Outline for an Original Screenplay
“Wouldn’t it be great if life had a pause button?”
In 1993 I was an extra in the film Iron Will. It was an exhilarating experience that prompted several ideas for movies. I pitched one of these to the co-producer and he said he would read my treatment if I wrote it. I followed through and he followed through by giving me a call. “Yes,” said. He would read my screenplay if I wrote it. He also sent me a book on how to write for Hollywood.
I titled my first script The Extras. I collaborated with my brother, because studied film in college. His ideas were good, mine pretty weak. Nevertheless, the producer said, “Not bad for a first effort. Try something in a different genre.”
The second screenplay, Uprooted, featured a young, crippled Estonian and his quest for freedom during WW2. It was a powerful story, and really happened, with intense life-and-death situations peppered throughout. The producer liked it, reading several passages back to me, and said that if I came to Hollywood he would introduce me to people. I had a family and a job in Minnesota though and “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.” I declined.
The Hollywood bug was still chewing on me, however, so I attempted yet a third screenplay, a comedy. I conceived a few other movie ideas as well, including this one, Pause Button, circa 1995, more than 10 years before Adam Sandler’s Click. Here’s the concept, fleshed out in a treatment-like form.
Doctor Roland (Rollie) Michaels — Tinkerer/Physicist obsessed with Time
Judy Michaels • Wife — Competent, patient, source of stability
Rhonda Michaels 17 — Destined for Ivy League School
Lisa Michaels 4
Birdey, the Cat
Edith Gordon 35–40, Rollie’s Sister — Klutz
Buzz 15 — Borderline delinquent
Zoomer 15 — Borderline delinquent
Donald Gordon 40–45 — Edith’s Ex
Note to Reader: The numbers in parentheses represent the amount of time elapsed from beginning of film, not the length of each scene.
When movie opens, zany inventor — ROLLIE MICHAELS — and his longsuffering wife JUDY are expressing frustration at the problem of getting everything done that needs to get done — like paying bills, fixing the leaky faucet, and getting the house straightened up before Rollie’s sister Edith & sons arrive. “Wouldn’t it be great if Life had a Pause button? Imagine if we could stop Time and get everything done that we’ve always wanted to get done.” Rollie says this precisely because that is what he has been working on in his inventor’s studio.
A survey of the house introduces us to daughters RHONDA (16) and LISA (4), and BIRDEY the Cat. We become acutely aware that this is not a normal house. Books, magazines, and gizmos all reveal a singular preoccupation with the concept of Time.
Much to the annoyance and displeasure of the neighbors next door, Birdey the Cat likes to tease their pit bull. (4 min.)
Rollie’s sister EDITH and her two teenaged sons, BUZZ and ZOOMER, are driving toward Atlantic City on their way to the Michaels. The boys are quite juvenile for their ages. Edith’s aim is for her sons to get a glimpse that an education can have value. It is a last ditch effort to stave off their utter ruin and delinquency. (5 min.)
Rhonda and Mom are trying to straighten the house. Lisa and Bogey are playing with a computer. The cat is lounging lazily.
Rollie is in his studio working on his theory that Time is not a perception of the mind, but rather an actual objective entity. His chief preoccupation is with stopping time and finding an answer to the question, “How does internal time consciousness occur when we travel sideways in time? The room is filled with very sophisticated and complicated equipment with its walls specially treated. The walls are cluttered with complex time models, and various accordion-like models.
Rollie pushes the Pause Button on a VCR-like panel. (8 min.)
Rollie leaves the room and finds that EVERYTHING is stopped. The whole world, everything outside the room including his family, is in a freeze-frame. After reacting with shocked awe — Rollie pays bills, balances checkbook, fixes the faucet, notices that sister Edith was just pulling in the driveway (though currently frozen) and so he finishes straightening the house for Judy and Rhonda. (10 min.)
Rollie un-stops time. Judy is baffled that the house got straightened so quickly, the bills paid, etc. But the company arrives before Rollie can explain. It is apparent by Judy’s reactions that the drop-in visit by Rollie’s sister was not at a good time and that these are not her favorite people.
Rhonda gives Buzz and Zoomer a tour of the inventor’s mad-cap house. We learn that the Michaels’ daughter Rhonda has a boyfriend and is college bound. We also learn the Edith’s ex-husband lives in the neighborhood. (12 min.)
