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Arts + CultureMoviesRead an excerpt from an SF Indiefest award-winning local...

Read an excerpt from an SF Indiefest award-winning local screenplay

In 'Swipe,' a recovering agoraphobe with OCD navigates the Millennial dating scene in search of love.

Editor’s Note: The annual SF Indiefest prizes for best unproduced screenplay were announced last month, and fabulous 48 Hills writer Alex Arabian was one of the official finalists. Read act one of his proposed half hour comedy pilot “Swipe” below. If any producers are interested, contact us! And check out the 2022 SF Indiefest, beginning February 3.

In “Swipe,” a recovering agoraphobe with OCD navigates the Millennial swipe scene in search of love, but instead, with the help of his pansexual roommate, discovers a world that challenges his naive, binary relationship values.

This is the reader’s first introduction to our main character, Armenian-American Aram Ajemian, outside of the comfort of his bedroom as he prepares his meticulous morning routine in spite of his lazy roommate Tomaso.

He boards a Muni bus to the Presidio of San Francisco, where his dead-end real estate job awaits him. Listening to his self-help audiobooks while attempting to avoid human contact at all costs, Aram’s mental health struggles take the driver’s seat. Once he enters work, a daunting castigation of his work productivity awaits him along with several other obstacles to his continuous recovery.

ACT ONE

INT. BATHROOM – MORNING

Aram meticulously shaves, running his razor through warm water in the sink after each stroke against the grain of his facial hair.

He carefully places the razor on a washcloth in his medicine cabinet, exactly perpendicular to his shaving cream, the label of which faces forward.

Out comes the toothbrush and toothpaste out of an expensive- looking container from the medicine cabinet.

Aram brushes for exactly four minutes. Six linear horizontal strokes, six circular brushes, then six linear vertical strokes on each of the three sides of every tooth.

He begins swiping on a different dating app while he brushes.

SUPER – DATING PROFILE:

Bella (27)
I’m trans. If you can’t handle that, then fuck off.
If you actually want to get to know me, hit me up.
Please no conservatives.
I’m not a fetish, I’m a human being just trying to get by.

Aram swipes through her photos, painstakingly analyzing them.

He almost swipes right before shaking his head, swiping left, and placing his phone down.

He spits the rest of his toothpaste into the sink, drinks from a glass of water to the right of his medicine cabinet, gargles six times, and spits back into the sink.

He carefully replaces his toothbrush and toothpaste into the container in the cabinet and checks to see if each toiletries are aligned correctly.

Upon closing the mirror, he notices a post-it note.

ON THE SCREEN

Quit your job! -Love, Tomaso

ARAM (to himself)
Right. And become even more of an ineligible bachelor?

INT. BUS – MORNING

Head down, buried in his phone, headphones on, Aram stands in between seating, balancing in a warrior pose, refusing to hold onto the safety poles.

AUDIOBOOK AUTHOR (V.O.) (masculine, soothing voice)
Chapter Two: Don’t Be Afraid to Engage in Conversation

As the bus accelerates, everyone standing, except for Aram, grips the safety poles as they sway back and forth with the bus’s erratic movements.

Aram stands still, completely incognizant of his heedlessness of the universal concept of conserving space on public transit.

AUDIOBOOK AUTHOR (V.O.)
Engaging in conversation can have many benefits, including clarifying confusion, making friends, building confidence, and practicing manners.

Aram begins swiping on another dating app.

SUPER – DATING PROFILE:

Stacey (24)
Dead inside.
Your worst nightmare.
I eat live bats for breakfast. I dare you to swipe right.

Aram swipes left as the bus makes its next stop.

A MAN (35), beard, cardigan, jeans, walks on and stands next to Aram, analyzing his pose.

Aram maneuvers around the man, mustering every bit of strength he can not to touch him as the bus begins to propel forward.

He begins to sweat as he readjusts his warrior pose, squatting slightly lower to the ground.

Back to swiping.

SUPER – DATING PROFILE:

Lily (25)
Not your average hotty but im down to get down if you know what i mean, as long as you respect my terms then we can have fun message me on my IG and message “i got you” just so i know you read my bio. IG: @tindergoddess

Aram reports the profile for spam.

He looks up for a moment and notices everyone their heads down, entranced by the content on and tablets.

ARAM (to himself)

Che schifo.

AUDIOBOOK AUTHOR (V.O.)
When you’re in a social situation, wait until there is both a pause in the given conversation at hand, and you find a topic you feel confident enough to engage in.

The bus makes an unusual turn, causing Aram to bump into the man next to him.

AUDIOBOOK AUTHOR (V.O.)
The most seamless way to initiate conversation is through good, old-fashioned practice. There is no such thing as redundancy in practice.

ARAM
My bad. Sorry about that.

MAN
You can always grab onto the poles.

AUDIOBOOK AUTHOR (V.O.)
Rehearse a variety of short intro phrases until you feel comfortable enough speaking them with ease.

