The Consultation: A Screenplay

The Consultation

Just read the screenplay and it’ll become very apparent very quickly how/why it concludes my project. I’m only writing this preface because the syllabus deems it. I’m not trying to sound like a Smart Alec, either. I’m just saying that I wrote the screenplay with the intent of tying up my project cohesively and artistically, and if I did that (which I think I did), then doesn’t that make the whole mandatory intro… moot? A good piece of art shouldn’t have to have an accompanying page that explains why it’s good, or why it’s effective. Did Alejandro Inarritu make theatergoers read a page of analysis before they watched Birdman for the first time? No, because the film spoke for itself. The film was its own explanation. People knew what it was about, why it was important, and why it was good, the first time they saw it. The hallmark of good art is its ability to stand alone, i.e. without an explanation as to why it’s good. But because I care about my grade, I’ll jump through this one final hoop and provide some analysis and corroboration as to why this screenplay is an effective ending point to my project.

I started this project aiming to discover a little more about my ancestors, but not necessarily their heritage. More specifically, I was attempting to discover as much as I could about the individuals that composed my ancestral lineage, not so much the culture surrounding them. I also wanted to incorporate my fetish for neuroscience, because it’d make the whole writing process come a lot more naturally. So I thought it might be interesting to decipher the neuroscience of my ancestors, if such a thing was even feasible. This screenplay is the result of that notion: the blending of genealogy and neuroscience. However, because my resources were far more scant than I’d anticipated, learning valuable details about the lives of my ancestors proved to be borderline impossible. The only things I definitively know about them are their names, D.O.B.s, and places of residence. Thus, it became very difficult to interweave a tale of equal parts neuroscience and familial history when I don’t know what these guys were like in real life. So most of the following screenplay relies on a perverse amount of speculation. And a very amateurish, offensively puerile incorporation of neuroscience.

I’m going to leave it at that. That’s the most I can stand you knowing before you dive into this joint. It’s not Birdman, be apprised. It’s not great, or even good. But the screenplay has its moments, and I hope you enjoy them. Thanks for reading.

The Consultation

by

Derek Homrich

INT. A CLINIC WAITING ROOM. AT THE RECEPTIONIST’S DESK, WE SEE TWO PEOPLE TALKING.

PETER

Vat do you mean zey ah not heah I have been vaiting for upvards of feefteen meenits and zey promised me zey were all coming —

RECEPTIONIST

Sir, who are you here to see again? You don’t have an appointment. And we don’t take walk-ins.

PETER

But indeed I have just walked in. You see, I am vaiting for my family members to arrive as zey told me ve were all meeting at zis address.

RECEPTIONIST

Okay no, I get that, but I think you need to leave the building if you don’t have an appointment —

PETER

Appointment? I do not vant an appointment. No sank you fraulein. I am just heah to see my family members and —

RECEPTIONIST

Yeah, yeah, your family members, you mentioned that, but… no.

PETER

Vell vich is it? Ja or no?

RECEPTIONIST

What?

PETER

Ja or nein, fraulein?

RECEPTIONIST

Nine? Do you have an appointment for nine, or…?

PETER

Nein! Nein nein nein!

RECEPTIONIST

Okay okay okay okay! Sorry, jeez, nine, I’m checking. But I’m telling you sir, we don’t have anything scheduled for nine. In fact, if you don’t have an appointment and you don’t have the name of the doctor your consultation is with, you’re not allowed to be here.

PETER

I assure you I am in ze right place.

RECEPTIONIST

Then what is your last name?

PETER

(pronouncing it “HAHM-or-icckk”)

Hommerich. H-O-M-M-E-R-I-C-H.

RECEPTIONIST

I’m sorry but I’m not seeing it. Now it’s our legal right to escort you from the building, sir, if you won’t leave on your own.

PETER

Who let you vork here, frau?

RECEPTIONIST

Excuse me?

PETER

Who let a woman vork in this professional setting?

RECEPTIONIST

Okay you know what, you misogynist, get out! Women are equals in this country but clearly you don’t know that because you’re not from here, that’s very apparent. It’s sad, lonely men like you who’re still stuck in the dark ages —

PETER

I am not from ze dark ages I am from eighteen-forty-nine and I am here to meet my family members —

RECEPTIONIST

(dialing the phone)

I’m calling security, sir.

PETER

Such rudeness you ah treating me with.

RECEPTIONIST

(raising voice into the phone)

Hi yes there is a man here dressed in lederhosen who we need escorted out of the building, he’s senile or something and — they’re like those green German overalls — trust me you can’t miss him — yes please, right now. Thank you.

