Passwords by Paul Knauer | Script Revolution




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A young video-gamer's session is interrupted by a particularly aggressive online opponent.

This 5-pager is written for social-distance-friendly filming.

The included VR scene can be done with effects or shot live-action.

The short was written as part of a weekly online challenge and reflects elements required to meet the challenge. It could easily be looked at as a starting point for a project. That is, it could be re-written to reflect a darker tone, or dialed back for a more comedic feel. Either way, Passwords could be a fun collaboration, shot as-is, or the opening to the exploration of a bigger idea.

This Script Has Been Reviewed By Shootin' The Shorts

A 12-year old gamer is harassed by an online opponent.

Remember the good old days when video games were simple and easier to play? My video game playing days came to an end when the controllers started becoming more complex – just “A”, “B”, “Select”, “Start”, “Up”, “Down”, “Left” and “Right” was complicated enough for my brain capacity to handle. I remember smoke coming out of my ears trying to get my brain to adjust from the 8-bit graphics NES offered to the mind-blowing 16-bit graphics of Sega Genesis. I mean, what was this, The Jetsons?

Since then, video gaming has evolved considerably. So much so that you can play with someone thousands of miles away while speaking to them through a headset. Not to mention the VR craze that regained popularity in recent years. I stayed away from VR after seeing one too many people fall and make asses out of themselves.

But as convenient and interactive as online gaming has become, it’s also opened up a whole another can of worms – online bullying, for one. One of the more frightening occurrences that have become more common over the years is swatting – when someone finds out your address and calls the cops on you, falsely reporting a hostage situation or other crime. And, through online gaming (and online technology in general), it’s also easier for people to find information about you – PRIVATE information.

This is what happens in Paul Knauer’s aptly titled horror short, “Passwords”, where we meet 12-year old Jesse, who’s playing an opponent through his VR headset while smack-talking through his computer. But the trash-talk rubs another online gamer the wrong way.

You calling me stupid?

You basically called yourself stupid. Post.

The message posts. Jesse lifts his headset, looks at the laptop…

Goodnight… Leonard55.

To Jesse’s chagrin, this wouldn’t be the last he’d hear from the mysterious Leonard55. In fact, just after posting his comment, the electricity in his room shuts off for a few moments.

“How do you like the dark?” Jesse leans forward as a second message quickly follows: “Who’s stupid now?”

The lights snap back on. Music suddenly blasts from a nearby device. Jesse scrambles to unplug the speaker.

Not only does Leonard55 somehow know Jesse’s name, but he’s now gained control of his VR headset, taking over his virtual world and changing his avatar to that of a little girl. It’s here where Jesse (now a little girl) faces off with some kind of hulking demon in some dark, creepy-looking virtual basement.

For a story about some 12-year old kid sitting in a room, playing video games, this was surprisingly eerie and atmospheric with some nice horrifying visuals. Though frightening, the story was still very fun to follow. And the ending isn’t quite how you would expect it to unfold. A fun script, this would be even more fun to see on screen. Filmmakers need to jump on this one quickly!

Review by Michael Kospiah
Submitted: July 31, 2020
Last Updated: July 31, 2020

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Paul Knauer's picture

The Writer: Paul Knauer

I’m an optioned screenwriter working out of the Kansas City area. My main focus is thrillers and slightly absurdist comedy with heart. But, I believe becoming a better writer requires the ability to push personal boundaries, so you’ll notice a thorough mix of genres in my portfolio. Born and raised in St. Louis, I’ve lived in multiple small towns around Missouri, and now Kansas. My projects often center on life in the Midwest -- highlighting the heart of the hard-working Midwest soul. My first script, a sitcom pilot titled OH, BROTHER!, placed second in the 2012 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition and was subsequently optioned. My thriller, 60 FEET UNDER, recently received a rating of... Go to bio

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