This is a screenplay I hope to have made into an animation. If you are a Flash artist and are interested in animating this, please get in touch with me! I’ll even pay you 25 cents! (Here is the link for art assets etc. To gain entry you must enter the password Zdravstvujtye. That means “hello” in Russian.)
“The Grass Is Always Greener on the other Side (of the Iron Curtain)”
By John Everett
[Open to a snowy sky. Pan down to see a man in a trench coat walking down a street. He is wearing an Ushanka with the flaps down.]
Pedestrian: My name is Grigory. I live in the USSR, in glorious motherland of Russia. Today I lost my job at factory just outside my village. (He passes a barn.) But I don’t care. I know that my government will take care of me, not like in Capitalist America where they let you die of hunger if you lose your job. (He walks into a village.) That is why we will win Cold War. If the proletariats are taken care of, everything else works.
(He walks into a restaurant.)
Grigory: Although it may be selfish of me, I would like to have one last hearty meal before my money dries up.
(He sits down at a table. He looks around. He adjusts his clothes. He looks at the table. He clears his throat and looks around.)
[Camera cuts to exterior of kitchen, where a waiter is flirting with a waitress. She laughs.]
(Grigory gets up and walks across the restaurant to them.)
Grigory: Excuse me, comrade. I would like to eat a hot meal but I must get home quickly to my papa. Would you find it in your heart to help me to a soup, or perchance, a breads?
Waiter: Not really. (shrugs) I get paid the same either way.
Grigory: Well, from each according to his abilities… so, I take it to mean that you are disabled in some way. Poor man. I think I shall go home and see my family. Good evening to you.
(As he walks out,)
Grigory: *Dreamy sigh* Ahh, I love this country.
[Switch to a pot-bellied man in a business suit.]
(This man, Michael Milken, is sitting at his desk in his office, happily munching away at a box of doughnuts.)
[Enter Jeffrey, Jeffrey Adams.]
Milken: (with his mouth full) What is it, Mr. Adams?
Jeffrey: Sir, do you remember that little coffee and doughnut place, Java Joe’s?
Milken: Yes? What about it?
Jeffrey: Well, I just found out that they’re opening up another store.
Milken: Grr! They’re getting to be a real thorn in this company’s side. Thank you for letting me know, Mr. Adams. I think it’s time to weed out a little competition. Jeffrey, let the other executives know that I’m going to hold a meeting to discuss this.
Jeffrey: Yes sir. (Exit)
Milken: Yessiree Bob. No one steals a slice of the money pie from my company. (Furiously bites off chunk of doughnut) I’ll squash them like a bug… Right after I finish this box. (Stuffs rest of doughnut in mouth) Ahh, I love this country.
[Transition to USSR]
Papa: Welcome home, Grigory. How was your day at factory?
Grigory: Oh, papa. I lost my job!
Papa: Oh, no! That’s terrible! Now no one has work in this house! What happened, my son?
Grigory: It closed. Apparently Kremlin shut it down because they can no longer fund a factory in rural area. But I do not care! I do not worry! Because I know that the government will take care of us, not like in America where they let you starve on the street.
Papa: How can you be so upbeat, my son? I am invalid and Georg is still undergoing phage treatment in Georgia. We have no money left.
(Grigory hugs Papa)
Grigory: It is okay. We have our family and nothing else matters. We’ll make it through this. We are not like the Americans who have nothing except money. I pity them.
[Switch to: Michael. He is in a board meeting. He has the floor.]
Michael: We are going to squelch the infestation that is Java Joe’s. (He bangs his fist on the table.) We are not going to continue to lose capital to these fiends!
Executive#1: How are we going to do that, Mr. Milken?
Michael: I’ll think of something!
(Michael’s assistant comes in, carrying papers.)
Michael: Jeffrey! Why are you late?
Jeffrey: I’m sorry, sir. (sets papers in front of Michael.) I got into an accident trying to merge onto the freeway.
Michael: That’s no excuse!
Executive#2: (snaps fingers) That’s it! Mr. Milken, your assistant is a genius!
Jeffrey: I am, sir?
Executive#2: Of course! We’ll just merge with Java Joe’s! Just like we merged with the Chicken Biscuit restaurants a couple of months ago! With Java Joe’s coffee and doughnuts, we’ll be unstoppable.
