Fade to Zilch: A Screenplay

Fade to Zilch: A Screenplay

by F. Lewis Hall

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Overview

Fade to Zilch: A Screenplay by F. Lewis Hall

Dr. Joseph Metropolis calls himself a philosophical counselor, and he is looking for a paying client with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He finds such a person in Zero Vaynilovich, also known as Zilch, who comes to him demanding assistance in finding his lost love. Although private detective work isn’t his usual employment, Dr. Metropolis agrees to help the lovelorn tycoon.


Thus begins a narrative that seeks to shine a light on the darkest reaches of the human mind. As Dr. Metropolis weaves through the fabulous theatrical world of Hollywood, he encounters movie moguls striving to embrace their creativity while struggling with their own psychological demons. He explores the role of the muse, the intemperate impulses of the femme fatale, and the lure of the casting couch—all while working to solve the mystery brought to him by Zilch.


Featuring spectacle, sexual intrigue, and a host of memorable characters, this screenplay details the fall of an empire that has become devoid of artistic inspiration.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491764664
Publisher: True Directions
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Pages: 154
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.33(d)

Read an Excerpt

Fade to Zilch

A Screenplay


By F. Lewis Hall

iUniverse

Copyright © 2015 F. Lewis Hall
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-6466-4


CHAPTER 1

FADE IN:

EXT. LOS ANGELES BASIN (AERIAL) - DAY

We're FLYING NORTH above a receding layer of maritime clouds, skirting the Pacific COASTLINE, approaching that huge bowl of sediment and sand that is the Los Angeles Basin. ANGLE ON - The COASTAL PLAIN, DESCENDING SLOWLY between the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Transverse Range of Santa Monica Mountains, thinly covered with patches of fog and green. The Los Angeles SKYLINE comes prominently into view.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.)

No one is innocent ... not in this town. In this town, the apocalypse has come and gone, lifting the veil of innocence like a great velvet curtain in an old movie house, where the only victims that don't return for the sequel are the gods themselves, struck out long ago by the big blue pencil ...


ANGLE ON - DOWNTOWN LA, shimmering in the morning sun.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.) (CONT'D)

In this town, every man, woman, and child takes the limits of his or her own field of vision to be the limits of the world ...

We're ANGLING toward the COAST again, overlooking the foggy veil of Malibu, the Palisades, and the Santa Monica Mountains, where STYLISH HOMES are seen peppering the hilly landscapes.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.) (CONT'D)

Without the lamplights of fate that flicker in a constant state of anxiety through yonder movie reels, the collective vision would be blacker than the slate of a director's clapboard.


We're FLYING LOWER now, ARCING INLAND over Beverly Hills toward Hollywood Hills. ANGLE ON - UNIVERSAL CITYWALK, crawling with flocks of tourists.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.) (CONT'D)

No one is pure ... not in this town. Sadly, that immortal instinct that senses the beautiful as it aspires to the divine is viewed nowadays as the desire of the moth for the star ...


ANGLE ON - the iconic HOLLYWOOD SIGN, which is literally DRIPPING with bloodred STAGE PAINT. CLOSE ON - we see the SCAFFOLDS and BOOMS and a team of PAINTERS busily returning the "bloodstained" letters to a pristine state of whiteness.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.) (CONT'D)

In this town, the boundaries that separate real life from mere living death are, at best, shadowy and vague. No longer is there any wild effort to reach that elusive beauty above, only a cool satisfaction with the garish beauty that is flashed before us.


We're DESCENDING SLOWLY, ANGLE ON - STREET SIGN "Hollywood Blvd.," throngs of tourists traipsing over the WALK OF FAME. ANGLE ON - SIGN "Sunset Blvd.," then on to the SUNSET STRIP, congested with traffic. CLOSE ON - a flatbed TOW TRUCK bearing an ASTON MARTIN DB9 coupe, which we FOLLOW along Western Avenue and Los Feliz Boulevard, Hollywood, to a seedy, whitewashed OFFICE BUILDING.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.) (CONT'D)

Some might call me cynical -- but I'm a philosophical counselor, not a cynic. I do not carry a lantern in the daytime, nor am I looking for an honest man -- just a paying client with the weight of the world on his shoulders.


