For Mature Audiences Only (NSFW)
I was getting ready to go to work the other morning when I glanced out my home office window and beheld two raccoons having sex on the roof next door.
Though I've never been an advocate for animal pornography, after a few minutes of slack-jawed observation, I went for my camera - not because I wanted to get a better look, but because I wanted my absent wife to see this - not because she has any interest in raccoon sex, per say, but because a simple description wouldn't really do justice to such a scene.
It's not a common occurrence on our block in Venice Beach at 7 in the morning. And that's the thing, I guess: Nothing could be more common in the world at large, but the context, the public exhibitionism of it all, gave the experience an extra level of interest. There was also an aspect of character-driven intrigue: the male raccoon was being a brute about it (this not exactly a shocking development, either), and the female apparently had other things she'd rather be doing, such as getting off the roof.
They were still going at it when I left, now a few minutes late for work. And the images stayed with me as I read a spec screenplay at the studio. Which occasioned my establishing a new standard for such reads.
I'd often been at a loss when asked what compels me to give a "Consider" to a screenplay. Now I can answer this, by posing a crucial question in response: Is the script more interesting than the sight of two raccoons humping?
You've started to read a screenplay. Someone comes to the door of the room and tells you, "Hey - there's two raccoons humping outside my window." Do you immediately put down the draft and go to the window? Or do you say, "Wow, I'll be right there," and keep reading to the end of the scene you're reading, first?
It's really that simple. I will call this the TRH (Two Raccoons Humping) Factor, and I plan to lobby for having the studio add a box for this on coverage cover sheets, in addition to "Consider," "Consider Concept Only," and "Pass." In the box next to "TRH Factor," readers will rate the script with a number from 1 to 10, i.e. a low number indicating that the raccoons would win out fairly easily, and a high number indicating that the script will be more likely to sustain an audience's interest.
I share this with you as the preamble to a blog post of more substantive interest, re: the current Oscar contender Amour, and the issue of story stakes. I'll be posting that within the next 48 hours, but in the meantime, feel free to contemplate this: