Punk Girls, Suicide & Summer Cody

TateHemlock-LetItBleed-01B

Let It Bleed by tatehemlock

I write “screenplays”. I know, I know, every self-proclaimed film geek has written a screenplay that they think is good enough to be the next big Hollywood blockbuster if the right people read it. I don’t. I like bad movies, so I write bad “screenplays”. In addition, I’ve never let anyone read any of my “screenplays” – it’s just something I’ve been doing to entertain myself since 2003. I write “screenplays” for movies that I want to see, and, movies that I want to see won’t fill up the megaplex, so why would I bother trying to convince someone that they will? Anyway, sometimes I think that, although my “screenplays” are bad, some of my ideas are kind of original. Then, I stumble upon a movie that proves me wrong. So, first, watch this 2009 short French film called Precut Girl here …

OK, so this is a French film, written and directed by Eric Dinkian, but, the dialogue is almost entirely in Japanese with English subtitles. I like this film a lot, mostly. I can buy into the fact that every time Nami (Karin Shibata) dies, she wakes up, mysteriously, in a garbage dump; but, if Max (Alexandre Leycuras) just sits and watches her after he kills her, will he see her disappear? Also, the ending, I think, needed some sort of an ironic kick. So, how does this movie relate to my “screenplays”? Well, the basic idea of a girl who repeatedly commits suicide but keeps coming back only to find that she’s turned on by dying and, then, enlists the aid of a guy to repeatedly kill her is something I’ve played around with last year. However, I only just found this film last night. I am, apparently, very unoriginal.

My “screenplay” is called, for lack of a better title, Kill Me Again and Again, and, I envision it as a (lengthy) short, too. My character, Gretchen, has a backstory that explains why she can’t die which I stole from Hiroaki Samura‘s manga Blade of the Immortal. I often steal bits from other sources knowing that I will never let anyone ever read my stuff.  Gretchen was a despondent, anti-social teenager which prompted her mother to infest Gretchen’s body with “bloodworms”. Gretchen commits suicide after learning that the boy she liked only asked her out on a dare. However, she finds that the “bloodworms” re-generate her body, making it impossible for her to die. Now, as an adult, she has grown bored with committing suicide in every way imaginable. She meets John, a charming ne’er-do-well, in a bar, and goes home with him, where he accidentally kills her during rough sex. He panics, and, buries her body in the woods. Gretchen, of course, returns and realizes that she is turned on by dying during sex. So, she finds John and, after his initial shock of seeing her alive, convinces him to kill her again, and again. He’s intrigued, at first, but, eventually, it becomes too much for him. So, after killing her one night, he cuts her body into six pieces (arms, legs, torso, head) and buries them, scattered in the woods, so that she can’t ever come back. However, the next morning, John is greeted with six identical Gretchens who want him to kill them again, and again. Now, that’s the kind of ironic kick I’m talking about!

The basic concept was inspired by Junji Ito‘s manga Tomie (and it’s many movie adaptations), but, I thought the idea of Gretchen getting sexual satisfaction from dying was original. Obviously, in this case, I am both intentionally and unintentionally unoriginal. But, it’s for my own pleasure, anyway.

Kill Me Again and Again has two elements that I re-write over and over, again and again. First, Gretchen is a mildly punk girl. She has black hair, tattoos, a lip ring, and wears excessive black eye make-up, like The Distillers-era Brody Dalle. She is punk perfection. For reference, watch this video for “Drain the Blood”

Versions of my ideal punk girl appear in almost everything I’ve written, as main characters, supporting characters or in smaller roles. In my more dramatic stuff [some of which I’m very proud of], she’s a womanizing lesbian, and, truth be told, she is me, or who I think I was in a former life. She is part of the reason why I was so drawn to Tyler (Michelle Lombardo) in Girltrash: All Night Long. Lesbians, obviously, dominate my stuff, too; but, not lesbian sex, really. I am drawn more to the love that is shared between two women, or the conflict a womanizer faces when she falls in love. I’m also fascinated by twins, especially, when they are polar opposites. Anyway …

Next, suicide is a theme prevalent in most of my stuff. In fact, my punk girl character is often plagued by a failed suicide attempt in her past that is almost always linked to not being able to deal with the loss of a loved one. I find suicide forced by intense passion to be, well, romantic – you know, in a Romeo & Juliet-esque kind of way. I have to admit that I am envious of anyone who feel so strongly about someone [not a child] that they would rather die than be without them. People say it all the time, but, do they really mean it? Probably not. That kind of intense passion exists only in fiction. Also, since I’m a fan of Japanese culture, pop and otherwise, I find the idea of ritual suicide, a tenet of the samurai bushido which extolls the virtue of death before dishonor, to be fascinating. I have often written that idea into my stuff, especially my earlier “screenplays”, which were influenced by my obsession, at the time, with all things Japanese.

