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Saving the Story

Sean Cole

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David Kirkpatrick and Nexi
(Sam Ogden)
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You hear it all the time - people are reading less and watching little videos on YouTube instead of going to the movie theater. It makes you wonder what the future of storytelling might be. We asked Reporter Sean Cole to look into MIT's plans to team up with a new movie studio in Massachusetts to create the storytelling technology of the future. But instead of doing a radio report about it, he wrote a sci-fi movie-type drama - and cast himself as the reporter. So grab some Jujubes. Sit back. And enjoy the show.



A Weekend America Radio Films production

(In order of appearance)
MAD GENIUS: David Kirkpatrick

[EXT. REFURBISHED FACTORY COMPLEX IN PLYMOUTH, MA -- DAY: A light blue Geo Prism drives into the snowbound parking lot of the factory complex and parks. Sean Cole, a disturbingly handsome reporter in his early to mid� fine he's in his late 30's, all right? Jeez. Anyway, he gets out of the car and walks into the building. The camera follows him up the stairs and into the well-appointed offices of Plymouth Rock Studios. On the wall above the receptionist's desk are promotional posters from the films Dead Poet's Society and Forrest Gump, both of which were overseen by the Mad Genius David Kirkpatrick. We hear Sean's unmistakable baritone as scene one commences.]

VOICE OVER: My whole life is about the story. When I'm not workin', I like to work. And when I'm not doin' that, I like to kick back with a book and a dame, in that order. So when I heard that the Mad Genius was coming up with new-fangled ways of telling stories, I got the wiggles. His real name's David Kirkpatrick. I found him holed up in an old factory in Plymouth, Mass. His office was all decked out with inspirational quotes on the walls. J.D. Salinger� Joni Mitchell� and a New York Times headline from an article about him.

[INT. OFFICE OF MAD GENIUS - The walls are covered with 3' x 5' blow-ups of quotes.]

MAD GENIUS [Reading poster]: "A Once-Feared Kingmaker Called to a Different Battle." Because I was in Hollywood for a number of years. I ran a couple of studios. Walt Disney, Touchstone, Paramount Pictures. So that's a "kingmaker."

VOICE OVER: Now he's got a new project: Plymouth Rock Studios, also known as Hollywood East. They're supposed to open a huge new movie and TV campus down the road in 2010. Also known as�


VOICE OVER: The future!

MAD GENIUS: And the future will have picture palaces that will be 3D or 5D, including holograms, including what we'll laughingly call back in 60's Smell-O-Vision. It will be a complete immersive experience.

REPORTER: So it won't be just, like, looking at a wall with moving pictures on it�.

MAD GENIUS: It'll be on your lap. It'll be kissing you and touching you. That's where we're headed.

REPORTER: Why do we need that?

MAD GENIUS: I don't know that we need it. It's what we want.

VOICEOVER: But there was more to Kirkpatrick's plans than met the eye. And one way or the other, I was gonna get at the truth.

REPORTER: Where are you hiding the robots?

MAD GENIUS: The robots are being hidden right now in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


REPORTER: That was very forthcoming of you. I was expecting you to be a lot more devious about it.

MAD GENIUS: Now put some "woo-woo music" under it. This is what we call at Paramount the "woo-woo music." You know the stuff that, like, "Uh-oh there's gonna be a plot twist now."

REPORTER: Do you have some "woo-woo music" to suggest?

MAD GENIUS: Hmmmm. Oh, anything from Bernard Herrmann.


[EXT. MIT'S MEDIA LAB -- DAY : The insanely good-looking reporter Sean Cole walks up the stairs and through the massive revolving door of the Media Lab building, talking into his microphone as he goes. He intelligently takes the elevator to the fourth floor.]

VOICE OVER: I had started to put the pieces together. Plymouth Rock Studios was financing a new center at the MIT Media Lab: The Center For Future Storytelling. It was gonna build a lot of the tricked-out razzmatazz the Mad Genius had told me about.

[INT. THE CENTER FOR FUTURE STORYTELLING'S PERSONAL ROBOTS LAB: The dimly lit lab is filled with wires and robot parts. Members of the Personal Robots group sit at work tables, their heads bowed in concentration. On the floor is the partially dismantled body of Nexi, an eerily expressive robot who can make angry, worried and sad facial expressions. This is largely because she has eyebrows. In the corner, on a pedestal is Leonardo, a science-fictiony animal robot who looks like he's ready for the next George Lucas production. A press relations representative is giving Sean a brief tour. She points to a robotic teddy bear that's only partially covered in fur.]

REPORTER: So you'll actually be able to cuddle this teddy bear?


The phenomenally perceptive reporter Sean Cole sits with Media Lab Director Frank Moss on a couch by the window. There's a small tray of lozenges on the glass coffee table in front of them.]

