Discover more from Citizens of Nowhere
An outline for a film about a pair of budding young entrepreneurs who disrupt the age-old relationship between people and dogs by launching a K9-lending library.
1. Opening Image
Manny is 15-years old. He lives in a run-down house in a poor suburb with his recently divorced Mom, and the untrained Labrador that she loves more than him. The Lab has just guzzled a whole bag of groceries.
2. Theme Stated
“Dogs are easier to love than people.”
Mom is patient and forgiving of the Labrador, but she’s frustrated at her idiot son for leaving the groceries where the dog could find them. She orders Manny to take the Lab for a walk to aid its digestion.
Manny wants his mom to love him as much as she loves her dog. He believes he can win that love by becoming the family breadwinner. So he needs to get rich quick. His strategy is to pick up free stuff that people leave on the curb and resell it on the internet. He comes across a promising stack of magazines, but the Lab pees on them. They walk on and encounter an elderly neighbour being dragged along by her dog. Manny offers to walk her dog. She’s grateful and offers him a dollar for his trouble. Manny refuses, but she insists: he’s rendering a valuable service to her, and to her dog - that’s worth money. In fact, she gives him $5. Manny takes the cash and walks both dogs. Easy money! He crosses over into a nice suburb. Manny sees dogs everywhere: barking inside houses, racing around yards, being walked, carried and cycled by their harried owners. It’s a dog’s world.
Manny spies a dog poo on the sidewalk. It has a flag sticking out of it that says: ‘Careless Dog Owner! Pick it Up and Bin It.’ A voice denounces him for failing to clean up after his dogs. The voice belongs to Tara: a girl of his own age with a fistful of anti dog poo flags. Manny denies that his dogs are responsible; he just got here. Tara says that while he was staring at their flagged poo, his Lab dropped a fresh steamer on the sidewalk. She sticks a flag in it. Manny takes a bag from his roll. He picks up all the poos and offers Tara her flags back.
Manny wonders why she doesn’t just pick up the poos? Tara tells him that’s not scalable. There’s only one of her, and her vision is to ensure that the sidewalks of the whole wide world will be dog turd-free. She can’t possibly pick them all up by herself, but her special talent is marketing: she’ll spread the message and inspire others. Manny wonders if Tara will help him spread the message about his dog walking service? He’s figured that he can walk heaps of dogs at the same time, so if everyone’s giving him $5 he could make $20 an hour. Or more! Tara encourages him to think bigger. They combine forces to launch a dog walking start-up. She tags sidewalk poos with a QR code for Manny’s dog walking business. Before you know it, Manny is walking packs of dogs from all over the suburbs. They’re earning hundreds of dollars a week. Demand soon exceeds the supply of Manny’s two legs. At a dog park, Tara and Manny hold an Extraordinary General Meeting. Tara agrees that Manny’s not scalable: there’s only one of him. She can’t share the load, because she doesn’t really like dogs. Besides, her focus needs to be customer acquisition; she can’t become distracted by fulfillment. If they have to hire someone else, it will destroy their margins. As they strategize, they hear a nearby kid whining about how many dogs Manny has, and asking their parent ‘why can’t we have a single one?’ The parent is sorry, but a dog is a big responsibility; their house is too small. Tara approaches the parent and pitches the opportunity to walk one of Manny’s dogs for 30 minutes. It’ll cost $5. The parent and child are thrilled. Tara hands over the dog and starts the clock. Manny feels weird. They got paid $5 to walk the dog, now they’ve got another $5 from someone else to do the work. That, says Tara, is scalable.
6. Break into 2
They decide to launch a Dog Library at the local park. Tara has made a sign. A young family approaches with their toddler. What’s a dog library? You borrow a dog. Here’s the dog, here’s it’s leash. $5 per 30 minutes. $2 extra for a ball to play fetch. The young family are delighted. Yesterday’s parent and child return. They want to do it again!
8. Fun and Games
Demand soon outstrips supply. Queues form at the dog park early mornings, after school, and all weekend until late at night. Manny is picking dogs up for a walk and returning them 12 hours later - dog tired. But the owners are happy, and the dog borrowers are happy, and the dogs are living their best lives: so much attention! Tara begins tagging poos in other suburbs and reviewing dog parks in other locations. Now their scalability is threatened by Manny’s inability to walk the dogs to other parks in a timely fashion. They need to scale their distribution. Tara introduces them to a man who can convert a panel van into a luxury MOBILE DOG LIBRARY. Manny wonders where the money is coming from to buy a van? And he’s concerned that neither of has a driving license. Tara believes that true disrupters don’t follow the rules, they make them. Tara’s dad will be finance the Mobile Dog Library courtesy of his credit card. Tara clearly comes from wealth. She feels her dad doesn’t notice her; he’s too busy with his successful business. She doesn’t know exactly what he does, but it’s highly scalable. She’s even more estranged from her mom, who’s been eating, praying and loving around the world for the last 3 years. Tara volunteers to drive, so if anyone gets in trouble it will be her. Now Manny and Tara gather dogs from all over the city and distribute them to a dozen different dog parks. They hire and train an army of local kids to handle borrowing and returns. Tara launches an app so the whole process is cashless, and people can book their favorite pooch in advance.
