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December 04, 2008

Autumn's Honey

This quarter I've been developing an idea for a TV half-hour series that is called "Autumn's Honey." Thought I'd share what I have so far with you. There's a lot of material. Be warned!

The Pitch

AUTUMN BOY (MIKE) BUFFALO (28), is the oldest son of SID (short for Siddharta) and MAG (short for Magdalene) (early 50s), the beloved leaders of a sprawling mother-earth-christian-buddhist-hybrid-honey-growing-home-schooling-gun-
toting commune in the mountains of Topanga, California called “Sid and Mag's Spiritual Path Towards Luminance (or, to the chagrin of Sid and Mag, “Sid and Mag's SPTL, pronounced "Spittle”). Autumn asks that people call him Mike, his birthname. No one in the commune does.

Mike has many brothers and sisters but he really only knows three of them. (Because there are SO MANY.) SUMMER BOY (26), a former math league superstar pining for his former glory, expects to step into SPTL's Lead Guru position some day. WINTER GIRL (23), is a honey savant who inherited her mom's bee sense. SPRING GIRL (18) acts like the perfect commune resident, but is living a double life.

Those are the kids that his parents had when they were still a normal 9-to-5 suburban couple (a lawyer and an accountant!) – before Sid has his Moment of Illumination at a roadside honey stand somewhere in the Valley, a dramatic moment that involved accidentally dropping acid, a velvet painting of Christ, and a Buddha keychain. Sid and Mag renamed their children and themselves, dropped out of the rat race, and
bought as much cheap land in Topanga as they could afford.

Mike dreams of having a normal ”sit in a cubicle farm all day” job. He longs for the day when he might himself be a corporate sellout, enjoying the life his parents once lived and now disdain. He craves structure and normalcy.

But instead he's stuck tending the Hallelujah Homemade Honey Shack selling Autumn Boy's Organically Blessed Honey. (Yes, they named it after him since he's so sweet!) This Honey is Organically Blessed... Since the honey bees regularly pollinate robust crops of Marijuana, Opium, and Patchouli, the Honey has a unique kick to it. Sid and Maggie run California's largest organic honey empire.

But Mike's parents are controlling and any mention of getting out of the Commune is met with weeks of theatrical mourning. Even a forced weekend long “love shackle” session, which involves a sweat lodge, a couple acoustic guitars, and three of the prettiest girls from the commune.

Mike dreams of living in an fancy apartment complex in Santa Monica and living a normal life. But truly, in a twist that puts both Mike's dreams and Mike's relationship with his older brother, Summer Boy, at risk, Sid and Mag are grooming Mike to take over the commune once they retire.

The Main Characters

AUTUMN BOY “MIKE” BUFFALO
Twenty-eight. Son of the founders of the “Spiritual Path Towards Luminance” commune. He has mixed feelings about it. “Oh, the SPTL commune? I’ve visited it once or twice. They have good honey there. Oh, you heard I lived there? Well, yes, by “visited it,” I guess I mean “lived there my whole life.” But really, it’s just like any other place, except for the free love and the armory.” He wants everyone to call him “Mike.” Nobody does.

Mike leads a double life. He’s comfortable at the commune, but often miserable. He cares for every person in his community, yet dreams of getting away from them and living his own life. Mike often secretly dresses up in a 3 piece suit he has hidden under his mattress and hitches his way into the big city (Santa Monica). “Imagine for a moment, a whole cube, all to yourself. Three walls, a phone and a computer. Writing memos, drinking from a water cooler, logging your hours. Living the dream.”

But often, normally just at the moment when he’s on the cusp of getting such a job, a crippling fear sets in. “I just don’t know if I’m really outbound telemarketing material. It’s a pretty cut-throat world, one I don’t think I’m prepared for.” He longs to live in a world that he doesn’t believe he can survive in. Because of this, he’s often studying books from the popular “For Dummies” series. “Telemarketing For Dummies is the best, even though half of it was in Indian.”

Mike longs for love. Normal love. The boring kind. Not the free wheeling casual love that the commune encourages.

Mike is loyal to and protective of his parents – even while he thinks they’re loony. Yet, Mike gets what they’re doing and even believes in it... to a degree great enough that he doesn’t really fit in anywhere. At the commune, he’s a black sheep because he’s not a totally sold-out true believer. Outside the commune, he’s often viewed as weird because he’s from the compound. His instincts are just a little off. He has almost no shared cultural references with people.

Mike’s friends are split into two groups – true believers and refugees from the commune.

MOLECULE “MOLE” CANDYCANE
Twenty Nine. Mole is a refugee from the commune, trying to scrape out something approaching a normal life. He’s Mike’s best friend. He is the manager of the pizza section of the Countrywide Mortgage Corporate Cafeteria (something he definitely lords over Mike.) “What can I say, Mikey Boy, some of us are born with special talents, with the ability to survive outside the warm safe cocoon you cling to. But I can’t blame you, serving pizza slices isn’t exactly something you can learn. you either have it or you don’t.”

