Location: Burlington, Vermont
“The first step to learning how to pitch a movie is to draft a movie pitch (it can be rough). Try the following formula with five elements: ‘My story is a (genre) called (title) about (hero) who wants (goal) despite (obstacle).’” Good In a Room
My story is a slasher movie called “Frat Party,” and the film begins as our heroine Katrina is humiliated by college boys during a party at an infamous UVM frat house. She organizes a group of coeds, recently returned from Central America, to exact revenge. After weeks of planning and arguing about whether or not they are feminists, and armed with only machetes and wearing thigh-high boots, they invade the frat house and mayhem ensues. All of the terrified frat boys are killed or flee in their boxer shorts. In the morning, the coeds declare the frat house a safe space and receive the blessing of the English Department.
My story is a vampire movie called “Assisted Living” about Nelle, a beautiful aging widow who is forced to live in a senior facility by her ungrateful adult children (who have moved to Queens and no longer want anything to do with her). She is assaulted by the manager of the facility, a handsome vampire, and is offered eternal youth and life, which she gratefully accepts. She then infects the other inmates, also beautiful widows, and after killing the manager with a stake to the heart, they take control of the facility. From the profits, they create a women-only community of tiny homes, located on the lakeshore (though still on the bus line).
My story, called “On the Waterfront,” is a zombie movie, shot documentary style primarily on Burlington’s scenic bike path along Lake Champlain. One night, during a secret meeting of local developers, who are plotting to build a new hotel/casino/condo complex on the city-owned waterfront, a rogue genetics graduate student named Max, who is moonlighting as a bartender for a hipster catering company, slips his latest discovery, an untested serum he’s just developed to increase generosity, into their expensive scotch. It turns all the developers into zombies, and they begin terrorizing the tourists and cyclists on the bike path. Though Max feels ambivalent, he leads a group of naked bicycle riders, dog walkers, and skateboarders into battle with the zombie developers. The bike path is covered in gore, but the zombies are routed, and our heroes form a land trust to take possession of most of the town’s real estate. As the film ends, Max whispers, “I coulda been a developer!” In the final credits we learn he has abandoned science to become a bicycle mechanic.
My story, titled “Hotel de Ville,” is a movie within a movie, and tells the story of Zack, a young filmmaker who has found a job making PSAs for local non-profits but feels he is stuck in a rut and not living up to his potential. With a group of clients from the non-profits, he creates a collaborative avant-garde film loosely based on Marat/Sade. In the process of making the film, the clients, led astray by a sociopathic ex-actor named Francois, burn down City Hall and steal a yacht owned by an unfortunate Canadian banker (who is dining at a local restaurant). They abandon Zack on the Rock of Dunder, but he manages to keep his camera and is rescued by a beautiful waitress on a paddle board. Though he is fired from his job, his film goes on to triumph at several regional film festivals and is praised for its class analysis and morally ambiguous ending.
My story is a romantic foodie comedy called “Bus Boy.” Freddy, the son of Peruvian immigrants, has recently flunked out of culinary school due to his dyslexia. He returns to Burlington and is living in his parents’ house and working as a bus boy in a new Ukrainian-themed vodka bar and restaurant owned by Maurice, a handsome but temperamental chef and potato farmer. Maurice is a workaholic, and doesn’t notice that Freddy’s palate is freakishly sensitive, until one night after service they are drinking a new version of vodka and Freddy suggests using a Peruvian variety of orange potato, and Maurice realizes that he’s in love. They begin to grow the orange potato, and together develop a new fusion cuisine (vegan Peruvian/Ukrainian), which sweeps the culinary community off its feet. They are married in the Intervale, and soon after win the James Beard Award together.
My story is a post-apocalyptic fable called “Endless Spring” which focuses on a pod of kayakers who have survived the flooding of the Champlain Valley and live in fear of the fascistic solar panel corporation that controls Vermont after both the state and federal governments have been deconstructed by climate change deniers. Burlington is totally under water except for the penthouse of the fourteen-story mall complex built in 2020, and the kayakers survive by farming giant mutated trout and smuggling them and the herbs they grow on the roof to West Burke, which now has a population of 2 million people (mostly older refugees from Florida) and over 2,000 farm-to-table restaurants. Vanessa Milgrave, the ruthless CEO of the corporation, cannot tolerate their continued form of rebellious mini-capitalism. She makes a deal with the Canadian government to run a for-profit detention camp on the Sea of Champlain (to imprison those trying to flee to Canada) that will surround the penthouse/fish farm. Led by fraternal twins Mica and Pica Le Blanc, the pod must outfox her or convince her that small is beautiful. What will happen?
My story is a surrealist horror movie called “The Exterminating Orphan.” A small alternative college is on the verge of bankruptcy due to its purchase of a crumbling Catholic orphanage overlooking the lake on the last open piece of land in the city. After firing the president who engineered the deal, the board of trustees, made up of the cream of Burlington’s bourgeoisie, holds a banquet in the chapel of the old orphanage to celebrate the sale of the property to a land developer. The servers, mainly students and faculty members, mysteriously disappear, and the board members find they cannot leave. At first, they simply fall asleep in the cavernous chapel, but after a day or two, they run out of food and the water goes off. Ghosts of abused orphans torment them day and night, and they exhaust the supply of DVDs in the college library. Finally a window falls out of its decaying frame and they escape, only to be met by a mob of unruly alumni and the local media. Because this film is inspired by the New Wave, it has no hero or heroine—except, perhaps, the nameless student intern who tends the flock of sheep, donated by a wealthy music producer in lieu of real money, that peacefully grazes on the grounds.