(The other meeting-goers give nods and sounds of approval.)
Michael: All right, gentlemen, then it’s settled. I’ll meet with the owner of Java Joe’s.
[Wipe to: Joe, owner of Java Joe’s coffee shop, in his office.]
Joe: The answer is no.
Michael: What? How can you refuse? With your product and my resources, we could have a doughnut in the hand of every child in America by next month!
Joe: No. This franchise is going to be built from the ground up. Quality comes first, quantity comes second. You know where you can put your resources. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to fill an order from a business in Flagstaff. (He turns around and walks to his desk.)
(Michael grits his teeth in anger.)
Michael: (growls) How could you possibly have an order from the other side of the country? I want to try one of these legendary doughnuts!
(Joe stands next to his chair.)
Joe: Go ahead. You can order one from the counter, along with a cup of our award-winning coffee. If you want more than a dozen, I’ll have to put you on the waiting list, and I’m afraid it’s a three month wait. (He sits at his desk.)
Michael: I won’t allow you to eat into my company’s stocks! I will destroy you!
Joe: (going through paperwork, disinterested.) Good luck.
(Michael walks out and slams the door.)
[Papa is sitting in the den, reading Pravda. The headline is about the launch of Sputnik. Grigory comes in.]
(Papa sets down the paper.)
Grigory: We no longer need to worry about our finances.
Papa: What do you mean?
Grigory: I am going to be a singer and dancer in Moscow!
Papa: Do not toy with me. You know I have a weak heart.
Grigory: I am being serious! I’m the best singer in all of Sverdlovsk. Not only that, I have been practicing Khorovod routines for months.
Papa: Shame on you. Mikhail won’t be back from Georgia until next week and meanwhile instead of finding work you fill your head with fantasies of singing and dancing!
Grigory: There is no work, Papa! All this village has is farming, and there is no farming during the winter. I know I will make it! I will live in Moscow but I will still send you a portion of my salary.
Papa: Before your mother died in the war I promised her that no matter what, I would protect Mikhail and you. (breathes deeply) I also want what’s best for you, and if that means that you must follow your dreams, then you have my blessing.
(Grigory jumps up from his stool.)
Grigory: Oh, papa! Thank you! I will make you proud. A woman from the Ministry has arranged to meet me outside of Nizhniy Novgorod. I will audition once there, then again in Moscow for the director of the choir. I will leave on Friday.
(Exit Grigory, singing “Kalinka.”)
[Switch to exterior view of skyscraper. Michael whistles “Home on the Range.” Change to interior. Michael is whistling while walking through the workplace.]
(Michael walks to the office of a fellow senior executive. He knocks and enters, closing the door behind him.)
Bartlett: How did the talk with the owner of Java Joe’s go, Mr. Milken?
Michael: He wouldn’t accept.
Bartlett: Doesn’t surprise me. These Mom-and-Pop type people are incorruptible.
Michael: But not invincible.
Bartlett: Come again?
Michael: Listen to me carefully. (pulls down blind on office door) What I am about to say can’t leave this room. (He sits down in front of the desk) I’m going to take them over.
Bartlett: A hostile takeover? Are you mad? Our stock is strong enough.
Michael: But for how long?
Bartlett: If we announce to the public that one small shop is threatening our business, it’ll all be over! People will drop our stocks like hot potatoes!
Michael: That’s why they’re not going to find out. Now I need you to purchase stock from our company. Go ahead and announce that to the public; I don’t care. We need to buy some time while I clean out Java Joe’s stock. I need to do it slowly so I don’t catch anyone’s attention.
Bartlett: So let me get this straight. You want me to buy some of our own stock.
Bartlett: And that’s all you want me to do.
Michael: Yes. That’s your department, not mine. You won’t be doing anything illegal.
Bartlett: Sure. Yeah, I can do that.
(Michael stands up.)
Michael: Thanks, Bartlett. I owe you one. A few months from now you’ll be looking at the owner of Java Joe’s, incorporated. (laughs) I’m going to head home now. I’ll grab a burger with my assistant, Mr. Adams, and work out the details.
(Michael walks to the door.)
Bartlett: Is he trustworthy?
(Michael turns back around.)
Michael: He’s naïve is what he is. Don’t worry. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Bartlett: Don’t forget that you’re flying to Houston tomorrow for the Tasty Pastry merger.
