freedom! liberty!



Storyboard for proposed film.


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. 

The following outline proposes a small “festival style” DVD film that could be made for a very low budget.     

I see this film as set up in big two acts, with a few shorter "intermezzo" scenes, and a "Coda." The format is sort of like Beethoven’s last Piano Sonata (#32) or Prokofiev’s Symphony #2: a “sonata” movement followed by a longer “theme and variations.”  (Tchaikowsky and Dohanyi experimented with this form, too.)  

The acts, scenes and flashbacks are outlined at  (link obsolete)

Film Formatting:

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 becomes a “grownup” with responsibilities but he will stay fit because Protagonist wants him to. 

Act 1:  (Sonata)

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 reparative "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 1:

4 years after the dinner scene

Protagonist shows his "character flaw" -- a tendency to "pay attention" to younger college-age men and to ignore people his own age -- in a conversational encounter in a bar with a discussion of the terrorist attacks.  Later a female companion of the younger man approaches the protagonist and asks him to butt out.

Later, Protagonist is in his apartment when a high school friend "Howie" buzzes his intercom and wants to use the swimming pool.  In the mean time, the friend hacks into a government web site and shows how the government is recruiting young civilians to take over society after an expected major catastrophe.  

Act 2:  (“Tema e Variozioni) (Four years later)

The “Bill of Rights 2” town-hall has been convened.  The “theme” comprises the unveiling of the whole idea of due-process fundamental rights, and the case that the firewall to protect individual rights from government should be strengthened.  The relationship between the legal and constitutional concepts and the “common sense” ideas about rights is defined.  The “responsibility” part deals with the tension between deliberately chosen self-expression and more automatic commitment and meaning through conventional family. The “variations” consist of the characters who come to the convention, each with agendas based on their experiences of the past several years.  Tobey is still the narrator, ready to go through some physical changes himself (as, now married with children, he still has prepared to enter the Olympics as a swimmer).  Protagonist Bill has tried to re-invent himself, to the point of wearing a toupee.  The major rights are presented, conceptually ("original right" and "fundamental right", and then functionally, including the right to be left alone, the right to free speech, to property, to "believe or doubt," to be free from servitude, to parent, and then, almost as a derivative, to life itself.  Historical flashbacks are presented to present subtle interpretations of the rights. During the discussion, various persons with whom "Bill" has interacted question Bill's integrity with a certain satirical humor. At the end, Bill escapes arrest because of his "disguise."

An overview of the rights is at

or at the table on this domain   (link obsolete)

Intermezzo 2

Bill is trying to get a new job and finds that his public reputation over his political and self-publishing activities gets in the way. The interviewer is an old, reformed "boy friend" who now taunts Bill's idea of drawing attention to himself as a "crutch."

Protagonist Bill attends an S&M party where one of the civilian reservists that Howie found by hacking on the web is to be "initiated" but it turns out that Bill is initiated instead.  Again, with the disguise, he escapes arrest.           



There is a celebration of a new "Declaration of Fundamental Rights" on the Mall in Washington.  Tobey tests Bill's "love" by showing up ready for Olympic cycling trials in the Rockies.  But then the "purification" disaster (Yellowstone goes) reaches the crowd, just as Bill is being arrested, for contributing to the delinquency of the high school friend (Howie) who had visited his apartment. .

In the aftermath, Bill is sentenced to community service and giving up his ability to make a name for himself  with his writing.  Yet, he is redeemed again at a smaller celebration (Minneapolis is open for business again after the disaster) by playing his own music.  He music ends loudly as he retains the right to self-expression.