I wrote a zombie-comedy called Dead Wrong whose title is a play on words that provides a cruel twist at the end that has nothing to do, really, with zombies. In Dead Wrong, four disparate teenagers fight zombies in their high school as they make their way to the auto shop to use Mr. Callahan’s mint 1971 Plymouth Barracuda to get to the mall because that’s where the survivors went in Dawn of the Dead. Jesse Daniels is my reluctant hero. He’s a slacker who has been pining over popular cheerleader Ashley Brooks “since forever ago.” Ashley hates all people who don’t speak English because her ex-boyfriend, quarterback Kyle Torrance, broke up with her to join the Marines, like his gung-ho ex-marine father, after graduation and fight in the Iraq war [yeah, I wrote this a long time ago!]. Jesse, Ashley and Kyle were best friends in grade school, but, Jesse says, “as we grew older, Kyle was absorbed into the jocks’ evil collective, and Ashley into the cheerleaders’, and I just watched what made them cool, slowly fade away, until both of them forget that I was even there.” Kyle wants Ashley, and Ashley wants Kyle back, but, Kyle has since hooked up with badass Japanese exchange student, Maki Kuriyama, who doesn’t speak English. Now, the four of them must work together to get to the mall in one piece. Dead Wrong is not revolutionary, but, my characters are well-drawn with detailed backstories, and my “screenplay”, I think, is action-packed and pretty damn fun.

Maki Kuriyama is a Japanese version of my punk girl character. Her father, a proud samurai descendent, trained her in the ways of the warrior from a very young age, but, at sixteen, she fell in love with a punk rock bad boy. Her father sent her to America to save his family name from further shame. She uses her father’s samurai sword, which she had to sneak it into school because her abusive house parents didn’t want it in their house, to fight the zombies. Her house parents also ridiculed her accent which is why she, by choice, does not speak English. Kyle, who speaks Japanese, translates for her. My favorite scene is where Maki reveals to Jesse and Ashley that she can, in fact, speak English. This scene also involves the idea of death before dishonor which is the whole point of even mentioning Dead Wrong. Jesse and Ashley attempt to hot wire the car in the auto shop when Jesse realizes he doesn’t have the keys. However, they’ve already opened the bay door, and zombies are stumbling in, drawn by the car’s alarm, so Maki and Kyle attempt to hold them back. They prevail, but, a straggler bites Kyle. He drops to his knees, apologizes to Maki, in Japanese, for failing having learned the way of the warrior from her, then, he tells her that he loves her. Maki tells Kyle that she loves him, too, then, quickly severs his head with her blade. “You just fucking killed Kyle!” Ashley shouts, in tears, watching as her ex-boyfriend’s body falls to the ground. “He was bitten. He would have become one of them,” Maki defends, in accented English. “Oh, my God!” Ashley cries, seemingly distraught over Kyle’s death, as she glances at Jesse, then adds, in disbelief, “She fucking speaks English!” I think that’s funny. Sure, I wrote it, but, I love it! Dead Wrong, for me, is laugh-out-loud funny.

I also have a complete Dead Wrong “soundtrack” envisioned. I listen to a mix whenever I read my “screenplay”. For instance, “Blood, Brains & Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Zombie Girl plays over the opening credits, “Because I’m Awesome” by The Dollyrots plays when Ashley is introduced, and “Everybody Wants You” by Damone is played when Kyle is introduced. Kyle also has a love theme. Kyle, after breaking up with Ashley, decided to have sex with as many girls as he could before he had to go to boot camp. So, each time I flashback to one of his exploits (which includes how he hooked up with Maki Kuriyama), the opening riff of “So Hott” by Kid Rock plays. The scenes end with Rock‘s line “I wanna fuck you like I’m never gonna see you again!”

Summer Cody, however, is the screenplay I am most proud of. It’s a romantic drama about a reclusive ’90s alt-rock icon named Summer Cody. She, according to an MTV news feed, “rose to fame as the lead singer of the influential, but ill-fated, all-female punk band LoveDeath. However, she scored two multi-platinum albums as a solo artist, including the number one single ‘Desperately Wanting’, and, became notorious, for her volatile temper and erratic behavior, before dropping out of the spotlight, and, into a self-imposed exile, shortly after the release of her second album, ‘Hellbound Heart’, in 1997.” Summer Cody’s behavior was fueled by self-loathing and alcohol abuse. In 2012, two independent filmmakers, who are Summer Cody fans, offer her a small role, via e-mail, in their latest feature, which is filming in Cody’s hometown. Surprisingly, she accepts, making it the first time the rocker has faced any type of media attention in fifteen years. They never thought she’d actually agree, and, now, they’re afraid the infamous alcoholic will ruin their film. However, Summer Cody, it turns out, is no longer the bad girl everyone thinks she was. In fact, Summer’s a recovering alcoholic, and, one of the sweetest people that screenwriter Jesse Daniels has ever met. She has been connecting, recently, with her 16-year-old daughter Alexa whom the courts took from her when she was born and granted custody of to her father, who is now a successful producer. Summer took the role in Jesse’s film, in part, because Alexa loved his first film, but, also with hopes of reconciling with her estranged father whom she has not seen or spoken to in 22 years. She needs to know why her mother left when she was ten, and, why her father blamed her. Summer also hopes, in time, to reconcile with her former LoveDeath bandmate and ex-best friend, Hannah Storm, who currently fronts a mega-successful alternative rock band called The Crave, and, is in a relationship with Summer’s ex-husband, Alexa’s father. Hannah thinks Summer turned her back her by going solo without consulting the band. Of course, Summer and Jesse fall in love on Summer’s road to closure.