Michael: You’re right. I won’t see you tomorrow.
( Exit Michael.)
Bartlett: (with a chuckle) That crazy guy.
(Michael gets out of his limo and closes the door.)
Michael: Come on, Mr. Adams.
(They walk into a fast-food restaurant)
Clerk: Good evening. How may I help you, sir?
Michael: I would like two cheeseburgers, with a coke, a shake…
Michael: …And fries.
Clerk: And fries?
Michael: Yes. That is the glory of capitalism. Where a man can order what he wants, because he has the means to pay for it. It is this trading of services for monetary compensation that has made America great.
Clerk: Coming right up, sir. That’ll be 78 cents.
Michael: And that (hand coins to clerk), is the glory of the free market, where a business can use any means necessary to provide its services at the lowest possible cost, while still yielding a net gain.
Clerk: I almost forgot to tell you, sir, that if you order a combo you can add on a CPR manual for only 10 cents more.
Michael: Well, sure. (rummages in snap-purse) After all, with food this cheap, it couldn’t hurt to be prepared for a heart-attack. (Hands clerk a dime) There you are, son. Oh, (produces a nickel) here. Buy your girl something nice.
Jeffrey: I didn’t want a cheeseburger, sir.
Michael: What are you talking about?
Jeffrey: You ordered two.
Michael: Yes. Your point?
Jeffrey: Um, enjoy your two cheeseburgers, sir.
Michael: I will.
Cook: Order up! Double bypass with salt grease and cup o’ misery!
Clerk: Here you go, sir. (Hands him meal and puts booklet on tray)
Michael: Thank you.
(Michael walks into camera until screen blacks out)
[fade in, zoom out to see 55-gallon drum with fire in it. Several Russian men sharing vodka are standing around it. Across the street, 30 people are standing in a line waiting for bread and soup.]
(Grigory is standing in the line with a smile on his face.)
Grigory: Ah! I just love these long lines, don’t you? (Taps shoulder of person in front of him.) Only one and a half hours from now I will be at front of the line, and receive my whole-grain bread and soup. It may be cold here in Russia, but look at bright side. I will be dead at 55. No, wait, that is not eh, bright side. Oh! Russia is, a, ruled by horrible dictator who kills his own people. No, wait, that is not a bright side, either. Well, we put satellite in space this week, no? Hail the glorious motherland of Russia, eh my friend? It is in this land that family means more than convertibles! Nationalism exceeds greed.
[USSR flag slowly fades in behind him, filling up the screen. Hymn of the Soviet Union fades in as well.]
Grigory: The USSR excels in every area of the arts and sciences because we love our country, not because we want to put someone out of business! We are brothers! We are comrades! We are proud citizens of these, the United Soviet Socialist Republics! Now, let’s get some bread!
[Anthem ends and the flag fades out as the line shifts forward and Grigory steps forward, off screen.]
(Michael checks into a five-star hotel. He stays in a suite along with Jeffrey. He checks into their room.)
Michael: Great room, eh? I call the bed by the window! (He runs and jumps onto it. He sees the TV.) Whoa! Bellman? This television set won’t do.
Bellman: I’m sorry to hear that, sir. What’s wrong with it?
Michael: What’s wrong? It’s not a color TV, that’s what’s wrong!
Jeffrey: Um, sir? There are barely any shows that have color anyway.
Michael: Hush! Now I ordered a suite for its luxury and that is what I want.
Bellman: I’m terribly sorry, sir. I’ll fix this right away.
Michael: (Puts cigar in his mouth) You’d better. (Light cigar, then turns to Jeffrey) Haha!
(Jeffrey looks around. Seeing that he doesn’t have a bed, he kneels on the floor.)
[Switch to Grigory, who checks in to a musty inn attached to a tavern.]
(The keep hands him a key.)
Grigory: Thank you.
(Grigory walks through a short hallway with peeling, yellowed wallpaper to his room. A rotary phone rests on the bedside table. There is a single chair pushed into a table. A sink and mirror occupy the back corner. A single light bulb flickers above. Grigory breathes in deeply and walks in.)
Grigory: (narrating) No matter what the circumstances, I like to spend an hour every day improving myself in some way, whether it be to polish a song of mine, to work on a new dance routine, or to sharpen my mind with a logic game. And there is one that always is close to my heart.