Rollie explains to Judy how he stopped time. He also calls his mentor, Dr. Rheinholdt, and is talking to him in Facetime mode on an iPhone as he leads Edith and Judy to his studio. But when he gets to the room, Rhonda is in there showing off her dad’s stuff to Buzz and Zoomer. Lisa has also simultaneously wandered in, with the cat in her arms, when…
Buzz pushes the Pause button — “to see what would happen”. When he sees Rollie, Judy and Edith standing there, Zoomer jumps, startled, accidentally yanking a bundle of cables from the wall of equipment. Dr. Rheinholdt’s jabbering voice is instantly stilled, as is all Time outside the room. Rollie can see the “frozen” Dr. Rheinholdt, stopped in mid-sentence. Unfortunately, the machine is broken. Distress. (17 min.)
Rollie, Judy and Edith, inside the room, react with alarm. Rollie connects the cables and says it wasn’t so bad as he first feared. He thinks that everything will be just fine again if they all come back inside the room. <see NOTE at end of Act Three.> The sound of car wheels squealing lets us know that it won’t be quite that simple. The teen delinquents are off to paint the town red. Rollie doesn’t know what will happen to them if he starts time again with the boys outside the room. (20 min.)
The Michaels family has a mission: To find the runaway teens and bring them back. But how? Think like a teen. (23)
Buzz and Zoomer don’t know where to go first. The casinos? A Triple-X strip joint? Shopping? The boys head for the casinos. Adventure-City! Slots forever! Other people’s money. How can this be anything but Fun, Fun, Fun, the boys think. (27)
Judy and Edith have a fight because Edith doesn’t care if the boys get lost in a time warp. They have been nothing but trouble since their father left, anyways.
Edith finally agrees to try to help get the boys. They take two vehicles. Rhonda, Dad and Lisa go in one. Diane and Edith take the other car. (30)
Lisa talks her dad into driving past her high school first. She writes a love note to her boy friend, roasts the principal on the chalk board and corrects some of the answers on a recent test. (32)
Thinking Rollie will take care of finding the boys, Judy talks Edith into driving somewhere else, too. Judy wants to check in on Rhonda’s boyfriend… to make sure he is worthy of her daughter. (34)
Buzz and Zoomer moon a traffic cop’s face.
Judy looks at the home of Rhonda’s boyfriend. Is impressed by their wealth and sophistication. Fascinated by their bookshelves. Decides to borrow a book from them, intending to return it some day. They go up to his room and he is frozen in the process of writing a letter to Rhonda. It is a romantic and moving poem. Judy comments that Rollie used to write poetry, and Edith is astounded that Rollie ever had one romantic bone in his body. (36)
Buzz and Zoomer go into a Strip Club.
Rhonda and Rollie prepare to leave the school. Can’t find Lisa. Search all about in the halls and classrooms. Despondent, they return to the car and find she is waiting for them, eager to catch the bad boys. (38)
Buzz and Zoomer exit Strip Club, panting and sweating, just slightly overwhelmed by the experience.
Edith talks Judy into going to the house of her ex-husband, Donald Gordon. Edith’s pretext: maybe the boys went to see their father. (40)
Buzz and Zoomer on the Boardwalk.
We see Rhonda, Rollie and Lisa driving up and down the roads along casino lane trying to find the vehicle of Buzz and Zoomer. (42)
Buzz and Zoomer enter the Taj and have a party. Faces of people frozen at moments of winning and losing.
Rhonda, Rollie and Lisa go into TropWorld because Rollie has never had time to do this and always thought Lisa would like it. Lisa enjoys herself at the Amusement Center. Rollie waxes philosophical. Rhonda hits the jackpot on a slot machine.
Rollie walks outside and notes that the sun is still in the same place. There is no wind. The extent to which time has been stopped begins to sink into his consciousness. He runs inside to try to explain it to Rhonda. Rhonda asks where Lisa is, since she is not with Dad. Panic. (47)
Edith and Judy arrive at Edith’s ex’s and find no boys’ car there. Judy sees that Edith had her own reasons for coming here. Edith and Judy enter house, and her ex looks very sad and lonely. Edith feels sympathy for him. The house, it is agreed, needs a woman’s touch. This guy is so helpless in the realm of homemaking. Edith admits she is lousy with teen-age boys, and was as much a part of the problem as Donald was. (52)
Buzz and Zoomer get in car to go to airport. They mistakenly reason that if they get killed trying to fly a plane it won’t hurt them because when time starts again, the whole thing will be as if it didn’t happen.
Rollie explains why the boys MUST be found. And how there is a possibility that they will be lost forever in this lateral space in time if they don’t return to the room when time starts again.
Buzz and Zoomer driving out of casino see Armored Truck that is open. They take bags of money, but acknowledge it isn’t worth as much here in timeless zone. First hint that they are having a change of perceptions about what is important.