Aram’s face lights up in a resolute confidence as he turns around to face the man and use his chosen introduction phrase.

Silence.

ARAM
One million people.

MAN I’m sorry?

ARAM
That’s how many people, on average, ride the bus on a given weekday in San Francisco.

MAN Oh…I didn’t know–

ARAM
Let’s say a quarter of them stand and hold onto the safety bars. That’s two hundred and fifty thousand people.

MAN
Look, I was just saying–

ARAM (clearing throat in bemusement)
Now, studies have shown that only five percent of people wash their hands correctly, if at all, after using the bathroom.

ARAM (CONT’D)
What do you think the percentage of people who piss versus shit is? (beat)

Let’s call it 50-50 for easy math. So, one hundred twenty-five thousand of those people have shit sometime before taking the bus. And one hundred eighteen thousand seven hundred and fifty of those people carry their shit on their hands.

The man looks around as people begin to stare in befuddlement at Aram’s awkward, subdued iteration of a nonsensical, Sorkin-esque speech.

ARAM (CONT’D)
So, we’re looking at one hundred eighteen thousand seven hundred and fifty peoples’ feces plastered all over the safety poles of buses in The City, day after day. By the time Friday comes around, that number hits five hundred ninety- three thousand seven hundred fifty.

A horrifying look befalls the man’s face as he removes his hand from the safety pole.

INT. OFFICE – DAY

Aram sits at a desk in a cubicle, his space immaculate and organized with various film knickknacks arrayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

Every object on his desk is completely parallel or perpendicular to one another.

He puts his headphones on, turns on his computer, scrolls through emails, opens a pro forma, and picks up his phone.

He begins swiping on yet another dating app.

SUPER – DATING PROFILE:

CiCi (39)
In an open marriage.
Looking for someone carefree who isn’t looking for a primary relationship.
Love to dance, eat, sleep, travel, and take big shits.

ARAM
(under his breath)

I’ll never get a girlfiend. Either I’m undateable, or everyone else is.

Aram swipes left as GABE (35), designer dress shoes, embroidered dress socks, salmon slacks, matching plaid dress shirt, slicked back hair, confidently struts into the office.

AUDIOBOOK AUTHOR (V.O.)

Chapter Three: Manners Maketh Life Easier

GABE
Aram Ajemian.

Aram pauses the audiobook and takes one earbud out.

ARAM
Gabe Melson.

GABE
Garden Heights pro forma. On my desk. Five minutes.

ARAM
I finished it yesterday after you left. It’s waiting for you.

Gabe arrives at his desk, directly across from Aram.

Silence.

GABE (analyzing pro forma)
How’d you come up with the CapEx?

ARAM
Well, the units are pretty run-down. Figured we’d do faux hardwood to lower turnover costs and upgrade to stainless steel appliances, as well as redo the building’s clubhouse.

GABE
See what you can do to raise the cash-on-cash without fucking with the purchase price.

ARAM
No problem.

Aram resumes his audiobook.

AUDIOBOOK AUTHOR (V.O.)
The title of this chapter may seem like a paradox, but in fact, presenting yourself with common-sense etiquette, although an uphill, lifelong journey, will help the days, weeks, months, and year ahead seem less daunting.

Another one of Aram’s bosses enters.FRANZ (65), six-foot-seven-inches tall, lanky, worn out dress shoes, mismatched, misfitting socks, and a dated dress shirt, clumsily walks right past Aram to Gabe’s desk.

FRANZ
Gabe Melson.

GABE
Franz Sloane.

FRANZ
Is this Garden Heights you’re looking at?

GABE
Yes, sir.

Franz tightens the skin around his jaw as it clenches, his crooked, yellow teeth baring themselves.

FRANZ
I don’t know about that neighborhood. (shaking head) Too many negroes. You know?

Aram’s face turns bright-red.

Franz repeats himself as if the statement didn’t land.

FRANZ (CONT’D) (smiling)

Too many negroes in that neighborhood. They have a high turnover rate. We can’t really push rents because half of them are on welfare. And they’re a fucking cesspool for crime.

Aram wriggles in his chair in discomfort.

GABE
You’re right. But if we push rents, we can drive them out and start attracting a nicer demographic.

FRANZ
See what you and Ajemian can do.

Franz drags his heavy feet against the ground as he exits the common office through the door, into a hallway to his private office, slamming the door behind him.

BURT STEVENSON (56), bald, acne-scared, bulbous nose, puffy vest over a button-down, skinny jeans, tennis shoes, dances into the office, proudly looking around at his minions.

BURT
Ladies and gentlemen. Five-minute warning until our Monday meeting. Let’s fuck this week in the ass.

(to Aram)
My office. Pronto, as the dagos say.

ARAM
Um…The who?

BURT
Fuhgeddaboudit, I’m twelve-and-a-half percent Italian, bucko.