ANGLE ON - The flatbed TOW TRUCK pulls up outside the seedy OFFICE BUILDING, and the REPO MAN proceeds, methodically, to off-load the DB9 coupe. FOCUS ON - A SHARP-DRESSED MAN (ZILCH), who STORMS BY and then ENTERS the seedy three-story OFFICE BUILDING.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.) (CONT'D)

From the lonely captain of industry, to the aging starlet, to the gambler who is plumb out of luck, philosophical counselors like me are time-honored physicians of a troubled culture. We offer applied philosophy as a medicine to ease the suffering of our clients, who, like this sharp-dressed man here, are experiencing very serious distress.


The LONG SHOT, which started high in the sky and then moved to the Repo Man depositing his load, now moves up to an OPEN WINDOW of the seedy OFFICE BUILDING and then THROUGH the OPEN WINDOW, seemingly inside the room, becoming an EXT.-to-INT. SHOT.

INT. METROS'S OUTER OFFICE - DAY

Zilch (robust, middle-aged, dapper, intense, headstrong) READS ALOUD the NAME and the TITLE stenciled in GOLD LETTERS on the outer DOOR of the office.


ZILCH

(brusquely, out loud) "Dr. Joseph Metropolis, PhD, LPC, Philosophical Counselor! No Shit!"


The MAN BARGES IN, passes rudely by an attractive SECRETARY with a practiced "talk-to-the-hand" gesture, enters the INNER OFFICE, where Dr. Joseph Metropolis is seated at his desk, and SLAMS the door behind him.

ZILCH (CONT'D)

You must be Joe Metropolis. I'm Zero Vaynilovich, and I need to speak with you immediately, if not sooner.


Without offering his hand or waiting for an invitation, the impatient man pulls up a nearby armchair and seats himself. Dr. Joseph Metropolis, METROS (in his late thirties, handsome, professional, academic, and yet fashionable) offers the man a seat.

METROS

Please have a seat, Mr. Vaynilovich. What can I do for you today?

ZILCH

You can call me Zilch for starters, and don't get smart with me; I eat guys like you for breakfast. I'm here because I want you to do something for me ... something personal.

METROS

Go on.

ZILCH

I'm a very important man in this town. Several thousand people are on my payroll. And when I snap, they jump so quickly they don't even think first!


FREEZE-FRAME, ANGLE ON - Zilch, focusing on his facial expression: that dull glimmer of helplessness that stands defiantly in the furrows between the blackness of his pupils and the dull metallic gray of his muscular irises that constrict with the emphatic intensity of his gaze.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.)

When a prospective client is talking to you, you listen to what he is saying with his eyes. It might seem strange to say, but the luminous world is a nearly invisible world ... it is a world we do not often see. The demands of luminosity, like the demands of truth, are severe -- she has no sympathy for pretense. To find true luminosity, we must become, in a word, perspicuous!


UNFREEZE - LIVE ACTION CONTINUES.

ZILCH

I need for you to find something for me -- a beautiful woman, actually -- and I need you to understand that this is a very private matter.

METROS

Perhaps what you need is to hire a private detective to find this woman.

ZILCH (EYES BLAZING)

I could hire a hundred private eyes to find anything I want. In Hollywood, we do it all the time. We hire detectives to dig up dirt on our adversaries, and a sleazy reporter or two later, we find ourselves in a ...

(purses lips smugly, eyes flashing) ... more favorable position of negotiation.

METROS

(trying not to yawn) I know. I read the newspapers.


Noticeable FLAKES of ASH from a previous client's cigarette FLOAT UP out of a brass ashtray and crawl deliberately across the shiny top of the desk in the draft from an open window.

Zilch SWEEPS the diverting ash trail off the desk and onto the floor with one swift movement of his empty hand.

ZILCH

Then you know I could hire a hundred private detectives to find her -- and maybe I will. Meanwhile, I want you to do something for me that I can't do for myself, something that only the likes of you and your ilk can do.

METROS

Why me? There are lots of well-qualified therapists, shrinks, and life coaches in Hollywood. There are those who specialize in grief counseling, illness and loss, even anger management -- which, in your case, might be advised. You strike me as a man who knows what he wants and has pretty much figured out how to get it. You're not a man who needs a reality check to remind you that "she's just not that into you."

