Little-known fact: When Wharton Studios decamped from Ithaca in 1919, they took their toys and headed west one step ahead of a crowd of summons-wielding creditors. Unable to get things up and running out there, Ted Wharton signed on to work for Louis B. Mayer, subject to a secret clause in his contract that has only now come to light: Mayer's studio had to make at least one film set in Ithaca, New York within 105 years. As every popcorn-eatin', movie-watchin' American knows, Louis B. became MGM Studios. Now, desperate for a studio-saving blockbuster and burdened by the secret Wharton contract proviso, MGM has sent its most important executive to our fair city to scout locations and fish for ideas...

Scene: The Milkstand restaurant on a recent Tuesday morning. Seated at a window table is none other than MGM Feature Film Division president and producer PAMELA ABDY. STUART PARKE, a local columnist and an author of a dozen unsold spec scripts (not his real name) has managed to score a breakfast meeting and has just been seated at the table as ABDY prepares to order...

WAITER: From our menu this morning, might I recommend the chocolate strawberry waffles? We take the finest cuts of aged, imported Belgian waffle, coat them with ganache drizzle from our chocolatery, wrap them in parchment with our award-winning dairy fresh whipped cream, slow-roast them for ninety minutes in our wood-fired, clay-filled kiva, and serve them with a garnish of wilted maple leaves on a burled mahogany plank.

ABDY: could have the chef whip us up an egg white omelet. Oh, and put in some shallots, only with the shallots just brown them slightly with a little olive oil. And no salt. Make it a big one and we'll share.

WAITER: (withdrawing) Very good, Madam.

ABDY: (to PARKE) OK, kid, you got two minutes. Amaze me with your best idea.

PARKE: All right, P.A., get this. A gritty rural drama. Picture an idyllic landscape in upstate New York. There are lakes, gorges, rolling hills, some vineyards and dairy farms. Nestled therein: a college town. A place perhaps that had once seen better times, but charming, you know? Suddenly, people notice a handful, and then scores of new buildings. Big ones — eight, ten stories high — and they're trashing the ambiance. They're proliferating like emerald ash borers. Collegetown disappears completely. It's a catastrophe. The once-bucolic setting has acquired the quaint industrial charm of Bayonne, New Jersey. In desperation, the citizens turn to their last hope: James Bond. That’s your franchise, right? Or maybe the whole thing is animated. I don’t know. Anyway, somewhere in here we work in a chase scene: a fleet of Priuses is pursuing a construction vehicle. They scream down Buffalo Street and everybody is airborne when they hit Stewart Avenue. One of those huge fireballs in slo-mo. Finally, tranquility on the streets is restored, but it's too late — the tourist industry is gone and the place has lost its mojo. Sort of an apocalyptic “Lego Movie” meets “A Civil Action.” Whaddya think? Genius, right?

ABDY: So...thin plot, and depressing. Maybe you should amaze me with your second best idea.

PARKE: Actually, I've got a better one. Should have told you this one first: same idyllic landscape, same nestled town. Only climate change turns the place into Aintree, Georgia. Snowless winters, sweltering summers. Kudzu, grits, NASCAR hats, anti-vax, the whole schmear. Three buddies decide to leave their troubles at the office and go on one last canoe ride in Cayuga Inlet before it's permanently choked by toxic algae blooms. I'm thinking Dwayne “The Rock,” Leo and...bear with me...Johnny Depp. They get freaked out by a weird-looking, banjo-playing hillbilly kid. Then there's a chase scene — Boss Hogg and his lackeys are right on the boys' tail as they scream down Buffalo Street...

ABDY: (cutting him off) Whoa, professor. Every grip in the industry knows algae blooms are box office poison. This is what you bring me?

PARKE: Wait! One more! It’s the summer of 2021. At last, America’s longest war is over. 20 years of ration books, bond drives, the draft, high taxes, wartime shortages and the daily sacrifice that has become every citizen’s reality are behind us once and for all. Asoldier, a sailor and an airman return to their home town of Ithaca and have to re-adjust to the society they had left years before. One’s a banker, one’s a soda jerk and the sailor was badly injured in a shipboard fire.

ABDY: I'm listening...

PARKE: Well, it’s about how each one of them finds a way to move forward with their lives. Now that the war is over, we’re ripe for a movie about our own stories instead of all that grim Taliban stuff.

ABDY: Dude, and I don’t say this often, this is gold! I smell Oscars! Let's blow this beanery and get to work...

ABDY and PARKE bolt out of the restaurant just as the waiter comes out of the kitchen bearing a giant egg white and shallot omelet and we...


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