Into the room walk ISADORE and DAVID. Both are dressed in suits, though DAVID’s looks noticeably newer and more fashionable. Both look like they’re in their fifties, and they’ve got the same tall, wiry frame, and same dark hair as PETER.

ISADORE

Grandpa, good to see you’ve wasted no time causing a scene.

PETER

(to RECEPTIONIST)

I told you, fraulein.

DAVID

(to PETER)

I’m your great-great-grandson, Pete.

PETER

Vell of course, look at zat jaw! Come, shake my hand, David!

DAVID

Sorry we’re late. Dad — I mean my dad — was driving right behind us with Derek and Joe, they should be here soon.

ISADORE

(to PETER)

Grandpa, sorry we’re late. I’m never late to anything. You’d think now that everyone has an automobile, tardiness would be a thing of the past, but apparently there’s something called “rush hour” that people have to deal with. But you look good. The clothes, I mean.

PETER

Danke, danke. I figured zey might be appropriate.

Into the room walks SECURITY, a man in a black windbreaker and slacks.

SECURITY

(to PETER)

Sir, come this way, we’re gonna go out to the parking lot.

DAVID

No, you’re not. He’s with us. This is my great-great-grandpa.

SECURITY

(looking quizzically at PETER)

He is your great-great-grandpa?

DAVID

My great-great-grandpa.

SECURITY

You sure?

DAVID

Is there a problem?

SECURITY

No, it’s just… isn’t he a bit young to be your grandpa?

ISADORE

(to SECURITY)

I think we’d recognize members of our own family. Are you implying my grandson is lying?

SECURITY

No, he’s just a little young to be — wait, your who?

RECEPTIONIST

(yelling)

Do ANY of you have an appointment?!

ISADORE

Yes, I do.

RECEPTIONIST

Name. Please.

ISADORE

It’s under H-O-M-E-R-I-C-H.

RECEPTIONIST

Still not seeing it.

ISADORE

(under his breath)

Well who let a woman get this job anyways?

RECEPTIONIST

What was that, sir?

PETER

I said ze same thing, Isadore!

DAVID

(jumping in)

Nothing, don’t mind them, they’re just — from a different time. We have an appointment with Dr. Nguyen at 8:45.

RECEPTIONIST

Oh my god. Name, please.

DAVID

Homrich.

RECEPTIONIST

I’ve tried that!

DAVID

H-O-M-R-I-C-H.

RECEPTIONIST

Ah. Well would you look at that. You do have an appointment.

DAVID

We all set?

RECEPTIONIST

Yes. You can have a seat.

PETER

(to Isadore)

What did you mean everyone has an automobile?

ISADORE

Even Derek has one. Preposterous.

PETER

Nein! Isn’t he only —

ISADORE

Twenty-one. I know. David spoils the rotten little —

Into the room walk DEREK, JOE, and DEL. DEREK is 21, JOE and DEL both look to be middle-aged. DEL wears a brown suit and fedora, JOE wears just a suit.

DEREK

(raising his voice to JOE and DEL as he swings the door open)

Please, guys! I can’t field all your questions at once!

(to DAVID)

Is Dr. Nguyen ready yet?

DAVID

The receptionist said to wait here till he gets us.

PETER

Dr. Win? Presumptuous name, no? Better be good.

JOE

(to PETER)

Pa, you think the lederhosen were the best bet in the middle of December?

ISADORE

(to DEL)

David said you let Derek drive you all over here? Is that true?

DAVID

(to JOE)

He didn’t speed, did he?

JOE

We did speed, it was incredible.

DEREK

I didn’t speed.

JOE

We were going so fast my hair blew back when I put the window down, it was miraculous!

DEREK

That’s called driving, it’s what cars are for —

JOE

So fast!

DEREK

I wasn’t speeding.

DEL

He wasn’t speeding.

Enter DR. NGUYEN, a young, round-jawed, Asian man in a lab coat.

DEL

(muttering)

We got fuckin Charlie for a doctor, huh.

DR. NGUYEN

(briskly to DEL)

It’s Jeff, actually, but good guess. You gentlemen can follow me back this way.

DR. NGUYEN leads the party back to his office, where seats are sparse and the lighting is dim. He hands a booklet to each Homrich as he walks in.