(switch to suite, Korobeiniki playing softly, where Michael is in an embroidered bathrobe, sitting up in his bed and reading a newspaper.)
Michael: Yeah, I like to spend about an hour every night assessing the situation on the stock market. I have to watch my investments, you know.
Jeffrey: Investments? Pardon me for asking, sir, but don’t you have enough… monetary funds to secure you for life?
(Michael sets the newspaper down and looks at Jeffrey.)
Michael: Mr. Adams, that is not the point. You can never have too much… monetary security. My 35-foot yacht isn’t going to pay for itself, is it?
Jeffrey: Well, no.
Michael: Exactly. That’s why I dedicate myself to improving my portfolio.
(Switch to Grigory. He reaches into his bag and pulls out many wooden things, though they are off-screen. He sets them on the table. He pulls out the chair, rolls up his sleeves, cracks his knuckles, and sits down. We can now see that there are twelve wooden pentominoes on the table. He goes to work.)
(Michael takes a wine bottle from a hotel employee, feels it, and hands it back furiously. He yells at the employee, who bows and backs away. Jeffrey looks concerned.)
(Grigory completes the puzzle. He separates the pieces and starts over.)
(Michael is lying in his bed, unenthusiastically flipping through the channels. His head perks up as he is presented with a plate of oysters. He sits up and happily takes the plate. He sets it on his belly and greedily slurps them up. Jeffrey hesitantly puts an oyster in his mouth and starts chewing. His face slowly turns to disgust.)
(Grigory is performing a Russian dance. He kicks up dust from the room’s floor. His face lights up the room.)
(Jeffrey opens the room door to see two hookers. His face shows shock and he immediately closes the door. Michael comes out of the bathroom and asks what’s going on. Jeffrey unconvincingly smiles and says nothing. Michael tries to make him move but Jeffrey braces himself against the door. When Michael tries to look out the peephole Jeffrey covers it with his hand.)
(Grigory is now dancing with an ironing board. He then goes solo and ends the dance as Korobeyniki ends. Grigory is panting and smiling.)
[Back in the hotel of Michael]
(Michael is once again flipping through the channels, the remote on his gut.)
Michael: Yes, what is it?
Jeffrey: I hate to keep bothering you like this sir, but with all due respect, does this lifestyle make you happy?
(Michael looks over at assistant with his eyebrows furrowed. He turns off the TV and sits up.)
Michael: What are you talking about? Of course it makes me happy. I have everything going for me. A large house, a summer cottage, a winter getaway, a yacht,
Jeffrey: Well, that’s nice and all, but—
Michael: …a limo with chauffeur,
Jeffrey: Oh, is that right?
Michael: …tailored wardrobe,
Jeffrey: Well, that’s nice to have, but—
Michael: And, Mr. Adams, tomorrow, we’re going to absorb Tasty Pastry. What more could I want?
Jeffrey: Well, there’s spiritual fulfillment.
Michael: Pshaw! Come now! As we speak I’m having the hotel prepare an Italian dish called “pizza pie.” Now, if that’s not fulfilling, I don’t know what is.
[Switch to Grigory]
(Grigory rummages through his sack and pulls out a small loaf of bread. He then looks in his bag for a knife. His face shows confusion and when he pulls out the knife there is a block of cheese with it. He grins widely.)
Grigory: That wonderful man. He managed to get a hold of some cheese as well. (He cuts a helping off of both. He begins eating.)
[Fade out. Title card reads “The Next Day…”]
(Michael and Jeffrey are in a meeting room with the CEO of Tasty Pastry and his secretary.)
Michael: So you see, with your innovative product and our resources, we’ll be unstoppable. Now, you may have heard that some of our products may not meet the same high standards that yours do, but there’s nothing to worry about. They say that “Competition breeds excellence.” But on the other hand a huge corporation can’t be rivaled, eh?
CEO: You make a good point, Mr. Milken. To tell you the truth, I do think that this amalgamation is a sound idea. I just want to know…
CEO: I want to know for sure that the company I’m joining has a strong sense of ethics. Last thing I want is for my company to join a disreputable establishment.
Michael: Lay your fears to rest, sir. I assure you that doing what’s right is always—
(Two men burst in the door.)