Mole rues the fact that the best he can do to give his name any semblance of normality is to take on a nickname based on a small furry creature, but oh well he didn’t have much to work with.
Mole is one of those guys who is always working on some plan, some scheme, some new project. He’s often developing a new skill that no one had any clue he even had an interest in. Like luging, or thermonuclear physics, or animal husbandry (focusing on albino rats for the time being, thank you very much.)

And while he’s amazingly – almost in a charmed way – successful, in the end he often makes decisions that mean his life doesn’t really change for the better.

Case in point: Mole played the lotto. And he actually won. $37.3 million dollars, after taxes. Quits his job. Wonderful!

But then he was back the next day, asking for his same job back. Why, you may wonder? Well, it turns out that he had purchased, at auction, the life sized model of the Millennium Falcon used in the actual filming of Star Wars: A New Hope. It was $37.2 million dollars. He spent all his money, and, along with the fees from the warehouse that it’s stored in he now owes an extra $127,438.23. So yeah, he’s handing out pizza slices again. But also, he lives in the Millennium Falcon. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world, are you kidding? Whose living in the Millennium Falcon? Oh yeah, it’s me.”

Now, you wouldn’t believe it, but that Falcon does bring in the ladies. Course, most of them are wearing metal bikinis or have blue skin, but Mole finds that kind of hot anyway. One part of the commune which Mole has no need to rebel against is the free loving.

SID BUFFALO
Fifty Three. Sid (short for Siddharta) rules the commune with a surprisingly blissed out iron fist. “My child, all good things here, the hooka and the free love and the organically blessed honey, they all declare that every word pouring forth from my mouth are direct to you from Jesus, Buddha, or whichever Hindu god you prefer. But if that doesn’t convince you, remember... I’m the one with the key to the gun room.”

Sid, once a corporate lawyer, now wouldn’t be caught with such corporate frivolities such as tailored suits, or blackberries, or shoes. He wouldn’t be caught with these things, because he hides them all in a heavily secured underground bunker. Here, he indulges in his love of all things fashionable and technological without anyone needing to know. No one, that is, except for his two close personal friends, Donald Rumsfield and Bill Gates. They’re the only ones who are ever allowed into Sid’s special bunker. “It is true I have banned fancy Italian suits and the creeping influence of Microsoft Vista from this compound to protect my flock while at the same time enjoying the smooth silky goodness and the talking paperclip. Does that make me a hypocrite? No, my friends, it makes me a leader.”

Because of a booming honey empire, Sid is actually a very wealthy man, and takes care of any number of problems by throwing money at it. FBI staking out the compound? Here’s a bribe. A rival compound trying to move in on the honey business? Pay some burnt out homeless men to set up a shanty town near their honey shacks and scare away customers. His prophecy about rain looking increasingly unlikely? Hire the government to seed the clouds.

For all his faults, Sid is trying to lead the way on the Spiritual Path Towards Luminance, and does truly believe in his quest, regardless of how many times he might swerve, falter, or father illegitimate children.

MAG BUFFALO
Fifty two. Mag doesn’t believe in SPTL as much as Sid does. She still keeps her accounting books and outfits hidden away, just in case. Sid was the one who had the vision, and Mag’s kind of along for the ride. But part of that ride includes children – lots of them – and since Mag truly delights in her many kids, she doesn’t complain too much. And the bees, Mag LOVES the bees.

More than anything, Mag doesn’t want to be abandoned. Mag’s mom left her family and had an affair with the local family dentist when Mag was only 8. Mag never really got over it. “Mom used to say, “At least you get your cavities filled for free now!” but all I could wonder was who would fill this cavity in my heart.”

Mag talks like that a lot, semi-poetic, semi-Hallmark, but never fake. Always genuine. Because of her childhood issues, any hint that a family member might be thinking of leaving unleashes a flood of tears, guilt-tripping, and knit hats.

When Mag is stressed out, she knits. Her family can always tell how things are going by how many knit items are in Sid and Mag’s Grass Roofed Geodesic Dome. And we’re not talking peaceful, soothing knitting either, we’re talking angry, swear-word muttering, extreme knitting.

Mag has a soft spot for Mike, and often defends Mike against Sid. She can relate to Mike, because in many ways she feels the same way.

Mag is preternaturally beautiful and fertile, considering her age. Many people confuse her for Mike’s sister. In a free love environment, this leads to some very uncomfortable moments for Mike. The way Mag dresses, she doesn’t exactly discourage this, but she’s also oblivious to her affect on the boys. “One of the Anderson’s sweet boys told me that he’d like a chance to get together and spread my honey, isn’t that a hoot? It’s good to see the kids take an interest in honey.”

