JODI WILOGREN  |  THE NEW YORK TIMES  |  Aug. 27, 2003
EXT. EASTOVER COLLEGE. A FEW MINUTES LATER.
The college's massive stone gates: 
 
EASTOVER COLLEGE, EST. 1839.
 
As the family pulls under the archway, revealing the epic castle of learning that Eastover is, Bill’s mouth hangs quietly open.
 
CYNTHIA
Wow. It really is just like the pictures.
 
They pass by the massive Eastover Building at the center of campus, by the clocktower, by the cathedral-like library. The whole place appears exactly as it must have in the nineteenth century, though the hookah probably hadn’t arrived yet, nor, logically, the drum circle of white rastas to form around it. At the residential quad, gracious red-bricked buildings form a large square around a well-watered lawn crisscrossed with paved footpaths. Every few yards sits a wooden bench and beside it, a romantic streetlamp. But the family drives by all this...
 
DONALD
Okay, you’re gonna want to turn onto
Schenck Lane...
 
Cynthia does, and now they catch their first sight of SCHENCK HALL, a large, grim, dystopian-looking building from the seventies, built with stern practicality as its sole guiding principle. The windows are narrow, many of them whitened by their closed plastic blinds.
CYNTHIA
It looks so... clean...
 
CUT TO:
INT. SCHENCK HALL LOBBY. A LITTLE LATER.
 
The Bright family approaches a registration table where an upperclassman sits, wearing a bright green t-shirt that reads "EASTOVER R.A.s KNOW HOW TO PARTAY*     *without having to abuse illegal substances."
 
R.A.
Welcome! Woohoo! You made it! Mazel
tov! Name?
 
After a beat:
 
CYNTHIA
Hi there... The name is Bright... We’d
like to check in, but we also were gonna
ask -- we were wondering about buying
books for classes. Is that something that
would be easy for us to do today?
 
R.A.
Absolutely, ma’am, you should be able to
find any books you need for classes at
the student store, as well as anything
under the sun: toiletries, furnishings,
lighting options, yummy snacks, coat
hangers, mittens --
 
CYNTHIA
That sounds great.
 
R.A.
Splendifferous! Now, I can still sign you
in right here; you said Bright? Is that...
(looking at paper)
William Bright? Room 216?
 
Bill clears his throat and we hear his voice for the first time:
 
BILL
Yeah. But it's Bill.
 
CUT TO:
INT. EASTOVER STUDENT STORE. DAY.
 
A large store just a block off-campus whose personality has been vacated by a recent Barnes & Noble merger. On many of the walls hang laminated posters: WELCOME NEW STUDENTS! Books organized by class number. Dorm furnishings on the second floor.  Affixed to these posters are recent printouts: PLEASE NOTE ALL AUDREY HEPBURN POSTERS ARE CURRENTLY OUT OF STOCK. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE. WE HAVE HEARD YOU AND WE'RE WORKING ON IT.
 
DONALD
Okay, Bill, if you wanna load up your
books, Mom and I are gonna see if we
can find you a second pair of sheets.
 
CYNTHIA
Yeah, and I want one of those cool
Eastover visors, too.
 
So Bill begins to walk the aisles of the first floor with a large cardboard box in hand and, taped to its open flap, a list of his classes:

ECON 102 Intro to Macroeconomics
ENGL 243 Writing the American Identity, 1776 - Today 
PHIL 108 Western Philosophy A
POLI 131 Approaches to Political Theory
SPAN 202 Intermediate Spanish
 
One at a time he finds the shelves that have been designated for each of his classes, his box growing heavier and heavier. He tracks down the English books last, as it’s the class he’s most excited about -- he had to submit a writing sample and receive permission from the professor in order to get in. But as he surveys the row of novels they’ll be reading -- ten of them in total, one for every week of the schoolyear, most of them around five hundred pages long -- he wonders if perhaps he’s bitten off more than he can chew. He’s beginning to draft his email of premature resignation when he hears voices on the other side of the bookshelf:
 
VOICE 1
I don’t think it’s such a big deal. We’re
just starting out; you’re finding your
voice as a songwriter -- and writing really
fucking good songs, too, by the way; what
does it matter if they sound similar or not?
 
It’s a memorable voice, a clear baritone with a cultivated midcentury cadence to it -- the kind you hear in archival clips in history class, announcing the Korean War or something. Not the type of voice you expect to drop an F bomb, let alone hear at all at a college-run Barnes & Noble in 2003.
 
VOICE 2
You tell him that, then, man. I don’t see
why it has to be me.
 
This voice is similarly timeless, though from a different time -- or at least, a different place in the same time: a beatnik’s gruff groan, degenerate and world-weary.
 
RADIO HOST
‘Cause he doesn’t respect me in the same
way he respects you. You know that’s true.
Besides, they’re your songs.
 
BEATNIK
He’s just gonna turn it into a huge fight if
it’s me.
 
RADIO HOST
Then maybe it’s finally time to kick him out.
Like, he’s not even that good of a drummer.
 