CEO: What’s going on? This is a private—
Agent Gray: Which one of you is Mr. Milken?
Michael: I am. What is this about?
Agent Chimendez: Agent Chimendez, FBI. Sir, you’ll have to come with us.
Michael: This isn’t the best time, gentlemen.
Agent Gray: It isn’t up for debate. You’re under arrest.
Michael: (Looks at CEO nervously) I think there’s been some misunder—
Agent Gray: You are under arrest for insider trading.
Jeffrey: Insider trading? Isn’t that illegal?
(Michael glares at Jeffrey, then mutters to himself.)
Michael: It had to have been Bartlett. He would have gotten nervous and squealed on even the slightest suspicion.
Agent Chimendez: Now, Mr. Milken. Don’t make us get unpleasant.
Michael: (To Tasty Pastry president) Okay, then, we’ll just pick this up at another time.
(The agents draw their weapons.)
Agent Chimendez: Now!
Michael: Okay. (Leaves the room.)
Jeffrey: (calling after Michael) Okey doke; I’ll just tell your chauffeur you’ll be late, and… (looks at CEO, smiles nervously) …What’s up?
[In Grigory’s room]
Old woman: So, you say you hail from a village in Sverdlovsk?
Grigory: Yes, ma’am.
Old woman: Do you think you are good enough to be in the Moscow choir?
Grigory: Why, yes.
Old woman: What qualifications do you have?
Grigory: I can sing, I am well versed in many forms of dance, and I also make a pretty tasty Okroshka! (Laughs.)
(The old woman stares at him, deadpan. He cuts off his laughter and scratches the side of his face.)
Old woman: What is your pitch?
Grigory: Tenor-Alto, ma’am.
Old woman: Very well. Let’s he—
(The telephone rings. Grigory goes to answer it but Old woman pushes him out of the way so forcefully he falls on his bed. She answers it.)
Old woman: Who is this? (smiles, looks at Grigory) Oh, the phone is for me! (returns to deadpan) This is she. What do you want? …Goodbye. (To Grigory) The audition is cancelled. The position has been filled. Goodbye.
(She walks toward the door.)
Grigory: What? How is that possible? The manager guaranteed me an audition!
Old woman: What do you want me to do about it?
Grigory: At the very least you could offer an explanation and your condolences.
Old woman: The young gentleman who is joining is doing so as a favor from the choir manager, and sorry.
Grigory: Yes, I’m sure you are. (Sits down.)
Old woman: You little brat! You are supposed to open the door for a lady!
(Grigory walks over to Old woman. He stands 6 inches from her and looks into her eyes.)
Grigory: There is no lady present. Leave my room. (He walks away)
Old woman: Have you no respect for your elders? Open the door for me!
Grigory: Leave my room before I beat you like a rug! (He shakes his fist.)
(She recoils in shock, then regains her stern composure.)
Old woman: I… am leaving. Good day, soup boy. (She slams the door behind her.)
(Grigory begins crying.)
Grigory: I have lost all of my faith in Socialism. My family has struggled all my life to succeed, but it doesn’t matter. No one in the entire USSR has any money. It’s not like the US; if you try your hardest, there is no way you can ever fail.
[Switch to Michael. He is in a courtroom.]
Judge: For the act of Illegal Insider Trading, I hereby sentence you to pay a fine of $250,000. (bangs gavel) Court is adjourned.
Michael: Wait, your honor!
Judge: Save it, Mr. Milken.
Michael: May I see you in your chambers?
Judge: (sighs) Very well. Make it quick.
(They walk into his chambers, the judge closes the door.)
Judge: What is it?
Michael: Your honor, there’s no way I’ll be able to pay that money! I lost my job and with my company’s poor recommendation there’s no way I’ll be able to get another job as an executive!
Judge: So? Sell your house. (with increasing contempt) And your cars. And your yacht. Those together ought to be worth a quarter million.
Michael: I’ll have to sell all of my possessions? (Hyperventilates.) I don’t see how this could possibly get any worse!
Judge: I had forty shares of your company’s stock! When news got out of your exploits and your company’s condition, it dropped 37%! I lost $320 dollars because of you!
Michael: All of my things! The things I’ve worked my entire career to earn! How could this possibly be any worse?
Judge: Have you met my wife?
Judge: Turn around.
