The secondary character in a film can do one (or several) thing(s) to help a screen story come to life... or pull the plug on a story’s failing life-support... quicker than that brilliant soliloquy you’ve already written 100 pages in advance, for your lead character to monologue during the great, big, Shyamalanesque, didn’t-see-it-coming reveal at the end of the final scene. The secondary character can inform the plot, move the story along in both actions and words... especially when the lead characters are stuck hip-deep in some kind of lead character, existential quicksand (like all lead characters tend to be).
The right kind of secondary character, good guy or bad guy, lights the fire... or kicks the ass... of the leads. And a great secondary character, whether it’s Heath Ledger’s The Joker in The Dark Knight, or Ken Jeong’s Leslie Chow inthe Hangover, or even Anthony Michael Hall’s Farmer Ted in Sixteen Candles, the best secondary character is usually a scene stealer.
In The Screenplay Diary, I have introduced one particular secondary character, Buddy. In this entry, Buddy’s last for a while, this secondary character is introduced (with the audience) to his own secondary character. The supporting actor’s “supporting actor”. Kind of like John Cusack’s Bryce... standing side by side with Farmer Ted... in Sixteen Candles.
In “Between Love and Orgasms”, the secondary character of Buddy, best friend and messenger company boss to the script’s main character, Robbie, encounters own best-supporting nemesis in a character known as “The Resident”.
INT. Office – NIGHT.
Robbie and Buddy sit in swivel chairs... Buddy working the dispatch computer, Robbie on his iPhone. The clock on the wall reads “11:49”.
Out of the frame, the loud sound of a large office access door, opening and closing.
A MAN... Black, early thirties, wearing horn rimmed glasses and a cardigan... enters, without speaking. He walks through the frame, straight to the MEN’S ROOM.
(half in Tagalog)
Ang aking bagong kasama. My new roommate.
(not looking up)
Where’d ya find him?
He works days... here... in customer service.
At the edge of the frame, the men’s room door squeaks open. The man walks through again. He makes no eye contact with Robbie or Buddy. Out of the frame again, break room kitchen noise is heard... dishes, microwave, a can falling from a soda vending machine.
Then why is he here... now?
The kitchen sounds go silent. The man carries a bowl of popcorn and a can of soda into the main office area. He gives a blank look at Buddy and Robbie, and then heads to his office cubicle. He sits at the desk, and begins to watch a movie from Netflix on his desktop company computer.
He lives here... now.
The man giggles at something while watching his movie.
For how long now?
Ng ilang araw... sa isang lingo. About a week.
When is he leaving?
I didn’t ask.
LOUD BELLY LAUGHTER booms from the cubicle.
So he’s a resident.
Robbie gets up to leave.
Siya ay mabaliw.
The man appears, seemingly from nowhere, staring blankly at Buddy and Robbie.
Anyone want popcorn?
The man heads back to the break room without waiting for an answer.
I’m outta here.
And I’m outta here... till next time.
Copyright © 2012 Bill Friday