Dog Library is a raging success.
10. Bad Guys Close In
In fact, it’s almost too successful. The problems mount. A woman who pays for her dog to be walked is disturbed to see it on social media, giving a sloppy kiss to a stranger on the other side of town. Manny lies and says the person just asked to take a photo with it. Another borrower has to be coaxed to return her dog; some dogs are more popular than others; some people want to buy their rental dogs and won’t take no for an answer. Manny calls an Extraordinary General Meeting. He proposes that their problems are infinitely scalable. Manny proposes that they get honest with the dog owners about what they’re doing. Tara votes him down: there’s no way people will agree to let their dogs get rented out to strangers, and if they do, they’ll refuse to pay for the walking, and they’ll probably expect a cut of the rental fees. Either way, it’s bad business. But Tara will meet Manny half way: she proposes that they address their supply chain issues by adding a new and honest supply channel. They go to a local shelter. The shelter thinks it’s a very bad idea. There are too many liabilities. What if a dog bites someone? It won’t work. Then, they’re approached by Zak. He’s become aware of their problems. He’s a dog rescuer, and he can procure a steady supply of rescue dogs that would be perfect for Dog Library. Manny and Tara enthusiastically agree. They cease walking dogs, and switch to Zak as a sole supplier. Dogs are for sale now, too.
11. All Is Lost
A SWAT team takes down a borrower with a fancy dog. The police get involved. As does animal welfare. It turns out that Zak has been stealing dogs from other towns to stock Dog Library.
12. Dark Night of the Soul
Dog Library is publicly shamed and closed. Manny and Tara are vilified by their neighbors and on social media as abusers of dogs. Manny’s mother can’t bear to look at him: to think that he was renting out her beloved dog to be manhandled by strangers. Tara picks Manny up in the Mobile Dog Library. She’s even more upset: all this fuss and her dad hasn’t even noticed. He doesn’t seem to be aware she exists. Manny thinks it’s better not to exist than to be loved less than a stupid dog. They park up in a spot overlooking their town. Tara is feeling reckless and tries to kiss Manny, but he pulls away. She assumes he doesn’t care about her - just like her dad, just like her mom, just like everyone in her life. Manny corrects her. He really cares. It’s just that in his experience, kissing is the gateway to hating someone and never wanting to see them again. And he can’t bear to live in a world where he doesn’t get to see Tara ever again. In fact, he struggles to live in a world where he can’t see her every day. Tara gets it. He cares for her in a way no one ever has before. She feels the same way about him. And it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s enough for now. There’s no need to rush. They snuggle up and sleep in the van.
13. Break into 3
Someone knocks on the door of the Mobile Dog Library. There’s a massive queue of people and they all want dogs. They think it’s a great idea to bring the MDL up here. They’ve heard all about the problems - but they blame evil Zak and dog owners envious that someone monetized this obvious opportunity. This is America - no truly great innovation gets adopted without resistance. But they believe Manny and Tara’s hearts are in the right place. They just need to keep hustling. They chant in unison: Long live Dog Library! Long Live Dog Library!
Manny and Tara go back to the dog shelter with a killer pitch: they’ll adapt their app to so Dog Library works for shelter dogs. They’ll ensure that dogs are (literally) vetted to make sure they’re people friendly, then photographed with profiles, schedules and locations in the Dog Library app. That way the dogs will be cared for, exercised, and hopefully adopted. In the meantime, people will be paying for the service and the bulk of the money goes to the shelter to improve facilities and care for the dogs. In fact, for a tiered subscription, people can even volunteer at the dog shelter. Dog Library 2.0 is a massive hit. It connects people who love dogs with dogs they love. The man who converts the vans into Mobile Dog Libraries is rushed off his feet. He’s selling as many converted vans as Ford sells pick-up trucks. Tara has adapted her Poo Tag flagstick into a simple shovel scoop that gamifies the act of scooping up dog poop - there are people all over the world proudly setting daily and monthly records. In fact, the biggest problem in much of the world these days is a lack of poop to scoop. Dog Library has an office in the middle of town. Tara’s dad is their Chief Technology Officer - and he couldn’t be prouder of his darling girl. Tara’s mom is back from overseas too: she had faith that Tara needed space to find herself. Manny’s mom is there too: she’s been inspired to train her Lab - who is now very well behaved. But Manny’s mom feels bad she’s not contributing. Manny tells her that she worked her butt off her whole life in crumby jobs to care for him. She deserves to be taken care of now. Manny’s mom is so proud of him. She admits she’s been hard on him; it’s taken her a long time to come to terms with the fact that Manny is so much more than his father’s son. Manny and Tara are very happy. Manny calls her into the boardroom for an Extraordinary General Meeting. The one and only item on his agenda is a proposal to kiss her. She’s very open to the idea, but asks to be appraised of the company’s policy regarding relationships in the workplace. Manny states that that they are only appropriate between colleagues on the same level. As they are both c-suite, technically, they can kiss. But only if that’s something she is willing to vote for. The motion is passed unanimously. They kiss.
15. Final Image
Manny’s mom’s Labrador paws at the boardroom door. Manny’s mom calls him away: bad dog. Very important people are transacting some very important business in there. The Lab puts its tail between its legs and slinks away.