lowfashion presents: over troubled water by todd stadler

Over Troubled Water

I remember when Pushing Tin (a comedy about two cocky air traffic controllers and their machismo) came out, I thought, "Wow! Hollywood can glamorize anything and make it seem like a topic worthy of the best and brightest actors!" But it made me wonder - are they trying their hardest? Why hasn't anyone made a movie about civil engineers?

And thus was born this screenplay, whose working title was "unCivil Engineers". To my knowledge, there exist no real (that is, American) movies about civil engineers - leave that to the French.

Here's the plot so far. Picture this:

Our Hero is an attractive, strapping student at good engineering university. Bright kid, but idealistic, a bit of a slacker, and rambunctious. The movie perhaps opens on him skipping class to pull some pranks.


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He is apprehended and sent to the dean's office. He is chastised there. Told that if he keeps this up, he may not be allowed to compete for the Briggs Bridge Fellowship, the most important award a civil engineer can win. He promises to straighten up and fly right, as he very much wants to win. The dean is dubious but eventually gives in to his boyish charm.

As he is leaving the dean's office, we are introduced to his young, sexy girlfriend, who is an English major. She kisses him. But while they are kissing, we see him open his eyes and look lustfully beyond his girlfriend. The camera pans to reveal him looking at an old bridge on this picturesque Harvard-like campus. She does not find out. They walk back to her dorm, talking. He is reticent for the most part, except when talking about the upcoming bridge-designing competition.

They get to her room and start making out. This goes on for a bit, and then they have sex. From multiple camera angles. Afterwards, with her wrapped up in a sheet, they talk. She playfully talks of their future. All he can think of is bridges. She explodes: "All you ever think of is those damn bridges! You never think about me!" They fight. She threatens to leave him unless he gives up his bridges. While very much in love with her, he realizes he cannot give up on his civil engineering - perhaps he is reminded in a flashback of what his father, a famous civil engineer, told him when he was young: "Son, women will try to tempt you away, but you have a higher calling. Choose the more civil path - build bridges." Frustrated, Our Hero walks out on his girlfriend.

Walking across campus, he is accosted by a group of Chinese grad students. Their hair is dishevelled and they look menacing. They announce their intentions to flog him, a mere undergraduate, in the Briggs Bridge Fellowship competition. They taunt him and continue on their way.

Next we have a montage of images, all set to "Eye of the Tiger" and other inspirational music. We see Our Hero spending late nights at the library, combing over books, building models out of balsa that, when tested, don't hold up properly. Every once in a while, we cut to see the grad students being lazy, and then we find out they're cheating, stealing their design from China or over the Internet or something. We cut back to our guy, now in full force, studying and designing like never before. Computer-generated graphics float over the montage, 1's and 0's, and 3D raytraced images of bridges. Finally, as the energizing song ends and the tables of concrete tensile strength fade, we see Our Hero asleep early one morning at the library, exhausted from his engineering ordeal.

Suddenly, he is awakened by a friend, who announces that he has to hurry, the deadline for the competition entry is in 10 minutes. They run across campus willy-nilly (almost running over the dean, who tries to give a stern lecture about not running on campus - this adds levity in a moment of crisis) and just barely submit his entry. The judges pore over the many entries and select Our Hero's entry and the Chinese grad students' entry as finalists. They then proceed to the testing round, where they actually stress-test the two models. While testing the grad students' entry, something goes wrong - they are revealed as cheaters, or their model blows up or something and Our Hero wins. As he is surrounded by thousands of cheering fans hugging him, he sees a familiar face off in the distance - his old girlfriend, offering him forgiveness. He pushes through the crowd and gives her a big kiss. We fade out.

Fade back in with a caption revealing it is one year later. We see a bridge in the very early stages of construction. Our Hero is the foreman on the project, wearing a hardhat, carrying around blueprints, or concrete, or whatever, directing things. His girlfriend shows up - it is lunchtime, and they are going out to lunch - and they go to a really nice restaurant. There, he proposes to her. Interleaved with his proposal, which of course takes a long time for him to get up the gumption for, we see a tragedy unfold back at the bridge construction that leads to the death of one of the crew. Some explosion goes awry or something breaks or whatever. Construction halts indefinitely. Our Hero arrives back at the bridge all giddy from his proposal, until he hears the news. He is brought to his knees by the roller coaster of emotions he is experiencing. Literally to his knees. This bridge was his dream. While crying over the death of a crew member, he notices a strange pin on the ground - a Chinese flag! This is even more suspicious to him because it is the same style pin all the Chinese grad students wore. Perhaps we explain this in a flashback to a close-up of one of their lapels.

Now Our Hero switches into detective mode, trying to discover what the plan is that this nefarious group has in mind. As he is also a computer wiz, he hacks into their database and/or webpage to try to find out what they're up to - and it shocks him. They are plotting to blow up the entire bridge to get revenge! But Our Hero finds this out very close to the time they are planning to do their evil deed - early Easter morning! He rushes out to the site with his one true friend/student who has stuck by his side this whole time, believing in him, even when everyone else thought he was crazy.

There, they encounter the evil students, but it seems Our Hero is too late. Leaping out of the car, they engage in a battle royale that takes place all over the bridge using exciting construction equipment - wheelbarrows, i-beams suspended from cranes, steamrollers, cables, all that. The grad students are trying to kill Our Hero, who is trying to prevent them from blowing up his bridge. They swing from the cables which are hung but not yet attached, firing guns and such. Some explosions do go off, but not enough to damage the bridge - they just cause more excitement! Eventually, Our Hero, maybe using some civil engineering knowledge or something, kicks the grad students' butts, cornering them and binding them with cables just as the police arrive and take care of everything from there on out. But the police do call Our Hero "a truly civil engineer" for saving the citizens of this town from suffering the horrible fate of not having a truly stellar bridge to travel on.

Then there's an awards ceremony back at the school, and stuff like that. As we roll credits on the left side of the screen, we see a humorous, cathartic montage of images as to what happened after the movie, all set to a pop punk version of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water". We see the bridge finally being completed, and Our Hero and his girlfriend getting married in the middle of it on opening day. Also, before that, we saw the Asian grad students in prison clothes, being forced, ironically, to work on the bridge, as part of a prison work program. They are not too happy! And at the wedding ceremony, we see the cake - it is two separate cakes linked by a scale model of the bridge he built. Also, we see the ghost of the dead instructor from earlier in the film, who helped Our Hero to be such a great civil engineer. He is smiling, standing with younger professors from the school and also the guy's best friend. They are happy he has succeeded.

Also on the soundtrack are Semisonic, Third Eye Blind, Counting Crows, the Gin Blossoms, Seal, Collective Soul, Mariah Carey, the aforementioned Simon & Garfunkel cover tune, and Sugar Ray featuring vocals by Bono.


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