ISABEL PORTAL
Twenty Five. Isabel’s a sweet, hip, buttoned up, beautiful, driven midwestern girl who moved to California to conquer Hollywood. She has very strict boundaries, and is very strict about having strict boundaries. “In order to maintain true intimacy in any relationships, I first have to establish healthy intellectual, emotional, and physical boundaries. In other words, next time please ask before you take a bite of my king sized snickers bar.”

She meets Mike when she visits the commune to option Sid and Mag’s story rights, because her studio wants to make a feature film about SPTL. She’s always wound a little too tight, and Mike helps her out of a semi-nervous-breakdown.

Mike and Isabel are intrigued with each other, yet reluctant to admit it. Though Isabel likes Mike, they share so little common understanding that they are often at odds. Isabel: “No, Mike, a Glock 179 is not a good present for a first date.” Mike: “I knew I should have gone with the Beretta 92. I just didn’t know if that would be sending the wrong message.”

Isabel lives the life that Mike can only dream of, and Mike, smack dab in the middle of communal living, basically lives Isabel’s nightmare. And it certainly won’t help this conflict-ridden relationship when Mike eventually learns that Isabel wants to shape the SPTL feature film so that it portrays Sid as a corrupt, manic David-Koresh-style cult leader.

Isabel has no interest in kids or marriage until “she’s old,” and spends most of her free time surfing or singing in her medieval chamber music choir. Both of these activities are very strictly kept secrets, however.

The Pilot Episode Treatment

Autumn’s Honey Pilot Treatment “Honey Sticks Like Glue”

AUTUMN BOY “MIKE” LUMINS (28) rides a beat-up rusty bicycle wearing a three piece suit and slicked-back hair. Mike changes in a public beach restroom and stuffs the suit into a backpack. Mike dons loose-fitting hemp cloths and musses up his hair. Mike rides his bike up steep canyon roads. He talks to himself, practicing what he should have said in a failed job interview he’s just now leaving. “Yes, Mr. Wundkell, I do believe that I would make an impressive addition to your already formidable staff. Ugh! Of course that’s what I should have said. Is it so difficult, Mike?”
Mike pulls up to an IMPOSING GATE marked “Spiritual Pathway Towards Luminescence” (SPTL, pronounced “Spittle”). Mike’s ordered to lie on the ground. A group of hippy soldiers with LARGE ASSAULT RIFLES surround Mike. Mike calls many of the soldiers by name, tells them they don’t have to do this with him. They shoot in the air. Mike drops to the ground. They pat Mike down, and then cheerfully let him into a compound. The guards inform Mike, who they call Autumn, that he must see his parents for an audience. Mike asks that they call him “Mike.” They don’t.
Mike sneaks into his crowded, shared Yurt (a permanent circular tent) and thankfully finds it empty. Mike hides his suit in a large underground compartment normally covered by a rug woven from Yak fur. Mike takes a weathered brochure advertising a Santa Monica condo high-rise building and looks at it longingly, and then sticks that in a pocket.
Mike is shocked to find his friend, MOLE, hiding in the compartment. Mole and Mike discuss Mike’s failed interview from earlier in the day. Mike hears people outside the tent and tenses up, trying to force Mole back into hiding since the refugee Mole is not welcome on the compound anymore.
Mike rushes to meet with his parents. On the way, Mike meets a number of wacky inhabitants of this commune. It’s clear that people count on him for all sorts of compound-related problems – to referee heated disputes, fix the finest dish of tofu cutlets, even to drain a filled up organic outhouse.
Mike visits his parents, SID and MAG (50s), the leaders of this commune. They ask Mike where he’s been, and Mikes fibs about looking for... “new strains of honey.” Sid informs Mike that Sid has tragic news: a Cousin has left the compound and taken a swanky corporate job in the Big City, abandoning their values and betraying all of them in process (The Cousin is a clerk at the Walmart in West Hills.) Mag dramatically breaks down at the news. Sid acts as if this Cousin was selling state secrets to Bin Laden. Mike tries to defend the Cousin, which doesn’t go over well. Finally, Sid demands Mike get out to the Hallelujah Honey Shack – the compound’s popular roadside shop on the border of the compound and “the outside world” – to meet a visitor, a woman. Most likely an FBI agent, Sid and Mag have Mike believe.
END OF ACT 1