DR. NGUYEN

So everyone, glad we all made it safe and sound. As I see some of you are already finding out, those booklets you’re flipping through are the results of last week’s brain scans. Now what we’re here to discuss is —

JOE

My brain is so colorful, this is delightful, look at the pinks and blues and greens —

DR. NGUYEN

Joe, no. What? No. Your brain isn’t actually those colors, that’s just how the SPECT scan represents different levels of activity in your brain.

DEL

Such an idiot.

PETER

Zat is my son you ah talking about, Del. Refrain from being rude.

ISADORE

And that’s my son you’re telling off, so I’ll do my own parenting if you don’t mind.

PETER

You don’t talk to your grandfather like zat! I am ze oldest vun heah, zerefore I hold rank!

DEREK

You also died first, so what does that say about you?

DR. NGUYEN

Guys, everyone shut up for a second, okay? I’ve got a lot to explain to you, and remember you’ll get charged for a full-length appointment if this spills over past ten. So let’s just all quietly listen to the doctor, ‘kay?

DEL

(under his breath)

Listen to Doc Gook, everyone.

DAVID

(to DEL)

Dad…

DEREK

…wasn’t even clever…

DR. NGUYEN

Alright. Here’s how we’re gonna do this. I’m gonna talk, and whoever wants to listen can listen. I’m fine with getting paid extra if you guys can’t be quiet.

PETER

Vy is it so cold in heah? I thought every building had temperature control nowadays.

DEL

Probably because you’re wearing goddamn lederhosen with nothing underneath.

DR. NGUYEN

I can’t explain the temperature, I guess the thermostat’s broken. But I can explain why you’re so frustrated all the time, Peter. Everyone flip to page 3 in the booklet. That’s Peter’s brain. Notice the lack of bloodflow in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes.

DAVID

What’s that mean for the laymen?

DR. NGUYEN

Front of the head and around your temples, respectively. Lack of bloodflow to the prefrontal cortex is often associated with negative mood or depression. I’m guessing Peter’s poor, bread-heavy diet is responsible for that. Simple carbohydrates found in grains often deplete serotonin, which causes the negative mood and correlates with a lack of frontal lobe activity. The lack of temporal lobe activity spells bad emotional control, which explains why I could hear him arguing so loudly with my receptionist from down the hall. And that poor temporal lobe activity can be caused by chronic stress dating back to childhood. Peter, how was it being a kid in Germany?

PETER

Not exactly “sheets and geegles” as Derek often says.

DR. NGUYEN

There you have it.

PETER

My parents forced me to vork all day evah since ze time I could stand up and valk. Ve were very poor. Not much to eat. I vas cold quite often. Germany did not seem like it vould be a good place to spend ze rest of my life. So I left.

JOE

By God, I would relish a trip to Germany. The homeland!

DR. NGUYEN

Joe, your weirdly persistent optimism is interesting. My guess is that you none of your father’s, Peter’s, poor cerebral genetics were manifested in you. You may have the genes for low serotonin and high cortisol, like your dad, but it’s likely they remained dormant because your childhood was a lot closer to being “sheets and geegles” than his.

JOE

Oh, my childhood was pretty damn good, if I think about it. Sixteen brothers and sisters meant I was never lonely, meant I never had to work too hard. And we were first generation! I grew up feeling like America was ours. I was just happy to take advantage of the opportunities, especially growing up having always heard Pa remind us how bad life would’ve been in Germany.

DR. NGUYEN

Exactly. You probably also had a more fleshed-out diet, which helped regulate your neurotransmitters. But the main takeaway is that your overall worldview can have a tremendous effect on your brain’s health. Physiologically speaking, emphasizing positivity bodes well for neuro health.

JOE

Right. I don’t know what that means. Right.

DR. NGUYEN

Doesn’t matter, turn to page five. Anyone wanna guess whose brain this is?

ISADORE

How much longer is this going to take? Derek, I don’t intend any offense, but I’d like to finish this as soon as humanly possible.

DR. NGUYEN

Exactly right, Isadore, that’s you. You exhibit the same characteristically sour mood that Peter does. My wager is that you inherited Peter’s bad cortisol and serotonin genes, just like your father Joe, but something triggered them in your brain that didn’t trigger them in Joe’s.

ISADORE

You’re wrong, doc, it wasn’t something, it was many things.

DR. NGUYEN

Such as?

ISADORE

Oh, where do I begin. I was bedridden for most of my youth. Had a very weak immune system because we grew up poor and underfed. Hardly ever got to play outside with the other kids. Missed a lot of school.

DR. NGUYEN

Can anyone who’s starting to pick up on this stuff try to explain that?

