1. All the Things You Could Have Been if Not For Me
Part 1. A play about 5 people who have to navigate their interdependence so they can proceed along their individual paths to autonomy and freedom.
DAVID OLDMAN. Mid-fifties, libertarian broadcaster.
JANET SMAIL. Early-fifties, David’s long-time producer.
SOPHIE WILLIS. Thirties, barrister, David’s daughter.
MIKE VAN KLEE. Thirties, well-known actor, Sophie’s partner.
TIA MERCER. Thirties, struggling content creator, Sophie’s best friend.
TAMA THOREAU. Thirties, author, isolationist.
It’s set in the present. As much as possible, the technology in the play should be depicted in a non-literal manner that is led by - and prioritizes- the live human body and voice.
INT. DAVID’S BROADCAST STUDIO.
DAVID wears large headphones and talks into a microphone. JANET stands in his eyeline, at a console, producing the show.
DAVID So who do you hold responsible for your situation, Pam?
PAM (V.O) The council.
DAVID And who do you think is best placed to do something about it?
PAM (V.O) Probably the mayor.
DAVID So you feel [real name], the mayor of Auckland city, should come round to your house, get on his hands and knees, and scoop the leaves out of your drain?
PAM (V.O) No, but he could send someone round.
DAVID Here’s another take on your situation Pam.
PAM (V.0) OK.
DAVID It’s your house, you’re the one with the problem, so why don’t you clean it up yourself?
PAM (V.O) The tree is on council land. I don’t think it’s fair.
David cuts her off.
DAVID There’s that word again. Fair. What’s fair? Not much. So why do we waste our time trying to make the world into something that it’s not? Might as well try and make the sky green. I always think these compensation claims, these welfare entitlements, these charities, these safety nets - they’re all a bit like those playgrounds we’re seeing now all over town, built on top of thick rubber mats. If you fall, it doesn’t hurt, so you’ve got no incentive to learn how to climb properly. Or to figure out how to take care of yourself in precarious situations. My own daughter, she’s in her thirties now, but back in the day she took a big tumble off one of those old tire swings, type you don’t see anymore. Headfirst into a pile of gravel. Blood all down her face. Broke my heart to see it. In the end I think I cried louder than she did. But I tell you what. She never fell off another swing. And now she’s a top lawyer. So, my question is, are kids today growing up in cotton wool? I certainly believe that, how about you? It’s your right to call me up and have your say.
Janet presses a button.
DEEP VOICE (V.O) You’re listening to All Talk, live with David Oldman. Call now on --
DAVID (to Janet) Anyone?
Janet shakes her head and makes a signal - ‘keep fishing’. David rolls his eyes. Janet counts him in, then pushes a button. David comes back with just as much energy as before.
DAVID I’m talking about a book, written by a Kiwi author, that is topping best seller lists worldwide. It’s not your traditional book, in fact, it’s an e-book and those in the know say that it may change the way we live our lives. Big call. It’s called ‘Itonomy’ and it’s written by a fellow called Tama Thoreau. White, brown, who knows? It’s a nom-de-plume, a pen-name, but in it lies a clue as to what he’s all about. Tama, Māori for ‘son of’, that’s easy. Thoreau - Henry David Thoreau, nineteenth century author and father of libertarianism - lived by himself in a hut in the woods, didn’t think much of government. Good man. So, Tama Thoreau - Son of Thoreau. Hello. Sounds interesting. Tama Thoreau has decided that he doesn’t want anything more to do with our society, thank you very much - he’s sick of us. So he ups sticks and builds himself a house somewhere deep in the forest - in the middle of DOC land - which, by the by, he legally cannot do. He keeps to himself, he fishes, hunts, and lives off the land. Good on him I say, now get this. He’s not living in a deerstalker’s hut. This is state of the art house that he has lugged piece by piece into the bush, solar panels, methane gas, eco-plumbing, hydroponic systems, hot water, laptops, touchscreen tablets, you name it. Fully self- contained with all the bells and whistles. Except the internet. You see, Tama doesn’t want anything to do with society, but he’s happy to take advantage of all the technological advances society has made that he feels are useful to him. In other words, he’s happy to pick and choose. Question is, are we dealing with a hero, or a hypocrite? You tell me. We’ll be taking calls after these messages. That are not lined up in the system. Janet. Janet.
He waves to get Jen’s attention. She’s spaced out, smiling sweetly at him.
DAVID Ads, ads.
Janet comes to her senses, and gets clicking.
JANET Sorry D. Dumped that last bit and –
She presses a button.
DEEP VOICE (V.O) You’re listening to All Talk, with David Oldman. Call now on --
Janet gives the thumbs up. David is miffed at the mistake.
EXT. DEEP IN THE FOREST.
Pitch black. A camera flash illuminates the whole stage. For a split second we see TAMA, wearing a ski helmet with a GoPro, standing frighteningly close to TIA - the photographer - and pointing a gun at her face.
TIA Oh my God.
TAMA I said who the hell are you?
TIA Is that a gun?
TAMA You better believe it.
TIA starts crying in the dark. TAMA’s livecam GoPro footage is projected onto the back wall.
TAMA What are you doing?
TIA(reassuring herself) I’m not afraid. I am not afraid of you.
TAMA Then you’re an idiot.
TIA I will not be a victim anymore.
TAMA Who are you?
TIA My name is Tia Mercer, I’m a citizen journalist.
TAMA Why are you here?
TIA I came to find you.
TAMA I don’t want to be found.