I wrote Summer Cody in the amazing time [for me] that was the summer of 2012, and, it was inspired by my love of female rockers and my favorite independent film Dakota Skye. However, other than the similarity of the lead characters’ vaguely Native American names, my story has nothing in common with that brilliant film. Summer Cody, by the way, is part Native American. Her backstory is told via clips of a Behind The Music-like documentary called Rock Icons Revealed. I wrote the narration for the intro and the first segment, which tell most of her rock history. The rest is disclosed via dialogue. I wrote lyrics for “Desperately Wanting”, which is integral to the story, and another song “My Heart Rages”, which is Cody’s tribute to Kurt Cobain. I don’t have melodies, but, I know how I want them to sound, and, I imagined the songs’ videos, too, since they appear in the “movie”. In fact, the “movie” opens with “Desperately Wanting”, as the credits roll over the video. I also wrote lyrics for The Crave’s current #1 hit “Love Died”, which, in the “movie”, was co-written by Hannah Storm and a Grammy-winning songwriter.

In Summer Cody, Summer is my punk girl character, only older, but, she’s not me. Jesse is me in this one. Summer, by the way, is 41, while Jesse is 29. I, however, am not 29 or 41. Summer Cody also has all of my other favorite themes: suicide [Summer attempted suicide in the late ’90s], lesbians [Jesse’s adorable 19-year-old sister Macy is a lesbian who adores Hannah Storm], and twins [the other two members of LoveDeath are identical twin sisters who are now famous actresses on a TV show that Summer and Alexa love].

Now, if, by chance, Summer Cody were ever to get made, I often wonder who would play the characters. I dislike all A-list actors, so I would hope it would be made as an independent feature, like Dakota Skye. But, still, I’ve never found any actor that I could see as the characters I created, except one. Two weeks ago, I did a post about a young actress named Jamie Graham. I was drawn to this actress because the minute I saw her Actor Slate video, I knew she was perfect for Summer’s 16-year-old daughter Alexa. I know Graham is older, but, she looks young, and, she says, “I can play fifteen … I can be a teenager.” The role of Alexa is small but pivotal. She is Summer’s guiding light, but, for most of the “movie”, she is not seen, only heard as Summer talks to her via her cell phone. My Hollywood happy ending works only because you don’t know what Alexa looks like until the end. I wish I had the courage and the power because Jaime Graham‘s not getting any younger, and, neither am I.

Oh, wait – I forgot that the point of mentioning Summer Cody was to give further evidence of my unintentional originality. In my “screenplay”, Summer’s mother leaves when Summer is ten, never to be heard from again, and Summer’s father blames her thus planting the seed of Summer’s self-loathing as an adult. Summer’s rise to fame is fueled by the hope that her mother will notice her and come back to tell her that she loves her, and to tell her father that it wasn’t Summer’s fault. However, by chance, shortly after Summer’s 2nd solo album is released, she learns that her mother had recently died, alone. Her hope was gone, and so was her desire to be famous, and so she walked off stage and into a self-imposed exile. Now, if you’ve ever read Stephanie Kuehnert‘s amazing YA novel I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, you know that Emily Black becomes a punk rock star in order to call out to her mother who abandoned her. Coincidence? Actually, yes. You may find that hard to believe since I admitted earlier that I steal bits from other sources, but, it’s true. I finished Summer Cody, and, a few weeks later, I found IWBYJR, by chance. I read the plot synopsis and my jaw dropped. I had to read the book. So, I did, and, fell in love with it; and, for a while, I thought, because of the similarity in themes, that writer Stephanie Kuehnert and I were cosmic soulmates or something. However, IWBYJR is driven entirely by that theme, whereas, in Summer Cody, the theme is just part of Summer’s backstory and one of several reason’s that Summer is seeking closure in 2012.

Finally, you may have noticed that my WordPress tag is SCody2012. Well, now you know why.

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