DIRECTOR OF MIT'S MEDIA LAB: The teddy bear might be a way in which a grandparent can communicate with a grandchild across the world a story about their family or history.

VOICE OVER: Frank Moss is the head-honcho of The Media Lab. And listening to his rap, I realized that storytelling meant more than just Hollywood entertainment. The teddy bear might be used for story-time. Then he floated the idea of a robot walking into your living room and playing out a drama in which you're one of the characters.

DIRECTOR OF MIT'S MEDIA LAB: It could be a very mischievous�


DIRECTOR OF MIT'S MEDIA LAB: �player. That might constantly be looking to spread confusion and chaos within the story.

REPORTER: I knew robots were devious!

DIRECTOR OF MIT'S MEDIA LAB: Well, but robots can be romantic. These robots may actually be better at reading our feelings and reading our faces than even an actor would be.

VOICE OVER: Nothing against actors. Moss loves cinema. But he knows he's a dying breed. Bite-sized media has taken over entertainment -- what the Mad Genius Kirkpatrick would call "snack culture." And then I had a dramatic epiphany!


VOICE OVER: These guys weren't trying to kill long-form storytelling� they were trying to save it!

[EXT. COUNTRY ROAD -- DAY: The surprisingly lithe and athletic reporter Sean Cole running like a bat out of hell down the road.]

VOICE OVER: I ran back to Kirkpatrick's office for our dramatic epiphany scene.

[INT. OFFICE OF THE MAD GENIUS: The fantastically well-proportioned reporter Sean Cole bursts into the office heaving with breath and glistening with the sweat of expertise.]

REPORTER: So as opposed to trying to fight snack culture with old-timey ways of telling stories. It's like, "No this is what people are like now we need to figure out a way to ease them into our long stories."

KIRKPATRICK: Precisely! Absolutely precisely. You're one of the first men to get it. The Mad Scientist in the Tower applauds you. And I will now not try to lobotomize you and turn you into something else.

VOICE OVER: There was just one question left to answer.

REPORTER: Who is Joe Swanberg?

MAD GENIUS: I don't know, who is he?

CUT TO: INT. AN APARTMENT IN CHICAGO: It's an apartment in Chicago. What do you want, a blueprint? The Rebel Filmmaker Joe Swanberg is in there, speaking into a cell phone.]

REBEL FILMMAKER: I'm a filmmaker in Chicago. And I guess also a web-video maker.

VOICE OVER: I called up Swanberg 'cause I always thought he was the future of storytelling. He's 27. Makes low-tech, "no-budget" movies and web-shows with his actor friends improvising the dialogue.

REBEL FILM-MAKER: And I'm sayin' we already have everything we need. We have books what else do you want? Jeez. If you don't like that, we have movies! Relax!

VOICE OVER: Swanberg thinks a lot about how technology can actually inhibit human interaction. In 2005, he made a movie called LOL about tech-savvy guys that have trouble relating to women, even when those women are their girlfriends.

[INT. A DIFFERENT APARTMENT IN CHICAGO: This is a clip from Joe Swanberg's movie LOL. If you haven't seen it, you really should. It's excellent. Joe, playing the character of Tim, is sitting on the couch in the living room hunched over a laptop. He calls to his girlfriend who's in the bathroom getting ready for bed.]

TIM: Hey which do you think we'll have first, a black president or a robot president?

[Tim's girlfriend doesn't respond]

VOICE OVER: It's a little dated now. But it's also prescient. In the age of YouTube and Facebook, Swanberg says, people are less interested in long form stories because they're more interested in themselves.


REBEL FILMMAKER: That is the true threat of the movie going experience. It's not self centered enough. When I look at the future landscape of movies what I see is not one movie that everyone goes to see I see each person having their own movie that nobody goes to see.

VOICE OVER: Maybe. But the mad genius says "c'est la vie." If that's the way we're headed, let's embrace it. As long as the story survives.


MAD GENIUS: That is at the heart, and I mean the heart, of The Center for Future Storytelling. Because no science fiction gets done without it touching a human heart, a human emotion, a sense of fear, a wonder of exploration. It's all driven by who and what makes you unique as a human being.

VOICE OVER: So stay tuned folks. There's bound to be a sequel to this story. And who knows? Maybe there'll be a part for you in it.

[EXT. COUNTRY ROAD -- DAY: The unnaturally attractive reporter Sean Cole walking into the sunset. It's as though the very trees around him bow low to his genius as he passes.]


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Patricia Clark

    From Millis, MA, 02/03/2009

    Sean, you handsome devil you, this story is great, even more so than usual.

    By roman mars

    From richmond, CA, 01/31/2009

    I loved everything about this. My God Sean, leave some ideas for the rest of us.

    By robert allott

    From RI, 01/31/2009

    your future/robot/sifi story. . . .touched my heart!! please send me the podcast

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