Mike meets ISABEL PORTAL (20’s), at the Hallelujah Honey Shack. Mike acts as if Isabel is an FBI Agent, because Sid and Mag suspected she would be, but Isabel is actually a movie producer. Following compound protocol, Mike presses the “FBI Panic” button and compound members swarm the Honey Shack with weapons, anointing oils, and their finest blends of honey (not available for sale to the public!), terrifying the other customers and Isabel in the chaos. Only after Isabel is threatened, sanctified, and bribed is she able to make Mike understand that she’s not FBI. Isabel offers to buy Sid’s life rights because she wants to make a movie about the commune leader.
During the meeting, Isabel’s boyfriend, FRANK WILLS (30s) enters the Honey Shack, angry to discover that Isabel is here on business. Frank is rude and calls her a workaholic (among other things.) Mike steps in to defend her. Frank becomes jealous of Mike and drives away, promising to move out. Isabel is on the verge of tears. Mike skillfully works to pull together a honey-based remedy for her. While doing so he drops the brochure to the Santa Monica high-rise on the ground. It’s actually where Isabel lives! On impulse (no doubt influenced by the Organic Honey Drink), Isabel mentions that she’ll need a roommate to cover her rent. On impulse, Mike declares he could live there with her. They plan on a meeting place where Isabel will pick him up later that night.
Mike approaches his parents to tell them he’s moving out. While there, Mike cannot get the words out. Sid and Mag are cunning, and by the end of the conversation, instead of leaving, Mike’s been given more commune responsibilities, and gets re-assigned to a nicer Yurt.
Isabel waits at the meeting place. It’s dark. She checks the time and drives away, sad.
Mike leads a new meeting at the commune and then moves into his fancy new Yurt. He examines the condo brochure and turns it over. It’s Isabel’s number. He hides the brochure under his pillow.
END OF ACT 2

Posted by jason on December 4, 2008 03:30 AM

Comments

This is a great idea Jase - hilarious and engrossing. How much of this story is based on your childhood experience of being part of the "weirdos in the woods?"

Posted by: Jonathan on December 4, 2008 10:02 AM

this sounds really funny and interesting, Jase!

Posted by: jessica on December 4, 2008 11:04 AM

"How much of this story is based on your childhood experience of being part of the "weirdos in the woods?"

Basically all of it.

Posted by: jason on December 4, 2008 11:18 AM

I do remember a guy we knew whose real name was Autumn Buffalo...did that help spark this idea?

Posted by: jessica on December 4, 2008 12:44 PM

jase i love it! and i love the character mole and how he's living in the falcon, lol.

Posted by: Jenna on December 4, 2008 04:18 PM

Jessica, I did base his name and his desire to be called a normal name on Mike, Josh's friend! But nothing else.

Posted by: jason on December 4, 2008 10:46 PM

I would say though that you probably most resemble Summer Boy, the former math league champion. You can't beat those days & the cookies and punch they served after! Miss them more than a little myself.

Posted by: Chris on December 4, 2008 11:25 PM

are you pitching this to anyone?

Posted by: jessica on December 5, 2008 12:44 AM

I really did enjoy math league! Though a lot of people in my class said... "What's math league?" So maybe it's not as cool as I thought it was.

I will pitch it eventually, but not anytime soon. I still have to actually write the pilot.

Posted by: jason on December 5, 2008 04:46 AM

I love it.

Posted by: Collin on December 5, 2008 03:55 PM

I wonder what it says about me that the only piece of this I find slightly unrealistic is "cheap land" in Topanga. I did hear that Elysium Fields was for sale at 2.6 million back in 2001, I think that was 8 or 9 acres. Seems like the right kind of place for a bohemian commune honey enterprise. I wish you success in selling this. Certainly original.

Posted by: Anonymous on December 6, 2008 02:33 AM

ah, you anonymous people will always fascinate me... where do you come from. who are you? So many questions left unanswered.

Posted by: jason on December 6, 2008 02:55 AM

well I can't speak for all of us anonymous people, but I was born near Philly, and went to high school in Cali as well as attended UCLA. I worked with a professor in Topanga Canyon for awhile. I'm back on the east coast now raising my kids, but may be forced to go back to Cali soon. I'll look you and Darby up if we do. She's really cool. All you Latshaws are cool. I'm just paranoid about using my real name on the internet (bad experiences), not that you remember me anyway. I wish you the greatest success.

Posted by: really only semi anonymous on December 8, 2008 12:22 AM

Might you include the Latshaw Brothers Farm-Fresh Eggs somewhere in the mix, creatively re-named of couse? Your first entreperneurial enterprise I think.

Posted by: Pop on December 8, 2008 05:03 PM

Might you include the Latshaw Brothers Farm-Fresh Eggs somewhere in the mix, creatively re-named of couse? Your first entreperneurial enterprise I think.

Posted by: Pop on December 8, 2008 05:03 PM

Yeah, real nice business you guys had there. Why couldn't you have included me, though?!?! The Latshaw Siblings Farm Fresh Eggs has a real nice ring to it, I think.

Posted by: jessica on December 8, 2008 11:46 PM

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