Storyboard for proposed film (intermediate scale).


Don’t Ask but Do Tell!

Are we living with unprecedented personal freedoms today?  What has happened in the past 50 years?  Has self-expression replaced “real life,” “duty” and community?  Here will follow a drama, a domestic “Death in Venice,” where an aging writer’s friendship with a younger colleague becomes the vehicle to put his own issues into a national constitutional convention and, at the same time, his own life and ethics into the courtroom, while the testimony plays back a video of “American History Me” over the past 50 years. But the ending is happy: a new march on Washington and perhaps a new lease on life as our Protagonist gives in to joining the zipper club. 

 I see this film as set up in five cascading "compartments" (Acts), which are rather like acts of a stage play. Then there are the intermezzi, which present legislative and judicial controversies, as well as many flashbacks concerning the principle characters. The flashbacks and intermezzi, as well as the compartments themselves, will present a sweeping view of American society as becoming more individualistic (even at the expense to "family") in the last half-century.

The content of the screenplay presents not only issues of “individual rights and responsibilities” but the mesh of issues arising out of the increased ability of people to participate in the debate (and make names for themselves with little financial or even professional risk) without the obedience to organizations. 

Film Formatting:

Compartments and Epilogue: happen in “real time,” filmed wide-screen and color. Flashbacks: narrative by “Protagonist,” filmed wide-screen and black-and-white. Intermezzi: narrated by Tobey (who “knew” the story by now) and are filmed color 1.8/1.

Music score contains music of Robert Schumann, Vincent d’Indy, Handel, Britten, Tchaikowsky and some original music.

Pre-credits (“Intermezzo 1”):  College student Tobey, while baby-sitting for a just-married buddy in a frat-house, frames the coming play and prepares for a dinner with the Protagonist. Tobey extemporizes on college life, how it will change (as he “grows up” himself)  but he will stay fit because Protagonist wants him to. 

Act 1:

The "gay" Protagonist takes a "straight" friend (“Tobey”), a graduating college senior, to dinner as a "graduation" present the night before his matriculation. Conversation ensues in a My Dinner With Andre mode, in which the Protagonist of Rights 2 proposal is introduced. The Protagonist views the student as someone he would have been proud to have as a "son" had the Protagonist raised a family (much easier if he had been "heterosexual"). But the Protagonist also recognizes parenting involves a lot of risk ("maybe that's why parents try several times"),


Protagonist's being thrown out of a civilian college (in 1961), being bribed into "psychiatric treatment" at NIH, serving in the Army anyway, coming out in an unusual commune in the 1970's, and the participating in the military ban debate (submarine visit) are shown.

Intermezzo 2:

Protagonist gets his end-the-ban proposal published again but falls upon some medical hard times after a bad trick (not AIDS – but he joins the zipper club when “we have to operate.”). 

 Act 2:

About 20 persons have a fund-raising dinner in the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Va. "College Student" leads the discussion and recounts the Dinner and flashbacks about Protagonist, who is absent because of heart surgery.

Discussion of whether a private citizen like Protagonist could force an Article V constitutional convention, or whether a “shadow convention” or “town hall” could ratify fundamental rights in such a way that they must now be recognized by the courts.  

(Depictions: Protagonist collapses at work while on night-call; clinical details of bypass surgery shown; protagonist interviewed from hospital bed as soon as out of intensive care; Protagonist explains that only a "public consensus" needs to be shown to get the courts to recognize new fundamental rights--while dialed in to the hospital room) 


The 1993 March on Washington (panoramic scenes) and the CDA hearings in the Supreme Court, are shown. [Other historical characters stories involved with the military ban may be shown, depending upon availability.]  “Reparative therapy” from NIH in 1962, then military service—Special Training Company, the Direct Commission interviews—and a touch of Cold War espionage.

 Intermezzo 3:

Congress passes a rewrite of the military gay ban, in which "asking" and "pursuing" become mandatory ("do ask do tell" for the military??) in "exchange" for total elimination of the Selective Service system and federal law requiring all federal contractors to refrain from discriminating against civilian employees, even those who interact with military members in the course of business. A full-blooded ENDA doesn't quite pass (nor is DOMA rescinded).