TIA Please. I’m lost.
TAMA You’re confusing me Tia.
TIA I was looking for you. And I got lost, and the only light I have is the flash on my camera. It’s how I kept on track. Look.
She shows him the screen of her camera. The view from his GoPro lets us see what he sees as he scrolls through her photos. Path in the forest, close up of a maps, a different path, a tricky obstacle, a shot of a house in the distance with cracks of light coming out the bottom of the floor. More path. Him pointing a gun at her face. The screen dies. He hands the camera back to her.
TIA Just in time I guess.
TAMA You scared the shit out of me.
TIA Can I stay here tonight?
TAMA Doesn’t belong to me. Camp where you like.
TIA I mean with you.
TIA In your house.
TAMA What’s your game?
TIA Haven’t got one. That’s why I’m here.
TAMA shakes his head in wonder.
TAMA Come on.
They walk up to the house. They enter.
INT. TAMA THOREAU’S ECO HUT
TAMA places his gun on a rack on the wall. They’re standing inside a beautifully designed space.
TIA Wow. I mean. Wow.
TAMA It does the job.
TIA People would wig out if they saw this.
TAMA I don’t want you taking any photos.
TIA Please, I--
TAMA And I’m gonna need your memory card.
TIA No. God. No. Why?
TAMA You know why. Those files are all geo-tagged.
TIA It’s just a function, I can turn it off.
TAMA I’m not asking.
Tia points to his GoPro.
TIA Then I don’t want you to film me.
TAMA This is for both our protection.
TIA You want my card you need to turn that off.
He shakes his head and gestures for the camera. She backs off, talking fast.
TIA In your book, it’s really clear about the theory of why you’re here --
TAMA I want to be alone.
TIA But my point is, in your writing, what doesn’t come across is the fact that you have such great taste. That’s what I could do, like this could be featured in Home & Garden.
He gestures for the memory card.
TIA Home & Garden would die for this.
She flips it out of the back of her camera, fumbles with it, and hands it over, reluctantly. He crushes it. She seems crushed too. Her hands return to her pockets. He turns her around and rummages through her backpack and pats her down.
She shakes her head.
TAMA That backpack’s all you brought?
TAMA You’re not prepared for this at all. What you were expecting?
TIA Shorter walk. Deer antlers on the wall. Barry Crump?
TAMA I’ve got Barry Crump.
He picks up an e-reader and scrolls through his library to find Barry Crump’s book ‘A Good Keen Man.’ We see the titles he’s got on there, including ‘Walden,’ by Henry David Thoreau, ‘Man Alone’ by John Mulgan and lots of other books celebrating nature, the solitary, independence and IT. He hands her the reader.
TAMA Good yarns.
Tia takes the reader. TAMA takes off his helmet, and places it on the table, still recording.
TIA I’ve read it. I prefer this.
She pulls out a dog-eared paperback from her backpack. It’s his book: Itonomy by Tama Thoreau. He takes it, and stares at it like he’s never seen a book before.
TAMA grunts in deep frustration. He seems on the verge of great violence.
TIA What’s wrong?
TAMA It’s not meant to be a physical book.
TIA So why did you write it?
TAMA Contractually. It’s e-book only. No trees, no bleach, no ink, no carbon miles distributing it all over the country.
TIA The world.
TIA The world. It’s... I mean, you know you’re a best-selling author, right?
TAMA is astonished.
TIA How long since you’ve been online?
TAMA doesn’t know.
TIA Read the back. The New York Times... the Guardian. You win prizes. A lot of money. You’re rich. It’s, it’s what you wanted, right? It’s Walden for the digital age. I can’t believe you didn’t...
TAMA shakes his head in disgust.
TIA I’m sorry you’re so successful.
TAMA physically shakes his body as if to relieve tension.
TIA But if it was going to upset you so much you probably shouldn’t have written it.
TIA Just saying. I mean, seriously. Why did you do it?
TAMA I dunno. I guess I was trying to get this whole thing straight in my own head. Look. You can stay the night, then you need to go and you can’t... You’re not going to keep quiet about this are you?
TIA I want to do a photo essay on you.
TAMA No. No. No.
TIA I’ll protect you. I’ll protect your location, I’ll do anything but don’t send me away with nothing.
TAMA I said no.
TIA I have failed, in my life. Until right now. Until I found you. When the whole world is looking. People are paying for drones and helicopters to look for you. And I found you.
TIA I’d rather not say.
TAMA Are people following you?
She shakes her head.
TAMA I need to go. I need to shake it out. I’ll be back later.
TIA How long has it been since you’ve seen another person? A woman?
TAMA Not long enough.
TIA You’re not interested in me?
TAMA You can sleep on the couch. If you get cold there’s blankets under the cushions. Shower’s hot. There’s food, water whatever you want. Breakfast at six, then I’ll see you on your way. No recording anything, OK?
TIA How can I? Everything’s dead.
He takes her camera and leaves. She pulls her hands out of her pockets. She’s holding her original memory card. She switched it out before through sleight of hand. She kisses it and secretes it in her socks. She looks around to take stock of the situation and sees his GoPro helmet still there, filming her. She looks snapped. Then she reaches into her back pocket and pulls out another memory card. She whips the card out the back of his camera, replaces it, and turns the camera back on. TAMA returns.
TAMA Nearly forgot.
He takes the helmet, grabs his gun from the rack and exits. She breathes.
Next time: Tia tries to monetize. We meet the rest of the cast and someone dies.