N Z T A
T R E A T M E N T
Paul Middleditch Treatment | Plaza Films
Introduction This is a fantastic idea – simple, clever but hilarious. At a time when our screens are filled with Christmas cheer and saccharine sentimentality, it taps into a human trait we all like to pretend doesn’t exist within us – an inner selfishness in a time of giving. Subversive and wonderfully odd, it’s exciting to be involved in creating something that’s cutting edge when it comes to humour, and creatively outstanding. Although this is quite a simple idea, we must take great care in the detail, making it precise and completely effortless in appearance, and use instinct when it comes to tone. This way, we make the most of the humour without being at all smug.
Tone & Humour The best humour always comes from acute observation of real life and Mum’s brilliantly funny thought process, is exactly that. The seed of her idea is firmly rooted in her own desire to watch some appalling reality TV, but Mum’s are not allowed to be selfish – it’s just not done. She carefully constructs and manipulates this idea into a selfless act of giving to her family – brilliant. The world we create should feel absolutely normal and real before the reveal so that it’s completely unpredictable – the more you can’t see it coming, the funnier it will be. There must be a fine balance between an observational quality and the weird and wonderful twist. If executed perfectly, this will be absolutely hilarious. And this is what we want, rolling around funny. The audience believe that they are listening to Mum’s inner monologue as a voice over – a technique we are all very familiar with in traditional filmmaking. What’s funny is the banter that goes back and forth within her own thoughts. We see small, subtle reactions from her husband. He knows her so well - we believe that he knows what she’s thinking.
Casting Casting and performance are always absolutely critical to making something outstanding and it’s important we really take the time to find the right family, particularly the mum. We talked about options for the type of family, and I still believe it’d be great to keep our options open, getting some great actresses in to audition and find the right Mum, who will make this as funny as possible. There are definitely advantages in creating an idealistic family as subverting that concept really works. We just want to make sure that it doesn’t come across as too smug or contrived, as that will dilute the humour. When all elements are put together, Mum is going to come across as extremely kooky and bizarrely funny, however she should seem very normal at first. She can be attractive, or less so, somewhere between 35-40. I think through a thorough casting, we will find exactly who we’re looking for. It would be great to have the freedom for Mum to improvise and ad lib within the confines and direction of the script – with a naturally funny actress I think this will be very amusing. Dad is probably 40-45 – a little weary and tired which all makes perfect sense when we learn that he has to live with a dummy. He’s not at all surprised in his reaction to what he’s hearing, and in hindsight, he’s just jaded from his wife talking through a puppet. His reaction is quite deadpan and more emotive toward the talk of wrestling. The kids are around 6 and 8, and seem to be keeping to themselves – having a mother that talks through a dummy is all they’ve ever known so they don’t blink an eye.
This will be hilarious if it’s played completely straight. It’s de rigueur, a day in the life of this seemingly normal family with a wacky mum. We must be restrained almost to the point of deadpan. This wonderful contradiction will bring lots of laughs. Subtlety will provide a great contrast to the absurd reveal of the puppet and ventriloquism. The Puppet itself is like one half Mum’s split personality and in this case “the bad Mum” She is so immersed in her world than she is getting confused with her “interior voice” and speaking out loud. It’s almost as if she feels like she’s going mad when she asks “Did I say that out loud?” Puppet should look a little creepy and strangely like Mum – maybe with an eye half closed or an arm too short. The whole idea of a Mum being a ventriloquist is just so odd and wonderful – it’s one of the great dead art forms – a one trick pony. It makes no sense at all, but it doesn’t have to – just has to be absurdly funny.
Visuals There should be a stillness to this commercial â€“ visually simple with classic filmmaking and composition. Keeping it very simple, with little camera movement and straight lenses will ultimately enhance the humour. It could be interesting to make things ever so slightly off kilter â€“ every frame a little off centre or perhaps a little too much head room to give a sense of unease thatâ€™s almost imperceptible. AND I really love this script. With some fantastic casting and instinct for timing, I truly believe this will be a very funny, commercial and something to be creatively proud of. By paying careful attention to detail and restraint it will stand out from the Christmas overload as unique and completely memorable.