with self-
pity and it takes me forever to get
to sleep. So that during the day
I'm tired and lethargic and foggy
and nothing seems interesting. It's
a pathetic cycle. A pathetic,
It's nothing to be embarrassed about.
It happens to everyone. You're
lucky it's never happened to you
I didn't say it's never happened. I
said it's never been a problem
I don't understand.
I've been blocked, just never with a
deadline looming. I was like this
after Ev left but since I had just
finished “Jesters of Affection” it
wasn't a problem.
Uh'huh. And how long did that last?
Well, um... a year... and a half or
Right. When I got you the extension.
But you said it was because of plot
It was. It was because of plot
difficulties. I didn't have one.
Doesn't that qualify?
So how did you finally kick that
Um. You know? Come to think of it.
Karen set me up with a few friends
of hers and it took my mind off of
The distraction she's advocating now.
Karen always seems to know.
Well if that's worked in the past, I
guess let's do it.
That's what I was afraid of.
Get Karen to set you up and--
SPLIT SCREEN showing a silent vignette of ADAM's disaster
date on left and conversation below on right. Simultaneous
screen action in double columns below.
END SPLIT SCREEN. EXPAND RIGHT FRAME TO FULL SCREEN.
Adam. There isn't time to waste.
You'll see Karen tonight?
We're meeting for a drink later.
Good. Do whatever she says. And
keep me in the loop too.
You wanna come along? She likes you,
No. I've gotta get back. We'll
meet up in a few days. I'll be in
And I'll stay focused on becoming
-END SCENE THREE-
ADAM meeting a lovely WOMAN in
an elegant restaurant.
Everyone is smiles and laughs.
ADAM offers a bread stick to
the WOMAN who initially refuses.
He goads her until she final
accepts but after one bite
begins to choke immediately.
ADAM clumsily tries to perform
Heimlich to no avail but he is
After several tries a WAITRESS
attempts to cut in but Adam
brushes her off. After a couple
more failures he seeks the
waitress's advice about technique
and then continues his attempts.
Eventually the WAITRESS pulls
ADAM away and is successful on
her first try.
Adam thanks the waitress and
they begin to flirt a little
while his date, now breathing
breathing but ignored by him,
steadies herself against table
and is attended to by other
concerned restaurant patrons.
Because. Those first set-
ups of hers were such
legendary dating disasters
that I became infamous. I'm
blacklisted. None of her
friends will agree to it.
Oh c'mon. That seems a
I agree. I mean is it my
fault the Heimlich maneuver
is harder to perform than
Oh my goodness.
Granted, I probably shouldn't
have been so insistent about
getting it right and just let
the waitress take over, but
you know me. I'm a
perfectionist to a fault.
Hey, but wasn't Jess a
set-up? So they weren't all
No-no. Jess was the
Yeah. She told me she was
impressed by my stamina.