Judy and Edith head back to the house, thinking everyone must be back by now.
Buzz and Zoomer turn around and enter a car dealership they drove past. We see them eyeing the hot cars. They pick up the keys from inside and drive away in two very hot speedsters. Drag racing on the highway. (54)
Rollie and Rhonda are looking for Lisa. They return to the car, but she’s not there. Lisa has gone down the Boadwalk…toward Pier One. Rollie and Rhonda split up. “If we don’t find him by dark, we’ll have to call the police.” Oops. Sun hasn’t moved since time stopped. (57)
Buzz and Zoomer try racing a number of different cars. It is teen heaven. (59)
Judy and Edith arrive at the house, hoping the boys have been found and everyone is waiting for them. No such luck. They decide to head into Atlantic City. (62)
Buzz and Zoomer have a collision. Fortunately, the accident occurs while they are accelerating and not while they are at top speed. Still, Zoomer’s car spins out, off the road, and rolls. Buzz finds him unconscious, but alive. A fearful moment, but Zoomer comes to. Bad headache. Realization that this whole experience is not a game. They could get killed out here. A serious moment of insight. The boys decide to head back to Uncle Rollie’s. (70)
Judy and Edith find Rollie and Rhonda, but where is Lisa? And where could the teens have gone? (72)
Buzz and Zoomer arrive at the house. They find the cables all connected, but no sign of anyone here. What would happen if we started time again? Zoomer almost pushes the button. (75)
Rollie explains again why they can’t start time without everyone in the room. They could be forever lost. Lisa and the teens MUST be found. Judy has hot flashes at thought of losing her daughter in a lateral space of time. (78)
Buzz convinces Zoomer that it might be best to wait until Uncle Rollie comes back. They talk about his intelligence and wonder if they are as smart because they come from same lineage. They wonder what college he went to to learn everything he knows. Buzz and Zoomer decide to visit their dad. (80)
Judy, Edith, Rollie and Rhonda make a plan. They will visit every casino on the boardwalk and meet back at the Convention Center. They remind themselves that they have all the time in the world. (82 min.)
Buzz and Zoomer at their dad’s place. They poke around through his things, trying to get to know him. They find a suicide note in the waste basket. It is a letter to the boys expressing his feelings of having failed them. He always felt he was no good because he dropped out of high school and wasted his life. He wanted them to know they had been given good brains, but they shouldn’t waste them. The boys have an epiphany and hug their “frozen-in-time” dad. (87 min.)
After a whirlwind tour of Atlantic City, Judy, Edith, Rollie and Rhonda meet again at the Convention Center. The go inside to see the empty auditorium where the annual Miss America Pageant is conducted. Lisa, looking especially tiny in this mammoth hall, is curled up there, napping. (89 min.)
All characters make it back to the Michaels’ house and enjoy a happy reunion.
The whole group assembles in the inventor’s studio. Rollie thinks he can undo the damage that’s been done — the wrecked car, stolen property, etc. — by rewinding a moment, then fast forwarding to the same moment in time where they’d gone sideways. Fingers crossed. Suddenly…
Lisa screams out: They can’t start without Birdey, the Cat. Rollie says it’s too bad. Big fight, and Lisa’s tears win out. They all exit the room to search for the cat. (93 min.)
They finally find the cat lying inside the neighbor’s fenced yard with the frozen pit bull. (95 min.)
At last, they are gathered together in the studio. TIME is returned to normal, the damage undone. Edith and sons exit to go visit their father, Donald. Rhonda heads for the phone to call her boy friend. Lisa walks out with Birdey. And Rollie vows to dismantle his dangerous contraption and destroy all record of his research. (97 min.)
But Judy has other designs on this moment in time, and before Rollie can stop her, Judy has pushed the Pause Button again. With Time once again put on hold, Judy reminds Rollie of how romantic he used to be before they all got so busy. The movie ends with Judy leading Rollie up the stairs past their frozen children for a timeless romantic interlude. (99 min.)
To understand Rollie Michaels’ Basic Premise of How Time Works, take an accordion and squeeze it together so that the edges are all flush. Turn the accordion so that it is viewed from either the bottom or the top. Our experience of Time/Reality/History is as a sequence of points, represented by the topmost line of points which are all adjacent… Rollie Michaels proposes, and discovers it so, that if you pulled the accordion apart, there are spaces between each point of time, that if one were to travel sideways in time, one could return to the next point in time and not be missed. The Pause Button concept allows Rollie to Stop Time’s Duration and take a sideways trip, to have experiences in that period between two successive points in time.