How to make a movie about long-term care
Each job comes with its unique perks.
For those who happen to write for a living, one such benefit is the occasional chance to encounter the efforts of exceptional authors. While it's humbling to watch another scribe make difficult concepts understandable, it can also be inspiring.
Such access has given me a chance to meet the great Frank Deford, at least metaphorically. Chances are good you have also seen some of his work, as he has appeared in virtually every medium there is over the past half century.
About 10 years ago, I heard Deford on NPR, talking about how most sports movies tend to be cliché-infested.
He then served up the outline of a cliché-ridden script of his own.
That got me thinking, what if Hollywood made a big-budget movie about long-term care? Would it be about a heroic worker? Nah, too cheesy. How about a bitter resident who finally finds peace in a facility? Maybe, especially if it involves a promising but troubled relationship.
But if a flick is going to be a box-office success, it probably needs more grit and intrigue. I'm thinking a film about powerful but threatened individuals pulling the levers at their disposal. With apologies to Deford, here's the working title for my LTC film: “All Fall Down.”
The movie would open with a scene-setting shot of Baltimore, then zoom into a dreary government agency's conference room. The person at the head of a well-worn table looks troubled. He warns the others that the agency's budget may be slashed if they don't do something dramatic. Some of them could lose their jobs.
“I know,” says an underling. “Let's go after those bad nursing homes again! You know Senator Fullofit will have our backs.”
After several others agreeably weigh in, it's decided: New crackdowns in the name of quality will soon be unveiled. A press release will be prepared describing how the new rules will make facilities more accountable, while touting the agency's unswerving commitment to the nation's elderly. No mention of ulterior motives will be necessary.
For counter balance, the scene next shifts to Washington, where a group of nursing home officials is meeting in a much better-looking conference room.
“Hey,” says one of the five or so people at the table. “My guy tells me our friends in Baltimore want to lard up the Federal Register again.” A collective groan quickly fills the room.
“We need to be proactive,” he notes, adding, “my guy can get us an advance copy.”
The remaining 120 minutes of the film is essentially a back-and-forth between the two sides. There are, of course, covert meetings, car chases, a few gunshots and some obligatory nudity. But the focus is on the intense back-and-forth. Think Jason Bourne, but with two Jasons — one for each side.
Finally, in the film's climactic scene, we see the respective combatants in a Senate committee room. The chairman, Senator Fullofit, announces that he has heard enough. While the proposed changes have some merit, there are bigger matters to tackle. And this being an election year, he must excuse himself and fly to a state fair. On the way out, he thanks a chain operator for the use of his corporate jet.
We then see a legislative aide dumping a pile of paper representing the reform measure into a wastebasket, as the scene fades to black. Just before the credits roll, words appear on the screen reminding the audience that very few regulatory proposals or laws ever get enacted.
On second thought, let's forget about this movie concept. It's way too depressing.