INT. BURT’S OFFICE – MORNING

Burt, Franz, and Gabe all lean against Burt’s desk as Aram walks in.

BURT
Sit down, Ajemian.

Aram sits as the three white men tower over him, arms crossed, smug looks carved into their entitled faces.

Silence.

GABE
I’ll start…Aram, we want you to do more. We need you to be more proactive. And we need–

FRANZ
Look, buddy. It’s not just the productivity–

ARAM
I don’t understand. I’m the most productive analyst in company history. I work with communications, investor relations–

FRANZ
That’s exactly what I’m fuckin’ talkin’ about–

BURT
Amico. Listen, we respect your father a lot…

Franz takes a deep breath and rubs his temples as he paces.

BURT (CONT’D)
Anyone who’s anyone in real estate in the Bay Area knows who Harout Ajemian is. He’s a goddamn legend.

ARAM
Yes. I love my dad. He’s a great man–

BURT
But we didn’t hire you so that you could use dating apps all day.

Aram furrows his brow.

ARAM
I’m distracted right now. I lost my service animal.

GABE
This predates that, man. You just never seem motivated.

ARAM
Why? Because I’m shy? Because quiet’s how I prefer to work?

FRANZ
Your dad got to where he is by being outgoing. Not by burying his head in a phone. Even when he doesn’t feel like being social, he sacks up.

BURT
We have a corporate culture to maintain here at Stevenson and Sloane. When an employee doesn’t fully embrace that corporate culture, it concerns us.

GABE
You’re not interacting enough with the other employees–

ARAM
They like me just fine.

Aram glares at Franz.

GABE
Ok. Do you remember last Thursday?

INT. OFFICE – EVENING – [FLASHBACK]

Aram sits, hovered over, at his desk, seemingly oblivious to all of his employees simultanbeously walking out of the office.

Gabe stops on the way out of the door and turns around.

GABE You comin’, Aram?

ARAM (indifferent)

Nope. Gotta get more work done. See ya.

INT. BURT’S OFFICE – MORNING – [PRESENT DAY]

BURT
Right now, you’re an outsider. Your solitude is… Well, it’s a bit of a red flag. And we need more from you.

ARAM
You’re homogenizing my social ineptitude with a lack of productivity.

GABE Well, let’s not–

ARAM
No, the statistics are glaring. I spit out 15 pro formas and four mass company emails a day, and five business plans and a company newsletter a week… Not including my ongoing updating of your archaic loan maturity tracking system.

BURT
Dawg, slow down. We’re just having a conversation, here. (beat)

Look, you’re smart. Not many people are trilingual and good with numbers. That’s utilizing both sides of the brain–

ARAM
False. Language and math are controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain, which also controls logic— something you guys are willfully ignoring in my case–

FRANZ
Do you think you can talk back to us like this because of your last name?

ARAM
Defending myself against a nonsensical, self-negating argument is talking back?

Franz furiously gulps a cup of water from Burt’s desk.

BURT
We just want more from you. You understand?

Aram bites his lip and nods.

FRANZ
We good, here, fellas? Game time.

Franz spreads his fingers as Gabe tosses him Burt’s autographed Cal Bears football.

Aram watches in utter stupefaction.

INT. OFFICE – DAY

GRACE (32), horn-rimmed glasses, dyed-red bob cut, freckled face, piercing, blue eyes, retro Amblin Entertainment t-shirt, loose-fitting jeans with ripped knees, enters the office and sits at her desk next to Aram.

GABE
Grace German.

GRACE
Nah, bro. I’m a contractor. I only come in once a week. I don’t do your weird “full name greetings.”

GABE (laughing)

Hell of an entrance. I don’t not like it.

Grace leans over to Aram.

GRACE
Do you ever get the unsettling feeling, like, right when you enter that door, that the amount of white privilege lingering around this office might actually suffocate you to death?

Aram clears his throat and smiles.

ARAM (unconvincingly)
Oh. Sure. Every day.

GRACE
Hey, what’s Franz’s deal?

Aram contently unleashes his benign brand of brutal honesty.

ARAM
He’s racist.

GRACE
No fucking way. Seriously?

ARAM
And homophobic.

Grace appears pleasantly shocked and simultaneously instantaneously settled into this conversation.

GRACE
That motherfucker must be so comfortable in the closet by now, he’s turned it into his man cave.

Aram looks up at the ceiling, uttering something a few times to himself before nodding in satisfaction, then replying.

ARAM (tepidly)
Yeah. Equipped with Judy Garland posters all over the walls.

GRACE (laughing)
You gotta follow the belted blazers and designer scarf ties to get to the Wizard of Oz.

Aram proudly giggles loud enough to create a sobering echo. Awkward silence.

ARAM
Hey. We should grab a drink sometime.

GRACE
Dude, I’m gay…You know this.

Aram’s face turns rose-red. He receives a text from Tomaso.

ON THE SCREEN
I can’t find Argento in the house.

END OF ACT ONE

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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