As he gets home the hospital, Protagonist is informed by his new publisher of a complaint from someone depicted briefly in his book; he can barely respond within the required 20 days.  The summons process (through his apartment intercom) is shown. 

Act  3:

Protagonist attends a deposition in which he answers the civil complaint by his former military ex, who find that the public attention Bill has created for him interferes with his (civilian) career. They informally agree that Protagonist will stop working and be willing to make a living off of his writing. The military person mentioned in his book had been discharged after his current civilian lover outs himself in a security clearance investigation. The civilian is told he can have his clearance only if his lover leaves the service; the military lover refuses but winds up having a discharge hearing under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  It develops that military investigators had discovered the pair through Protagonist's own pamphlet in which he discloses an earlier “affair” with the serviceperson.  Turns out Protagonist had taken military person home in sight of an undercover military investigative agent.


Protagonist attends the administrative hearing of the discharged servicemember and bargains for his own intellectual property rights. (The style here should remind one of The Insider) in a flippant interview on the case. 

Intermezzo 4:

 Apartment scene for "The Underachiever" (“John” the coffee-boy with no responsibility joins Tobey for some 40’s comedy; stay out of jail, etc.)

Then get serious about the community support for Protagonist’s Protagonist-of-Rights-2 shadow convention.   

Act 4

Town Hall on a Bill of Rights 2 is held in the Minneapolis Convention Center with about 200 participants, divided into 20 pods. There is a lot of talk about the difficulty parents have in raising their kids when they have to compete with so much "individualism" and about how many rights people might have to "give up" for safety against violence and terrorism. The legal framework relating fundamental due-process rights to constitutional, statutory and common law is explained. The idea of fundamental “social rights” as claims on putative fundamental rights of others is explored. The idea of “equality before the law” (and the apparent conflict with “publicity rights”) is explored. The notion of a fundamental "bill of responsibilities" (ability to support others besides oneself) develops out of one or more of the characters.   


“Understanding” conventions in the Arizona desert and the Area of Mutual Agreement.

Ballot access petitioning, where people resist anything "political" because "politics" isn't "real life." 

American History Me” sequence.

Intermezzo 5:

In response to violence and threats, Congress considers legislation to restrict the unsupervised creation of domains by individuals on the Internet. The attempt of a hacker to drive Bill off the Internet (by impersonating him) is reviewed (and then mentioned in Act 5 as the “heckler’s veto” idea is brought up.)  

Act 5:

Protagonist's own jury trial turns out to be a vetting of the way he had drawn attention to himself with his big mouth without raising a family or going through the tribulations of "normal people."  He didn’t play by “guild rules,” when he insisted upon writing in his own name while still working. Several jury members were at convention (the lawyers didn't catch it) and one juror depicts her overwrought family life during deliberations. Legal conversations ensue over freedom of Speech. Was Protagonist deceptive, pretending to have a "real business" in promoting himself, or does he really have something to say?

Young college student comes and testifies. (He suspects he gave Protagonist a preview of what it could have been like to be a parent).  Protagonist testifies, trying to explain his view of the new “Do Ask, Do Tell” public ethic:  that people pretend to be what they aren't in order to get along, and cut themselves off from learning how other people think, and this is all changing in the age of the Internet.

During the hearing, the consensus vote from the third Town Hall comes down, just as Congress prepares to vote on Internet censorship. The censorship vote fails.  But the “right to health care” will be proposed as a constitutional amendment. 

Judge lets Protagonist stay in business but compensate other business out of any future earnings.  Prove that he didn't do this for money. 


Tobey plays his trick on Protagonist by announcing his intention to compete in the Olympics as a swimmer.

A celebration on the Mall.    The agreements from the convention are read just before the 1812 Overture is played.  (Except that different music is used for the credits: Schumann’s recursive Second Symphony).  Even so, the approach of an external "purification" (calamity, testing societal stability) is announced in the media.