ZILCH

Don't give me that shit! I was the sun and the stars to her, and she means the world to me. I know it sounds corny, but we were made for each other, and she would be the first to tell you so! But something happened that I can't explain; something just snapped. I know we had our difficulties -- we are both high-strung and demanding -- but we always reconciled, eventually, that is.

METROS

That is, until now.

ZILCH

Yeah, until now. And I just can't stand it!

METROS

But why me, Mr. Zilch? There must be some reason you sought me out.

ZILCH

Goddamn it! You wrote That Book, and you know it!


Zilch SLAMS his HANDS hard on the desk, stands up abruptly, and walks to the open window. Breathing deeply, shaking his head, he turns back around, accusation flaring in his eyes.

ZILCH (CONT'D)

You know exactly why I'm here, and it sure isn't your bedside manner -- it's that goddamned book of yours!


FREEZE-FRAME, ANGLE ON - METROS, leaning pensively on his hand, as he describes "The Book" that made him famous.

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.)

Ahhhh, The Book ... my Lost Angels Pantheon -- I might have known. Gleaned from my doctoral dissertation, my internship at the Malibu Drug Rehab Center, and my shifts on the Hollywood Suicide and Crisis Hotlines, The LOST ANGELS PANTHEON made me a literary luminary overnight. People began to recognize themselves in the various postmodern archetypes I described: it was as if I had penetrated the psychic pantheon of a litany of lost souls -- the erosion of values ... the spiritual disorientation ... the metaphysical vertigo that results in intense suffering and feelings of emptiness. It was as if I had somehow captured the personal crisis of a host of contemporary celebrities. To put it mildly, I was mobbed after I wrote The Book of the Lost Angels. Simply mobbed.


UNFREEZE - LIVE ACTION CONTINUES with Zilch pacing.

METROS

(speaking dismissively)

Now, now, Mr. Zilch, perhaps it would be best if you did hire a competent private detective who could find this particular woman for you, and then he or she could initiate a constructive dialogue between the two of you.

ZILCH

(confronting Metros)

That's not going to happen. I want you, the great Joe Metropolis, to help me.

METROS

(parrying the thrust)

But come now, Mr. Zilch. You know that love fades, reality sets in, people change right before our eyes. I can recommend some excellent clinical psychologists who specialize in marital relations, the agonies of heartbreak, and the associated problems of self-esteem --

ZILCH

(his eyes glaring like a pair of Saturday-night specials)

Look here, Metropolis, you're not listening to what I'm telling you. For someone who's paid to listen, you're no damn good at it! I don't want to know where she's run off to. What I really want ... what I really need to know is why!

METROS

(watching, examining) I see ... Go on, don't stop now.

ZILCH

I hate to admit it, but you're my last hope. Suddenly I feel all dead inside.

METROS

Go on.

ZILCH

I feel like I'm backed up into a dark corner, and I don't even know who or what's hitting me.

METROS

I can sympathize with your dilemma, Mr. Zilch, but before I can commit my services to this case, I want to be certain that you realize that standard psychological counseling is always available to you. I need to be sure that you are fully aware of this, for professional reasons.

ZILCH

(barely warding off defeat)

No. I won't do it. I won't submit to it, I tell you. I'm telling you now, once and for all, that I don't want any damn counseling. I want to know why! Why I feel like I'm dying all the time ... why she left me in the first place ... why she's not coming back ... I want to know why my love was not strong enough to hold her ...

(struggling between defiance and submission, he sits)

And besides breaking my heart, she stole something very valuable from me, and I want it back!


FREEZE-FRAME, ANGLE ON - ZILCH, then METROS (studying)

NARRATOR, METROS (V.O.)

So, I'm his last best hope. He's lost his gal, and he feels all dead inside. He's backed up into a dark corner, and he doesn't know who's hitting him. It's like I've heard this all before, like the voice of a hard-boiled detective in an old black-and-white movie reel. Only now, in the ultra-neo-noir of our contemporary high society, it is not the private eye who is called on to find some hidden truth; it is the "perspicuous eye" who is called upon to find the lost beauty.