Bill peeks between books on the shelf to catch a glimpse of the speakers, who are also carrying boxes of books. They don’t notice him. The Radio Host is slim, with shaggy, copper-colored hair swept to one side. He’s carefully put together in tight maroon jeans, white Converse, and a paisley button-down shirt. The Beatnik is taller, more filled-out, his hair similarly shaggy, and though he’s dressed a bit more innocuously than his friend -- ripped blue jeans, a faded Pretenders t-shirt, and black All-Stars -- he’s just as striking, for he’s staggeringly handsome, with the deep, brooding features of a silver screen bad boy and the same dark pensiveness within.
 
BEATNIK
Well, there’s not anyone else, so...
 
RADIO HOST
Fuck. I know.
 
The Beatnik reaches the shelf he’s looking for and begins to fill his box as the Radio Host looks on.
 
BEATNIK
(muttering)
I shouldn’t even buy these books. I’m not
gonna read any of them.
 
RADIO HOST
What class?
 
BEATNIK
(shrugging)
Romantic Poets?
 
RADIO HOST
Tight. You’ll love that.
 
BEATNIK
I guess.
 
The Beatnik finishes packing his box and they resume walking, turning now into Bill’s row. Bill quickly reverts his eyes to the books on the shelf before him and stares at them with overwrought concentration, finally beginning to pack them, one by one, into his box. He can hear the voices at the end of his aisle:
 
RADIO HOST
Anyways, I’ll talk to him. I can’t promise
he’ll listen, but I’ll try.
 
BEATNIK
Thank you, man. Just tell him I’m still
figuring out what I’m doing.
 
They’re close enough now he can smell them. They smell strongly like a thrift store.
 
RADIO HOST
I’ll tell him they’re your fucking songs,
and he needs to be civil and play.
 
DONALD (OFFSCREEN)
Bill.
 
Bill turns and sees Donald standing at the end of the aisle holding up a teddy bear in an Eastover t-shirt.
 
DONALD (CONT’D)
You want this li’l friend?
 
Bill shakes his head furiously and frantically sweeps Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy off the shelf and into his box, moving away before the dudes get any closer. We pull in on the book and
 
MATCH CUT TO:
INT. BILL’S DORM ROOM. A LITTLE LATER.
 
We pull out of the box now to reveal Bill’s dorm room, a whitewashed cinderblock double room with a minimum of character and windows that look out directly into the wall of an adjacent building. Bill is hugging his parents goodbye:
 
CYNTHIA
I’m so excited for you.
 
BILL
Thanks, Mom.
 
DONALD
I hope it’s everything you wanted and more.
 
BILL
Thanks, Dad.
 
They make their final goodbyes and now Donald and Cynthia exit, revealing the posters above Bill’s roommate’s bed. They depict a clown carrying a butcher knife with a bloody kitten hanging from its mouth, a woman in a bikini made out of crustaceans, and a giant yellow happy face with one eye missing. He turns around, grimacing, and begins assembling his bookshelf, when his roommate, CASEY MYERS, 18, enters the room in a towel, dripping water everywhere. He’s a rare specimen from the San Fernando Valley, tan and fit and outspokenly in love with synthetic drugs.
 
CASEY
We meet again, Mr. Bright. For the last time.
 
BILL
Uh, hey, Casey.
 
CASEY
Dude, those showers are wack. You only get
about fifteen minutes of hot water and then
it’s frigid as fuck.
 
BILL
That sounds pretty good, though. Fifteen
minutes?
 
CASEY
You expect me to scrub down, shampoo, jerk
off, shave my balls, and condition in fifteen
minutes?
 
Bill’s face falls.
 
BILL
I see.
 
CASEY
I like to shower so long my dick starts
pruning.
 
BILL
Wow. That’s... vivid.
 
Casey begins to spray Axe on himself, first under his armpits and then across his chest, on the back of his neck, behind his knees, and finally directly into his own face, closing his eyes daintily shut in preparation. Bill rushes to open the window.
 
CASEY
(singing)
You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but
mammals...
 
That’s the last straw.
 
BILL
I’m heading out, man. I have a meeting for
the newspaper.
 
CASEY
Oh, shit, man. You better not write anything
about me.
 
BILL
No promises.
 
CUT TO:
INT. MEDIA CLOISTERS. EVENING.
 
A large and brightly-lit conference room in the basement of the library, equipped with state-of-the-art iMacs and even a few laptops available for rental. Bill sits at the conference table among a large group of students -- about twelve in total -- who listen as a fellow student, SHEILA ABBASI, 20, managing editor of the Eastover Herald, addresses them. She’s incredibly poised, downright lovely, with a demeanor beyond her years and a manner that bespeaks her overt brilliance.
 
SHEILA
Alrighty, everyone, it seems like people are
still trickling in, but I’m gonna get started,
‘cause I know people have work to do, myself
included.
 
A dude sitting at a computer looks up.
 
DUDE AT COMPUTER
Hey Sheila, can I buy some adderall from you
for all this work I have to do?
 
SHEILA
(rolling her eyes)
Mikey, c’mon. So welcome to freshmen and
new staffers, and to those of you who have
already spent time on the Herald, welcome
back. For those who don’t know me, I’m
Sheila; I’m the editor-in-chief of the
paper. I also am the editor of the Politics
section.
 