DAVID

Well, there’s the malnutrition. Low serotonin. And I’m going to infer that being bedridden could count as an early stress factor, because he missed out on a lot of his childhood. And plus, if he was sick all the time, maybe his brain didn’t develop ideally, just like your body wouldn’t develop fully like it would’ve had you been healthy during those developmental years.

DR. NGUYEN

Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better. Now we’re gonna dive into Del.

DEL

Not if I dive into you first, zipperhead!

DAVID

(to DEL)

Chill, Pops.

DR. NGUYEN

Del, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess you fought in Korea.

DEL

Yes. Yes I did.

DR. NGUYEN

How old were you?

DEL

Eighteen.

DR. NGUYEN

Brain’s still highly malleable at that stage. In fact, everything’s not fully “set” until —

DEREK

25. 25 or 26.

DR. NGUYEN

Exactly. That’s exactly right.

DEREK

If anything counts as an impactful stress episode, I’d imagine it’s a war. Emotional circuitry is probably a little wonky. Seeing all those deaths, some of them your friends’, can’t be healthy. I’m guessing that triggered some bad cortisol and… norepinephine-slash-epin-ephrine production genes? Chronic stress later in life, maybe shades of PTSD?

DEL

Not PSTD, no, it was operational exhaustion.

DAVID

Yeah, same thing. They renamed it PTSD after you died, Dad. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

DEL

That sounds about right, yeah. Guess I can be a little testy at times.

DEREK

(to DEL)

Yeah Papa, when I spoke to Aunt Alicia, she mentioned you could be… well, a hardass. If I may say so.

DAVID

You may. Hardass fits the bill. You definitely had a strict side, Dad.

DEL

No denying that. I just wanted to make sure you and your brothers and sisters grew up right, was all.

DAVID

Hey, no hard feelings. I think anybody would agree you succeeded.

DR. NGUYEN

David, your brain seems to be the most well-adjusted yet so far in the lineage. But your hormonal bloodwork came back, and it’s on page eight there. You got the high cortisol gene. Anyone ever called you a Type-A personality?

DAVID

Only about all the time, yes.

DR. NGUYEN

What do you think triggered that?

DAVID

Well, Dad died when I was nineteen. I think that probably permanently messed me up in a way. I come home from a year of college, and my old man’s dead. Suddenly I’ve gotta be the man of the house, be the man of seven siblings. I’ve gotta step in as Dad’s understudy and act all mature and stolid, while hiding all my sadness and internal trauma. It forced me to become a perfectionist. The day I found out he died, something clicked in me. I just started going full throttle in every aspect of my life. Maybe it stirred some subconscious fears of my own mortality, maybe it revved up my paternal instincts a little early. Never took a minute, much less a day off, ever since then. Dad, this is the first time you’ve ever heard about this, but the semester after you died was the first time I ever made a 4.0 in college.

DEL

No kiddin’.

DR. NGUYEN

Well, that brings us up to speed with Derek. Derek, thoughts on all this?

DEREK

Well, this all explains… it all explains a lot. Now I know where my perfectionism finds its origin. I know why I can get stressed or wired out about certain petty little details. I know why lots of times I’m just, dissatisfied. Often times I feel like I’m never happy until I get exactly everything in my life in the exact place I want it to be in the exact way I want it to exist in. Lots of times I’ll subject myself to some pretty extreme mental duress in order to get to that place, and people ask my why I’m like that. Because it seems like that’s not the most economical pursuit of finding happiness, ya know? Spending 99% of your life stressing out about making every little facet perfect, leaving only 1% left to actually enjoy it. But now I kind of know why. It’s in my blood. Peter was dissatisfied in Germany, so he left. Isadore was stressed because he felt he missed out on a very important chunk of his life, that chunk being his childhood, and that empty void left in place of a proper youth sort of subtracted from his overall quality of life. Del’s nervous system and general mental effluvium was severely affected by going to war as a kid. And Dad probably inherited some of Del’s bad hormone and neurotransmitter genes, which didn’t help when Del died. I mean, does that cover it, did I leave anything out?

DR. NGUYEN

Well, not to sound corny, but you did leave something out. The resolution. What’s to learn from all this, what’s to gain?

DEREK

I gotta kick back and enjoy life more.

DR. NGUYEN

And believe me, if you do that, your brain will thank you for it.

DEREK

Well I thank you for this, Doc.

DR. NGUYEN

My pleasure.

Suddenly, the room is empty except for DEREK and DR. NGUYEN, who shake hands as we fade to black.

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