(Michael does so and the judge’s wife slaps him in the face. He falls to the floor.)
Judge: Hi, honey.
Wife: Hi, dear. How was work today?
Judge: Another day, another dollar. Or in the case of Mr. Milken, $250,000. (They laugh.) Let’s blow this joint! (They walk off.)
(Michael gets up.)
Michael: Everything. All I hold dear is suddenly gone.
[Fade in. Michael narrates while packing his things.]
Michael: Losing everything I hold dear has opened my eyes. I have lived my life according to the philosophy of capitalism. But now I see that the way I have behaved is not right. And it’s not just trampling on the little people, and small businesses, but everything. Jeffrey was right. These material possessions have weighted me down. They have kept me from my potential. America’s entire culture is centered on valuable and unnecessary things. I need to go to some place where that is not a problem.
(He walks past his bookshelf and sees Atlas Shrugged. He takes it off the shelf and chucks it in the trash.)
Michael: (aloud) How could I have known that misinterpreting Ayn Rand’s philosophy would eventually do me in? Oh, well. It’s better this way.
[Fade to exterior of house. Michael is walking away.]
Michael: Now I can focus on what matters. Not bettering my estate, but myself.
[Switch to Grigory, on passenger ship. He is in his room, sitting on his bed. His bag is next to him. A voice comes over the intercom.]
Captain: We are now approaching New York. You may disembark. And welcome to America.
(As Grigory gets up a petronimo falls out of his bag. He looks at it.)
[Slowly zoom in to the petronimo. Korobeiniki plays. Cut to Grigory’s face. Slowly zoom in. Cut song.]
Grigory: (narrating) Playing Petronimoes always makes me think of Korobeiniki; I do not know why. It does not matter. I no longer have any love of Russia. (starts to take out the other petronimoes and set them on his bed) I simply cannot accept what it has become. What has made USSR a superpower has also made it detestable. Maybe someday Russia will be good, but for now… (tightens up bag and slings it around his shoulder) I must follow my dreams. (walks away)
[Switch to dock. A stream of people coming off the boat thins away. A crewman stands on the dock.]
Crewman: I am now taking tickets. Travelers may now board for Essex, Avignon, Lisbon, Tripoli.
(Michael is sitting on the dock against a wall. He is dressed down and has stubble. He picks up a burlap sack and walks to the crewman. He presents his ticket.)
Crewman: Thank you, sir. Enjoy your trip.
(Michael walks up the board. He is met halfway by Grigory.)
Grigory: Good morning! And where are you headed to, sir?
Michael: Ultimately, Russia.
Grigory: Why are you going there? You’re not defecting, are you?
Michael: I no longer have any love for this place. Making money has always been my concern. I want to go to Russia, where money is not the point, only love for your country.
Grigory: Money is not a bad thing as long as you do not let it consume you. Everything in moderation, eh? (Grigory chuckles. He looks down to see Michael’s pot belly and immediately stops. He scratches the top of his head as he looks away.)
Michael: And besides, with a fresh start I’ll be able to wake up every morning and be thankful for what I have. The judge let me off pretty easy, you know. I’m glad I didn’t decide to sell junk bonds. All I can say is, good luck.
Grigory: Hey, you too! (He enthusiastically shakes Michael’s hand.) You too. Peace and blessings.
(They separate. Grigory looks out at the NY skyline.)
Grigory: America, here I am. Now I am limited only by my ambitions.
[Switch to Michael. He is walking through the ship, looking for his room.]
Michael: Russia, here I come. Now I’ll be able to focus on my new life. Hmm?
(He sees the pentominoes on the bed. He sits next to them and picks up two, and tries to fit them together. He smiles and raises his eyebrow, then looks down at the rest of the pieces.)
[Switch to Producer’s office. The producer is sitting at his desk, with Grigory in front of him.]
Grigory: You like me?
Producer: Like you? We love you! With your singing and dancing talents, Elvis will have to look out! If you’ll just sign at the bottom of this contract, you’ll be set.
(Grigory takes the pen and is overwhelmed. He looks at the number on the contract. It is worth $1,000,000.)
[Slowly zoom in. The camera switches between the number and Grigory’s face, getting closer every time. Grigory’s eyes get wider as the number gets bigger on the camera. A crescendo plays. Blackout.]