UNFREEZE - LIVE ACTION CONTINUES.

METROS

What, may I ask, is this valuable thing that has, presumably, been stolen?

ZILCH

No, you may not ask. It's much too personal to discuss at this time. It's enough for me to say that something very valuable has been stolen from me, and I want it back!

METROS

I heard you the first time, Mr. Zilch. I'm simply trying to clarify the assumptions and parameters relating to issues of meaning, value, and purpose.

ZILCH

(standing again, pacing)

Cut the crap, Metropolis! You'll have plenty of time to philosophize on your own time. On my time, I want you to work for me, not on me. I want you to drop everything you're doing and start right away! I'll pay you double your going rate and all reasonable expenses ...


Zilch pauses, notices a single antiquated BOOK displayed prominently, sideways, on the otherwise sparse BOOKSHELVES.

ZILCH (CONT'D)

What the hell kind of reference library is this? It can't be your book -- it's too old. I can't even read the title.

METROS

(casually)

It's entitled The Consolation of Philosophy by Anicius Boethius. It was a bona fide best seller in medieval times.

ZILCH

(curiously, interested) Yeah? What's it about?

METROS

It was written during the author's imprisonment, written for other prisoners on death row. Lady Philosophy -- the goddess of wisdom -- appears to the man in extremis, forsaken by fortune and suffering from tortures, as a consoling vision, of sorts, entering into conversations of high-minded ilk.

ZILCH

Sounds like the Kiss of the Spider Woman to me -- like some kind of femme fatale.

METROS

Very nearly ... but not exactly ... Now, seriously, Mr. Zilch, how can I help you?

ZILCH

(handing Metros a card)

Come to my home in Beverly Hills tonight, nine o'clock sharp, and come alone. I'll tell you everything you need to know.


As Zero Vaynilovich proceeds to depart, he turns back with a sheepish grin and inquires with uncharacteristic politeness,

ZILCH (CONT'D)

By the way, what are you going to call this case? I know guys like you always come up with a clever title.

METROS

I think I'll call this case The Lost Love of the Latest Tycoon. What do you think?

ZILCH

It will do just fine.


INT. METROS'S OUTER OFFICE - CONTINUOUS

As the outer office DOOR CLOSES behind Zilch, the SECRETARY, HOLLY, pretty and in her midtwenties, silhouetted, is hastily seating herself on the DESK with legs crossed, picking up a nail file, clearly ready to deny she's been eavesdropping. Metros enters, notices the ruse with disapproval.

METROS

(condescending)

Can I assume that you have already opened a case file, Holly, or were you too busy listening in?

HOLLY

(unabashed, excited)

You know, he really is a big shot, Doc. I can't wait to tell the girls down at the Alcove.

METROS

Perish the thought! You know that my client-centered approach to these philosophical investigations must be held in the strictest confidence.

HOLLY

(dejected, resumes filing)

Yeah, yeah, patient confidentiality can be such a killjoy ... By the way, your wheels-of-the-week has arrived.

METROS

Really? What did he bring me this time?

Metropolis parts the curtains, PEERS out the WINDOW, notices the shadow-gray 2004 Aston Martin DB9 coupe, and SMILES.

HOLLY

I've heard of grateful patients, Doc, but this is ridiculous. He just waltzes in each week and hands over a new set of keys.

METROS

It's what we call a perk in this town, Holly. But seriously, don't you recall the severity of the mental distress and misery he carried when he was first referred to me by his employers?

HOLLY

(still filing her nails) Yeah, yeah, he was downright suicidal.

METROS

(patiently, succinctly)

What he was, my dear, was a sensitive guy in a tough business -- neither neurotic nor crazy.

HOLLY

So you've said ...

(looking up with a hint of doubt and then conceding)

I have to admit, he was a changed man after you talked him down.

(Returns to her nails)

But I still don't get how you did it.

METROS

Simple.

(Grinning)

As always, with applied philosophy.

(Goes to the desk next to a filing cabinet and opens a drawer, looking for something.)


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Fade to Zilch by F. Lewis Hall. Copyright © 2015 F. Lewis Hall. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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