Bill raises an eyebrow -- that and the music section are the two sections he wants to write for.
 
SHEILA (CONT’D)
And yeah, um, just to address it up front:
I know there’s been some controversy about
roles on the paper recently, so I wanted to
give you the facts. Editor-in-chief is
determined by a vote and by seniority on the
paper, not by your class year; so yes, there
were a few somewhat unexpected resignations
this summer, following some, um, heated emails
sent by people who are not in this room who
will remain nameless, and that is what it is...
And... yeah, that is what it is. That’s all I’m
gonna say on that. Now I’m like, why did I
bring this up? Oh, just to say -- this “issue”
has been dealt with, it’s over, no longer
subject for discussion, here we are. It’s over.
No longer subject for discussion. I’m really
excited about this year.
 
Incredibly awkward silence. She smiles, flustered.
 
SHEILA (CONT’D)
So anyway, a few bits of news, before we break
off into our sections, which is where we’ll
really get the new writers caught up to speed...
The first thing is no more reviews of campus
productions of The Crucible. I think the idea is
that if we stop reviewing them, student groups
will stop producing them.
 
MIKEY
You’re a genius, Sheila.
 
SHEILA
(waving him away)
Second, and a bit more challenging, we are now
co-sponsored by Danilo’s Pizzeria and our
agreement is that someone will sneak some sort
of praise for them once every issue.
 
As groans cross the room:
 
SHEILA (CONT’D)
I know, I know. Again, don’t kill the
messenger... Our solution is to rotate it from
section to section every issue. We’re just
gonna go through alphabetically, so this week
it’s...
(consulting board)
Activist Causes. So, uh, good luck with that.
(clearing her throat)
Lastly, we’re looking to expand our sports
coverage -- a request from the admissions office
-- so if you’re remotely interested in joining
our Sports page, you are highly encouraged to.
And, just out of curiosity, I just wanna see a
show of hands of who’s here to write about sports.
 
Not a hand goes up.
 
SHEILA (CONT’D)
(smiling ruefully)
Yeah, no one saw that one coming.
 
Snickers around the room. Mikey, the dude at the computer, again speaks up:
 
MIKEY
You should do stand-up, Sheila! Stand-up!
Stand-up! Stand-up!
 
SHEILA
So that’s our cue to break into our groups.
 
CUT TO:
 
INT. MEDIA CLOISTERS. A LITTLE LATER.
 
The room has mostly emptied, and those who’ve stuck around are working on computers. Bill approaches:
 
BILL
Hey, Sheila? I had an idea I wanted to ask
you about...
 
She turns, nodding, inviting Bill to begin the spiel he’s been planning since before he even arrived.
 
BILL (CONT’D)
So, um, I was just thinking -- ‘cause y’know,
I’m really excited to work for the politics
section -- um, and I don’t mean any offense
about the way the newspaper’s looked in the
past -- it’s great; I really like it -- I mean,
I wouldn’t have joined the staff if I didn’t
like it, so like... Good work already, and that
meeting was really great, I thought... Um...
 
Sheila looks like she’s bracing herself for what Bill’s about to say. So...?
 
BILL (CONT’D)
I’ve been thinking it’d be really cool if the
Herald ran an election blog. And by the Herald I
mean me. For the Herald. I mean, like, under my
name. But also under the larger name of... The
Herald. You get it.
 
SHEILA
A what?
 
BILL
A blog? It’s, um...
 
She smiles. She’s kidding.
 
BILL (CONT’D)
Oh.
(chuckling)
I mean, not everyone knows what a blog is.
 
SHEILA
(still smiling)
C’mon. I’m the editor-in-chief of the paper.
 
BILL
Totally. Totally. Sorry.
 
SHEILA
All good. And I like the idea. I have a
question, though.
 
BILL
Yeah?
 
SHEILA
Are you a Deanie Baby?
 
BILL
Um... I prefer Deanybopper...
 
She laughs and Bill joins her. It feels good -- and not easy -- to earn a laugh from her.
 
SHEILA
Well, I can’t run a Howard Dean blog under
the masthead of the Eastover Herald.
 
BILL
Well, it wouldn’t have to just be me. You could
-- are you a Deanie Baby?
 
SHEILA
(smiling)
I’m undecided.
 
BILL
You could write for it too, then! That’d be
interesting.
 
Sheila looks off thoughtfully.
 
SHEILA
It’s not a bad idea... And we could get other
staffers in on it, too...
 
BILL
I sorta think we should open it to the student
body. People could submit posts. It’d be less
formal than the paper; I think that might draw
more people to contribute -- no offense.
 
SHEILA
No, I get it. That’s smart. Here’s my deal. I’m
all for it and I’ll totally contribute pieces.
But it’s on you to recruit people.
 
BILL
Sold.
 
He extends his hand for her to take. Smiling slightly ironically, but with approval in her eyes, she takes it.
 
SHEILA
(chuckling)
“Sold.”
 
CUT TO: