When I moved to a different area a few years ago, I started jogging this 2 mile loop around my neighborhood. I usually get lost in thought when I run and it’s often when the ideas start flowing. On one particular run, I came up with an idea for a fake documentary about a fictional crime that happened in the town many years ago.
I enjoy writing (OK, mostly starting) screenplays, but this was one of those ideas that I thought I might actually have a shot at shooting myself. I spent a considerable amount of time on this too, with many revisions. I even signed up at the local cable TV station for a class on producing your own stuff, which I also happen to run by every time I’d jog the loop.
I figured documentaries are more forgiving of amateurish characters because a lot of them contain interviews and clips of real people, not trained actors. I thought it would work out perfectly since I’d be asking regular people to act like they knew about the story, so they wouldn’t come off too polished.
Here’s a very rough and extremely brief version of the story.
The documentary would start with an on screen narrator telling the back story of a young boy living with his mother who is estranged from her boisterous and affluent husband. The boy was kidnapped early one morning on his paper route a couple decades ago. The kidnappers left a ransom demand with a Polaroid photo of the bawling boy with some kind of symbol burned into his chest.
The boys father initially fought with the police publicly to not pay the ransom, but eventually relented and a drop was made by the police. In the end the money was taken but the boy was never returned, the boys father was blamed for his delay, and neither the kidnappers nor the boy were ever heard from again.
The narrator switches gears and begins discussing a new investigation into the disappearance of a young woman only days ago. That young woman is the now grown younger sister of the boy who was kidnapped. A rehashing of the old crime ensues with interviews and comments from a cast of characters close to the first case back then.
Some uncomfortable pressure is put on the woman’s boyfriend who is a bit of a loser with a penchant for manhandling the women in his life. There’s also in depth interviews with the two police officers who made the cash drop from the kidnapping to get their take on whether this new disappearance could have anything to do with the old crime, a copy cat, or if it’s just a coincidence.
The boyfriend paints himself into a corner as the prime suspect. He’s the classic protagonist of the story and is very unlikable as he deflects the tough questions about his actions and his relationship with the missing woman. Meanwhile, the conversations with the two elder police officers become tense when their interviews turning into a slight interrogation of what happened the night of the failed recovery of the kidnapped boy.
The only major plot points I hadn’t worked out would be figuring out a way to include a new ransom demand for the young woman that went missing days earlier, and pinning the ransom on the boyfriend while still extracting the ransom money from not being recovered when the police capture the boyfriend.
Next shown in the sequence is the endings of the interviews with the police involved in the original kidnapping. The narrator sternly informs them he knows they stole the drop money, that it never made it to the kidnappers, and that they are directly responsible for what may have happened to that young boy.
The narrator brutally murders each police man. The ending is the narrator changing his shirt in front of the camera and the audience sees the same burned scar on his chest of the kidnapped boy. A young woman (his supposed missing sister) stands next to him holding the bag containing the ransom money before they turn and walk off.
I know it might break some rules, and the story probably sounds pretty thin, but that’s only because it’s just the gist of it. As I was writing this, I realized how attached I was to this story, so if you happen to see this post disappear one day, that’s just me buying back my own clothes I dropped off at the consignment store.