Smiling At Ground Zero by J. Phillip Wilkins | Script Revolution

Smiling At Ground Zero



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A conversation at the end of the world.

This Script Has Been Reviewed By Shootin' The Shorts

Smiling At Ground Zero
A conversation at the end of the world

Michael Stipe, the lead singer of REM once famously sang: ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine’. That classic line sums up the feelings of Pete Doop as he awaits the end of all life atop a hill with the mysterious Janey Zang in the short but enigmatic screenplay Smiling at Ground Zero.

Pete and Janey find themselves on a hill looking down at the town of Pleasantville, mere minutes before a cataclysmic asteroid is about to strike and wipe out life on Earth.

Pete seems to accept death is inevitable and ridicules those attempting to forestall their certain doom.

Those morons. They think they can run from this thing.
They don’t realize that they’ve traded a quick, painless
death for an agonizing one. I’m staying right here.
I ain’t gonna leave and take the chance of slowly burning
to death, or choking on the ash and smoke from the
damned thing. No sir. Right here I will stay, 'cause
there's nothing anyone can do. Ninety-five percent
of all life on Earth, gone. No more Billy Zane, or
David Lee Roth, or Dick Cavett, or Barbara Mandrell, or…

Arguably, Pete’s prevaricating bravado betrays his fear and anxiety. Which is understandable, considering he and a few billion others are about to buy the farm. He’s clearly persuading himself he’s made the right decision to meet his end with unflappable fortitude.

Then there’s Janey, who remains silent as Pete prattles on, until out of nowhere she whimsically speaks about the circle of life, in an intimate and infallible manner that suggests something otherworldly about her:

In 2.5 million years, a fish hitherto unknown by science
will rise from the sea and tread upon a beach. A few
million years later, it will begin to walk, and then a few
weeks later, will become the first mammal to stride over
the Earth since the Great Pleasantville Asteroid. Only then,
will I return to usher in a new age of humankind.

So it would seem either Janey is a figment of Pete’s imagination, a corporeal delusion triggered by stress, or is she really a God-like entity calmly observing a planet she cares for go through another transformation; from the heights of a technologically advanced civilization back to a primordial ball of mud bereft of life.

The somewhat disturbing Smiling at Ground Zero offers an idiosyncratic snapshot of the thoughts, feelings, and words we might all share, mere seconds before mutual, imminent obliteration. There’s a certain celestial whimsy to the story that in the hands of the right filmmaker will make for a short but highly impactful film.

Despite it being a story about the end of the world as we know it – it’ll leave their audience smiling and feeling fine.

Review by Jeremy Storey
Submitted: May 20, 2018
Last Updated: October 9, 2019

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The Writer: J. Phillip Wilkins

J. Phillip Wilkins is a composer and the author of several unfinished books, including 'Desert Witch', 'The Girl From Yuma', 'Laughter, Far Away', and 'Lighthouse At The World's End'. His tenure as one-third of indie pop outfit The Postmarks was followed by a move to the West Coast demimonde. Often called 'the poorman's Doc Savage', Wilkins currently resides in Los Angeles. Go to bio

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